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Fall camping: How to be well equipped so you can stay warm and enjoy the fall colours

SAIL

June 28, 2023

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Fall Camping

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors even in chilly weather? Do you dream of being surrounded by breathtaking colours while fall camping in the heart of the forest, but are afraid of being cold? Find out how to equip yourself for a successful stay in the great outdoors that you will remember for a long time.

Have you made a list of what you need to camp in the cool weather under the autumn trees?

Discover our tips on how to gear up for fall camping, and don't forget to bring the following items:

  1. A tent suitable for fall camping
  2. A sleeping bag warm enough for your needs
  3. An anti-moisture camping mat
  4. Practical, warm and comfortable layering clothing
  5. Functional tools
  6. Hearty food

Feel free to refer to our camping essentials checklist, and read our full article to find out what equipment you need for a most enjoyable stay in nature.

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1. A tent suitable for fall camping

Unless you also plan to camp in winter or on very cold days, you won’t need a winter “expedition” tent for fall camping. Instead, go for a three-season tent, with thick, sturdy walls that can withstand wind and rain.

When shopping, think about your future camping trips. If you usually head out to campsites accessible by car, the weight and size of the tent won’t be a concern, and you can go for a sturdy, roomy model, or seek maximum space for your family camping trips. On the other hand, if you’re planning to reach your camping destination on foot or by canoe, be sure to choose a backpacking tent that is lightweight and compact enough to attach to your backpack.

If you want to find out about other selection criteria and tips on how to choose a camping tent, read our article on the subject.

2. A sleeping bag warm enough for your needs

Don’t let the cold keep you awake. Make sure that you pack a sleeping bag designed for lower temperatures.

First, check that it is breathable. You may be drawn to fabrics like fleece, which are cozy and comfortable, but they can make you feel very hot, which means you might end up sweating before you know it. When camping, especially on a cool autumn night, humidity is your enemy, and sweating will quickly lead to shivering.

When making your choice, look at the temperature rating of the models you’re interested in. This tells you up to which temperature a sleeping bag can effectively retain your body heat. According to the 5-degree rule, the “optimum” temperature for use is 5 °C below this rating. So, if the label on a sleeping bag says -10 °C, you can expect it to be perfectly comfortable down to -5 °C. This is a good principle to keep in mind when shopping, especially if you tend to be sensitive to the cold.

As far as shape is concerned, a mummy sleeping bag will keep you warmer than a rectangular sleeping bag, as its snug fit minimizes heat loss. If you want more information before deciding on a model, read our article on the best sleeping bags for camping.

3. An anti-moisture camping mat

Even if you place a groundsheet under your tent and have the best sleeping bag in the world, you may still get cold if you don’t have a good sleeping pad. Why? Because humidity transfers from the ground to your tent during the night.

For pleasant fall camping, the key is to use an insulated sleeping pad, either self-inflating or foam, and make sure it’s well suited to your body type, the level of comfort you’re looking for, and your needs in terms of weight and size. Find more tips and discover some of the best sleeping pads in our article.

Before heading out into the wild, don’t hesitate to test your equipment (tent, sleeping bag and mattress) in a place where you can go back indoors to warm up if necessary. That way, if your equipment isn’t up to the task, you can know before you head out – and have plenty of time to make adjustments.

4. Practical, warm and comfortable layering clothing

The weather can fluctuate a lot in the fall, and layering is a great way to maintain an optimal body temperature and keep humidity at bay; you can simply add or remove a layer of clothing to avoid shivering or sweating. When packing for a fall camping trip, make sure you have plenty of clothing you can layer following the principles of the multi-layer system.

A base layer will be your best friend, be it in the tent or by the fire. Not only does it regulate body temperature, but it’s also highly effective at wicking away moisture. At night, you can wear only your base layer to stay warm and dry in your sleeping bag, and on colder days, you can pair it with one or more layers of breathable clothing. Anything made of cotton, denim or other moisture-retaining fabrics should be avoided.

You’ll also want to bring an insulated mid-layer, which you can put on if the mercury drops, as well as an outer shell to protect you from the elements. Don’t forget to bring a tuque and warm accessories to protect your extremities (gloves, mittens, scarf, neck warmer, etc.), and remember that it’s always better to pack more layers than not enough. If you’d like to know all about the multi-layer system, read our blog post covering the subject.

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5. Functional tools

A crackling fire is always enjoyable when camping, but when fall camping, the pleasure of watching the flames rise becomes a basic need.

As soon as you have pinpointed the perfect campsite, and before it gets dark, use wind- and waterproof matches, newspapers, an axe, and twigs to get your campfire started. Slowly add a few logs, then lay out (but not too close) any equipment that needs to be dried. You can then relax and set up your metal billy can and pot to boil water.

It sure is nice to warm up by the fire on chilly evenings, but don’t wait too long; spending too much time outside once the night has fallen can cause your body temperature to drop to a point where it will be difficult to bring it back up. Instead, fill a thermos or insulated bottle with hot liquid, then take shelter beneath the canvas. Drink enough to keep hydrated but not so that you have to get up during the night to relieve yourself.

You must also be very careful if using a heater inside your tent. You should never run these devices for longer than an hour, and they should always be switched off after use to avoid a lack of oxygen in the tent.

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6. Hearty food

The temperature can drop very quickly on fall evenings. So it’s always a good idea to pack some freeze-dried food (chili, couscous, stew and other foods) or food you have dehydrated yourself beforehand. This way, you’ll be able to whip up a meal in no time (and with only a bit of hot water), and you can quickly return to the warmth of your tent. This type of food is also ideal if you have long distances to cover and need to travel light.

If the temperature allows, you can also prepare delicious meals right in the comfort of your campsite. With the proper equipment, you can always eat well while camping: just pack a stove, some fuel and a few cooking accessories, and you’re ready to go! Don’t forget to bring an insulated cup for broths, soups and hot drinks, as the cool autumn air can quickly make them cold.

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Happy camping!

FAQ

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