Even though the temperature is dropping, that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the camping gear just yet. In fact, the mountains in Southern Utah are a must-see during September and October, as the area lights up in vibrant colors of yellows, oranges, and reds as the aspens change color. Highway 143 is famously traveled during this time of year just to see the fall colors that are only here for a few weeks out of the year.
To get the rest out of the year before winter comes, here is a list of ways to help you have the best camping trip possible when the temperatures drop.
- Choose a sheltered spot to protect from the wind. It’s worth hunting for the perfect camping spot that will also get a lot of sunlight to warm up your campsite during cold mornings.
- Get a good sleeping pad, and even double them up, if you feel the need. Sleeping pads are what separates your body from the cold ground that will draw out your body heat throughout the night. Even the best sleeping bags for cold temperatures won’t be nearly as useful without a sleeping pad.
- Get a cold-weather sleeping bag. While these can be a bit of an investment, you’ll thank yourself for it later when temperatures drop below freezing and your sleeping bag is still designed to keep you warm at those temperatures. Do some research into where you’re camping and the expected temperatures, as you can shop for low-temperature sleeping bags depending on what temperature range you expect to be in.
- Use a small tent. Your body heat will warm up a smaller area faster and keep it in better. Typical three-season tents should be fine for camping during the fall, but if you plan to be in extremely low or abnormal temperatures, invest in a four season tent, used primarily for winter conditions.
- Bring your own dry firewood, and bring more than enough. Keep it protected from the elements, so it won’t end up being unusable if it gets rain or moisture on it. A warm fire is one of the only things that will prolong the time you spend outside your tent after the sun goes down, and it’s not reliable to plan on finding firewood when you arrive.
- Hang tarps around your campsite to protect from the wind. This will help keep your campsite a bit warmer when cold winds are constantly blowing through. This also adds another layer of protection and warmth if your tent is included in the perimeter of the tarps.
- Boil water and bring bottles of hot water into your sleeping bag and use them as small heaters, using them to keep your hands, feet, or other cold parts warm as you fall asleep.
- Don’t breathe into your sleeping bag. The moisture from your breath will become trapped in the sleeping bag, and eventually lower the temperature of your sleeping bag. Humidity makes the cold feel even colder. Cinch the draft collar around your mouth and nose, leaving a hole for you to breathe out of.
- Sleep with your clothes, boots, or anything you plan to wear the next morning in your sleeping bag. Putting on warm clothes and shoes in the morning makes the day easier than having to strap frozen boots on your feet first thing in the morning.
- Eat warm food, and a lot of carbs and fats to keep your internal temperature high. Take advantage of mealtime by using it as a time to warm up by eating hot foods. Carbohydrate-heavy foods like breads, grains, pastas, and vegetables are good to quickly convert the food into energy. Fats like nuts, seeds, butter, oil, and cheese do well to be consumed more slowly and make the energy last longer. Bring warm beverages like coffee, cocoa, or cider to drink when you feel cold or once the temperature drops when the sun sets.
- Of course, warm clothing is the base of keeping warm in cooler temperatures. An easy way to preserve body heat is to wear a warm cap, as one third of your body temperature is released through your head. Use mittens instead of gloves, and have your fingers heat each other up. Wear moisture-wicking clothing to keep moisture off your body if you begin to sweat under all those layers. Pack thermal underwear and extra socks to keep your feet warm and dry. Layer wool sweaters and fleece jackets, and look into getting boots with a waterproof membrane to keep your feet moisture free.