Fall/Winter camping

I love this time of the year.  and tent camping or camping in general is plain old fun in the late fall.  The campgrounds are empty compared to the days before September, and the hiking trails are empty.

But it does present some challenges.  Keeping warm and keeping dry are two that stand out.  You cant use that junk coleman tent that is 90% screen and 1% tent.  you need something that is a three season tent or at least has screening that can zip up AND a full size rain fly that goes almost all the way to the ground on all sides except the entryways.  nothing will teach you about tent comfort than trying to do a fall campout in a summer only tent when the overnight temps hot 36F degrees and a breeze kicks up. Even more miserable is trying to do that when you expect the weather to stay above 35F and it hit's 25F degrees and snows overnight.  it's not fun being the only one out of a sleeping bag trying to start a campfire at 6 am in a winter wonderland because the tent collapsed under the weight.

Proper gear is important, and having a back up plan is double important.  Get a tent that will handle worse weather than you ever expect to camp in.  Honestly my choice from now on for a tent will be a Cabelas Alaskan guide tent.  I love my westwind, but after a few years with it I wish I bought the better tent.  Sleeping gear is just as important.   I have tried EVER sleeping pad out there and I'l tell you this.  they all are complete junk.  hard foam is uncomfortable, the $1.99 cheapies are the same as the $47.99 mountain climber specials. The self inflating pads are worse unless you are a 95 pound waif.  All of them are comfortable for the first hour and then the air starts moving and finally drops you to the ground with most of the inflation at your feet. My wife and I bought 10 different brands and kept going up in price and found a set that in our living room were fantastic, but in the woods are junk after an hour. They in fact kept us less warm than the $1.99 cheap hard foam pad.  If you want real comfort you need to bring a LOT of padding to lay on or better yet, a cot of some type.  I am not sold on air mattresses yet,  Every one I have slept on was cold.  great in summer, bad in fall/winter. Maybe someone will come up with one that is not as bulky as a suitcase, squeek all night long and insulates.  My wife and I Love the double tent cot for comfort sleeping,  but we cant transport it anywhere.  It's too big to fit in any car.  One nice thing of the tentcot, it's a 4 season tent as you can seal it up tight and with a foam pad in it you are really warm with 2 people inside.  I have yet to find a small, easily packed, and and comfortable sleeping system.

Sleeping Bags;  Why has there been ZERO effort in making sleeping bags comfortable?  I dont want to own 10 bags so I have one for every temperature range.  Why not a good bag that has zip open panels to let air in when it's a 50 degree night? Why do they not add in venting that can be closed so a bag can cover 80 degrees to 10 degrees?  I have never had a good night sleep in a sleeping bag.  the Best night I ever had in a tent was when I was on a cot with a couple of quilts from home.   the cotton is comfortable, you can slide a leg out when  hot, and completely disappear under them when cold.  it's time to start searching again for comfortable and small packing sleeping bags. someone has to make a bag that packs small, is comfortable, and designed for an adult and not a child.  Again,  that 95 pound waif design factor for camping gear rears it's head.  I am built like a football player, not a horse jockey..  I dont like the wrapped in a rug feeling that most bags deliver.

for cold weather camping, the sleeping bag I prefer is a huge one, it's for "Extra tall" people so I can slide in and disappear. we also have a pair of summer fleece bags as well.  my wife will slide one into the other and be warmer than a bug in a toaster.  if the wind picks up, it will strip the heat from your tent fast, having two layers in your bag will make a huge difference.  Also double up on your ground pads.  you need that extra layer, and I strongly suggest the firmer cheap pads for insulation.  they are far superior to self inflating types. If in doubt, bring both and stack them. error on the side of being comfortable and you will have a far more enjoyable time.

as for tent heaters,  I say no.  Honestly even the new flame-less catalyst type make me nervous.  you are wrapped in flammable material.  do you really want to risk it? if you are bringing a 12 person cabin for the two of you?  Ok, I can understand.  but a correct sized tent that is correct for the season will do just fine.  and in a wind your tent heater is not going to make a difference.

Also bring some finger-less gloves.  works great for keeping warmer while you light he morning fire and use the stove to heat up water for coffee and get the oatmeal  cooking over the fire.


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