Get Outside: The Fall Backpacking Guide
Published on 11/12/2012
By Katie Levy
Getting outside for overnight backpacking trips in autumn is one of the best ways to observe the changing seasons. It’s a chance to enjoy crisp morning air, brightly colored leaves crunching under your feet, and the smaller crowds that come with cooler weather. But when it comes to those changing seasons, it’s essential to be prepared. Start by making a list of essential items you need to take for each day you’ll be out, and make sure to include these items on it:
Controlling your body temperature when the weather starts to get cooler is essential. If you’re up and cooking breakfast at 6am when it’s 35º, then hiking through midday when it’s closer to 60º, you’re going to need a layering system to help you adapt. You’ll want a wicking, breathable baselayer, a midlayer, and an insulating layer for stops along the trail and in camp. For baselayers, Smartwool’s Microweight Crew and Marmot’s Lightweight Crew LS are great upper body choices.
Easy-to-Use Backpacking Stove + Fuel
When you get into camp after a long day on the trail, you’ll likely be warm from all of the activity. But as the sun sets, you can bet a cup of hot cocoa is going to sound like the best thing on Earth. Make sure you can get a hot dinner and drink prepped in no time with stoves the Flash Cooking System from Jetboil or the Pocket Rocket from MSR. Both are quick to set up and easy to use. Of course, make sure you have adequate fuel; you’ll want to pack a bit more than usual if you’re planning on indulging in hot drinks both morning and night.
First Aid Kit
Taking a first aid kit along on adventures is something to keep in mind year-round. Always, always pack the ten essentials. But when the weather gets colder, you’ll want to bolster yours with items like an emergency blanket, additional fire-starting implements, hand and foot warmer packets. Adventure Medical Kits’ Ultralight/Watertight .9 packs a lot into a 12-ounce package.
Flashlights and lanterns are great for car camping, but a headlamp is essential for backpacking. The sun rises later and sets earlier during fall months, which makes being prepared for dark particularly important. The TIKKA®² by Petzl and the Spot Headlamp by Black Diamond are both good choices. The Nao, Petzl’s newest headlamp, is a more high-tech choice. It’s rechargable and features reactive lighting technology. Look for lamps that provide 50-100 lumens.
Warm Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are designed for specific temperature ranges, and most sleeping bags have a specific temperature rating. The rating illustrates the lowest temperature you’ll be comfortable sleeping in with a given bag, and as a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to add 10 degrees or more to the rating depending on personal preference. Gender, metabolism, and other uncontrollable factors will affect how you feel. For an autumn sleeping bag, look for a three season bag rated between 15 and 40 degrees, like Big Agnes’ Zirkel 20 bag.
Knowledge of Trail Conditions & Hunting Seasons
The right gear is essential, but so is knowledge of your surroundings. Check in with rangers or local park personnel before you head out to see if there are any special conditions you need to be aware of. If you’re traveling in an area that is open for hunting, make sure you’re appropriately dressed. Bright orange clothing that can be seen from a great distance is best, and be sure to stay on established trails.