Can you picture waking up on a crisp morning, your amazing partner has already started the fire and the coffee pot is sizzling. You’ve been snuggling all night in toasty body warmth, now you’re dressed and ready for that coffee. You step out of your tent into a wonderland of fall colors. Your eyes are capturing the moment, you're trying to take it all in, every shade of yellow, orange, and red.
The beauty is astounding.
It takes a good amount of planning to have it this good. The great thing about camping in the fall is that there are fewer bugs and fewer people. There is nothing better than feeling like you’re the only people in the wilderness. My husband and I LOVE being in remote places where you won’t see another soul for days.
If you’ve never camped in Autumn before, it’s time for you to experience a bucket list of color and beauty.
The only downside to camping and hiking in Autumn is that it’s a little colder. So here are a few tips and tricks to make it more comfortable:
1. Face the fact that you may have to face rain, wind, or snow
It’s gonna be ok. Just prepare for it so that it doesn't take you by surprise.
Think about your shelter and make sure you have these things with you:
- A rain fly
- A tarp
Set them both up at the outset so that you're not struggling with it while it's raining or snowing.
Attitude is everything. We can choose how we're going to feel about something. That's why I love the quote above by Langston Hughes ... Let the rain kiss you.
2. Wear layers of clothing
Temperatures fluctuate during the day, you need to stay warm and be able to cool down by adding and removing layers of clothing:
- Thermal underwear (with moisture-wicking properties)
- Wool shirt or sweater
- Weatherproof outer jacket
- A winter beanie or two (for day and night)
- 2 pairs of gloves or mittens
- Good pair of boots (waterproofed)
- An extra pair of shoes
- Lots of warm socks
- Rain gear
- Invest in down booties for nighttime use
- Bring enough extra clothing so that you stay continually warm and dry
- Optional: Balaclava
- Invest in a good quality down sleeping bag
- Invest in a good quality sleeping pad
- Use an emergency blanket underneath your sleeping pad to provide extra warmth (Remember: the shiny side must face whatever needs to be warm)
- Take a warm comforter to place over your sleeping bags
- Your hot water bottle is crucial. Warm toes mean a warm body, even better - place the hot water bottle between your legs near your femoral artery - this will warm up your body quicker.
CONDENSATION: Don’t breathe into your sleeping bag no matter how cold you are. Rather wear a beanie. Your breath will cause condensation in your bag which creates a damp environment that will make you colder later.
OPTIMIZATION: Even if you don’t need to, force yourself to go to the bathroom before going to bed. Believe me, you won’t want to get up in the early, dark hours of the morning to pee.
IMPROVIZATION: In the morning bring your clothes into your sleeping bag and allow them to absorb your heat before putting them on.
3. Stay Active during the day
Staying active during the day will not only keep you warm but will help you to sleep better at night. If you love to hike and usually hike a good few hours a day, this is the best fall camping activity.
Here are 10 more ideas:
- Play a game of touch football
- Run a race
- Map out an obstacle course and run it
- Build a bonfire
- Climb a tree
- Bring out your inner child and build a fort
- Have a handstand competition
- Play hide and seek (yip, it's still fun when you grow up)
- Throw a frisbee
- Walk/run up a hill
4. Eat hearty meals
Now is not the time to worry about consuming carbs. Your level of activity during the day will help burn up the calories, but you also want to have carbs before bed. As you sleep you’ll burn off the extra calories, and it’ll keep you warmer.
The best and easiest way to cook while camping is a one-pot meal. Less to wash up and great comfort food in cold weather.
Here are 10 one-pot dinner ideas for you:
- One-pot spaghetti/pasta
- Campfire one-pot nachos
- Frittata on a skillet
- Sloppy Joes (go the lentil route for easier food packing)
- One-pot rice ratatouille
- Sausage paella
- Skillet cornbread
- Chicken burrito bowls
- Mac n Cheese
Do you have favorites you’ll like to share with us?
