Fall camping for families
With piles of crisp leaves and long, dark nights for sitting around the campfire, fall is a magical time to go camping with your family -- as long as you're prepared!
Whether you live in a mild climate or somewhere with chilly autumn weather, we totally endorse camping in the fall. What's more, you usually get your pick of camping spots, since fair-weather campers have all gone home for the season.
Here are some of top tips regarding fall camping for families.
Bring proper bedding.
Your usual lightweight summer sleeping bag won't cut it in the fall. Instead, you and your family will need sleeping bags rated between 0°F and 20°F. We also recommend using an insulated camping mattress or sleeping pad, as a harsh chill could come up from the ground. It doesn't hurt to bring some spare blankets, either, just in case you get cold in the night.
Dress to impress.
Fall weather can be changeable, so pack clothing accordingly. It's best to bring plenty of layers; that way, you can wrap up if it's chilly or wear just one or two layers if it's unseasonably warm. Waterproof jackets are a must-have to stave off showers. If your children are young, we recommend bringing waterproof tops and bottoms (or a waterproof jumpsuit) and also rain boots, as soggy toddlers soon get cranky.
Hot drinks are your friends.
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate -- whatever you prefer, cozying up with a hot drink is one of the joys of fall camping. Make sure you bring some kind of camping stove for boiling water or warming milk, plus tea bags, instant coffee, and/or hot chocolate mix. Your average kid can't get enough hot chocolate, especially if you throw a few marshmallows on top.
Enjoy a campfire.
It might be a camping cliche, but sitting around a campfire is the perfect fall camping activity. Since it gets dark pretty early in the fall, a campfire provides some much-needed light and warmth. Whether you sing songs, tell ghost stories, or make s'mores is up to you. Some campsites have fire pits ready to use. If not, check whether there are any rules and regulations about setting up a campfire wherever you're staying. You should teach your kids a bit about fire safety, too.
Plan some indoor activities.
Yes, camping is about enjoying the great outdoors, but if you're camping in a new area, it can be fun to see what local life has to offer. Plus, planning some indoor activities will allow you to warm up indoors. Not to mention, it'll help keep your kids occupied. What you plan will depend on what entertainment is on offer in the local area and the age and interests of your children, but it could be anything from a trip to the cinema to a nice meal out.
Car camping is king.
If you're camping with your family in the fall, car camping (staying at a campground where you can drive your car right up to or very near your camping spot) is a great way to go. Should adverse weather conditions arise, you don't want to be forced to hike three miles back to your car with your little ones in a torrential downpour. Car camping also means you can bring extra blankets and more gear to help keep you warm.
Arrive in good time.
The last thing you want is to get to your camping spot after dark and be forced to put up your tent with no light while your little ones complain about being hungry and tired. Instead, aim to arrive in the morning or early afternoon, so you have plenty of time to set up camp and get settled before nightfall.
Bring family-friendly food.
While it's unlikely you're going to attempt perfecting your vegetable vindaloo or truffle pâté on a camping trip, make sure you bring foods that your children reliably eat. Since you'll only have the foods you bring with you, now's not the time to try anything new or unusual, lest your kids go hungry. We also recommend bringing plenty of energy-packed snacks to keep the whole family going all day. Granola bars, nuts, and crackers are all family-friendly choices.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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