Fall Camping — Kicking it up a Notch

Two things change how we fall camp: darkness comes earlier, and night temperatures hint at frost. For some, it’s a sign that camping is coming to an end for another year. For others, who enjoy winter camping, it’s a signal that the transition has begun.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

It’s time to make slight modifications in our gear to maintain both our daytime comfort “cool” as well as give us an edge against the nighttime chill. There are several ways we can accomplish this without too many changes in our camping gear.

Try A ‘Space’ Blanket
Since the temperature is edging in on us, we can simply “edge” back. Perhaps all summer you’ve been using a regular ground cloth. Now is a good time to add some radiation retention to that piece of equipment by changing over to a “space blanket.” You get all the “bennies” of a ground cloth plus those few degrees of body heat kept close at hand (and all other body parts, too).

It may not be quite the time to switch to the winter sleeping bag, but surely the addition of a bag liner (or heavier bag liner) will give you a few more degrees of comfort as well. Perhaps the cotton bed sheet you used during the summer is swapped for either a silk or flannel liner? You’re looking for transitional warmth — that added touch that will be appreciated as those nighttime temps dip into the 40s and perhaps even 30s the farther north you are.

I have several jackets that I would classify as “fall” jackets that come out of hiding as autumn establishes itself here in my home state of Minnesota. Another option, of course, is to either add another layer of clothing or perhaps exchange a thinner summer layer for a thicker fall vest or undergarment.

If you don’t want to add torso clothing, you’d be surprised how much a hat or cap can increase your body temperature. Over 25 percent of your body heat escapes through the top of your skull — image how much warmer you are going to feel by slipping on a stocking cap or maybe trading your thin ball cap for one with a quilted liner?

Another quick fix for cozier nighttime comfort zones is to wear a pair of socks. If you already have been wearing them inside your sleeping bag, just start wearing thicker ones.

Use A Second Sleeping Bag
Speaking of sleeping bags, if you only have a lighter weight, summer bag, but want to start pushing the envelope, bring a second bag along and use one like a comforter over the other. Oftentimes it will give you the same warming feeling you’d get from those buffalo-hide thick winter bags on the market.

These are ways you can stay warm around your campsite in general. Don’t forget to consider moving your tent back into the woods more to keep it out of those cold, northern winds. Conversely, a tent set exposed to the sun will warm up quickly each morning. Learn how to build a reflector fire and perhaps change your menu around to include more fats and carbs’.

Fall camping means more darkness to enjoy stargazing, or longer time under a full moon for other antics after the sun goes down. If you are not yet a winter camper, the fall season enables you to establish your own envelope of comfort. Hopefully you will discover just how wonderful (and bug free again) fall camping can be.

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2 Responses to “Fall Camping — Kicking it up a Notch”

  1. Nikki Shearer

    My husband and I do a lot of fall and early spring camping. We love our airbed, but it sucks the heat right out of you. Discovered that an egg crate mattress or thin layer of foam on top keeps you much warmer. And if you have room, those foam floor mats make it much nicer to stand on the floor of your tent when you are getting dressed.

    • tom watson

      Yup, that cold air around the hollow chamber cools the air inside the mattress so adding a thermo layer between you and the mattress shields you from the cold while providing you with the comfort of the air cushion.