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Enjoy Camping in the Fall

Updated on April 14, 2015

My first night under the stars

For many people, their first experience of camping is as a child or teenager, perhaps on holiday with their family or on an adventure with friends. Somehow, the camping experience passed me by, and it wasn't until recently that I had an opportunity to try my first night under canvas. So, as an older person, my page title has a double meeting.

In the last few years, I have had many opportunities to hike in the mountains and moors with groups of teenagers, usually staying in Youth Hostels or small hotels. Eventually, I decided to try camping with them. We picked a campsite, next to a farm, in the Derbyshire Peak District. The site was fairly basic - a field, in fact. Toilets and showers were available about 500 yards up the road.

Fortunately, there was a good pub, only 400 yards up that same road, so I didn't need to cook in the rain. Oh, didn't I mention that? It was October, cold and raining, so I was pleased to get my tent set up before the rain began!

It was a cold, wet night, and parts of the camping field were flooded, but we had pitched our tents on the higher ground so we weren't flooded out. But, in the morning... it was so cold. A thick frost had settled on our tents, making the fabric stiff and crackly. The pools of rainwater had frozen overnight. And, despite reminders the evening before, one of the youngsters had left a rucksack outside the tent, and it was now frozen solid, so no clean clothes available for the day!

Despite the cold, I enjoyed my breakfast - hot coffee and porridge made in my tent with my flameless Trekmate cooking beaker. I didn't even need to get out of my sleeping bag until after breakfast.

Unless otherwise stated, the photos on this page are copyright to me. Please do not use without my permission.

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Contemplating a first night in a tent? - Tips about tents

It is important to be dry and warm if you are going to camp in the fall or winter. A good tent that is simple and quick to set up and take down can really help. One important factor to think about is the size of the tent. It needs to be big enough to allow you, and any companions, to sleep comfortably and store your camping gear.

An integral porch is useful for storing wet items, like walking boots and your rucksack - you don't want to leave something outside the tent and discover, in the morning, that it has frozen overnight! I also prefer some head room, so that I can sit up comfortably in the tent, and maybe eating breakfast inside.

Tents are available in several different materials. Canvas is durable, but also heavy. Nylon is much lighter, but may not be suitable for poor weather conditions. Polyester withstands sunlight well, so is a good material for long sunny periods. Regardless of the material, you should ensure that the tent is 100% waterproof, and has a rain fly with total coverage. A good design, high quality tent poles, pegs and fastenings are essential for camping in windy or stormy conditions. External guy points are important for stablity in wind and storms.

Eureka! Solitaire - Tent (sleeps 1)
Eureka! Solitaire - Tent (sleeps 1)

The Eureka Solitaire is a light, compact three-season tent designed for one person. It has a two-hoop tunnel design to provide excellent stability if pitched end-on to the wind. It also has good interior space and head room, with two inbuilt storage pockets, and one flashlight loop.


Sleep well in a cosy sleeping bag - Snug as a bug

Sleeping bags, like many things, are a matter for personal choice. But, there are some essential points to consider:

Make sure you sleeping bag is suitable for the weather conditions you will meet. Sleeping bags are rated by the number of seasons they are suitable for. A 3 season bag should be OK for camping in fall, but a 2 season bag will not be sufficiently warm. Many manufacturers also give a temperature rating for their sleeping bags, which is very helpful.

Many people like to use a mummy bag for cold weather camping. Some Coleman's will keep you snug down to 15ยบ F. If, like me, you can't sleep in a "mummy bag", get a sleeping bag with a more roomy feel. Choose the shape that suits you best, but remember, the bigger the bag, the more of your body heat will be lost to heat the air in the bag.

Coleman Big Basin 15 Big and Tall Adult Sleeping Bag
Coleman Big Basin 15 Big and Tall Adult Sleeping Bag

This is a large sleeping bag (39" x 92"), suitable for people up to 6 foot 6 inches. It has a 100% polyester cover, with 100% polyester fill, and an offset quilt construction to keep you comfortable from 0-20 Degrees. The semi-sculpted hood, insulated chest baffle, and fleece foot section will provide extra insulation.


Sleeping Mats & Pads

A good sleeping mat can provide some comfort, as well as insulation. I use a self-inflating air pad. It is surprisingly comfortable, laid over grass, and really does help with insulation. Ideally, you should use a mat with a durable surface, so it lasts for a few years.

The size and weight of the mat you pick will also depend on whether you intend to hike, carrying all your camping equipment, or travel by car or minibus. Some hikers prefer to carry a light 3/4 length mat, even though it might be less comfortable.

