Faced with the end of summer, you might be thinking of packing away your camping gear for the season. But if you can brave cooler temperatures and a touch of rain, fall camping will reward you. Most insects have died off or have reduced their activity. Less people mean that perfect campsite is going to be easier to find. Crisp air makes nature hikes a little easier, crystal clear skies and changing plant life offer new experiences and sights at your favorite park.
With a little extra planning, an autumn outing can be as good as, or better than, a summer camping trip. Here are some important things to consider and some tips to make sure you can camp comfortably in the Fall!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but many campgrounds are only open through Labor Day, so always check!
You’re going to want to bring more clothes than you think you need. Autumn temperatures can be extremely unpredictable, with summer-like highs one day and downright wintry conditions the next. Even the warmest days can turn bitterly cold as the sun goes down (and the sun will go down MUCH earlier than in the summer). Be prepared for a variety of conditions and adjust your wardrobe accordingly. Bringing thermal underwear, gloves, extra shoes, a cozy hat, extra socks, a fleece or warm jacket are always good things to remember. Better to have it and not need it, right?
You might be tempted to just bring your bike and a frisbee, which of course, are great for summer.. but what if it rains, a lot? Bring a deck of cards, board games, and some good books in case you end up spending far more time inside the tent than you bargained for.
When it’s summer and you’re sweating, it’s easy to remember to hydrate, but we often forget to drink water when the temperatures dip. To make sure you’re getting enough hydration, bring a thermos or vacuum bottle filled with clear, hot beverages without caffeine, like an herbal tea or cider.
This is a great way to get your cold sleeping bag warm in a hurry! Just heat water in a pan over the stove or fire, and pour it into a hot water bottle. Since it will radiate heat for hours, curling up around the bottle, or placing it in the foot of your bag will be a toasty way to drift off to sleep.
A sleeping bag rated to the temperatures you’ll experience is something most of us have figured out (if you haven’t, do that first), but consider investing in either a cot or a sleeping pad. If you go the route of the camp pad, since you aren’t backpacking, look for a thick pad with a high R-value. An R-value will tell you how well the pad will insulate you from the cold ground. For instance, and R-value of 3 will keep you comfortable until around 20F (-7C), and an R-value of 7 will insulate you against the cold until about -40F(-40C).
First, get a quality tent that doesn’t leak, better yet, make sure it has a full rain fly/footprint and repair any leaks or tears in your tent before heading to your site. Make sure your tarp of choice is big enough to cover your cooking and eating area so that if it does rain, food prep is no problem. It is going to be wetter than the summertime, so make sure you’re setting yourself up for a dry time.
Bring whatever pots/pans and dishes you need and plan what you will eat. To keep costs down, look into encorporating seasonal vegetables into your cooking, Many foods that are wildly available in the fall are hearty and don’t require refrigeration, so you can save on cooler space. Whatever you do, try to keep it simple.
If you are building a wood fire, keep in mind that the later in the season, the less likely a campground host will be on hand to sell firewood all day. You may be able to purchase a bundle or two of local firewood on your way to the campground at a local store, farm or gas station. If you plan on using a propane campfire, you might be using the fire more frequently than you do during the summer. Consider bringing additional propane or locating a nearby source that can fill your tank for you if required.
If you get rained on, chances are good your tent is not going to be dry when you pack it up. If you forget to dry it out before putting it away for the winter, you’re going to find it covered in mildew in the Spring. Be sure to completely clean and dry your tent before putting it away for the rest of the year.
Do you have a tip for having a great time while camping during these cooler temperatures? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your tips in the comments below!
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