Fall Camping and Backpacking in Michigan

men standing in the middle of forest

Warm Clothing a Must for Camping, Backpacking and Hiking the Trails

When you head out in the fall, you will find campgrounds that are nearly empty, backpacking and hiking trails that are ablaze with color and a view of the outdoors you cannot get in summer.

But heading out in the fall entails taking a few more steps than you need for summer camping or backpacking trips. Most of your summer gear like tents, camp stoves or water containers will more than handle the job. Where you will need to add gear is in the way of clothing.

Face it, fall weather can go from warm to cold in a matter of hours and at night it can get plain out frigid. So you need to plan for these conditions and the additional items weigh very little and are not very expensive.

Keeping Warm in Camp and on the Trail

When camping or hiking in the fall, you will need more in the way of clothing than you would have on hand in the summer. A hat of some sort is a must and for warmth nothing beats a wool or synthetic watch cap. You should also take a pair of lightweight gloves. For this time of year, lightly insulated waterproof shells work extremely well, but even wool or synthetic glove liners will do the job. When you camp or hit the trails in cooler weather you should also have a base layer of synthetic or wool blend “long johns”.

Polypropylene is the synthetic fabric most commonly used for long underwear of this sort. It is what the U.S. Military uses in the Extreme Cold Weather system, but in your case, a much thinner layer will work just fine. Poly Pro garments are rated to what conditions they will protect you in and for early fall camping and backpacking, a lightweight or mid-weight layer will do the job.

On top of this you then decide just how warm you want or need to be. In addition to your normal clothing worn over your base layer, you will need a warmer jacket such as synthetic fleece or wool, which works extremely well.

Finally a waterproof breathable shell tops everything off. In the past, garments such as these were rather pricey, but with the prevalence of this technology the price has dropped dramatically. According to the United States Antarctic Program, the addition of a shell adds 25-degrees to your comfort level. At the same time they cut the wind and if it rains, they keep you dry, which is of the utmost importance in staying warm.

Emergency Gear on the Trail

There are a few items you should always have with you when hitting the trails, regardless of what time of year it is.

These have become known among backpackers and hikers as the Ten Essentials. They are items you should always have available and though the list shrinks and grows depending upon how far from camp you will be, they should always be close at hand.

  • Map and compass
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit with water purification tablets added.
  • Fire starters and matches in a waterproof container
  • Extra clothing
  • Extra food & water
  • Knife
  • Parachute cord
  • Small tarp or space blanket
  • Signaling device such as a whistle

All of this weighs very little and they are invaluable if you face an emergency. Most of the items, map, compass, flashlight, first-aid kit, fire starters and matches need little explanation. When it comes to extra clothing, even a pair of wind pants and a fleece top will help ward off unexpected cold and the extra food can be in the form of energy bars, an extra sandwich or any ready to eat item.

Warm Sleeping Bags

When it comes to sleeping you will need a sleeping bag that is warmer than in the summer. For backpacking you will want a bag that is both warm and as lightweight as you can afford. And you should plan on a bag that will keep you warm in the coldest temperature you could encounter. You can find this information for the area you will be in at the National Weather Service website. It is information that along with a current forecast you should always have when heading out. If you are staying at a base camp, you can get away with a summer bag and a warm blanket or two because weight will not be an issue. But before you put either bag on the ground, you will need to insulate yourself with a sleeping pad.

The variety of sleeping pads for backpacking and camping is enormous and you are only limited by how much money you want to spend. The most popular types are self-inflating pads. These pads are enclosed in an airtight shell that when a valve is opened, it allows air to enter into the foam material inside. With the pad inflated it provides cushioning and insulation from the cold ground.

Other pads are available, ranging from simple foam rubber types and closed cell foam to insulated air mattresses. The one thing you do not want to use when it is cold is an ordinary air mattress. They offer no insulation and will only make your night cold and miserable.

So take the time to think about what you will need and then get out there and enjoy the beauty of fall where ever you live.

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