Labor Day marks the traditional end of the camping season for most people. Tents, sleeping bags and stoves go into garage-hibernation as kids head back to school and fall sports become the focus for many families. For those who can brave some cooler weather or a rain shower, though, fall camping can be even more enjoyable than camping in the summer.
One of the biggest benefits of fall camping is noticeable as soon as you logon to your state’s reservation system and see all of the available campsites. If you have ever experienced a noisy summer night in a campground, you will surely appreciate the quiet solitude of a crisp October evening around the campfire. The fall is a great time to get out and experience some of the places that you could not get reservations at, during the summer.
In addition to the summer party crowd, another thing that you probably won’t miss are mosquitoes, ticks and black flies. As the mercury drops, many of the pests that we tolerate during the summer disappear, leaving us to enjoy the backcountry all to ourselves. That doesn’t mean you can get sloppy with food in the campsite, since Rocky Raccoon doesn’t hibernate, but it’s sure nice to be able to enjoy the sunrise and sunset without having to lather everyone up with bug spray.
Camping in the fall does mean that you must be prepared for cooler nights and potential rain showers. Fortunately, if you already have the basics for camping during the summer, you don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money for fall camping. You can upgrade your summer bags to handle cooler fall temperatures with sleeping bag liners, like those from Design Salt® and Sea To Summit™ ($45 to $65 depending on fabric).
The key to camping in the rain is being able to erect a secondary shelter for tasks such as cooking, playing games, or even changing clothes if your tent is small. A 10×10 canopy, like those from E-Z Up®, works well ($99) as does a large tarp and some rope ($15) if there are trees on the campsite and the campground allows tying things to trees. Raindrops on the tent really is a soothing and enjoyable sound, so resist the urge to hop-in the car at the first sign of moisture and just enjoy the moment.
Back to school doesn’t have to mean the outdoors are off limits until spring. There is still plenty of great camping to be had, before winter sets in and Jack Frost comes calling. The fact that you can have some of the more popular spots in your area all to yourselves is just a bonus!