The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping and you are beginning to realize you aren’t ready to call it quits with camping quite yet. You want to take advantage of this beautiful time of year and pitch your tent in the amber forests, scramble up mountains covered in vibrant colors and warm up around a toasty fire. However, tackling this new ambition with your summer camping gear will surely deter you from ever embarking on this adventure again, so make sure you’re properly equipped. Below are five essentials for fall camping.
1) An All-Weather Tent
Fall is that unpredictable time of year when you can go to sleep under a balmy blanket of stars and wake up with your site covered in a layer of snow. With rapidly fluctuating temperatures, you want to make sure your tent is durable enough to handle the elements. When shopping around, look for tents with flooring and doors that have been treated with silicone and a polyurethane coating – this will ensure dryness during even the heaviest of snowstorms. Make sure the tent’s poles and stakes are durable enough to sustain high winds, yet light enough to pack in and out. Lastly, check the tent’s ventilation system. Adjustable mesh vents are ideal for allowing air circulation in snowy situations.
2) A Sufficient Sleeping Bag
No one likes a grumpy camper, especially the morning before a day full of epic activities. But after a night spent in your flimsy, fleece-lined, summer sleeping bag, when the temperatures dropped below freezing and you had to don every article of clothing in your pack, a grumpy camper is exactly what you’ll be. Don’t be that person. Bring the right bag. When buying a proper cold-weather sleeping bag, keep in mind these three things:
First, you’ll need to choose between down and synthetic insulation. Goose down is proven to be warmer, lighter, more durable, more comfortable and more compact than synthetic filling, which is significantly more waterproof. Unless you’re planning on spending multiple nights suspended on the face of a rock wall, a down sleeping bag is probably your best choice.
Secondly, consider the temperatures in which you’ll be camping and search for the corresponding down “fill.” Fill power determines the quality of down by measuring the “amount of space one ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches when allowed to reach its maximum loft.” The colder you camp, the higher the fill. Those of you expecting to camp throughout the fall and into winter should shop for bags with 800 to 900-fill. If you’re going to call it quits after the last leaf falls, bags in the 600 to 800-fill range should suffice. Keep in mind, however, the quality of your tent and purchase your bag accordingly.
Lastly, ensure your bag has a water-resistant shell. While you may try to avoid rain and snow storms at all costs, the inevitable condensation inside your tent will cause moisture to settle on your bag. Most sleeping bags are shielded with water resistant nylon fabric to keep moisture out. For added measure, however, look for bags with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating.
3) Cold Weather Clothing
While daytime temps may yield shorts-and-tee shirt weather, you’ll want to be sufficiently prepared for chilly nights and bitter cold mornings. Considering that we lose most of our body heat through our head, you will want to make sure you pack a thick hat and a jacket with a hood. It’s important to keep your core warm, so make sure you pack the proper layers. First don a base layer, like long-sleeved long underwear. Add a mid-layer, like a light fleece, and top of with a durable jacket. Warm gloves and mittens are a must, as are solid socks and boots to keep your toes dry and warm. No one likes cold feet.
4) A Bundle-Up Blanket
Having a durable, cozy blanket can make or break your fireside experience on those chilly nights when layers of clothes and toasty blazes aren’t quite cutting it. Even better, you can layer on a blanket at night for added sleeping bag warmth or lay it on your sleeping pad for protection against the cold ground. Search for a blanket that’s compactable, water resistant and warm like Therm-a-Rest’s Tech Blanket, Pendleton’s Camp Blanket or Grand Trunk’s Packable Synthetic Blanket.
5) A Small Quick-Starting Stove
Let’s face it – waking up is hard. Especially when you’re bundled snugly in your warm, down sleeping bag and the sun has yet to thaw the frozen earth outside your tent. This is where a small, single burner stove comes in handy. Brew up a quick cup of that cherished hot coffee with a butane-burning, lightweight stove. By purchasing a personal stove with a heat reflector, you’ll be able to cook inside your tent, boil water in minutes and you won’t waste fuel. Furthermore, these lightweight stoves make packing a breeze. For prime efficacy, look for stoves weighing between 14 and 30 ounces.
Love the ideas, but not sure where to start shopping? Check out backcountry.com and Rock Creek for spectacular savings and an array of goods. REI is guaranteed to have all your fall camping needs or visit sierratradingpost.com for discounted and overstocked supplies. Great local outfitter options are Feathered Friends and Second Ascent in Seattle.