While linen canvas tents were the ideal standard for 18th century armies in the field, during the active campaigns of the American Revolution soldiers of the Continental Army and even their British counterparts quite often had to do without.
Tents had to either be carried (wood poles, stakes and all) by the soldiers, or packed onto waggons, which on forced marches or moving to or from a battle was not practical. Especially not for the advanced elements of the army--the light infantry corps.
Numerous diaries, journals and accounts of these troops in the field describe them often sleeping under the stars, often with little more than their blanket to cover them in any weather.
When they could afford the time to make shelters they would use what natural supplies were at hand making bowers or "wigwams", any form of shelter, from saplings covered with brush, pine bows or bark.
This allowed troops some protection from the elements if they remained in an area for a day or more, without being encumbered by the heavy baggage needed for a full tent camp. Those would often be seen in a static military camp or fortification where an entire army would be stationed for weeks at a time.
For the Continental Soldiers, those of NH in particular, very often supplies of proper tents could not be obtained, or were sometimes lost or abondoned and not replaced. Out of necessity these men resorted to using whatever could be found for shelter.
Sometimes it was brush shelters, or in some recorded cases taking sails from batteaux (common transport boats that could be rowed or sailed) or covers from supply wagons (similar to 'connestoga' wagons).
In the case of the first major camp outside Boston in 1775, shelters were made from everything from ship sails, to doors and wood torn off houses, or dugouts made in the sides of hills.
In winter camps such as Morristown, Mt. Independence, Ft. Ticonderoga, Valley Forge and elsewhere, log huts would be constructed, though often before those could be completed soldiers lived in make-shift shelters, dugouts, or were even reduced to sleeping on fence rails over the snow as was done during the desperate winter nights of the Trenton-Princeton campaign.
Our main shelter is a hand-sewn sail, similar in style to those that might have been used on a batteau or small supply boat (packet ships and sloops were used to ferry supplies to forts along the Champlain Valley route), though whenever possible we cut brush and saplings to make bowers, and may soon start a project to hand-sew a period correct waggon cover.
As part of our camp we cook only with the utensils that would have been available to the soldiers--tin camp kettles (large tin pots), or makeshift pans such as a shovel smashed into a frying pan (original examples of which have been found at some camp sites), though our cheif method of cooking is the same as the soldiers--ration stew cooked in a camp kettle, either over a fire or on an earthen 'camp kitchen'.
Camping "On Campaign"
Most reenactments have a standard heavily tented camp, in the style that might have been seen at a static garrison encampment.
But as a unit we portray the company as though 'on campaign'--travelling light, with a minimum of baggage, typically just what can be carried on the march.