If you’ve never camped in the fall before, it’s so much fun! If you can stay warm. Make sure and take the time to learn how you can be warm so that it’s not a miserable experience. This post is all about staying warm and comfortable during fall camping.
You can stay warm while camping in the fall by layering with the right types of clothes, staying dry, selecting a warm sleeping bag, insulating your sleeping pad, and through a campfire.
These tips are really just the beginning when it comes to fall camping. Continue forward and you’ll learn the best ways to prepare for everything the fall camping season might have to throw at you.
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What To Prepare For While Camping In The Fall
The fall can bring a unique set of obstacles when compared to spring or summer camping. Fall brings colder temperatures, greater chances of rain, and more. The following are some things you might have to deal with while camping in the fall, and how to go with the flow.
Rain tends to be more likely to occur in the fall in many places. Depending on where you’re camping, that might mean a few light showers, or it could mean rain for nearly the entire trip. There is one thing about the rain that is certain, regardless of the frequency.
If it gets into your tent and sleeping bag, it’s going to sabotage any attempts to stay warm. Bring the right gear to keep the rain out of your hangout spots. Things like tarps, a rain fly, and a pop-up can be great tools to use.
Sometimes, you may end up with more than rain to deal with. In our article on camping in a thunderstorm, you can learn some how to stay safe (hint, it’s not in your tent!). Check it out here.
Icy Winds (Don’t Forget This Critical Point)
Wind can really sour your camping experience.
This is the key point people often forget. Even if you prepare for cold temperatures, if you don’t prepare for the wind it’ll be as good as no preparation at all.
For example, if you prepare for 60 degree weather by wearing a hoodie and maybe a rain jacket with shorts--which is completely acceptable for a still cool night--you’re going to be miserable. Wind chill can drop the temperature in remarkable ways.
Wind protection is one way to combat the wind chill: Make sure you have a good tarp, plenty of sturdy stakes, carabiners and similar kinds of tools on hand. These can help to keep tents and tarps in place. Additionally, try to pick a location surrounded by more trees and other sturdy structures that can help to block the wind from your campsite.
The weather while camping is going to have more obstacles for you than the spring or summer months. Sunshine may be limited and the nights may be lacking warmth, but you can still have a good time with the right setup.
Preparing yourself for cooler temperatures is the ideal way to make sure you still get to enjoy your camping trip. That means packing the proper clothing, sleeping materials, and a solid tent to help you hide away from the cold outdoors.
For some added tips on staying comfortable in colder weather, our article “How to Not Be Miserable Camping in 40 Degree Weather” is worth checking out. Take a look at it here!
Get The Right Type of Sleeping Bag
The sleeping bag you own plays a major role in keeping you warm in cold weather. Consequently, you’ll need to make sure you have the right sleeping bag. Read on to learn how to find the right one for your next cool-weather camping trip.
Check The Weather Beforehand
It’s a good idea to take a look at the forecast before any camping trip, regardless of the season. You never know when a sudden storm might pop up that you weren’t prepared for. In the fall, you may want to watch out for temperature drops.
It’s already typically going to be colder in the fall. A sudden drop below the 40s could make for a tough time during your trip if you aren’t prepared for it. By giving yourself a chance to prepare more beforehand, you’ll help yourself to weather any temperature drops that could have taken you by surprise otherwise.
Look At The Rating Of Your Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are often made to protect you from the cold at certain temperature levels. Lightweight sleeping bags may only work down to about 50 degrees, while more intense sleeping bags like the Teton Tracker (Teton’s Website) can function all the way down to 5 degrees.
It’s worth taking a look at your sleeping bag to find out what temperature rating it includes. If it won’t cover the temperatures you’re expecting, get one that will.
On that note, keep in mind that the rating isn’t based on your comfort level. When a sleeping bag is rated for 5 degrees, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be cozy in it at those temperatures. What it means is that you’ll survive. If you want to be comfortable, aim for something that can at least handle about 20 degrees below the temperatures you’re expecting.
Even then, with the Teton Tracker bag, it got to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cold. Even though my bag was rated to 5 degrees, I definitely needed some extra clothing to provide some additional insulation.
Consider a sleeping bag liner
If you’re dealing with 45 degree temperatures, you should definitely consider a sleeping bag liner to give you an extra layer of insulation--in some cases it can raise your temperature by a few degrees, which can be the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and laying awake for hours trying to find the warmest position.
Consider The Coverage Your Sleeping Bag Offers
Even if the temperature rating of your sleeping bag is suitable for your camping trip, it’s worth considering the kind of coverage it offers. Most sleeping bags are designed to allow your head to remain outside of the bag, which is usually the most comfortable in situations where it’s not especially cold outside.
However, for those times when you need extra warmth, you may want something that will keep your head warm as well. Sleeping bags like the Thermarest Hyperion (REI) include hoods that will help to keep the warm air in. For extremely cold weather, you may also want to consider a camping quilt.