5. Take extra fuel for campfires
You don’t want to run out of wood for the campfire. Your main source of heat and cooking fuel needs to be well thought out. Having a warm fire at night will help you stay up longer and not push you into your tent as soon as the sun goes down - which will be pretty early. Getting into bed when you’re not tired enough is the pits.
Remember that cooking times will be longer because of the colder weather, another reason to make sure you have enough fuel.
A little bit of sherry or whisky will help to warm up your body. Too much thins your blood which will make you colder later. Everything in moderation.
6. Plan to go when Fall colors are at their best
September and October are the best times to see fall colors. Check out the best fall color destinations and plan ahead. It will be disappointing to go to a particular destination and not see any colors - weather conditions play a major role in producing fall colors in certain regions. Call ahead to find out what they're like in the area you're wanting to visit.
There is a long list of possible places to visit to see fall foliage, here's a list of 15 to get you started.
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Yosemite Valley, California
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
- Zion National Park, Utah
- The Poconos, Pennsylvania
- Wintergreen, Virginia
- Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas
- Upper Peninsula, Michigan
- White Mountains, New Hampshire
- Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
- Kebler Pass, Colorado
- Mount Mansfield in Vermont
Fall Animal Behavior
Fall is also mating season which causes a little more aggression in animals. Whatever you do, do not bring food into your tent. Lock it up in a bear can or in a tree.
7. Pack your survival kit!
Part of survival is telling people where you’re going to be at all times. That’s number one. Then you need to make sure you have everything you need in case anything goes wrong. Prepare for the worst. We hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, you’ll have what you need.
Packing your survival kit needs to be priority number 1. Add stormproof matches and a fire starter to you kit, it's always beneficial to have a few ways of making a fire.
8. Drink lots of water
Drink plenty of water - you tend to forget when the weather is colder. It’s really important to stay hydrated and sip water throughout the day.
We tend to feel less thirsty in colder weather which makes us drink less water.
We know in the summer we need to replenish our water because we sweat. In winter however, we don't sweat as much so we forget to stay hydrated. Before long we wonder why we're so thirsty and realize we've had less than a bottle of water the entire day.
We need to drink eight glasses of water per day to stay properly hydrated.
It's easier to drink warmer fluids when it's cold - don't replace water with caffeinated drinks, rather drink herbal teas.
Don't wait until you feel thirsty before you drink water. Get into the habit of drinking a good amount every day.
Eating fruit and vegetables will also help you to stay hydrated.
9. Take enough changes of clothing to stay dry
Hypothermia is a real threat in colder temperatures so if you get wet, you need to change into dry clothing and shoes as quickly as possible to prevent hypothermia.
Wear a few loose fitting layers of clothing as well as a hat and a scarf.
Warning bells need to start ringing in your mind if you or your partner/friend have these symptoms:
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
If you suspect a mild case of hypothermia, here's what to do:
- Get the person to a shelter and remove any wet clothing or shoes.
- Place warm, dry layers of clothing on them.
- Get them into a sleeping bag - climb in with them, this will help hugely.
- Wrap them in an emergency thermal blanket.
- Get them to eat food like carbs, protein and fats.
- Drink a hot drink.
- Boil water and get them to inhale the steam.
Don't use a hot water bottle, you rather want the person to warm up from the inside out.
If you're really concerned, get them evacuated to a hospital as soon as possible.
10. Check weather forecasts
Stay prepared by checking weather forecasts. Long-term forecasts are not always accurate but you’ll want to know if there are going to be extreme highs and lows and if there will be rain and how much.
Weather can be unpredictable, the forecasts are most often accurate but never leave anything to chance with regard to Fall weather and backcountry hiking conditions. It's crucial for your survival.
Check the weather the night before you leave as well as the morning you leave. Check the hourly forecast too.
Weather checking resources:
CS Lewis said: "Some journeys take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny".
Maybe you’re stuck in a rut right now, it’s time to be lead to a new destiny.
Go on an adventure.