Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
I know it’s hard to imagine when the thermometer is threatening to burst out the top with this summer heat, but it’s true. Autumn in only a couple of months away. That means crisp apples, cool days, colorful leaves…and for me, the start of camping season.
Autumn is a wonderful time to head out for campsites and cabins. It’s usually cool enough to hike in comfort, and warm enough to sleep without shivering through the night. I know I might be getting ahead of myself season-wise, but I couldn’t wait a second longer. Here are some of my favorite autumn camping ideas and tips.
10. Think leaves
Obvious, you say? Perhaps. But the fact is so many people make travel plans to see the fall leaves, but on a fraction of them do it by camping. Think about it. You won’t just see those gorgeous colors as they race by your car… you’ll wake up with them all around you. Overhead. On the ground. On the hiking trail. On all sides of you as you eat. Now do you really want to check into that chain hotel?
9. Access to unique properties
When the summer vacation crowds head home, space will open up at some truly unique camping destinations. Spend a night or two in a cabin floating in Louisiana, pitch your tent on the shores of a crystal clear lake or sleep under the stars on a hilltop. When it’s just you and nature, the experience is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
8. Prepare for showers – then enjoy them
Autumn brings rain showers in some parts of the country, so be prepared with a good rain jacket, poncho or umbrella. But don’t let the soggy skies dampen your fun. As long as there’s no lightening or thunder, put on your wet weather gear and head out to enjoy it. The rain will make the already lovely leaves literally sparkle with color. Roads and pathways will reflect the color into a feast for the eyes.
7. Pack for comfort
Camping is no time for being fashion-conscious (although I will admit to taking a makeup kit and small mirror on all of my camping trips). And that’s doubly true in autumn when changing weather and cool evenings make packing comfortable clothes even more important. Look for cozy sweaters, chill-busting windbreakers and waterproof hiking books. Add a pair or two of gloves to stay toasty if the temps drop.
6. Let the season guide your menu
What comes to mind when you someone says “camping food?” If you’re like most people, it’s the same every time. Why?
When I go camping in the fall, the hot dogs of summer take a break. Instead, I break out the Dutch oven and fill it with seasonal vegetables and earthy herbs to create a rich and warming stew. Apples bake in foil over the first morning fire, then let them make their appearance chopped up with maple syrup as the topping for pancakes. Pick your favor according to what’s in season, and you’ll have an autumn feast instead of just supper.
5. Let your inner child out to play
One of the things I love about fall is how nature provides the entertainment. Who needs tablets and nooks when there’s a breathtaking show around every corner. And planned activities? No need when there are piles and piles of leaves to kick through, crunch and if you’re really lucky, jump into. Leave the grown-up jaded eyes behind, and see the world like a little kid. I promise that will make your camping adventure all that much better.
4. Don’t miss the sunrise
There is just something about an autumn sunrise. I don’t know if it’s the angle of the sun, as we move towards the long, long shadows of winter. Or if it’s the leaves that light up like stained glass as soon as the first light hits them. Either way, do plan to watch at least one sunrise during your time in nature. It’s something not to be missed.
3. Pay attention to your fire wood
Your firewood is your warmth and your fuel for cooking, so make sure you pay attention to it. Figure out what you need to bring, and then added a bit more just to be safe. Stack it near the fire and under a tarp to keep the morning moisture off of it (you don’t want a smokey fire at breakfast!) And just to be safe, wear work gloves when you’re moving the wood around. Little creepie crawlies love the warm, dry spaces as much as you do, and might be hiding under a log. It’s not a real problem…just something that works well with a “better safe than sorry” approach.
2. Bring extra lights
If you’ve only camped in the summer time, you might not realize that it gets dark a lot sooner on a fall camping trip. Plan your hikes so you can be back to the site before dark, and bring extra lights for the campsite and tent. LED lanterns and flameless candles provide safe, reliable light in the tent and outside. Hang a string or two of solar powered lights overhead to make after-dark dining more festive, too. And do make sure everyone in your group has a good flashlight for late night trips to the restroom.
1. Capture the memories
There is no way to describe the beauty of camping in the heart of fall. But I know you will want to take pictures. Bring a good, pocket-sized camera with an extra battery pack or two. If you’re a more serious photographer, pack along a versatile digital camera and an adjustable tripod, too.
Start planning your autumn camping trip now! It will make dealing with the dog days of summer just a little less painful.