Fall is in the air. Between the warm pumpkin spice lattes and vibrant fall foliage, fall always warms my heart as we anticipate the holiday season to come. When I think of fall, carving pumpkins, baking pies, frolicking through corn mazes, and losing sleep to the latest horror films always come to mind. But, this past season I have finally taken the plunge to one of the greatest fall experience of all, fall camping!
If you follow me at all, you would know that my husband Robb and I spend much of the warmer season in the great outdoors. It’s cheap, easy, and well an experience that can’t be beat.
We often like to find beautiful spots in the middle of no-where without a town in site. Our favorites our BLM dispersed campsite that are free and far away. This is not to say that my camping adventures are primitive. Although we are just tent camping, we always glam it up. To the untrained eye, you may think we are throwing our own festival at our site.
This is why we try to stretch the camping season as long as possible.
This year, we had the joy of going out in late September and boy was it a treat. We found ourselves a GORGEOUS Aspen grove on the peak of it’s color change and we are convinced. Fall camping is where it is at.
I’ll break down why
1. FULLY EXPERIENCE THE CHANGING COLORS WITH FALL CAMPING
On our way up, we passed one of Colorado’s most famous spots to catch the fall foliage at Kenosha Pass. These colors are to die for. Imagine this. Fields of bright gold and orange sprawl across the land only held by columns of tall bright white aspens to contrast against the leaves. It is definitely a sight to see.
However, it does get crowded. I mean really crowded. While we were able to snag a couple cool photos in a slightly less crowded area, the flocks of people definitely kills the vibes.
Luckily, we were only on a quick pit stop before finding the perfect campsite for the weekend. We found a beautiful site right near Brown’s Creek within a beautiful Aspen grove and got all the colors all to ourselves for the weekend. I am still a giddy thinking about how cool this site was. Nature is so cool.
Not to mention that we only saw one other biker and few guys on an ATV briefly throughout the whole weekend. This leads me to my next point.
2. MANY POPULAR CAMPSITES ARE EMPTY WITH FALL CAMPING
As a former Utah resident, I was a bit disappointed to move to Colorado and learn how crowded camping gets. As I mentioned before, we like to camp far away from people and it’s impossible when basically everyone is camping that weekend.
Fortunately, the fall often scares off many campers as most people put away the camp gear after Labor Day. Depending where you live, the weather may still permit a beautiful camping adventure for even the most anti-bad weather campers.
This year was warm in Colorado so we were in luck. While we still drove in deep into the camping area to find a perfect site rather than settling for something mediocre near the bottom, there are usually plenty to choose from. Think of it like this. Kids are back in school. People are thinking about fall activities rather than summer ones. You catch my drift.
3. MANY FIRE BANS ARE PULLED IN THE FALL
This was the year of fire bans. They were rightly placed too. Sadly, 2018 was filled with fires all across the state destroying forests and homes including one of my friends childhood cabin. I strongly recommend anyone exploring the outdoors to respect the fire bans in place. I even have a nice article showing how to have a great time camping without the campfire here.
With that being said, it is nice to have a campfire once it is safe to do so. With temperatures dropping and participation, many counties will drop their fire bans as we move into fall. This opened up new terrain for Robb and I to explore.
4. IT GETS UNIQULY QUIET WHILE FALL CAMPING
Between the lack of other campers and critters calling it quits, it gets quiet. Spookily quiet. It’s really neat.
Basically, many of the animals and bugs are preparing for the winter and are not out crawling around like they are in the summer. It was weird. We could barely hear a cricket out there. Hell, we barely saw spiders, flies, mosquitoes, or anything. We did get bees but you could tell they are scavenging for the remaining scraps before the fall turns to winter.
Even birds were more on the quiet side. They did come out around dusk but there wasn’t the usual brigade of birds you’re used to in the summer. They’ve either migrated or are preparing to be ready for winter.
It’s pretty neat to see the season in action when you are fully immersed in it. Living in the city, I don’t notice the change in animal behavior as much. Where we camped clearly gets cold and snowy in the winter and these creatures need to do what they can to survive. Seeing this in person really makes you feel insignificant in the grand scheme of life on Earth. This sure beats my Planet Earth and yoga sesh.
5. IT FINALLY GETS COLD
Like I said, this summer was hot. I don’t know about you but there is something about camping while wearing flannels, making stews, cuddling by the campfire, and all those other stereotypical camping things.
That doesn’t happen when it’s hot. No one wants chili on a 100 degree night. Ugh and flannel. No thanks.
But, I love all of that. I love to wake up with the crisp air on my face. I love the stews. The cider. The snuggly clothes. Thank you fall for finally being cold enough for all of this.
