Camping is a great summer activity. The fresh air, the lush vegetation, and the freedom from the daily grind are all reasons to pack up and head for the hills. But did you know that camping doesn’t have to end with summer? Many people are enjoying camping months into the fall season. Sure, the weather may not be as warm or sunny as during the summer months, but with a little planning and preparation fall camping can be just as much fun. And since many people put away their camping gear once summer draws to a close, the previously overcrowded camping hot spots are usually very available.
Camping in the fall offers a number of advantages over summer camping. The weather can often be just as nice as during the traditional summer months — June, July, and August — but because of the stigma of rain and cold associated with fall, many people stay home, leaving the most popular campsites virtually empty. And because school is back in session, teens and families with kids are usually nowhere to be found. The nights can get a bit cold, true, but this offers the perfect opportunity to snuggle up under a warm blanket with a friend or loved one. And the colors of fall are magnificent; the greens of summer turn into explosive reds, oranges, and yellows. Many species of animals are active during fall, too, since they must prepare themselves for the coming winter. Some campsites even reduce their fees after Labor Day, making fall camping less expensive than summer camping.
Of course, fall camping is entirely different than summer camping. The days may be sunny and warm, but nighttime temperatures can drop quickly and dramatically. Make sure to take heavy clothes and bedding. Also be sure to check the weather patterns of the area you will be camping in and prepare yourself accordingly. Pack rain or snow gear even if the forecast calls for blue skies. Nothing kills a fun camping trip more than being caught in a storm ill-prepared.
What should I bring: food, supplies, clothing, protection
Fall camping supplies don’t vary much from summer camping supplies, with the exception of cold weather gear. You will still need to pack plenty of food in airtight containers, bring a fully-stocked first aid kit, and essential camping supplies, such as matches, flashlights, lanterns, plastic tarps, rope, and firewood. The key to fall camping is excess; if you think one sweatshirt should be enough for your trip, you should probably bring two. If you’re planning a three-day camping trip, you should probably bring enough non-perishable food for four or five days. And don’t forget bedding; nighttime temperatures can make camping miserable if you don’t have well insulated sleeping bags, blankets, and warm clothes.
There are a number of beautiful campsite locations in the Pacific Northwest, and many of them stay open well into the fall season. Located on Three Rivers, the Castle Rock Campground in the Siuslaw National Forest offers fishing and camping and is open year round. Detroit Lake, located in the heart of the Oregon Cascades, also offers a number of year round campsites as well as hiking, fishing, boating, and other fun outdoor activities. For great coastal camping, try Cape Disappointment, Pacific Beach, or Twin Harbors, all year round Washington State campsites. For Oregon coastal camping, try Cape Blanco State Park, which offers miles of coastal hiking, lighthouse tours, and extra large, private, sheltered campsites. For more information on year round campsites in your area, go to either www.oregonstateparks.org or www.parks.wa.gov/.
The most important precaution to take when planning a fall camping trip is to prepare for bad weather. Wear boots and heavy denim, not sneakers and light khakis. Because animals are beginning to store food for hibernation, it is imperative to make sure all your food is in airtight containers and kept away from your tent, preferably in your vehicle. It is also important to keep a light on in your campsite during the night. This not only helps you get your bearings should you wake up in the middle of the night, but it also helps keep bears and other animals away from your site. Make sure to pitch your tent on a high spot in the campsite; pitching it in a low spot will guarantee a wet tent should it rain. Also make sure to keep your supply of firewood dry. Wrapping the wood in plastic or keeping it in your vehicle is a good way to keep it dry. Should your firewood get wet, simply peel back some of the bark or split it into smaller pieces; the inside of the wood should be dry and ready to burn.
Fall camping can be just as much fun as summer camping. Simply make more of an effort when planning, bring a few extra supplies, and know the area you will be staying in, and your fall camping trip should prove to be as rewarding as any one you’ve taken before.