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Reflective Foam Camping Ground Pad, Regular - 20 x 72 Inches
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Reflective Foam Camping Ground Pad, Regular - 20 x 72 Inches

Sleeping mats provide comfort and insulation. This therm-a-rest sleeping pad has an aluminized Solar coating to boost warmth. It also improves durability from scuffing and wear and tear


Frosty tents in the morning - With the right equipment and clothes, fall camping can still be comfortable

frost covered tents
frost covered tents

The temperature did drop significantly overnight, and I woke to find my tent covered in frost and ice. I was very pleased that I'd picked a good quality sleeping bag and camping mat, so I didn't freeze along with the tent!

And one real advantage, the chilly fall days mean fewer bugs. You can camp near a river, like or forest campsites, without the swarms of mosquitoes and other bugs that can ruin a summer evening.

Cooking outdoors - Make a tasty hot meal or comforting drink

After a days walking in the hills or moors, in the fall, you will really need a hot meal and drink. If you don't have a handy restaurant or diner, you'll need to fend for yourself.

Anyone who has been around campsites for a while will have come across a Trangia stove. The Trangia kits come in various sizes, with more or bigger pans, but all use a spirit burner. So, you'll need a special bottle of fuel. If you prefer a solid fuel system, you could take a look at the Esbit cooking sets, but I have been told that they give less heat, and for a shorter time. For safety reasons, you can't use either of these systems in your tent, but Trekmate have an answer for that!

TRANGIA 28-T Mini Trangia
TRANGIA 28-T Mini Trangia

The mini Trangia is very light - only 330g. It includes a 0.8 liter aluminum pan, a non-stick lid, that doubles as a frypan, a spirit burner, windshield and handle.


Flameless Cooking Systems

A very cool way to warm up your foods and drinks. These flameless cooking systems use water to activate a heat pack. Depending on the type of heating pack, you will get up to 40 minutes of cooking time at up to 194 F. As there are no flames and no nasty fumes, you can use these safely inside a tent.

Trekmates 360ml Flameless Cook Set Beaker (One Size and Color)
Trekmates 360ml Flameless Cook Set Beaker (One Size and Color)

No need to get out of your sleeping bag to make your first hot drink of the morning with this flameless beaker set. I have enjoyed morning coffee and night time hot chocolate in the comfort of my tent with this set.

There is a "cook box" which works on the same principle, and is useful for cooking noodles and other quick-cook meals.


Some Reasons to go Camping in the Fall - Getting close to nature

waterfall in the peak district
waterfall in the peak district

The outdoor experience can be fun and inspiring too. I took this photo as I walked along a riverside path in the Peak District in Derbyshire. The sound of the water was soothing, and the scenery beautiful.

If you enjoy hiking, you might find you prefer the fall, rather than sweltering hot summer days. The chilly mornings, combined with ideal hiking temperatures and comforting hot food combine into a wonderful experience. The seasonal colors of leaves in fall will warm your heart, if not your toes.

Mugs, bowls and plates - more essentials!

Imagine clutching your warm mug of coffee on a crisp fall morning. Imagine the steam rising up into the fresh morning air from your mug of hot chocolate . That coffee or hot chocolate never tasted so good before!

You'll also need a bowl and/or plate if you are going to eat supper or breakfast outdoors.

GSI Outdoors 79202 Collapsible Blue Fairshare Mug
GSI Outdoors 79202 Collapsible Blue Fairshare Mug

Collapsible mug that is easy to pack, with a folding handle that locks in two places. Expands from 1.7" high to a 22 fl oz capacity - perfect for your coffee or even for eating small meals.

GSI Outdoors Cascadian 1-Person Table Set, Blue
GSI Outdoors Cascadian 1-Person Table Set, Blue

This tumbleset is made of light polypropylene, and includes cutlery, as well as a plate, a cup, and a bowl. The materials used have a long life and are 100% recyclable.

•The tablesets include a convenient mesh bag


Are you a fan of outdoor living?

When would you choose a campsite?

Head lamps and camping lanterns - essential, unless you can see in the dark

Even for summer camping, it's very useful to have a head lamp or lantern. In the longer, fall evenings, it is an absolute essential. You can use your head lamp to light up your cooking experience, to help you find things in the tent, and to locate the toilets and showers. A lantern can be useful in the tent, for locating things and for reading. I have both headlight and lantern.

Look for a very bright headlight, preferably with a focusable and swiveling beam. A third head strap will give extra stability when moving around. Some lighting system will give you a variety of lighting modes, such as full power, dim, low power functions, blink, SOS, and strobe modes. Decide what you need for your purposes!

Ledlenser - H7.2 Headlamp, Black
Ledlenser - H7.2 Headlamp, Black

The LED Lenser H7 is an all-purpose headlamp, with a unique lens and reflector combination to project a long-distance concentrated beam or a closer range diffuse flood light. It has a dimming function to adjust the headlight from a maximum of 155 lumens down to 2.5 lumens (for preserving night vision).


Lighting Your Tent

If you usually enjoy some bedtime reading, you will need a suitable tent light.


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