Don’t get me wrong. Summer camping is awesome. But, fall camping is just so romantic. Bring on the cuddling.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR FALL CAMPING
So, now that you are convinced to go camping, what steps should you take to make it as pleasurable as possible? I’ve got you covered.
1. MAKE SLEEPING A PRIORITY WHILE FALL CAMPING
You are going to want to be warm. When all else fails, your tent can become your ultimate cuddly paradise if you prepare right.
I am the hugest advocate in splurging for a nice sleeping pad. If there is one piece of gear that you should splurge on, it’s this. I use the Big Agnes Double Hinman and it is a god send. Even hungover Melanie wakes up happy after sleeping on this.
I mostly say this because if you get the nice pad, you can go thriftier on the sleeping bag. Nicer pads have great insulation to take the pressure off of your sleeping bag to keep you warm. I have a cheap double bag and just bring a bunch of blankets and other bags to go on top. Add a knit cap to keep the heat from escaping my head and I am good to go.
Whatever you do, avoid the cheap air mattress. It really is not as good as you think. I won’t get into it as much here since I’ve already written my ode to my hatred of the cheap air mattress (and what to get instead) here. You’ll thank me later.
2. BRING ALL THE TARPS
Tarps are so versatile for camping. With a little bit of rope, you can easily make a canopy which will come in handy while fall camping.
Let’s put it this way. Camping in general has unpredictable weather emergencies and well, in a transitional season like fall, this only gets worst. Don’t let the rain stop you though. You can use tarps to create everything from a fire safe shelter (if you make an opening for the smoke of course), a walled off room, or simply keep your gear dry as you wait for a storm to pass. Even if it gets sunny, you can build a shade. Tarps are cheap so there really is no reason not to get a few.
3. DRESS IN LAYERS
This goes without saying. Dress appropriately for fall camping. Temperatures can drop more drastically as you get deeper into the season. Layers are generally a good idea for camping in general as clothes may get wet, dirty, or you may just need more clothes.
With that being said, make sure you have fabrics more equipped for colder weather. I bring thermal underwear, wool, flannel, and waterproof gear to keep me nice and warm. Try to avoid fabrics that stay really wet such as cotton and denim or at least bring enough alternatives. Wet camping sucks.
4. PLAN FOR CAMPING MEALS THAT WILL WARM YOU UP
Let your belly guide you. Nothing warms you up more than a nice bowl of chili, stew, or soups. Plan recipes that will keep you nice and warm and inspire fall thoughts as you sleep amongst the changing trees.
For me, one of my favorite parts of fall is the food. Use your creativity to incorporate warm fall favorites into your meal plan. Honestly, by the time that it’s this late in the season, I’m pretty burnt out of grilling or typical warm day camping meals. Why not spruce it up with a tasty foil pack with fall inspirations like squash or apples. It could also be a fun challenge to try to cook your favorite fall recipes outdoors.
4. BRING ALTERNATIVE HEAT SOURCES JUST IN CASE
You never know what could happen while camping, especially in the fall. It might be so rainy that a fire could be impossible to start. Make sure you pack a few alternate heat sources for food and warmth.
I always bring a small propane operated stove while camping. I got one for really cheap at a big box store way back when for under 20 bucks and it works like a charm. It also makes it easy to heat up coffee and tea in the morning or soups and stews for dinner. I sometimes bring the grill as well but I recommend at least the stove.
I also recommend bringing other heat sources such as a propane operated heater or hand warmers. I got this Little Buddy heater for our wedding that would work great. It has sensors to shut it off if CO2 levels are too high or if it knocks over. Alternatively, you can bring hand warmers to help keep you warm. We are a ski family so we have a ton of them lying around. They usually a few dollars at any gas station and can be a real life saver when the temperature drops.
5. BRING EXTRA LIGHTS
I basically am the queen of lighting when it comes to camping. I am afraid of the dark and I love to rave. I basically have 4 solar light strings strung up around the site for ambiance as well as a few lanterns.
You don’t have to be as extra as me though. Just know that the sun does go down earlier as you get deeper into fall. Prepare accordingly.
I will note that you should always take a step away from the lights or turn them off at some point in the night. If it’s clear and the moon is away, you might be able to catch the full Milky Way. It is enchanting. Even thr moon itself is cool to look at while camping.
There you have it. I hope that you get the opportunity to spend time this fall under the stars as we do. I promise you that you won’t regret it. Fall camping is where it’s at.
Are you planning a fall camping trip anytime soon? Do you have any tips you like to use to make the most out of the season? Let me know in the comment section. If you liked this story and would like more tips, please subscribe to this blog. Thank you for reading.