Is it too late to camp?

marshmallow-smoresLabor 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!

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19 thoughts on “Is it too late to camp?

  1. A lot less chance to run into swarms of mosquitoes, and avoiding really hot days, is what brings our family camping way after Labor day. We also like camping because of solitude. On non popular camping weekend, their is less chances to run into people who listen to music, stay up late drinking or driving their ATV's. Check out my blog

      • Hi Amy! I am also in Atlanta. We love N. GA camping. Lake Winefield Scott is a nice family campground. Mostly tents. A few sites with hook ups. Hot showers too! Coopers Creek in Suches GA, also very nice camping, right on the water. No Showers though. Rabun County also has some great camping. Bear Creek in Ellijay is nice too. I could go on forever, but that should get you started….if you haven’t already gone camping!

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  3. We live in the south east and only have a few months of cooled weather to content with to me its the best time of year since I hat the heat and love the cold. This is the only time of year that I start planing camping trips due to all the downs sided things listed above. Like Chris said above the good sites are open less fellow camper and like you said its alot quieter less the bugs. we have a trip planed the first weekend of Oct. and I cant wait to go.

  4. We're in Texas, so we love fall camping – it's finally cooler! And, as you said, we can get campsites that are harder to come by in the summer. Of course, we don't have kids so we don't have to worry about fall sports and back to school the way many families do. But yes, Labor Day is only the beginning!

    • Chris – you should have seen the campground we were at on Labor Day, there must have been 300 families there 🙂 There were packs of kids everywhere! As much fun as they are, I'm dreaming of the days when it's just me and Lisa sitting around the campfire!

  5. Oh, definitely not too late to camp. Of course, different parts of the country are VERY different in the fall, but here in the southwest, it's an excellent time to cook outdoors, sit around a campfire and sleep in a tent, not to mention wake up to the fresh, crisp air. Nearly every year, we got to Zion National Park (4 hours away) for Thanksgiving and camp out for the long weekend. We even once cooked a turkey on a spit over the fire and had all the fixins. I also did lots of fall camping when I hiked the A.T. northbound,so I was in northern New England at that time. Yes, the nights and mornings were cold, but if you have the gear, it's such an awesome time to be outdoors. The days are often just gorgeous.

  6. Be aware that deer-hunting season starts this weekend in many parts of the state. Wear bright colors and stay on trails if you are hiking on forest service land and BLM land.

  7. Camping in the autumn, winter & spring especially over holiday weekends, beats the crowds of summer. Our favorite time is any offseason!