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!
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.