Ten Reasons For Fall Camping

camping in the fall
Peace and quiet, cheaper fees, and better site choice–what could be better?

Not many people think of camping in the fall. That makes it great news for people who love to camp, like you! If you haven’t thought about the autumn months for camping before now, it might be the time to consider it. Chances are, with the fires raging throughout the States and Canada this summer, you may have not really had the chance to go camping.

Below are ten good reasons why you should consider camping in the fall:

1. Cheaper camping fees.

Many camp sites drop their fees to extremely affordable prices some time in September on. One camp site I have my eye on will dropping theirs from $35.00/night to $13.oo/night after October 10. That’s a strong incentive to go camping right there. Go online and check the camp grounds you want to visit to see if they have year-round camping. They’ll inform you of the fees if they do.

2.  It’s quieter.

Less people means more quiet.  It’s just that simple. Most people have other things on their minds in the autumn months–they don’t have the time or the inclination to go out and set up camp. Your sleep is better because of the quiet and the cooler weather, too. Imagine waking up and hearing the wind and birds and river instead of the dog and kids and ATVs. Bliss.

3.  The Photo opps are amazing.

With the leaves changing color the opportunity for really beautiful pictures is almost endless. Grab your camera and get out there. Beauty awaits!  Don’t have a camera? Use your cell phone or iPad. And hey–if you do get those photos, tweet us at @Camping_Ideas. We’d love to see them! Come to think of it, tweet us anyway. We want your feedback, no matter what it is. Tell us how it went, here or on Twitter!

4.  Fire ban is off.

This is a huge plus for me and my family. We love a camp fire, and it’s something we miss when we camp in the summer and the days are hot. This year in B.C. and the south-western U.S. it has been really bad–with the result that campfire bans are nearly everywhere. Once the cooler weather and rainy days hit, the bans stop and we get to have camp fires again! There’s just something about sitting around a fire at night, that makes camping particularly wonderful. If you caught a trout that day, well. It’s just begging to be cooked, isn’t it?

5.  Soup, stew, and hot food weather is here.

Soups and stews are easy to prep, easy to throw together, and one of the simplest things to cook or heat up over an open fire.  Cooler days are awesome for our quick and easy Chili Pot Pie or Fast Turkey Soup. And you really should check out our Mulled Dr. Pepper for weirdly wonderful hot drink! . Food when camping is always good. Hot food when camping on a cool day is awesome. We also have lots of recipes in our recipe index–check it out for inspiration!

6.  Ice in coolers last longer.

It’s such a time and money saver when the ice in your coolers doesn’t melt as fast.  (If you really want to save money on ice, camp in the winter. The whole outdoors becomes your refrigerator. But that’s another story, and one best read about here. We’re talking about fall camping right now.) Fellow campers in your group won’t raid the cooler for ice for their drinks quite so often either–hot chocolate is much nicer on a cool day than a cold drink. Except maybe beer.

7.  Better camp site choices.

It follows, doesn’t it? If fewer people camp in the fall, your camping site options increase. You can get the one that’s always gone when you normally try and reserve a spot. Pick a date, reserve online, and you’re good to go.

8.  It’s an early stress break from getting back into the rat race.

Vacation is over, the kids have started school, everything is winterized, and you’re exhausted. This is the time of year when people often need a break from gearing up for regular life, and don’t take it. Do yourself and your family a favor and go camping one weekend. It’ll help reset those stress levels a little.

9.  Bird watching.

If bird watching is something you like to do, even casually, doing it while camping in the fall is just the best! Birds are busy getting stuff together for the cold winter months, and many are migrating. Your normally static bird-watching camping area might become dynamic practically overnight. Vagrant birds, that is, birds who stray outside their normal feeding, breeding or migrating areas, are most commonly seen in the fall as well, so you might catch sight of a breed you normally don’t get a chance to observe. Do not forget your bird book and camera! If you don’t have a camera already, here’s a toy I am seriously considering buying.(Canadian residents interested in a bird-watching camera, click here.)