The Teton sleeping bag above that I mentioned also has a hood for your head--and believe me, it comes in handy. You can tighten the hood so just your nose and mouth are exposed--hopefully you don’t have to face that kind of cold (no pun intended).
Dress Warm For Bed Anyway
Even if your sleeping bag seems like it will be able to cover your need for warmth, it’s a good idea to put on some warm and dry clothes before bed anyway. After all, it’s better to get too warm and need to take some off than to need to leave your sleeping bag to put more clothes on in the middle of the night.
You want to make sure and avoid having so many clothes that you sweat--if you start sweating, you can shed a layer until you get to the point where you aren’t sweating. Sweating may actually cause you to feel colder.
Before you crawl into your sleeping bag for the night, take the time to put on some warm socks, a hoodie, and some cozy pajama pants. If you have a beanie or other warm hat that will be able to stay put overnight, that’s not a bad idea either.
Pair It With Blankets
You can’t go wrong when you have plenty of blankets around. They’re more comfortable than a sleeping bag alone and can easily be added or subtracted so you can get just the right level of heat. That said, it can be tough to bring a lot of blankets if you’re backpacking or just don’t have space.
If you can, opt to invest in some “camping” blankets that are either more durable or at least less valuable in case they end up needing to be thrown away. This also makes it easier to pack them up along with your other camping gear rather than having to wash and pack the blankets that are already around your home.
Whenever we go camping, we have a bin where we store all of our camping blankets. We have sacrificed these blankets for the camping cause! Totally worth it.
Get The Right Type of Sleeping Pad
While your sleeping bag might put the most effort into keeping you warm, your sleeping pad also plays a role. With the tips below, you can help to keep your sleeping pad nice and warm for a good night’s sleep.
Opt For A Winter Sleeping Pad
A sleeping pad isn’t going to be quite as warm as some other sleeping methods out there, but there are often plenty of things you can do to provide yourself with more comfort when you’re sleeping in the cold.
One of those things includes choosing a sleeping pad that works better in cold temperatures. For example, the NeoAir XTherm is a choice designed for some of the coldest conditions out there. As a result, it’s able to withstand camping trips in both the fall and winter.
The R-Value on a sleeping pad is an excellent indicator as to how well the pad will be able to hold up and keep you warm in cooler weather. Generally, a higher R-Value number means more warmth for you. By comparison, a cold-weather sleeping pad like the XTherm has an R-Value of 6.9.
Another way to add more insulation to your sleeping setup is to use more than one sleeping pad. By combining a couple of sleeping pads, you can add more insulation and reduce the chances of having to deal with the hard ground beneath you.
When you do this, it can be all to easy for the pads to end up slipping around and messing up your insulation. To avoid this, pair up two different kinds of pads, such as a closed-cell pad with an inflatable pad. These will give you options for sleeping in different climates and keep you comfortable and warm throughout the cold nights.
Insulation is a prime way to keep yourself warm when you don’t have electricity. Typically, it involves blocking cool air from getting in and warm air from getting out.
Here are some items you can use to keep your bed insulated and warm.
Blankets are an easy way to add some insulation to your sleeping pad, and most people already have them at home. Bring a couple to place between your sleeping bag and the sleeping pad. They’ll be able to help with keeping the airflow from the sleeping pad away from you.
If you’re using a closed-cell sleeping pad, this might be less of an issue. However, it can still be helpful to have a blanket on hand to block any air that does travel through the pad. If you have something thicker, like a quilt or comforter, it can also add to the overall comfort the pad offers.
Sleeping Bag Liners
Those who want something that can pair up with their specific sleeping bag can opt for a sleeping bag liner. These liners are a great lightweight choice. A sleeping bag liner can make your sleeping bag warmer without as much extra weight.
However, keep in mind that a sleeping bag liner can be a more expensive option. Unless you have no blankets already that you can use for camping and have to purchase all the blankets you’ll need, odds are a sleeping bag liner will be more expensive.
Let’s say you’re already at your campsite. You’ve set up your tent, prepared your bed and crawled into your sleeping bag for a good night’s sleep. After tossing and turning for a while, you realize that even with your other preparations, it’s still too cold for you to sleep well.
If you don’t already have some form of insulation between you and the sleeping pad, it may be time to use some of the clothing you’ve packed. Spread your clothing items out between you and the sleeping mat. In most cases, a blanket or sleeping mat would be better, but clothes can also help to block the airflow in a pinch.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Camping?
Naturally, the answer to this question is going to be a little different for everyone. Most casual campers may try to avoid temperatures at night lower than 50 degrees. Meanwhile, some of the more extreme campers out there may tell you there is no temperature too low for camping.
Aside from your own personal preferences, the gear you own can also be a helpful guide in determining the temperatures you should be camping in. Check out your sleeping bag and even your sleeping pad to determine what kind of temperatures they can handle.
