Late Season Camping: What to Keep in Mind as You Plan Your Trip

For most peo­ple, camp­ing sea­son ends in autumn, when tem­per­a­tures start to plum­met. How­ev­er, camp­ing late in the year means that camp­grounds aren’t as busy, there are few­er bugs, and you get to see your favorite land­scapes in a dif­fer­ent sea­son. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan a late fall or win­ter camp­ing trip.

Camp­fires are Back
Mon­soon sea­son hits many states around August, and that is a good thing for just about every­one. With fire bans in place all sum­mer, the rains are a wel­come sight. Once the rains come, the dan­ger of wild­fire recedes (slight­ly). While most coun­ties and Nation­al Forests have fire bans even late in the sea­son, a few will loosen up. That may mean you can only have a fire in an estab­lished camp­ground, con­tained in a fire ring, but it can be more enjoy­able than camp­ing with no fire at all.

Wear that Orange
Hope­ful­ly, you look good in orange. It might be a good idea to stock up on some orange duds for safe­ty. One big draw­back for those who want to camp in the late sea­son is that it’s also hunt­ing sea­son. If you’re in the back­coun­try espe­cial­ly, beware. In Col­orado, specif­i­cal­ly, the first hunters out of the block are archery hunters going after elk and deer start­ing in late August. Var­i­ous sea­sons start and end between then and mid-Novem­ber when deer and elk sea­son winds down. Don’t let hunt­ing sea­son deter you from enjoy­ing this great time for camp­ing though—just be aware of the poten­tial risks.

Lion and Tigers and… Bears…
Fall isn’t just hunt­ing sea­son: it’s also food gath­er­ing time for bears. You cer­tain­ly don’t want to be part of the food they are gath­er­ing up for their big sleep, so a few pre­cau­tions are in order. As always, you should stash all your food and trash in a car or hung up a tree. Nev­er store or eat food in your tent. Some folks go so far as to change their clothes after cook­ing and eat­ing and stor­ing food-scent­ed clothes in their cars. When hik­ing, it’s a good idea to car­ry bear spray and to make a lit­tle more noise than usu­al to warn bears of your approach (this can help you avoid sur­prise encoun­ters on the trail).

Baby, It’s Cold Out­side
When day­time tem­per­a­tures start drop­ping, you know it’s going to be cold­er at night. Lay­er up with plen­ty of clothes, and def­i­nite­ly bring that heavy-duty sleep­ing bag. While some­times noth­ing beats a good wool flan­nel shirt, these days we have Gore-Tex and oth­er syn­thet­ics that work even bet­ter than the heavy wool cloth­ing of the past.

Make sure you’ve got the right gear for the sea­son if you want to prop­er­ly enjoy your time in the back­coun­try, instead of shiv­er­ing and regret­ting it. But there is one bonus that any­one camp­ing with a sig­nif­i­cant oth­er can attest to: chilly late sea­son camp­ing makes cud­dling a neces­si­ty!

Chow Time
Chili, stew, soups, and any­thing hot is on the menu dur­ing fall camp­ing. Plus, you will burn more calo­ries when try­ing to stay warm, which is a good excuse to eat up. You’ll need your strength up for all the tran­quil alone time you’ve been seek­ing (or in case that bear spray doesn’t work).

Where is Every­body
This is the best part about late-sea­son camp­ing; there are way few­er peo­ple in the woods. Once school starts, all the traf­fic dies down in the moun­tains, the ski resorts are qui­et, and the woods are the woods once again. Many camp­grounds don’t require reser­va­tions in the late sea­son, and you won’t be packed into your camp­sites like sar­dines. If you’re head­ing out to dis­persed or wilder­ness camp­ing, you may just be the only one in the for­est.