While many people think of camping as a summer activity, there is just something fun about fall camping. If you have the chance you should definitely give it a try!
Gone is the summer heat, and in its place are fewer crowds, cool fall nights, hot cocoa, and beautiful changing leaves. If you’ve never seen it, the fall foliage is quite beautiful.
However, you might need to prepare and have the right gear for cool weather so you can stay warm, get the most out of your trip and enjoy it as much as possible.
If you’re not sure about camping in the fall or how you should prepare for cooler temperatures then be sure to keep reading, you’ll find everything you need to know.
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Benefits Of Fall Camping
If you’ve never considered fall camping before, it might be time to consider it.
Stay with me here, let me explain why camping after Labor Day can be fun for the entire family (you might even like it better than camping during the summer months!)
Fall months are perfect for taking a day hike or scenic drives and enjoying the crisp autumn air along with the beautiful scenery of vibrant colors like bright reds, oranges, and yellows, not to mention the carpet of fallen leaves that are so fun to crunch through.
I might be biased, but if you’re looking for the perfect place to enjoy a little fall camping, I can’t think of a better place than the midwest. When the cooler months come around, it is one of the best times of the year. You’ll see gorgeous fall colors, fewer bugs, enjoy outdoor activities without the heat of summer, and can enjoy miles of trails if you like to hike or ride your bike.
Looking for a beautiful place for fall camping? Consider Door County Wisconsin! Here are 7 campgrounds you don’t want to miss 😉
Many campgrounds are still open during the fall, but since it’s no longer peak season, you will often find reduced rates so you can enjoy beautiful camping spots at a more reasonable and affordable price.
While private campgrounds definitely have benefits, camping in the fall can also be a great time to check out state parks since they will probably have more availability after school starts than in the summer months.
While the cooler temperatures might not appeal to everyone, there are actually many benefits to fall camping.
Unlike in the summer, your tent is less likely to become a hothouse, and overheating while enjoying outdoor activities is less likely.
Pro tip: Dress in layers! Fall weather can be tough to predict, so if you dress in layers you can be prepared for whatever your day brings.
Another great benefit of camping in the fall is the lack of bugs. Yes, with cooler weather and at that time of year, you will not be plagued by quite so many flies and other insects when camping.
Then, when it’s time for bed, you can get all snuggled up and get in your warm sleeping bag or a comfy bed with a few extra blankets. There’s nothing quite so lovely as cozying up while camping in the fall.
Last but not least, you can do many different activities in the fall that you might not be able to do in the summer. For example, you can forage for different plants, go horseback riding (you can do this in other seasons too, but in my opinion, fall is the best time), go apple picking, leaf collecting- there are so many possibilities!
Fun Fall Camping Activities
Speaking of different activities, here are a few more ideas that might just make the idea of fall camping irresistible.
Foraging And Fruit Picking
Fall is the perfect time of year to harvest many wild fruits.
As mentioned earlier, foraging in the wild or an apple orchard may be a possibility or even a visit to a pumpkin farm. What is available will depend on where you are camping and the month you decide to go.
Fall Festivals & Pumpkin Carving
There are many fall events that you can combine with your camping trip—for example, a fall harvest festival or Halloween.
You can find lots of places to pick out the perfect pumpkin, and often time campgrounds will even have theme weekends.
Imagine visiting a pumpkin farm, enjoying the day, and then coming back to your campsite and carving pumpkins right at your campsite on the picnic table.
Those are the type of memories the whole family will enjoy!
Autumn is the perfect time to go bird waiting. Many of them are really active in preparing for their long winter migration.
This, coupled with fewer leaves on the trees in the later part of fall means you can get really good views of birds in their natural habitat.
Make sure to check out a national park if you’re looking for a place to bird-watch, and you’ll definitely want to bring a good pair of binoculars and a good identification book if you are new to this fun activity!
We’ve talked about the beauty of fall, but capturing it with photography is another great idea that can add fun to your camping experience.
There is something uniquely special about how nature transforms in the fall, and photography is a great way to appreciate this.
It’s also fun to show the result off to your family and friends. It may even convince them to go camping in the fall.
