What's more beautiful than New England's fall foliage? What better way to enjoy it than taking a scenic drive north to camp and hike for a few days before the campgrounds close? Since my answer is "nothing's better!" I'm taking off for a New Hampshire camping trip this October, to celebrate my 30th birthday. October camping comes with a few more requirements than summer camping does. Here are my top recommendations for what to bring to make your Fall Camping Trip totally cozy and perfectly pleasant:
- A three-season tent: Three season tents are intended for spring, summer, and fall. They differ from small lightweight pup tents that are only suitable for warm weather in that they're typically thicker and have a rain-fly. A three-season tent will help you sleep even when the wind's blowing at night, and it will typically also have two entrances for ventilation once the sun is shining and the day warms up. I like REI's Basecamp 6.
- A sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating: Pack a bag that's rated for the coldest temperature you might encounter. Remember that fall nights can get chilly: the average overnight low for October nights in New Hampshire is 35. I got a 22 degree bag, because it's comfy, green (my favorite color), and it was on sale. If you don't have a very warm sleeping bag, you can also buy a silk sleeping bag liner. A liner not only increases your warmth by 5 degrees, it also helps keep your sleeping bag clean, just like a sheet. And a silk sheet at that, mmm...
- An extra blanket: If you're car camping, as opposed to backpacking, why not throw an extra blanket or two into the backseat? This is a smart move, especially if you're concerned that your tent or your sleeping bag isn't warm enough. An extra blanket is also really nice to have around the campfire. Cozy up in your camp chair with a warm beverage and a blanket in your lap to enjoy the fire and the stars. Seriously, what's better than that?
- Cooking supplies for hot meals and beverages: In the summer months, it's easier to wing it. You can pack some apples and granola bars for a quick breakfast before jumping in the lake and working up an appetite for a cold sandwich lunch. But on a 50 degree morning, you'll appreciate some hot oatmeal and tea. Invest in a cast iron pot and pan that you can put directly on the coals to cook and boil beverages. I also have a Coleman propane "roadtrip" grill which is great for times when you want to cook without building a fire (also great for tailgating).
- Appropriate attire: As New Englanders know, fall fashion is all about layers, enabling you to transition from a chilly morning, to a warm day, and back to a chilly night. Zip-up fleeces, lined sweaters, acrylic hats, corduroy pants, wool socks, and hiking boots are great staples. Remember that cotton, once wet, takes longer to dry than fleece does, making a hooded fleece a better option than a hooded sweatshirt. A little pair of gloves is also wonderful to protect your cold hands while you're snapping kindling for your morning and evening fires.
Things that are good for camping any time of year become even nicer to have in colder weather, including:
- A good headlamp, lantern, or flashlight. It's getting darker earlier and earlier: plan your arrival to your campsite in time to set up with the sun and remember to bring some light sources.
- An air mattress or sleeping pad. Don't camp without one! When the ground's cold, you'll want to stay off of it all the more.
- Baby wipes or face wash wipes, because it's not always as appealing to trek to the bathhouse for a shower (if there is one) on cold mornings, and getting in the pond or lake to wash is totally out unless you're exceptionally hot blooded. For some more camping hygiene and beautification tips (geared especially toward the ladies!) check out http://www.examiner.com/article/how-to-stay-cute-on-summer-camping-trips-8-tips.