10. Activity is more comfortable.

Strenuous activities, such as hiking, climbing or exploring, are more comfortable during the cooler weather. That’s great motivation for anyone to get more active during a time when most people are at home and getting into the habit of couch-potato-ing. Exercise is one of the most overlooked and effective treatments for depression and anxiety. So for the sake of your mental health, camp in the fall!

 

Things Campers Hate The Most

angry woman
What camping pet peeve makes steam come out of your ears?

The world of camping is an odd one. It is populated by two distinct groups–the genuine campers and the party people who just want to make noise and mess where the police won’t find them. There are varying degrees of each. The party people have peeves too, I’m sure. But I really don’t care about them. I do care about campers.

I decided to ask everyone I knew or tweeted what their pet camping peeve was, and this was the result:

noise–#1 most mentioned pet peeve.

This actually fell into a few categories.  For some it was loud music. For others (quite a few others) it was generators that went all night. A close third was a continually barking dog. Rounding out the reasons was chainsaws and ATVs.

This deserves to be number one. It’s inconsiderate, and it takes away one of the foremost reasons for camping–peace and quiet. Sometimes people have simply gone to the noise-polluter and asked them to stop, and sometimes that works.  Mostly, though, they won’t unless an authority of some kind puts a stop to it.

So–complain to the camp ground supervisor. Phone the police. Get a number of like-minded camping neighbors together and go and respectfully request a cease and desist. Suggest certain times when the noise is allowable. None of these suggestions are very effective, but they do work from time to time. If you are at a paid-for camp site, leave a polite but strongly-worded review on every site you can find if the camp site owners do nothing to help you. If you’re bush camping, try and camp during the week instead of the weekend, if you can. Noise makers generally prefer the weekend.

packing up to go home (and unpacking)

To my surprise, this was number two on the list of campers’ pet peeves. People hate packing up to leave, and they hate unpacking once they get home.  I don’t like it either, truth be told. You not only have to stop doing something you really enjoy, you have to work like crazy to get the stopping done. It’s so unfair! And then once you get home, there’s all that stuff to clean and tidy up and put away. Unfair! Unfair!

I actually wrote a post about what to do to make it not so horrible.  If you’re interested in a few tricks and tips, click here to read about it. And if you’re camping with a group, make sure everyone contributes in the common-area cleanup.  Taking down the kitchen tent, folding the tables, putting out the fire properly–everything goes a little easier if everyone helps.

Mud in the tent.

Tent among trees
Mats inside and outside the tent will help with mud and mess.

Or pine needles. Or sand. In fact, any outdoor stuff that messes up your tidy tent interior.  Whatever it is that leaves a mess, that’s the stuff campers hate to see tracked in.  One of the great truths about roughing it outside is that it is unbelievably easy to get dirty. The outdoors imposes itself on you and your belongings like dirt on Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen.

It helps if you have a mat both inside and outside your tent door. Keep them both shook out on a daily basis. Make the outdoor one as large as you can comfortably pack.  Even a small tarp, with the edge tipped up so water doesn’t funnel under the tent, can help if you spread it out in front of your tent. But make sure it’s one you don’t mind throwing away–using a tarp as a ground cover to walk on wears it out very fast.

Another thing you can do is keep a dustpan and whisk just inside the tent. If you see any pine needles or dirt  you can just sweep it up and toss it outdoors where it belongs. If you have a vestibule or a tarp that acts as an awning over the front of your tent, put a small stool just outside the opening and remove your shoes before you enter the tent. Keep a set of slippers or tent slip-ons for tent use only if you want. Just don’t forget to bring your boots or sneakers inside before turning in for the night. That way they stay dry and no little creature will take up residence in it.

irresponsible pet owners.

This includes people who won’t shut their dogs up. People who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop. People who allow their dog to pee on your tent (yes that was actually mentioned as having happened. That definitely needs to be mentioned in an online review about that camp site). It’s really remarkable how often these things happen. The problem with this is that it puts a bad light on the majority of pet owners, who are responsible people. Just a couple of bad apples and the whole dang basket is ruined.

