Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

9 Must-Know Things About Fall Camping

Yeah for fall! Any long-time reader of the newsletter would know, I LOVE fall camping. Why? Because there are fewer crowds, most insects have died off or have reduced their activity, fewer people, the crisp fall weather, good fishing with fewer biting bugs, fantastic nature hikes with changing vegetation, oh, and fewer people!

Ah! Fall.

(Okay, so maybe that can get boiled down to: less people and biting bugs & good fishing…)

This year, I’ll be heading camping in September rather than October. I’ve got a trip planned the last weekend in September for my birthday. We’re going earlier this year since fall is appearing across Arizona’s High Country with a vengeance this year AND because I don’t really want to chance snow in a tent!

Of course, fall camping doesn’t come without risks. People die each year when they get caught in weather they weren’t ready for. (Do you remember ESP Boss’ “fall” hunting trip in October 2006? He got snowed out!)

1. Don’t get caught in the snow. In most mountainous areas of the United States a light dusting of snow can be expected in the fall (thinking places above 7,000 feet.) If you are going to be camping at altitude be very aware of the weather forecast. A chance of rain in the low-country may mean dangerous conditions at higher elevations. Getting snowed on in the backcountry can collapse your tent, soak your gear, and can cause a number of risks and dangers.

2. Watch what you’re packing. Keep in mind that warmer clothing is going to mean added weight which means more stress on your body (if you’re backpacking or hiking.) Don’t go crazy packing for every emergency, but be prepared for what nature has to offer and cut back on how far you can travel in a day. Always bring a space blanket no matter the weather! You should keep one in each car, in your backpack, in your RV… They don’t weigh much, take up much room, or are very expensive, but they can save your life.

3. Don’t get left shivering. Make sure that your sleeping bag is temperature appropriate for the conditions — it should be written on the tag. And, don’t think that you’re close to town is any excuse! We typically go fall camping at Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff, Arizona and are literally just half an hour from town. But, trying to make that drive in poor conditions, or suffering from hypothermia, is NOT my idea of a good time.

I'll be bringing sleeping bags AND flannel liners just in case.

If you don’t have a mummy style sleeping bag sleep with a hat on, 50% of body heat is lost through your head. Use a closed-cell foam sleeping pad under your sleeping bag — foam based pads will provide better insulation than an air mattress.

4. Cooking time! Try to keep your meals simple. You already know that elevation adds time to cooking, but also remember that colder temperatures mean longer cooking times. You’re going to consume more fuel trying to get a pot of water to boil or cooking meals. Keep a lid on the pots when you are cooking to maximize heat retention.

Oh, and pick up a good recipe book that is specifically for camp cooking. I recommend “Camp Cooking from the Pitch Your Tent/Set Your Hook Newsletter”

5. Look out for bears. Bears can spend as much as 20 hours a day foraging for food during the last weeks of fall. Keeping a clean campsite is critical this time of the year. And, if you don’t know if there are bears in your area, assume there are! Call the local Forest Service office for recommendations about safe camping in bear country where you are.

6. Be ready for the wind. Fall brings strong cold fronts across the United States which can mean cold temperatures, crystal clear skies, and a lot of wind. Your tent might be great in the summer, but could have a hard time in the wind. Make sure you stake your tent securely; they have been known to blow away even with gear and people inside of them! And, take a tip from Barry B. — check the weather. If it’s going to be windy, you might want to stay home rather than have a lousy trip!

7. Stay dry. Don’t underestimate the power of hypothermia. With daytime highs reaching only into the 50s and 60s in the fall, treat getting wet as an emergency. In air, most heat is lost through the head so hypothermia can thus be most effectively prevented by covering the head. Having appropriate clothing for the environment is another important prevention. For outdoor exercise on a cold day, it is advisable to wear fabrics which can “wick” away sweat moisture.

8. Don’t end up in the dark. Remember that not only will the weather get cooler and more unpredictable, the days are getting shorter as summer ends and we’re heading into winter. Give yourself enough time to arrive at your campsite during daylight hours so you don’t end up hiking (or setting up!) in the dark.

9. Other fall camping considerations

  • After Labor Day, many campgrounds reduce their fees, so one fall camping advantage is reduced costs. Some campgrounds are also free, but that usually means that there are no amenities like water, toilets, and garbage service. Be sure to call ahead and make sure that the campground is open!
  • Make campground reservations. Popular campgrounds will still fill up on weekends, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Most campgrounds don’t require reservations in the fall, but even if you should call and find that you don’t need a reservation, you’ve at least saved yourself the worry.
  • Plan to arrive early. At Pine Grove, they close entire loops of the campground so reservations wouldn’t be a help (they’re only accepted on the areas that are closed in the fall!) so you want to arrive early in the day to get the spot you want.