Fall Camping Gear List
Packing for camping in the fall is a little different from packing for other seasons and it’s essential to have the right gear. Here are a few things you’ll need to make sure you have a great time even if you happen to have chilly days or cold nights.
Heavy Duty Sleeping Bag
You will need a thicker sleeping bag when camping in the fall than would at warmer times of the year. It can get very cold at night so make sure you take a sleeping bag or extra blankets so you can stay warm and cozy.
Blankets And Layers
To reiterate the point, it can get really cold camping at night in the fall. It’s always better to take more layers and a few cold weather blankets than you need to stay warm than realize halfway through the night you are too cold. Take blankets and layer up; you’ll be grateful you did.
Hot Water Bottle
Hot water bottles are perfect for warming up your sleeping bag before you get in or if you feel cold. These are especially great to warm you up both in bed and also during the day if you’ve gotten chilled or wet. All it takes is some boiling water, and you have heat for quite a long time from your hot water bottle.
If you really want to be super warm and cozy, you can invest in a space heater for your RV. These are really nice to have, but just make sure it is safe for RV use!
You can’t go camping without a waterproof backpack. I mean, you can, but if you’re going to be hiking, biking, taking pictures, or doing any outdoor activity, a good backpack will be really helpful!
Again, rain is a real issue when camping in the fall. To make sure your personal items and any electronics you bring are kept safe from the rain, you’ll want to bring plastic baggies or reusable wet bags to put them in.
While the sun is not as strong in the fall, you can still get a sunburn on a clear day, especially if you go out hiking somewhere high and clear. Bring a good, non-toxic sunscreen just in case; it doesn’t take much room.
Again, you are less likely to encounter bugs in the fall, but they can still be there. And if you’re in an area with ticks, be sure to bring bug spray that also repels ticks (along with appropriate clothing!). You don’t want to go camping and come back with ticks all over. YUCK! So don’t forget to bring the insect repellent.
First Aid Kit
With less light available in the morning and at night, you’ll definitely need the help of a flashlight or headlamp to help you find your way. A headlamp can be easier as you can use it and still have two hands free while still seeing where you’re going.
Fire is pretty important on any camping trip, so make sure you can make one. Keep a set of matches on hand so you can light anything from your campfire to your gas cooker. Be sure to keep a set of matches in your RV, as well as in your backpack, they are a must-have item for cold weather camping!
Portable Grill And Cookset
You’ll definitely want to eat warm food while camping in the fall. While you can cook over the open fire, you may want to make it a bit easier and use a portable grill.
They’re much easier than lighting a fire, you don’t have to worry about trying to keep it going if it’s raining, and if you set up an outdoor kitchen space, you can cook almost anything!
Ok, we can’t talk about fall camping and not mention food.
There are a few considerations though that will determine what kind of food to bring.
What kind of cooking kit or equipment do you have? Are you staying somewhere with water and electricity or are you roughing it? Do you like to cook over the open fire or in your RV?
All of these questions are important because they can help you decide what food is best for your trip.
If you have a portable grill or plan to use your RV kitchen, bring any delicious food you can think of! If you have limited resources you might want to consider canned food, dehydrated meals (add hot water, wait a few minutes, and then eat), or simple eats like hot dogs, chips, trail mix, or other pre-packaged foods.
One thing you don’t want to forget to plan for though- clean drinking water!
Make sure you have enough or are able to get enough every day for each person!
Fall Camping Clothing List
The key to camping in the fall is to make sure you layer up from base layers upwards. It’s better to have many layers than just one or two warm layers, as it’s the trapped air from body heat between the layers that really keeps you warm.
Here is the list of clothing items you need to take with you to achieve this.
Underwear is going to be your base layer. In addition to your regular underclothes, it may not be a bad idea to pack a set or two of thermal or long underwear.
You’ll want thick, possibly woolen socks when camping in the fall. Your feet can get cold quickly and make your whole body cold. Thick warm socks, and a few extra pairs, are essential.
Waterproof Shoes Or Boots
With fall being a sometimes wet season, you want to make sure you have a pair of waterproof shoes or boots. Make sure you bring at least one other pair of footwear though, that way you can rotate if one does get wet.