Speaking to the pet owners about a barking dog sometimes helps.  The other stuff is different–it generally happens when you’re not around.  If you think the site you’re going to will have a lot of dogs, it might be wise to invest in powdered cayenne pepper and spread it around your site where you think dogs will pee.  I would also keep some pet urine-odor and stain remover with you just in case.

forgetting something.

Oh, yes–how often has that happened with us!  From the can opener to my brother’s tent, forgetting an item can really put a temporary dent in your happiness. Here’s what we’ve learned: Make your first camping trip of the year a “shake-out” camping trip. Go somewhere close to civilization and see if everything is still packed in your gear. If you do forget something, you can replace it easily by going into town. Make a note of it for when you put your gear away. We also keep gear lists taped to the front of our storage bins. If something is missing we put a check mark next to it and replace it as soon as we can.

If you get to your site and your tent is missing, it really, truly isn’t the end of the world. Read about what my brother did when he forgot his tent one weekend by clicking here.

going with a group and everyone taking off to have fun, leaving one or two with no help in setting up camp or tent.

While this may be excusable because of high spirits and excitement that they are finally camping, it can be annoying to see them all run off without checking to see if anyone needs help.

Make certain everyone in the group is set up and the camp site itself is ready to go before deciding on fun. In every circle there is at least one person who is unable to set their tent up by themselves. Either the tent itself is to awkward for one person to set it up, or the person is new to the camping world. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. If your tent is set up and ready to go, check to see who is still setting up. You’ll be surprised at how good it makes you feel to help a fellow camper out.

taking three days’ worth of food and eating it all on day one.

I must admit I have never had this problem. My problem is the exact opposite–I go on a three day trip and take enough food for a week. For twice as many people as are going. My cousin did once, though. We let him look longingly at our steaks for a little while before telling him we had plenty.

About the only thing I can tell you in a case like that is: go camping with people like me. You will never, ever go hungry.

a quick list of the rest of the pet peeves, in descending order.

  • Neighbors who don’t put out their campfire properly
  • Camping slobs in your own group (For what to do about it click here)
  • Hikers who don’t stay on the trail
  • Visitors who overstay their welcome
  • People who help themselves to your booze/snacks/drink/food
  • City folk

So how about you guys? Got a pet camping peeve? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments section below!

Your First Camping Trip

tent in woods
You need a tent for camping, but what else?

You’ve been invited to go camping! That’s great!  One problem–you’ve never been, have no idea what to take, and wonder just what’s involved in going camping. Well, here’s a “Camping 101” –a quick rundown that will give you some idea of what to do before, during and after your first camping trip.

Who, What.

If you have been invited by friends, will you be going with them or travelling separately? If you’re going with them you need to find out how much room you’ll have to pack your stuff.

Because there will be stuff.

How much depends on what your friends are going to provide for you. Do they have any gear for you? Will you be taking your own food? Snacks?

Assuming the only thing you will have is a ride and a campfire when you get there, this is what you will need for yourself:

–Lots, huh? It packs down amazingly well, but it will still take up considerable space. If they have the room in their car, great! If they don’t, you’ll need to get them to make room. Don’t fret too much–experienced campers will know that already.

When, Where.

The season will dictate a lot of your camp gear choices.  Obviously you will need an all-season tent and sleeping bag if the weather is cool or cold; always over-compensate for the weather when choosing your gear. Even in summer, if the camp site is in the mountains, you can have snow. We have, on more than one occasion. Never assume you will stay dry. Prepare for cold, wet weather, and you’ll never suffer (badly).

Check to see if the campsite you’ll be staying at is an established site and whether or not it has showers and other amenities.  Even if it has a toilet you may still want to take a portable toilet with you if your tent is big enough; it’s a little luxury that you won’t regret at three in the morning when you suddenly realize you need to go. Badly. Now.

If it’s a campsite in the bush, ask how close to fresh water you’ll be.  The further away you are, the more water you’ll have to bring and/or fetch for cleanliness and hydration.

Will you have your own transportation? The best thing to do is arrange to follow the other vehicles out to the place, especially if it’s not an established site. It’s easy to lose your fellow campers if you’re not familiar with where the site is located.

How.

