Complete Guide to Camping in Fall: Essentials & Activities
Updated: Sep 16
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Nature needs to be admired by us all, and what better way to truly tune in and love it than to go camping? This outdoor activity may seem daunting if you've never done it, but it is so much fun. You don’t want to miss out on all the fun camping has to offer. Especially camping in fall!
When the leaves start to change color, the temperatures begin cooling, and life seems to slow down a little is the time you need to pack your bags and find a campsite to call home. Fall is hands down the best time to go camping.
But before you pack your bags and hit the road, let’s go over some basics to have a successful fall camping trip. From how to stay warm camping in a tent to fun fall camping activities, we’ll cover all the details below!
Camping in Fall: The Best Time to Go Camping
There is no doubt in my mind when I tell you that fall is the best time to go camping. Getting to be outside with nature while the leaves change colors and paint the landscapes, the temperatures cool, and life calms down is one of the best feelings in the world.
Fall is the best time to go camping because it’s the perfect temperature for sleeping in a tent, hiking, and other fun fall camping activities. If you enjoy hiking as well, then you definitely want to plan a fall camping trip.
It is often the perfect temperature to comfortably hike all day without overheating or freezing to the bone. Plus, fall colors are gorgeous and animals thrive in cool autumn weather making for fun sightings. Cooler weather is perfect for hiking with dogs as well.
Generally, campgrounds won't be super busy in the fall either. Many people have kids in school or a busy work schedule, and some people think it's too cold for camping in fall. But if you bring the right stuff, you'll have a great time! Keep reading to find out what you need to stay warm.
How to Stay Warm Camping in a Tent
While fall weather is perfect for camping and hiking, it can cool down a lot at night. In order to stay comfortable and sleep well, we’re going to go over the basics of how to stay warm while camping in a tent. The most important part is investing in a quality sleeping bag.
Along with staying warm, make sure you have all the camping gear you'll need to have fun and be prepared. These car camping essentials will come in handy for any camping adventure you go on.
1. Invest in a High-Quality Sleeping Bag & Tent
With a quality sleeping bag, one designed specifically for cool weather, you will stay warm while tent camping. Your tent is important to invest in as well; a durable one will make a great difference when camping in colder weather.
The best way to get high-quality gear at an affordable price is to get it second-hand. Ask any adventurous friends you have if they're willing to part with any of their gear, or can let you borrow it.
You can also check out REI's outlet gear if you're in the United States, or become a member and browse their used gear that's majorly discounted. Don't forget to check out your local Buy Nothing group as well; you never know if a neighbor has some great gear they need to find a home for.
2. Mixed Clothing for Layering
Another great tip for staying warm while fall camping is wearing warm pajamas. Sleep in long pants and a t-shirt or sweater as it usually gets really chilly in the middle of the night through the early morning.
I also suggest bringing a sweatshirt and socks into your tent and stuffing them into the bottom of your sleeping bag so they warm up while you sleep. When you wake up to the brisk morning air, putting on a warm sweatshirt and a pair of socks will make it so much easier to get out of bed!
Having various clothing items to layer is best for fall camping. The weather can still vary greatly this time of year so having multiple layers to put on or take off will help you stay comfortable.
3. Bring Extra Blankets
If it gets really chilly where you are camping in fall, you can also bring extra blankets with you. Having an extra layer of warmth in your sleeping bag makes a huge difference, and you can also line your tent with blankets for insulation if you have things to hang them up with (like inside poles or hooks).
4. Sleeping Pads Are Your Best Friend
If you're tent camping, you are going to need a great sleeping pad. Not only will you want this for comfort, but you will want it for warmth. The worst feeling is being frozen from underneath, don't let that happen and invest in an insulated sleeping pad.
5. Mittens Will Come in Handy
You won't be a goof if you're wearing mittens around your campsite. In fact, you'll be a smart camper. Keeping your hands warm will help you stay comfortable and safe while performing camping duties like cooking breakfast, getting the tent set up, etc.
6. Don't Forget Firewood
Before you set off on your camping adventure, check with your campground to see if you're allowed to start campfires. If yes, bring your own stock of firewood if it's allowed (sometimes only native wood is allowed). Or stop by a nearby gas station or hardware store to pick some up when you're near your campground.