If you want to go below those temperatures, spend some time looking into the proper gear. Remember, staying warm isn’t just about being comfortable. It’s also about keeping yourself alive.
How Can I Keep My Tent Warm Without Electricity?
Keeping warm is quite a bit easier when you can just plug into something nearby. Things can get a little bit trickier when you’re camping without electricity or would prefer to avoid plugging in from a tent due to the rain.
The good news is that the following tips can help you to stay warm even without electricity.
Get The Right Tent
If you’re expecting to be out in the rain and wind, you may want to make sure your tent can stand up to it. There’s more of a difference between a lightweight summer tent, and something made to withstand the elements than you might think.
While you may not need something quite as intense as tents designed for camping in the snow, a tent that guards against the rain better is a must. No one wants rain in their bed! A tent with solid waterproof protection tent like the NTK Laredo (Amazon) is a must for ensuring you sleep well.
A cheap tent can often mean they skimp out on waterproof protection. I’ll show you an example of what a cheap tent can get you:
Unbelievable right? To a certain extent you get what you pay for with tents.
Check out our Tent Buying Guide to see what to look for when getting a tent so you can get something that works for fall conditions.
Insulate Your Tent
The better your tent is insulated, the easier it will be to keep yourself warm while you’re inside. It’s one thing to be warm enough in bed, but what about when you have to get out of it?
Luckily, there are a few ways you can keep your entire tent more insulated against the cold. The following are a few ideas you can make use of:
- Use tarps. Tarps are great for placing under your tent as well as around the sides to keep the heat trapped in. Normal tarps will work just fine in most cases, so make sure to bring a few. This has some controversy--read more about where exactly to put a tarp here.
- Try insulated floor blankets. These blankets will lay on the ground inside your tent rather than on the outside. They help to brace against any airflow coming from under your tent.
- Use emergency blankets. These blankets are designed for providing excellent insulation. If you know you’re going to be camping in the cold, it won’t hurt to have enough on hand to cover your tent.
Bring Your Own Heater
If you really just aren’t a fan of the cold, you can always bring your own heater to use in your tent. There are a number of battery-powered portable heaters out there that can help you to stay warm throughout the night. Just make sure that you learn how to use it safely!
It’s important to know what kinds of heaters are the safest to use in your tent, and how to use them in the safest way possible. We have an article on the topic here, which will guide you through keeping yourself warm and staying safe at the same time.
A campfire is essential to camping, but it’s even more important in the cool fall weather. However, it can also be harder to keep a campfire going when it may be subject to rain or wind.
Keep the following tips in mind when you’re building a fire on your fall camping trip.
Bring Your Own Wood
If you’re able to, bringing your own pre-dried wood will ensure the best results when it comes to building a fire. Just remember that many campgrounds will have their own rules when it comes to bringing firewood.
In many cases, you can only bring firewood from around the area you’ll be camping in. It really just helps to avoid accidentally bringing invasive species into the area. You can make things easier on yourself by just purchasing some firewood from the campground or a nearby town.
Sometimes the campground’s wood is not sheltered so it gets wet during the rain. If the wood is wet, you may have to skip the fire unless you’ve got amazing bushcraft skills.
Protect It From The Rain
Once your fire is really going, a little rain shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, you’ll still want to keep the campfire space as dry as possible. That’s especially true if you think it might rain heavily at some point during your camping trip.
I’ve been there! I’ve been huddled around a fire in the rain in the freezing cold. It is definitely worth making a quick windscreen or other type of shelter to make this enjoyable. Check out this (funny) video for an example of how to do that:
You can use a tarp or pop-up, but you’ll want to make sure the smoke from the fire can still easily get out. Because of this, it might be a good idea to get the fire going well before placing the shelter over it. That way, you can avoid trapping the majority of the smoke.
Dig A Hole For Your Fire
If you’re camping at a campground, there are often fire pits you can use that are made to keep your fire safe and contained. However, you may want to create your own mini fire pit when that isn’t the case. It’s a great way to help with protecting your fire from the elements.
While you’re creating a pit for your fire, remember not to make it too deep. It may seem tempting to create a larger pit for more protection, but you do want air to be able to reach your fire. Otherwise, it will risk suffocation and you won’t have much success keeping a fire going.
Let Your Fuel Dry First
When you don’t have the ability to bring or purchase campfire wood that is already dry, you’ll need to give the wood you gather some time to dry out. Wet wood just doesn’t burn quite as well as dry wood will, and it tends to produce more smoke.
The dampness may also mean that you’ll need more kindling to get the fire rolling. With a hotter fire, damp firewood will have a harder time resisting the burning process.
If you’re out in the wilderness, you want to find twigs and wood at the base of trees where there is the most rain cover. You can find dry wood even if it rains every day up in the mountains. The most uncomfortable places to get wood where you’re getting scratched up by a lot of scrub sometimes are the best places to find kindling.