I’ve already started making my camping lists for my trip. The friend I’m taking has only been camping once before (EVER!) so I’m doing everything I can to make sure this is a fun experience. To that end, I decided to go to the more developed Pine Grove Campground (my old standby) rather than a more primitive area. Trust me, when you’re new to camping, real flush toilets make a huge difference!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite fall outdoor adventures?
  • At what point do you pack away your camping gear for the winter?
  • What would you do to make sure a net-to-camping friend has a great experience?

Best Camping Season

Most people associate camping with summer time. And, as the start of the school year is drawing nearer (The Queen Mother teaches 5th grade; she reports back on Monday!) I think a lot of people might be thinking that their camping for the year is over.

But that is far from true. Done properly, camping is easy in three seasons of the year and for those hearty souls, can even be done in winter!

No matter when you go camping, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper gear including sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tent! If you need help buying gear, you can find information about Buying a Sleeping Bag and Picking a Sleeping Pad. (Tents coming soon!)

Spring Camping

The grass is coming out, a few early wildflowers and blooming, the creeks are running with snowmelt. And there might even be snow on the north side of hills!

Advantages to Spring Camping:

  • Not many people are out in the spring, so you can enjoy the peace and solitude of nature.
  • Enjoy that early vegetation! Nothing is prettier than grass and flowers just starting to grow.
  • Animals are usually pretty active since they’ve “forgotten” the crush of people from the summer before.
  • No bugs!
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.

Disadvantages to Spring Camping:

  • Many campgrounds don’t open until Memorial Day so services might be limited including water and trash service.
  • Mud! You have to be very careful where you drive so you don’t damage the soggy ground.
  • Cold nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.

Summer Camping

It’s hot, supermarkets have displays of s’more fixings, the kids are out of school, and the campgrounds are just calling your name! Of course, they’re calling everybody else’s name too!

Advantages to Summer Camping:

  • Kids are out of school.
  • There’s a festive atmosphere at most campgrounds.
  • Campgrounds offer full services of a campground host, water, trash service, etc.
  • Campgrounds are less busy during the week.
  • Big Box stores are full of camping gear so it’s easy to purchase/upgrade new equipment. (Or if you forget something, they’ll have it on the shelf!)
  • It’s tradition!

Disadvantages to Summer Camping:

  • Campgrounds (and dispersed camping!) can be crowded, dusty, and noisy.
  • There might be fire restrictions in effect depending on rain fall.
  • It can be difficult to find a campsite on the weekends.
  • Summer means all manner of crawling things! Mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, bitemes, spiders, ants, etc.

Fall Camping

The leaves are turning, most people have headed back to the cities for school and work, the air is crisp. Fishing picks back up. It’s my favorite season to go camping!

Advantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds (if they’re open) won’t be crowded.
  • Fewer bugs.
  • The fishing is usually excellent.
  • Less likely to have fire restrictions.
  • Wildlife is very active.

Disadvantages to Fall Camping:

  • Campgrounds might be closed or have limited service.
  • Cool nights and it might freeze. You’ll have to bring warmer clothes (more to pack) and it’ll take extra time to cook.
  • Hunters are out so you’ll need to check hunting regulations in your area. It doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy the Great Outdoors, but you might need to wear “hunter orange” or take other precautions.

Winter Camping

There’s no denying the bite in the air! Trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, the grass is brown, snow is in the air. Snowbirds are flocking south for the season.

Advantages to Winter Camping:

  • There are hardly any people.
  • Peace, solitude, and beautiful winter views abound.
  • You can head to warmer climates for camping and leave all those office folk their cities.
  • Not a bug in site!
  • Good for bird watching or viewing large game like deer and elk.

Disadvantages to Winter Camping:

  • Many public campgrounds will be closed and services will be extremely limited.
  • You will need to bring lots of extra gear to brave the colder weather.
  • If you’re heading south, you’ll have to deal with the snowbirds and retirees.
  • Winter camping (in the snow) requires a higher level of knowledge, skill, and expertise.
  • Wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures so be prepared!

Personally? My favorite season for camping is the fall!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite time of year to go camping?