As soon as you get to the site, pick out a spot for your tent, clear it of any debris like sticks and rocks, because you don’t want holes poked in your tent floor. Make sure it’s level (no slopes, otherwise you’ll be fetching up beside the downward tent wall when you sleep). Next, lay a tarp down and erect your tent. Setting up a tent by yourself can be difficult. If you don’t think anyone will be helping you, choose an instant tent, which are a lot easier to erect.

Once your tent is done, blow up your air mattress and lay the liner on it, then your sleeping bag. Throw your gear in the tent. Set up your little personal toilet in one corner, if you brought one.

Then grab your camping chair and set it by the fire. Sit in it. Wonder at the beauty that is nature.  Contemplate the joys of marshmallows roasting on the end of a stick.

That’s it! Your camping!

After.

Of course, after you go camping you have to unpack.  You will get a whole bunch of tips on how to do that as painlessly as possible here.

Easy, right? No? Well, maybe not.  But definitely worth it.

 

 

How The Camping Weekend Went

When they want their own tent, but want someone nearby for safety.
One nephew wanted his own tent, but also wanted to be near someone for safety. Guess who he picked to tent beside?

All in all, our camping weekend went great.  The site we wanted was taken already, in  spite of the fact that my brother went up Thursday to secure it (because it’s bush camping it’s a first-come, first-serve kind of thing), but we got the site we had the last time we were here, and that’s great; it’s one of my favorite sites because it has a lot of space and it’s kind of pretty to look out on the river.  You have to travel down a small embankment to get water, but that’s okay.

The first day was busy, setting up the tents and getting the air

Fitting a queen-sized mattress into any tent can be entertaining to watch.
Fitting a queen-sized mattress into any tent can have entertainment value.

mattresses into them; it doesn’t matter how big a tent is, all the entrances are remarkably similar in size and so it’s kind of like trying to squeeze a giant, air-filled square peg into a smaller nylon round hole. We got it all done, though.

My air mattress was a double thickness, not like the one my brother-in-law is trying to fit into the tent into the picture here, so that was a delightful experience.  They left their tent at home so I shared mine with them.  By the way, the ten-man instant tent I bought was great!  Read about the results here. However, we got it all done and just like that Friday was over.  We stuffed the boys into their tents (four pre-teens into a large one, (one teen into the smaller one), and then the rest of us sat up until about two in the morning, just talking and enjoying the sensation of sitting in front of a campfire with nothing left to do but go to bed.

Saturday was wonderful; it was like summer in our area–except for about an hour in the afternoon.  It went from this:

The camping weekend was summery and beautiful by the river.
Gorgeous summer weather, for nearly the whole camping weekend. I say, *nearly*.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To this:

For one hour, it hailed--hailed!--before turning into summer again.
That’s hail, folks. Hail which turned into a drenching rainstorm. And I left my tent entrance open.

The hail turned to rain and we had a downpour like you wouldn’t believe.  It ran the whole gamut–we had thunder and lightning, wind, cold, and thunder again. We honestly wondered if we should pack up and go home, the weather was so violent. Then

 

After the brief but violent storm, we were back to summer weather conditions.
Back to summer again, as if the whole hailstorm had never happened.

…in less than an hour, we had sunshine and summer was back:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guys wasted no time putting up the tarps after the storm. Weekend camping--what are you going to do?
I can’t over-stress the importance of tarps when camping. Even when it rains only a little, the tarp keeps everything underneath nice and dry.

It was the craziest thing. The boys wasted no time in setting up a tarp, something they had been putting off because the weather was just so nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the camping weekend was pretty good–now and then it would rain for a bit, then clear up and be nice.  It didn’t rain too often to interfere.  We had plenty of wood, tarps over everything, and even with the rain we played a game of Harpo’s croquet that was so much fun it lasted three hours (there was a half hour pause on account of the rain and dinner).

We had to pack up the stuff wet when we went home but that too worked out nicely; the weather at home was scorching, so we spread out all the tents and tarps and they dried in no time, and then we packed them away for the next camping trip.

I am already missing the time up there.  I wonder if I can wrangle some time off for the August long weekend…