Fall is finally here! Maybe not all of you are going to be as excited and will keep missing long, hot summer days, however, fall can be a great season for adventuring and backpacking.
Sure, days get shorter, but also temperatures get lower, making it possible to explore more without getting exhausted by the heat. Also, nature acquires some incredibly warm and beautiful colors and in general it can be a pretty amazing season for backpacking.
At the same time, because of its in-between nature, autumn can be a bit tricky when it comes to gear. Cold can come unforeseen, snow even, as well as incredibly hot days. Somehow, you can never know what to expect and even if the weather forecasts can be helpful, they might get it wrong at times and, in general, you just don’t want to be unprepared.
The most difficult outdoor activities to get ready for are those that involve more than one day of adventuring, such as for example backpacking exactly. When the season is clear and well defined, like in the case of summer or winter, then you know what to bring with you and what to leave home, packing your backpack properly and not making it too heavy. But what to bring when backpacking in fall?
Also, eating and drinking behaviors change and the amount and kinds of supplies you need can be completely different. So what to eat when backpacking in fall? How much water do you need?
Here are some tips on the kind of gear and on how to behave when backpacking in fall.
How to get ready for fall backpacking
Camping gear for fall
When you have good quality camping gear for all seasons, then this won’t be a problem. But if you are still new to outdooring, then let us give you some tips on the best gear for backpacking. Opt for stuff that you can use all year long. It will cost you more, but on the overall it will cost you a lot less.
A good trekking and backpacking tent is where you want to start: choose a lightweight, three or four seasons tent which is suitable for backpacking and that will resist low temperatures, but that also has a good ventilation system to keep it cool during hot nights and dry during cold ones.
Be ready for winter-like conditions even if it’s just fall, because sometimes cold arrives unexpectedly and can really ruin your backpacking trip if you are not ready for it.
Same goes for the sleeping bag, of course. If it’s going to be hot enough, then you can leave it open, or not use it at all. But if cold comes, then you want to have a backpack that will resist those low temperatures and keep you nice and warm. Of course, it should be versatile when it comes to weight and size: remember you have to carry it on your shoulders.
Last but not least, when fall arrives switch to your warm sleeping pad. Indeed, they do exist! They are made of a more insulating material that will keep the cold of the ground away from your body and will help you to sleep warmer and cozier.
Another camping hack that you could use (especially if there’s two of you carrying the gear) is to carry an extra sleeping bag to spread over your mat and insulate it, in case you want to carry your normal, classic camping mats.
Also, get ready for wind. Past are the days when you can avoid staking your tent, or not pulling those rods nice and tight. You must be sure that your tent is ready for wind, wintery storms and similar conditions. If the ground doesn’t seem strong enough to keep the stakes in, look for a better place where to plant your portable home.
Light is more important than ever
The tricky thing about fall, especially when it has just arrived, is that it still looks like summer a lot, so you end up forgetting about the important stuff, such as light.
As we said, days don’t last as long as during summer time. So first of all, always have a watch on you to keep record of time. At this point, make sure you finish your activities early enough to still have light to plant your tent properly. Also, provide yourself with a good headlamp. This is a real core backpacking piece of gear that really shouldn’t be missing from your backpack.
About the headlamp, we suggest choosing one that has a red-light mode for in-camp and also to prevent bugs from flying in front of your face while you are enjoying your time or doing something, such as eating or cooking. Also, in order to prevent unnecessary waste, choose rechargeable headlamps and camping lamps and always bring a solar panel with you to be able to recharge them whenever you need to.
Reusable, hard-sided water bottles - and water supplies in general
Okay, this could really be the ultimate trick when backpacking in fall. Opt for a reusable, hard-sided water bottle to carry your liquids. If the night is very cold, you could heat up some water and pour it in the bottle, turning it into a hot water bag. Make sure the top is screwed on tight and place it in the sleeping bag with you. By daytime, the water inside the bottle will be cold again and you can drink it during the day, or you can heat it up again and use it for your tea or coffee.
Also, you probably want to replace one of your water bottles with a thermos, so you can bring with you hot teas, coffees or infusions during the day. They are a great way to give you some energy back and warm you up during cold days spent hiking and backpacking around. Especially if you enrich them with honey and spices. If you don’t want to bring tea bags or coffee with you, there are some very useful powders that can come handy in these occasions.
And even if it’s not summer anymore, do carry a water filter with you. Exactly because you might end up needing more water to keep you warm and energized, you might need to fetch some fresh one by filtering it. This is a very important piece of gear that should never be missing from your backpack, regardless of the season or the kind of activity you are doing.
You will need more of everything
When fall comes, together with colder temperatures, you must keep in mind that you will need more of everything.
You will need more time to recover from cold, possibly windy days spent backpacking. You will need more stuff to cover yourself and you will also need more time in the morning to warm up before reaching a good pace.
You will need more food, and you will probably also need more water, not just because the cold can dehydrate you too, but to make more hot beverages during the day.
Also, you will need more fuel to cook at night, so don’t pack your backpack as if it were still summer and hot.
Start opting for food that is more nourishing and has some extra energy in it. Opt for warm meals, as they will help your body temperature too, and add some spices if you can, which will too warm you up. In general, think like a bear and get that extra bite that will help you in case tomorrow is going to be freezing.
So, what to wear when backpacking in fall? The best answer is layers! This doesn’t mean you have to carry the whole wardrobe with you. If you have the right and appropriate gear, you will need only a few of them. Just make sure to always have a thermic base with you in case temperatures drop considerably and also a tank top in case they raise to summer conditions all over again. Adaptable clothing really is the best in this case and never miss a hat and a bandana: they can really make a massive difference in certain occasions.
If you can, pick clothes that can become more than one item thanks to a zip, especially when it comes to pants. Last but not least, a good rain jacket, as well as a good rain cover for your backpack.