A waterproof jacket will help to keep you nice and dry. Once you get wet and cold camping, it’s easy to get chilled and you may find it hard to warm up. Avoid this by keeping as dry as possible with waterproof outer layers. So don’t forget your rain jacket!
Sweatshirt Or Hoodie
These are great for the layering up process. You’ll want to bring at least a couple of sweatshirts or hoodies, depending on how long you plan to be gone. You might even want to wear them at night.
Make sure you have a warm winter coat to put on top of your layers. You may not always need to use it, but it’s a good idea to have it if the weather gets really cold. You never quite know how cold it might get in the fall.
Gloves And Hat
You lose a lot of heat through your hands and head. Make sure you preserve as much of it as you can with a nice warm hat. You also want functioning fingers, and they are really susceptible to cold, so ensure you have a warm pair of gloves on hand.
If you plan on hiking or being outdoors you might want to bring a few pairs of gloves and an extra hat to keep in your backpack just in case you happen to lose the ones you’re wearing.
Unless your RV heater is set to a warm temperature, you may want to bring warm pajamas. Make sure you bring pj’s with long sleeves and pants. Some comfy socks wouldn’t hurt either!
Bring Extra Of Everything
Always bring spares. There is always the chance that some clothing items will get wet, and if this is the case, it could be a little while before they are dry again. This can lead to a really unpleasant camping experience, so make sure you have the option of dry spares.
Fall Camping Safety Tips
To make sure you have a fun, safe fall camping trip, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind.
Use Only An Approved Heater
Make sure your heater has been tested and approved for use in an RV.
Unapproved heaters can be a real fire hazard or could cause deadly problems like carbon monoxide poisoning.
If using a space heater be sure to:
- read all manufacturer instructions
- check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly
- place on a flat surface
- do not place in a high-traffic area
- be sure the space heater is not close to flammable objects
- always unplug the heater when not needed
- never, ever use your oven to heat your RV
For more safety tips regarding space heater use, you can check out this helpful website.
Test Your Equipment
Before you go on your camping trip, be sure to test any and all equipment that hasn’t been used in a while and make sure that it’s in good working order.
This will ensure that you have a fun and safe trip with less chance of injury.
Prepare For Shorter Days
When planning your trip and activities, be sure to keep in mind that the sun will set much earlier than in the summer.
If you are planning a nature walk or other activity where you will be out in the woods or remote area, be sure you know what time the sun sets so you don’t get stuck trying to find your way out of the woods in the dark.
Also, you may want to bring a good book or fun camping activities, especially if you have kids, in case you have a rainy day.
Check The Weather
While fall camping can be amazingly beautiful, it can also be easily ruined by bad weather. A quick check of the forecast will help you to properly prepare for your trip.
But, even if you do check the forecast, you’re still going to want to pack a little more than necessary just to be prepared.
Respect The Wild Life
You see it every year, people go out to enjoy nature, see wild animals and just have to get a picture.
It’s understandable, after all, it’s not every day that you see these creatures.
But please, please, keep your distance!
Wild animals are just that- WILD.
They are beautiful, fun to see, and can be dangerous.
So, if you see a wild animal be sure to stay as far away as possible and zoom in to get your picture.
Pick Up After Yourself
Speaking of animals, that brings me to the next safety tip- please pick up after yourself.
Make sure whatever you bring into the woods or campground, you take with you when you leave.
This is important because if you are camping in the woods it is very possible a bear or other animal could be attracted to your campsite if you leave food scraps or wrappers around.
Another reason to take any and all garbage with you is so that the animals don’t eat things they’re not supposed to such as wrappers, plastic bags, etc.
Let Others Know Where You Are
If you’re camping in a remote location, hiking, biking, or going out where people are scarce, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
It’s also a good idea to bring navigation equipment (compass, GPS) along too.
And don’t forget to brush up on a few basic survival and first aid skills, you never know when you might need them!
A Few Last Thought About Fall Camping…
Fall is a great time of year for camping!
You can explore the outdoors, see beautiful foliage, enjoy some fresh air, and get your fill of nature without the crowds (and bugs!) typically seen in the summer.
When you’re preparing for your fall camping trip I hope you remember to pack plenty of gear, keep safety and comfort in mind, and don’t forget to plan a few fun activities!
Happy Fall Camping!
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