Fall is my absolute favorite time to go camping. Here in Minnesota, the bugs finally die, the trees blaze with color, and the sticky summer humidity gives way to crisp fall air.
Fall camping does present a packing challenge, though. October days can be fickle, and you never know if you’re going to get a glorious sunny day or a sudden sleet-storm. Any Minnesotan over the age of 27 can talk your ear off about the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.
So here’s eight fall packing tips, with much love from the customer communications team at Enlightened Equipment. Keep in mind, these are my personal preferences and don’t reflect the camping style of everyone here. While I like to watch my pack weight, I also like to be super comfy!
- Plan on layers. During the day, I wear a moisture-wicking short sleeve tee under a button-down shirt, and then my trusty pair of quick-drying olive green hiking pants from Toad & Co. I end up looking like a classic 80s hiker, and I love it. If I’m working up a sweat, I’ll shed a layer and roll up my pants. I do try to stay away from cotton fabrics, because they don’t insulate when they get wet. There’s nothing worse than taking a trail break and shivering in a sweaty t-shirt. I like to bring a lightweight, warm base layer for sleeping in case temps dip down in the night, plus a pair of thick wool Darn Tough socks because my feet are perpetually ice-cold. I don’t go anywhere without my Buff and a pair of thin mittens too.
- Insulation + wind resistance. I like to bring a lightweight jacket that offers both insulation and wind resistance. Sound like the Torrid APEX jacket much? If I’ve checked the forecast and it looks pretty warm, I’ll pack my Torrid APEX vest instead of the jacket. At night, I wear these insulated items to bed if it’s really cold, or I stuff them into a sack and use them as a pillow!
- Invest in a good sleeping pad. I’m a ground sleeper, and I’ve learned that both in terms of weight and money, it’s worth it to carry a sleeping pad that’s rated for the temperatures I’ll experience. My current 3-season sleeping pad is the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Ultra. Weighing in at 20 ounces, it boasts an R-value of 4.1, inflates to 3.5 inches of poofiness, and packs to the size of a Nalgene bottle. I’ve slept on it down to temps in the low 30s and been cozy. And also comfy. Comfiness is key.
- Know your sleeping temperature, and choose a quilt accordingly. I tend to run really cold at night, so I personally always choose a quilt that’s rated at least 10 degrees lower than the temperatures I’ll experience. A good quilt, combined with my sleeping pad, my trusty base layers, insulated jacket (if necessary), plus a hat and my Buff, keeps me sound asleep and toasty. I also just got an Accomplice to use with my partner, and I’m thinking that might revolutionize my nighttime comfort. Stay tuned on that.
- Splurge on fuel for hot water. Again, this is a personal preference, but on frosty mornings, I love being able to sip on a piping hot cup of instant coffee. So I like to make sure I carry enough fuel to make it! At night, putting a hot water bottle between my legs, resting against my femoral artery, helps warm my core faster too. If you’re going to make a hot water bottle, just make sure your bottle is sealed tight, and make sure it’s not hot enough to cause a burn. Another perk of sleeping with your water is that it will boil quicker in the morning. If you use isobutane canisters, sleep with those too to increase the life of the canister.
- Plan calories for cold weather. Your body will burn calories trying to stay warm, so eating sufficient fuel is extra important in cold weather. I always bring a bit more food than I think I’ll eat, just in case I have an emergency situation. I don’t really pack different food than I do in the summer--I just stick to my tried-and-true menu. I do stay away from alcohol in cold temperatures though, since it actually lowers core body temperature.
- Lip balm and lotion forever! The dry fall air can do a number on exposed skin, so I carry a tiny bottle of lotion with skin protectant (like Aveeno) and some Burt’s Bees lip balm.
- Remember to drink water. Not a packing tip per se, but worth mentioning. When I’m not actively sweating, sometimes I forget to drink water. I try to make a habit that whenever I stop to take in the view, I also take a sip from my water bottle.