THIS SUMMER, LET A WEEKEND CAMPOUT LEAD YOU TO NEW PLACES…
Sleeping under the stars may not rank high (or even at all) on your bucket list. There’s no denying that camping does come with a few bugs, a few sacrifices, and a surrender to the forces of nature. But what if you let any anticipated discomfort roll off your back, took a small step into the unknown, and gathered a few friends to head for the hills? Chances are, you’ll spark to the freedom that awaits. It’s the kind of freedom that thrives when you’re unplugged and unwound from your daily routine. The sort of freedom that only happens in the great outdoors where you can sink back into that childhood sense of play, experience the thrill of trying something new, and push bare feet into the grass as you kick back around a campfire. What follows is a simple guide to help you get there—no experience required.
Wondering who to invite? Make it a weekend getaway with just family. Or it could be a few good friends, a seasoned camper to show you the way, or a group of young moms who need a quick refresh. Have a dinner club? Make your next meal alfresco.
Setting up your campsite, building a fire, and making a few meals may be enough to fill your daylight hours. Add a creek walk, hike in the woods, brave dip in the lake, or an inside-the-tent game of cards. Mornings are perfect for fireside coffee and a good book while you wait for the others to wake. When the sun sets, it’s time to gather around the fire, toast a heap of marshmallows, and enjoy good conversation until the low glow of the campfire fades.
Choosing the perfect spot is less important than actually getting out there, so don’t hesitate to pitch your tent close to home if that suits you best. A quick Google search will reveal options in your desired area, but here’s a quick rundown of accessible spots: national and state parks, private campgrounds, the occasional historic site, a friend’s field or forest.
Portable camp stove
Plates + bowls
Jug of water
Canteen or thermos
Swiss Army knife
Tinder fire starter
Food + coffee-making supplies
Water-resistant boots or shoes
Clothes (think: layers + extra socks)
Moist towelettes + toilet paper
Dry bundle of firewood
Cooler + ice
Sleeping bag + pillow
Folding table for a makeshift kitchen
THE RIGHT HEAT FOR
To cook over a campfire, you’ll want hot embers instead of a full flame. Start a wood fire and let it burn down until the embers are glowing with no more than a dusting of light ash on them.
If cooking over the open flame sounds thrilling, go as gourmet as you’d like. But you can also keep it simple. Prep everything at home before storing it in a cooler with ice to simplify on-site cooking. Individual foil packets with a few ingredients tucked inside and roasted above the hot ashes are easy and satisfying. Or there’s always the slam dunk of hot dogs charred on a stick and a plate stacked with s’mores for a delicious finish.
Nonstick cooking spray
Your choice of foil-pack ingredients
Tear four 18x30-inch sheets of heavy foil. Fold each in half crosswise. Lightly coat foil with cooking spray. Arrange foil-pack ingredients in centers of foil sheets as directed. Bring up two opposite edges of foil; seal with a double fold. Fold remaining edges to completely enclose food, leaving space for steam to build.
Set packets on top of campfire embers or place on a grate over the embers. Cook for time given, right, using long tongs to turn packets every five minutes. Carefully open packets to allow steam to escape.
Grill packets over medium for time given, right, using long tongs to turn packets once. Carefully open packets to allow steam to escape.
1½ lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
2 sweet peppers, cut into strips
1 poblano chile pepper, cut into strips
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 tsp. fajita or Southwest seasoning
Toss all ingredients together and divide among four foil sheets. Enclose in foil and cook as directed 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with lime wedges.
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups grape tomatoes
4 fillets white fish (bass, trout, walleye, cod, tilapia)
Chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Divide ingredients among four foil sheets. Enclose in foil and cook as directed 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 tsp. butter
Salt and pepper
Divide ingredients among four foil sheets. Enclose in foil and cook as directed on embers 5 minutes or until tender, turning once, or on a grill for 10 minutes or until tender.
Pack a variety of stackable fillings.
“The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BLAINE MOATS FOOD STYLING BY CHARLES WORTHINGTON PROP STYLING BY SCOTT J. JOHNSON