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Outdoor Adventures: When Camping, Keep It Simple

  • Potatoes in foil and kielbasa sizzle over an open fire. Easy meals are the big part of camping, which can be a case of taking the house on the road with proper planning and organization. Marty Basch photograph

Special to the Valley News
Published: 8/11/2018 11:41:28 PM
Modified: 8/11/2018 11:41:58 PM

Camping is a way to escape the daily grind. It’s a break from the daily assault of screens — or at least a furlough, as a smartphone’s airport mode allows for handy outdoor applications from flashlight to clock. 

Campgrounds are tied to nature, and this summer Mother’s Nature’s been particularly giving. I’ve been fortunate to watch an eagle soar, loon fish and herons fly by, all from the open-air theater of a camping site. Forty-eight hours after a powerful microburst tore through a northern New Hampshire state park, toppling huge trees and damaging one car, I appreciated the honesty of its employees upon check-in — explaining clean-up crews would be working — and then watched the next day as logging crews dealt with the towering debris. 

On another night, as my wife and I watched the campfire flames touch the darkening sky, the site turned into part of an impromptu forest concert hall as a neighboring camper provided an al fresco acoustic concert. His song done, we applauded. We heard a thank you. He heard a song request. He acquiesced and applause followed again. This time, we heard a come on over. We did for a song, and thanked the guitarist again.

Camping is a time to slow down and reconnect to nature, loved ones, friends and simplicity. Forget the tube. Read a book. Unplug and try a board game or cards. Cribbage combines the two. Roll out dice games like Farkle and Yahtzee for the picnic table. Take the bones out of the tin container for some twilight Dominoes. Don’t forget to put a table cloth over the table as it enhances the playing surface, helps keep the table clean and is appreciated during meals. 

Chefs like to talk to about mise en place, a French culinary expression meaning something like “everything in its place.” The same holds true for getting ready to go camping. In essence, camping is taking your home on the road, with necessities like closets, kitchens and tool sheds.

Plastic containers are helpful to store camping essentials. See-through is good. Labels with markers and masking tape is a great convenience for knowing what’s inside. Retaining similar basics together keep things in order, like dried goods, spices, teas, coffees and spirits in one container and kitchen utensils like a cutting board, spatula, whisk, pot, pan and ladle in another.

Mimicking the refrigerator can be a challenge. Bags of ice can also be purchased, but weekend campers don’t really need to do that. We tend to make ice before we go and put it in Ziploc plastic bags (another camping must) for the excursion. Ice tends to stick around for 48 hours, particularly pleasing for second-night sipping during a two-night car camping outing.

Another cool tip is saving plastic juice and milk containers for camping. Before we go, we fill and freeze them. Sometimes we do this with bottled water. Not only will the containers keep the cooler cold, they double as cold drinks over the hours. 

Slow cooking is the norm during camping. Damn the microwave. Let tin foil and time do its job on a simple dish like sliced potatoes and onions. Get that campfire going, and then let it burn. Those glowing embers work wonders. Throw some salmon on the foil and let it sizzle. Kielbasa, sausage and hot dogs are easily done, too. Toast those buns on the open fire, but not too long. 

Portable stoves kick cooking up a notch. Sure, they can be used to boil water that is handily added to staples like oatmeal, but they are best used to add a little olfactory spice to the air, especially when it comes to bacon. In the outdoors, bacon adds pizzazz to everything from eggs to potatoes. It’s a crispy treat. 

Fresh rules, but having some prepared foods can be tasty. My wife will sometimes make quiche at home and freeze it just for camping trips. It stays frozen in the cooler and can be thawed out for the frying pan. Marinating chicken and turkey ahead of time often electrifies a meal.

Comfort’s also key. Why not take pillows if you have the space? Try warm blankets instead of sleeping bags. A mat outside a tent cuts down on dirt inside the tent.

Take only what you need, and enjoy the simplicity.

Marty Basch can be reached at marty.basch@gmail.com.




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