With fall colors bursting in the sky and underfoot, now is a dazzling time to venture outside with your friends or family in tow to experience car camping. Cooler temperatures often bring relief from vexatious mosquitos and other summertime bugs and likely you’ll encounter fewer folks on the trail and around designated campsites. Depending on where you call home, there’s a number of factors you’ll need to consider for a shoulder season romp in the outdoors—you’ll want to be comfortable after all.
Keep reading for tips on enjoying a social campsite in nippier weather, staying warm at night, finding the picture-perfect place to rest your head, and more.
Discover the Beauty and the Challenge of Car Camping
Outdoor Product Manager and Designer, Owen Mesdag, has worked in the outdoor travel space for 22 years, contributing insight and expertise, primarily in the product development space, to companies like Outdoor Research , Cascade Designs Inc ., and Dometic .
“I love the distance and places a car can take me, ” says Mesdag. “As someone who has backpacked and trekked many miles around the world, I love that there are some things that can only be seen by walking there. A car is a personal basecamp that allows you to take the comforts you need depending on the adventure. It’s also an equalizer for all age groups to enjoy a trip together. ”
Camping, especially in the autumn season, can prove to be challenging, especially if you’re not prepared. This doesn’t, however , mean that you need to schlep everything but the kitchen sink. “I would say the most challenging thing about car camping is packing, ” says Mesdag. “It’s far too easy to haul too much. ”
Make a List and Check it Twice
Just because it’s a bit colder doesn’t mean that you can’t play around outside and enjoy star gazing, fresh air, and quality time with loved ones. With a little planning and farsightedness, you can have a magical time sleeping in the open air plus exploring the wilderness. It is a smart idea to make a list of all of the things you need—sleeping systems, shelter, food and water, First Aid, clothing, footwear, etc . —while adventuring in the outdoors.
- Reserve one of the 113, 000 individual sites available across the country with Recreation. gov to find a campsite near you or further afield.
- Be sure to always watch the weather when planning and check again before you head out.
- Be mindful of keeping necessary camping supplies warm in a dry bag inside your sleeping bag. Water and filtration systems can freeze if left outside.
- Remember that calories equal warmth and staying hydrated is especially important.
- To stay warm, not only do you need to dress in layers and have the cold weather-rated sleeping handbag, but also, you can fill your water bottle with hot water and sleep with it. Also, bring along hand and foot warmers.
Pack the Right Gear
Considering the cooler fall temps, as well as any family or friends who might be along for the ride, there are a number of things you may need while out on your adventure. Whether you decide to sleep in your trusty Big Agnes tent, a decked out pop-top camper van from a rental company like Peace Vans , or in a car rooftop tent, you will need to plan ahead and be organized.
- Be prepared with a sleeping bag that is rated for a temperature lower than you might anticipate. A 0-30-degree mummy bag with a great hood, for example , may be just what you need. If you know that you tend to get cold when camping, bring along a second bag—this is the beauty of having a car to store extra items. It’s better to have it and not need it than to want it but not have it.
- When packing, you’ll want to be prepared for inclement conditions of rain, snow, and ice. Clothing layers are key here—bring warm base (underwear), middle (insulating), and outer (shell) layers and don’t forget the hat and gloves.
- Choose a stove that can stand up to wind and cold.
- Mesdag says that a good tent is ideal, especially an easy-to-set-up rooftop tent, which will allow you to camp without worry of ground conditions. “Sleeping up high has a certain psychological effect from being “away” from things, ” says Mesdag.
- Social furniture is also a good idea, especially if you want to enjoy your campsite. A good table can function as a clean place to play cards with the kids or prep space to get dinner sorted. Sitting around the fire, roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs is more fun when you have a comfy place to sit.
- When considering the camp kitchen, Mesdag says, “Use a stove that allows you to cook food like you would at home and a water container that is easy to dispense from by all people in camp”.
Pro Tip: Dometic has a line of integrated car camping essentials designed to fit in the back of your vehicle (or easily in your garage when not in use) called Dometic Go . The adjustable camp table is perfect for preparing meals, the chair plus bench are great for relaxing round the fire, and the blanket can be used for a picnic, seat warmer, or extra layer at nighttime. For an elevated camp experience, choose the sleek easy-to-carry Hydration Water Jug & Faucet duo to complete the set.
Bring Along the Kids
Of course , a weekend camping trip is great for the littlest members of your family as well. Exposing your children to the outdoors and teaching them how to set up a tent, cook a camp breakfast, and enjoy the particular darkness of a night sky is a worthy endeavor.
“Camping is a great way for adults to stay young and remember how to see the world through younger eyes; plus it’s the perfect place to teach kids (and even some adults) how to do dangerous things responsibly, ” Mesdag says.
- Aim for “The Moment”, suggests Mesdag. “With kids under 10, life is about experimenting. Camping is primal and kids are the closest thing we will get to viewing early man (cavemen) in action”.
- For kids over 10, Mesdag advises, “It’s all about inclusion and independence without judgment. Camping will be technically a form of survival and there’s a lot that can be learned with small tasks that don’t feel like chore and offer a sense of accomplishment.
- Be mindful regarding the amount of digital devices that will kids are utilizing during the camping out experience. It’s all about the outdoors and kids will greatly benefit from unplugging from games and social media scrolling. If they really want to use their devices, however , consider loading apps onto their phones that will help your family navigate while overlanding, on the trail, or at the campsite. “Change the use mode of electronics, ” says Mesdag. “Apps like Gaia GPS , onX , and Geocaching are great ways to see what’s around you plus beyond the trees. Furthermore, encourage taking pictures that can be shared later. ”
Learn What’s New
As someone who has been in the outdoor industry for a couple of decades, Mesdag knows what’s trending and what’s on the horizon. “Camping has always been seen as a compromise to comfort, but every day we are seeing more products being introduced that bring the comforts of home outdoors, ” Mesdag says. “We will continue to see growth in products that are powered by electricity like mobile 12v coolers , which are becoming more common in campsites, and electric vehicles, that are being geared more toward outdoor activities. ”
Mesdag also believes that water is one of the most unaddressed categories in camping. “Water is one of the most essential items and the products being offered have not been designed with the end user in mind, ” Mesdag says. “The water items from Dometic are a great start in solving this problem and the market has noticed it. I predict we will see more well thought out water products that are designed to make kitchen chores plus hygiene much nicer in camp. ”