The best time of year is upon us! As the warmer weather winds down and the days get shorter, the rivers become a bit less busy and make this season the perfect time to head out on a camping trip in the Colorado Rockies. Whether you’re heading to Aspen to catch the tail end of the fall colors, or camping riverside near Kremmling, Colorado, here’s the gear we suggest for those ready to brave the overnight low temperatures at this time of year.
5 Reasons Fall Camping is the Best
The Fall Foliage
Quite an obvious answer, but everyone knows Colroado loves to show off for a few weeks in autumn. Lush green trees transform into beautiful hues of yellow, red, and orange. There is nothing better than leaf peeping in the Rocky Mountains, whether it be a trail, river, or climbing route.
Sometimes the fall weather can be “less ideal” for those who aren’t hardcore camping enthusiats, but if you’re willing to set out on an adventure and pack accordingly, there’s no better time for it than now. As the crowds thin out with kids heading back to school, there is more nature to enjoy solo. Fewer people at trailheads, put-ins, take-outs, and campsites make your options wide open for prime adventure conditions.
Cooler weather means the perfect time to snuggle up around the campfire. It also means the midday heat is much more manageable. Side note: be sure to check the fire restrictions in the county you will be camping in and abide by those rules.
Colorado’s elevation and low humidity makes it a less desirable location for bugs to reside, though we do get our fair share in the dog days of summer. The bugs have found their way elsewhere by the time the leaves start to change, so you can sit back and relax knowing you won’t wake up with a horde of mosquito bites.
Bonfire chili? Sign us up! There’s a plethora of great dehydrated foods that can quickly make a warm meal for any backpacker trips, too. Mountain House is a great brand of dehydrated food. Order in bulk and stock up for the season.
Our Fall Camping Gear Must Haves
First things first: we need to be able to cook our delicious food. Nothing’s better than a good meal after a long day of outdoor activities. We always acess the type of stove we’ll pack based off of our trip. For instance, you don’t want to pack a massive multi-burner stove with a wind shield if you’ve already got a full raft on the river. Check out this one from Camp Chef for car camping, and don’t forget your propane!
- Pots and Pans
We’ve got what we’re cooking on, now what should we cook in? Compactable cook sets make life easier by having everything organized and on the go with their nesting system. We recommend cook sets like GSI Outdoor’s Camper Cookset.
- Kitchen Supplies
Something that inevitably gets forgotten is some kitchen tool – like a cutting board or soap to wash dishes. That is why we love this camping secret weapon. Sets like these include salt and pepper shakers, condiment holders, and more. Also, a biodegradable soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s or Sea to Summit, is necessary to protect the environment as much as we can.
- Plates, Cups, and Utensils
It’s easy to remember everyone’s dishes when they come in handy packages like this. You’ve got everything you’ll need in that one set, and it won’t take up a ton of space while packing.
- A Reliable Cooler
Coolers are essential for preserving food, keeping the beverages chilled, and also adds an extra element of protection for those goods from wildlife. Raft guide tip: utilize your cooler as the seat for your rower on an overnighter pack raft.
A good general rule of thumb is 3 liters of water a day per person on your adventure. Of course, this can change with elevation, weather, and exertion levels. There also needs to be water for cooking and handwashing if you are venturing away from natural water sources. Grab a few 5 gallon Coleman water jugs, and bring along a water filter if you’ll be off grid for a few days as a backup plan.
Tables are perfect for cooking, eating, or playing cards on. Many camp without them, but we think they should definitely be on your list. A card table works fine if you have the space. Otherwise, a roll-top table works wonders and packs up really nice for great use of space during travel.
We promise you will regret not bringing a chair once you get to a campsite. Unless you’re backpacking, camping chairs are a must for maximum comfort in the backcountry. Spend some money on these compactable seats, or just toss a few fold up chairs into your raft and call it a day.
Good lighting via a headlamp is crucial for those middle of the night journeys, and lanterns or fairy lights are an extra special touch making your camping trip one to remember.
When it is time for bed, tents in the fall are preferred versus sleeping under the stars. The rainfly and tent walls add another layer of insulation for the cooler evenings. This tent is ultralight and has fairy lights already built in so it still feels like sleeping under the stars on cold nights.
- Sleeping Bag
Varying in weights and temperature ratings, sleeping bags differ between each camper and their preferences. Check out this article from Out There Colorado for a more informed choice.
Ahhh, a controversial topic. Some campers just throw a few sweatshirts down and call it a day, but a compressible pillow is key for comfort if you can swing it.
- Sleeping Pad / Paco Pad
Inflating pads are perfect for a cozy night’s sleep. Whether it be a sleeping pad or paco pad, that foam or inflattable cushion makes the rigid earth more tolerable. Paco pads are also great for lounging by the fire or to throw on top of gear rafts for a great sunning spot.
- Warm Gear
The nights get cold quick. Bring layers, gloves, wool socks, balaclavas, and everything you can. Keep in mind the material your layers are made of are more important than anything else.
Duh. But also, pack in pack out – always!
A portable toilet, if you will. Good stuff to have, especially for a multiday trip on the river.
It’s easy to forget something on a camping trip. You can skip the logistics and head out on an overnight rafting trip with AVA Rafting & Zipline on the Colorado River or Arkansas River. There aren’t many options left through AVA for the season, but plan ahead for a spring adventure and give us a call today!