Where did the summer go?? Where? Are we already staring down the barrel at fall? Usually fall is when folks wash and pack up their gear for the winter- bit you should off just a little while longer because fall camping is incredible!
Yes, the nights are cooler and you might see your breath in the mornings, but there are so many benefits too.
Less Heat Means More Activity- Hot temperatures can zap your energy, but if you head out in cool weather it’s easier to fit in longer cardio sessions such as hiking, kayaking, and trail running.
The leaves! The trees are gorgeous in the fall and depending on where you are camping, you could be sleeping under a canopy of red, yellows, and oranges
No bugs- cold nights mean most of the mosquitos have been killed off which is always a plus when you’re out and about.
Less people– most people pack it in for fall meaning you will have quieter campgrounds and emptier trails.
Hot coffee on a nippy morning- is there anything better than a steaming cup of coffee over a fire on a crisp fall morning? Heavenly.
We’ve put together an awesome cold weather camping checklist to help you be prepared for your fall adventure.
Check the Weather
This is probably the most important item on the checklist. The weather can be funky in the fall and temperatures can range from t-shirt weather to snowfall. It’s always best to know before you go, and if you see rain the forecast you might reschedule the trip. Getting wet in cold weather is a recipe for disaster- hello hypothermia!
Pack a Cold Weather Sleeping Bag
The $20 Walmart sleeping bag won’t do in this case. You want one that can keep you warm in the coldest of temperatures, so invest in a good sleeping bag. Even better, get a mummy bag with the built in hoodie so you can pull it around your head so only your face is exposed. Those from Teton Sport are specially great.
Get off the Ground
You can have a great sleeping bag, but it can only do so much if there isn’t a layer of protection between the ground and you! Pack along a mattress pad to keep your body off the cold ground.
It’s best if you have an all-season tent with a full rain fly to keep out any moisture! It might help to bring along a couple extra tarps as well, one to put between the tent and the ground to prevent moisture coming in from the bottom and one to throw over the top of the tent to further protect it from precipitation. EXTRA TIP: Burn a candle to keep that tent even drier!
Lots of Layers
No cold weather camping gear list is complete with LOT OF CLOTHES! If you thought you could pack light, think again. Like I said, the weather is so unpredictable in the fall and wearing the right kind of clothing is crucial to keep you warm.
Clothing to pack for a weekend trip includes:
- toque/winter hat (preferably in bright orange. See below for why)
- thermal underwear
- gloves or mittens (including an extra pair)
- warm and waterproof boots
- extra shoes or boots(these are especially useful for the evening & the morning)
- wool socks (with lots of extra pairs)
- jacket (even if the weather is predicted to be warm)
- rain gear (poncho and pants)
- Lots of extra clothing including a base layer, t-shirt, sweater, pants
- Something warm and cozy for the evening (wool is best!)
Be Prepared for Rain (or Snow!)
The name of the game is being prepared for the winter so have everything you can think of! We’ve discussed tarps for your tent, and rain gear for yourself, but also think about a covering for your backpack and protecting your food. No one wants to be cold, wet and eating a soggy dinner. A good dry bag will help!
Wear Bright Colours
Depending on where you are camping it might be a good idea to don a bright orange hat or some other brightly coloured clothing. Fall is hunting season
and you can prevent accidents researching if the area you are heading is open to hunting and by dressing appropriately so you can be easily spotted. You don’t want to blend in!
Watch out for Wildlife
(psit: Bears getting ready to hibernate)
Fall is a busy time for wildlife. Many animals are in their fall mating season meaning they can be aggressive so be sure to give them some space. Bears are also eating everything they can to fatten up for winter so be very bear aware on the trails and keep your food far away from your campsite and hang it from a tree for safe keeping. If you’re in a park or natural resource, bear cans may be available to you.
It can take more preparation and a lot more packing, but cold weather camping is worth the extra work. When you get out there and sit back by the fire sipping on a hot drink and soaking in the fiery foliage and enjoying the crisp autumn smells, you’ll be glad you went!
Be sure to download the cold weather camping pdf so you have it handy when you hit the outdoor store!