Hey! Welcome to part two of this three-part series, I’m glad you’re back!
In part one, we covered planning camp meals, packing for the trip and we discussed various camping supplies. (BTW, did you download the free list?)
In part two, we’re going to talk about setting up camp, starting a campfire and cooking meals.
Let’s dig in. Ready?
Setting Up Camp
Anyone can pop up a tent and toss in some sleeping bags, but it’s important to know HOW to set up your tent (or tent trailer).
If you’ve just bought a new tent, make sure you set it up at home, reading the instructions thoroughly. Don’t lose the instructions either, because you will need to refer to them at your campsite, especially if you’re still unsure.
If you’ve just bought a tent-trailer, have the person who sold it to you show you how to set it up. This is soooo important! It doesn’t matter if you bought it off the lot, on Kijiji or in the classified ads. Ask the owner for a courtesy run-down of how to set it up. Bonus points if they give you a manual!
Most modern tents have a similar set-up. Poles are no longer loud, heavy and clunky metal pipes. They are made out of fiberglass with an elastic cord running through for stretchiness and bendability. They are easy to fold and unfold.
I talk about campsite setup more in-depth in this post. Make sure to invest in warm sleeping bags and a comfortable mattress to sleep on.
Building a Campfire
To a first-timer, this could be a daunting task if you’re not sure what you’re doing. It’s not complicated, and I promise, any single parents out there, or any first timers, you can have a rip-roarin’ fire in no time. But, you also need to be smart about it.
Supplies you will need:
- paper or cardboard, as dry as possible
- kindling firewood
- soft or hard wood
- in very rare cases, lighter fluid
- an axe, for chopping wood
Start by checking out your firepit. You want to be sure there is nothing plastic in it (not all campers are as courteous and smart as you are because we know plastic gets recycled!). The campground maintenance folks are usually pretty good with cleaning out fire pits so they aren’t overly full.
You need to have the dryest possible paper/cardboard and firewood possible.
There are two popular ways you can build your campfire: teepee and log cabin. It all depends on how you stack the wood (don’t worry, there’s no quiz!)
Either way, you need to start with dry paper or cardboard. Place this material in the center of the fire pit and make sure there are at least a couple of handfuls.
Then, stack your kindling around the paper, leaving edges of the paper visible and accessible. This is what you will be lighting, so you need to see it. Stack it in a teepee shape, regardless of which formation you plan on using… it’s best for catching flame.
Light the paper/cardboard in a few different areas, and make sure the flame is large enough so that it won’t go out the second you drop a piece of firewood on it. Once you have sufficient flame, you can start your firewood formation.
Teepee: This involved stacking the firewood in exactly the same manner you stacked the kindling around the paper. You are trying to build a teepee out of firewood.
Log cabin: This involves making the initial teepee large enough so that the firewood stacked around it will catch easily. You will want to take two firewood “logs” and place them on either outside edge of the initial teepee. Then two more on the opposite edges, stacked on top of the first two. Then two more, copying the first layer, and so on. I wouldn’t build it too high initially for two reasons: one, this method seems to burn through firewood faster than the teepee method, and two, it doesn’t burn the wood as efficiently as the teepee method. But definitely, use the log cabin method if you want a bigger fire.
The lighter fuel I listed is for extreme cases only. If your firewood or kindling is on the damp side, this can help get things started (sometimes). Nothing is guaranteed, and if your firewood is damp, you’ll end up with a really smoky campsite.
The flame from the initial teepee fire (when we lit the paper) will catch the newly-placed firewood.
Periodically stoke the fire, moving the lesser-burned wood to the center before adding more wood to it.
Here are two videos that can help you:
Log Cabin Method:
When it’s time to call it a night… you should have nothing but hot coals in your firepit. Let all chunks of the wood burn until you get to this point. When that’s all that’s left, you want to THOROUGHLY douse the entire fire pit with plenty of water. There should be MINIMAL glowing from the firepit. If unsure, check back after a couple of minutes, and douse with more water if necessary.
Congrats! Your first campfire!
Cooking over the campfire is about as old school as it gets. A fireproof kettle and cooking pots on an open fire, well, that’s like a step-back in time. That’s how our ancestors did it, and it’s nice to get back to the old ways… with a few modern tweaks, of course.
You should have some kind of bbq grate that you can bring with you to place over the campfire, just in case. Some campgrounds have these built onto the firepit barrier, which provides a sturdy surface to rest food or cooking items.
Once you have your fire built up, you’ll want to keep the flames relatively low so that you can handle whatever it is you’re cooking in. If you bring your own grate, you will know it’s clean, and can trust foods like potatoes, burger patties, and steaks to rest directly on it. When you’re finished cooking, use a bbq brush to clean any stuck-on foods and it’s ready to use for next time.
A camp stove is the ideal cooking method because you can use it under a rain shelter, and it’s dependable. It’s smart to bring an extra canister of propane, just in case.
And of course, if it’s your thing, and you have an electrical campsite, you can bring your crockpot! Yay!
To make cooking with any of these methods even easier, make sure to bring oven mitts or silicon oven gloves and have your camp meal menu planned (like we talked about in part one).
I welcome ideas and suggestions.. let me know if I’ve missed anything important!
In part three, we’ll cover entertaining the kids, finding ways to relax and dealing with coming home.