Updated October 2020
Believe it or not, fall is right around the corner. Cue the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte stampede. While it might seem like it’s time to put your camping gear away, fall camping lets you get outside and enjoy the cool crisp weather, changing foliage and cozy surroundings of a roaring campfire. Follow these fall camping tips to make sure your fall camping trip is one to remember.
Reserve Your Fall Camping Spot
- National Parks: There’s plenty of places to reserve a campsite. I usually like to check out nearby National Parks using Recreation.gov. Reservation prices sometimes get reduced this time of year so be sure to take advantage of the good deals.
- State Parks: State parks also have fall specials from time to time. If you’re in California you can make your fall camping reservations online using ReserveCalifornia or check with your home state to reserve spots near you.
- Other Campsites: One other resource that comes in handy if all of your top picks are booked is Hipcamp. Think of them as the Airbnb of camping. Properties range from vineyards, parks, ranches, and farms. Many Hipcamp locations have lots of great amenities including access to trails, lakeside cottages, goat dairies, alpaca farms or the ocean views.
Gearing Up: Fall Camping Tips
Having the right gear can make or break any camping trip. The good news is there’s no reason to go broke gearing up for your trip. If you don’t own gear you can always rent a tent, stove and other items from REI or your local outdoor store. If you have friends who like to camp ask if you can borrow their gear. Most outdoorsy folks are happy to lend out in the name of helping a fellow camper. Here’s what to do before you leave.
- Test your Equipment: It’s always a good idea to open up new or borrowed gear and do a test run. A couple of days before you head out practice putting up your tent. This will help you in two ways. First, it will jog your memory so you will remember how your tent goes together. Second, it’s a great time to figure out any problems with your tent including bent poles or missing pieces.
- Sleeping Bags & Pads: While you have your tent out go ahead and pull out your sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Make sure your bag is temperature rated for fall camping temperatures at your site. If you have a blowup sleeping pad go ahead and inflate it and check for holes as well.
- Extra Protection: It’s a good idea to bring a footprint for your tent or a tarp. Both will give you an added layer of protection against cold and wet should you encounter rain on your trip. Also, you can use a tarp as a windscreen if you find your campsite is a little too exposed.
- Clothing: Fall camping is all about layers. You might get lucky and have a lovely warm sunny day, but the evenings can get chilly. Layers are the perfect solution to fluctuating temperatures. Make sure to pack thermals, long and short sleeve t-shirts, long pants, a fleece or flannel, a jacket (waterproof if necessary), lots of warm socks, a hat and gloves. Being cold can put a damper on a fall camping trip so don’t be afraid to throw in extra layers.
Food & Drink Ideas
Eating is a big part of camping, all that fresh air can get you hungry. Remember that the sun sets earlier in the fall and cooking in cooler weather can take a little longer. You might want to start cooking your dinner earlier or make sure you have a headlamp around to light your way.
- Camp Food Ideas: Nothing keeps you warm like carbs, cheese, and booze. Check out this recipe for Prosciutto Gruyere and Honey Pinwheels. Need more ideas? Head over to this Fall Camping Recipe Roundup, you’re sure to find something tasty to make.
- Warm Drinks: If you need a little something extra to keep you warm try this recipe for Ginger Apple Cider or these Three Cozy Winter Cocktails from Fresh Off the Grid.
Aside from all of the daytime activities fall camping affords (hiking, possibly swimming?, rock climbing, and other adventures) there’s plenty of other fun activities to fill your days and nights.
- Daytime Activities: Of course you will be hiking and enjoying the crisp air and changing foliage, but you might also want to play a game or two. Kites are great if you’re camping in open spaces. I’m also a big fan of bocce and birdwatching.
- Night Games for Fall Camping: For no prep required entertainment check out these 10 Games to Play Around a Campfire. Or if you’re in the mood for a tournament this glow in the dark corn hole set is perfect for evening entertainment. You can play all day and into the night.
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