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Written by Ronald Owens


Posted on September 08 2019


Before you hit the outdoors and get on trail, there are some things to consider that are specific to backpacking in fall. After searching the internet, we found the things you need to know.

Fall is a favorite time to backpack for a lot of people. There is less traffic on the trails and campsites, fewer bugs and hardly any sweltering trail climbs. Plus, there is nothing better than snuggling up in your sleeping bag after an exciting day of hiking in cooler temperatures, surrounded by twisting falling leaves.


What Gear to Bring

  1. A good tent. We’re obsessed with the NEMO Hornet Elite 2P, because it’s just two pounds while still offering much-needed weather protection. The CoraJohn Freedom 2P Ultralight is a good 2nd option. Get yourself ready for cool weather and winter-like conditions, especially during the night: cold-weather sleeping bag, insulated pad, winter gloves and beanie.
  2. With the winds and weather in the fall, you want to bring all your tent stakes, and maybe a few extra. Be sure to properly stake your tent and fly—this helps ensure the wind doesn’t inconvenience your time in nature. Tip: In fall it’s a good idea to set your tent up as soon as you get to camp. No one wants to set up their tent in the dark. When you return home, make sure you dry it out. You don’t want to let a damp tent sit and mildew for the rest of the winter.


  1. Invest in a decent headlamp. Customers rank the Petzl Tikka as their favorite. Pick a headlamp with an adjustable beam, regulated output (so it doesn't dim as batteries drain) and a red-light mode for in-camp, nighttime use. While you're contemplating options, be sure to consider rechargeable headlamps. And don’t forget that days are getting shorter. Carry a Portable Solar Charger to help with your charging needs.


  1. Extra batteries. The longer nights mean longer hours with your headlamp on. Also, “The cold drains batteries quickly so it’s good to have some backups.


  1. A warm sleeping pad is a must. Don’t let the cold ground suck away your body heat. Trust me, It’s a sleep killer. The NEMO Tensor, which merges ultralight fabrics and warm insulation is a good choice. Remember, the higher the R number on a scale of 1.0 to 9.5, the better you can expect it to insulate you from cold surfaces (R3 and above is best for the fall). Don’t forget your pillow! We recommend the Corajohn Blue Ridge Camping pillow, or the Trekology Ultralight ALUFT 2.0.


  1. A warm sleeping bag is a must. Bring a bag rated 10 degrees lower than the expected nighttime low. Also, remember that your old sleeping bag can lose its insulating properties over the years. Always store a down bag loosely and clean it properly. Don’t have a warm-enough bag? If you’re looking for a new bag, try the NEMO Rave 15. If not, bring two summer bags, add a mummy liner or put your pad and bag in a bivy sack for extra warmth. Bring a good sleeping bag liner to increase your comfort. We recommend the CoraJohn Sleeping Bag Liner.


  1. A hard-sided water bottle. “A Nalgene (my favorite) full of hot water makes a great heat source in cold conditions. If you dressed appropriately and have the correct sleeping bag. You should be fine.


  1. Extra fuel. Colder temperatures mean longer cooking times. Plus, you’ll want enough to make that hot water bottle to snuggle with in your sleeping bag at bedtime. Just remember, you can’t ship or fly with pressurized fuel canisters—or liquid gas, for that matter. This you will need to get local if you took an airplane to get to your destination.


  1. A thermos. While your Nalgene is perfect as a sleeping bag warmer (because it allows heat to escape), you’ll want something that keeps the heat in, too. I bring my Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set to whip up hot beverages.


  1. A bear can. Did you know that fall is prime mating time for many animals? Be sure to avoid any wildlife and to utilize bear cans, hangs or lockers to avoid attracting animals to your campsite. Need one? Click here.


  1. CHECK YOUR GEAR! Haven’t used your gear in a while? Check that all the zippers work and your tent fly is free of rips—This tiny step could be the difference between a fun weekend or a miserable one.


What to Wear

  1. Layering is key, you need wool, fleece or synthetic base layers to wick moisture away and keep you warm, even when wet. (NO COTTON.) Extra socks and underwear, a rain jacket, beanie and coat. “For fall, I throw in gloves, an extra fleece layer and possibly rain pants. And it's not only cold weather you should worry about. Be prepared for summer-like heat during the day. Bring adaptable clothing layers to stay comfortable in a wide range of temperatures: sun, rain and wind.


  1. A rain jacket. Fall weather can be unpredictable—but in many places, you can almost guarantee rain. Rain jackets do more than just protect you from moisture: Don’t underestimate the ability of your rain jacket to retain warmth as an extra layer in camp.


  1. Gaiters. Fall weather can be a bit unpredictable. Overnight or morning rain can soak the brush and trail, then the sun comes out, turning the day beautiful. I’ve seen people wear shorts with gaiters, the gaiters keeping their feet and boots dry,


  1. Avid cold-weather hikers love wearing down booties, whether for keeping warm by the campfire or adding additional warmth comfort and snugglesness in your sleeping bag. (yes I made up the word Snugglesness.) You get the picture. Warm feet are more than worth the extra ounces in pack weight, and they shrink down small.


  1. Bright clothing. Check local hunting regulations for season dates; wear high-visibility clothing if you’re backpacking through active hunting areas (put your dog in something high-vis too!) The last thing you want to hear is “ he looked like a dear”.


  1. Quick-dry clothes. If there is any chance, you’re going to get wet (and there always is), quick-dry clothing is a must. Pro tip: Stuff any damp (not soaking wet) items at the bottom of your sleeping bag before bed. You’ll reduce the space your body needs to heat, and your clothes will dry out overnight. I have never done this, and probably wont….. Just saying.


What to Eat and Drink

  1. Simple meals. Keep it simple. If weather conditions turn terrible, you’ll be happy if you only need to boil water and wait. We love pre-packaged boil-and-go options.


  1. Snacks. (AKA camp charcuterie) Try packing some cured meats, dried fruit and vegetables and cheese to keep you going at camp before or while you’re preparing your dinner. An easy favorite? Homemade granola, peperoni sticks, and dried green beans.


  1. Dessert. We recommend s’mores, but any fatty food can help keep you warm as your body works to digest it.


  1. Extra food. Just sitting around keeping yourself warm takes calories—so pack extra food. And now is the time to enjoy carbs and fats. Good fats like the ones found in fish, nuts and avocados help keep your internal temperatures up.


  1. Hot beverages. It’s for more than just your enjoyment—your body needs liquid to regulate your core temperature. Did you know that dehydration is more likely to occur in the fall because your body doesn’t have sweat and thirst to cue you to take a drink? If you’re looking for a beverage, look no further than homemade hot cocoa. It can be dressed up with Chile peppers for Mexican-style cocoa, or Irish cream or peppermint schnapps,


  1. Have enough water. Water is essential—but it might not be as readily accessible as it is during other seasons. At the end of the summer, depending on where you are, water sources can dry up. Make sure you know where you will get water. Speaking of which, go empty your bladder one last time before you sleep—you’ll be glad you did when you don’t have to crawl out of your warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night.
  2. And as always HAVE FUN!!!! The outdoors is your peace, your relaxation. Follow these tips to increase your enjoyment on trail, and at your campsite.


One more thing, Be nice to mother nature. Pack out what you pack in. take your trash home with you. LEAVE NO TRACE!  LEAVE IT BETTER!



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