7. Hot Food is a Game Changer
You might not feel like cooking a whole meal on a camp stove or over the fire, but having a hot meal will make the cool autumn weather feel so much nicer. Some of my favorite easy camping meals to cook are pasta, nachos with veggie meat, soup, and grilled cheese.
8. Make Sure Your Furry-Friends Stay Warm
If you're camping in fall with your dog, make sure they stay warm in the tent too! We always put a sweater on our fur baby as she has a short coat and gets chilly at night. We also bring an extra blanket just for her so she doesn't get ours all smelly.
Read Also: Dog Camping Necessities
Fall Camping Activities
Want to enjoy the autumn weather to its fullest while you're fall camping? Add some of these fall camping activities to your itinerary. Spending time outside in the fall is a must. Don’t just stay in your tent, get outside and admire all that nature has to offer!
The number one fall camping activity is hiking. The temps are great for outdoor exercise, and fall foliage is admired best while outside and on a great hiking trail. If you’re camping somewhere with hiking trails, you’re in luck.
If not, hop in the car and drive to the closest state park, national forest, or national park. The NPS (National Park Services) has a large amount of parks, forests, and monuments in every US state.
Before you hit the trails, grab a day bag with all the day hiking essentials you need to make sure you stay safe and have fun. This is the best time of year to enjoy hiking in any park or nature reserve.
Another great way to stay active outdoors while camping in the fall is by bringing your bike along for the adventure. Cruise around the campsite if there are long enough roads, or find nearby biking trails and go for the day. Chances are there are hiking and biking trails near your campsite.
Obviously, you need to eat to survive while camping, but you can also go all out and cook elaborate campfire or cookstove meals. There are some incredible recipes out there, some of our favorites coming from Fresh Off the Grid.
Heck, you could cook a three or four-course meal while you’re fall camping if you feel like it! Check out the best camping cookbooks for yourself and get inspired.
Cozying up with a book and beautiful views? I'm in! Another great way to enjoy time outdoors in autumn is by reading a great book. Throw up a hammock, make a blanket bed in the grass, or bring a comfy camping chair. Take a seat and read while you’re enjoying nature’s best time of year for camping.
Along with reading, hammocking is a great way to relax while being outside. Grab a blanket, cozy up, and admire all the fall foliage from the great viewpoint of lying down in a hammock. Always check to make sure you can hang a hammock in your campground! Some campgrounds will not allow you to, so double-check before hanging one.
There are many other ways you can be active outside and enjoy the cooler autumn weather, such as playing frisbee, soccer, going for a run, etc. The most important part is that you’re enjoying all that fall camping has to offer: beautiful foliage, perfect weather, and the best time to hunker down in a blanket and sip on cider or cocoa.
Camping in Fall FAQ
Is October good for camping?
The two very best months to go camping are September and October. The weather is cooling down, most people aren't traveling or going camping, and outdoor adventures like hiking are best enjoyed this time of year.
If there is a particular place you want to go camping in September or October, such as a national park, make sure you know when their campgrounds close. Many NPS sites close at the middle to end of September, but you can always look for a campsite outside of a national park.
Where is the best place to camp in the fall?
The southern US is a great place to camp in the fall as it's generally warmer than other parts of the country. If you don't mind cooler weather, head to the northeast and enjoy New River Gorge and Shenandoah National Park.
Very few places will have snowfall this time of year; I recommend keeping an eye out on the local weather just so you know exactly what to prepare for at your camping destination.
Plan Your Fall Camping Adventure
Make sure you remember a warm sleeping bag, long pajamas, and extra blankets; this is how to stay warm camping in a tent. Fall is seriously the best time to go camping. The weather is perfect during the day for hiking, hammocking, and other fun fall camping activities.
The fall foliage is beautiful, and it makes for great scenery. Plus, campgrounds are generally not very busy in the fall as many people have kids in school or busy work schedules.
If you can get away for a fall camping trip, this is your sign to go for it! What is your favorite camping memory if you’ve ever been camping before? We truly loved road-tripping around the northeast US during fall, camping, and enjoying all the various fall foliage.
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