Cold Weather Fall Camping, "The Bonus Season"

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • High-tech shelters.
  • Hot sleeping systems.
  • Cool outerwear.
Cold Weather Fall Camping, "The Bonus Season"

Cold weather camping opens up a whole new outdoors experience: the "bonus season." Empty parks, recreation areas, campgrounds and trails… Your evening fire is a lot more meaningful and those hot toddies seem more inviting the when the mercury gets short…

Need more convincing? Consider these added bonuses:

  1. The bears and snakes are all sleeping.
  2. The beer stays cold all by itself!

Proper preparation, good gear and some common sense can make braving the months that end in "-ber" a lot more fun:

Gimme Shelter

Tents. A good three-season tent is a must in these later months of the year. The possibility of snow dictates a solid shelter. A three-season tent can handle a few inches of the white stuff and remain standing. Lighter-duty, two-season tents are not really meant to handle snow, and can collapse under a light dusting (been there). So, leave ‘em home. I like the North Face Boulder Tent, as it is big enough to weather a cold snowy and/or rainy day with a friend, and the price is reasonable. You can find this product at REI; just type "North Face Boulder Tent" in the search field.

Sleeping bags and pads. Camping is really a lot like being at home. You do many of the same things: eat, go for walks, have a few laughs.

That is, until you go to bed.

Then things change. Basically, camping requires you to sleep on or near the ground. That’s the cold hard ground for those not paying attention. For this reason, a good sleeping bag and some sort of ground pad are a must. And because these two pieces of camping gear will make or break ten or more hours of every day you spend in the outdoors, they’re not where you want to save a buck.

Ground pad-wise, the Therm-a-Rest is pretty much the "Gold Standard." They come in several sizes; being tall, I like the "LE" model. They also make a tandem model for couples. What a great way to keep warm! Check out these pads at REI and type "Therm-A-Rest" in the search field, then look under "Camping/Hiking–All-Purpose."

OK, now for the bags. When you get a bag, make sure it fits your height (length) and girth. Backpacking sleeping bags are usually tapered toward the feet, to cut down on weight in your pack. Car camping or family-camping type bags, on the other hand, are much roomier and just as warm. Some even zip together like the REI Syn Cat 0-degree bags (to make a big bag for two). Paired with the tandem Therm-a-Rest and your honey, you’ll never get cold! Check them out at REI and type "REI Syn Cat" in the search field.

What to Wear

Outerwear. Cold weather — particularly extreme conditions — requires that you wear GoreTex or another wind/weatherproof material. Period. Don’t mess around on this sort of stuff, as your good time depends on it. Columbia Sportswear makes some great outerwear, and they give their stuff great names like the Crooked Butte jacket. Check it out at REI and type "crooked butte" in the search field.

Hats. Always have two hats: one for looking cool and one for keeping warm. Remember, your head loses more heat per square inch than any other part of your body. Keeping your bean warm (and dry) will go a long way towards keeping the rest of you warm. Another Columbia product with a funny name that works like a charm is the Bugaboo hat. I’ve had one for a while and I love the thing. Type "Bugaboo hat" in the search field at REI to find one.

Shoes and boots. The things you wear on your feet are the interface between you and the planet. And because the planet is sometimes cold, wet, and rocky, you need a good pair of boots to insulate and protect those dogs from the elements.

Tennis shoes are OK on a nice day, but are practically useless in any kind of serious weather. Feet are oddly shaped things, so I strongly recommend going to several shops and trying on lots of boots. Wear ‘em for as long as possible (at least half an hour). Find a shop with knowledgeable staff members who know their boots. There is nothing worse than a day spent in uncomfortable footwear — and nothing more miserable than the days and weeks following that day that require nursing open, oozing blisters. Got it?

Kickin’ Back Around the Fire

You must have a fire at this time of year. Though not necessary for survival (in most cases), fire has always been part of camping. Sitting around a fire, talking with friends is a basic human activity — it just feels right. And doing it in comfort is the way to go these days. No more wet, cold logs and rocks: just plop down into a Walrus Belay Couch or a Travel Chair Deluxe Highback Chair and kick back in style. Both are available at REI, just type in "Walrus Bay" or "Travel Chair Deluxe."

Now get out there, stay warm and enjoy the "bonus season!"

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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