6 Fun Fall Camping Tips For Families

Fall Camping is super fun for families!
Fall is a beautiful time of year! Photo: Susie Kellogg

Ahhh, it’s fall, which means the Kellogg’s are scrambling to keep our summer alive, through this unseasonably chilly Colorado season. We aren’t putting our kayaks or our climbing shoes or our GeigerRigs, or our paddles up. Nope, we just aren’t ready. We are going to stick with the program and keep doing everything we do all summer. Fall Camping, Kayaking, Climbing, etc is just as fun in the fall, sometimes even more so because the crowds disappear! 

Fall Camping is therapy for the soul.
I love camping in the fall because of the gorgeous colors.

We are legit ADD when it comes to our activities, regardless of the season.  We get crazy bored if we focus on any one activity for too many weeks in a row.  Which is why on any given day throughout the year you may see or hear of us going on 3 or 4 adventures.  We have the freedom to avoid boredom and do everything in our power to do so.

But the fact remains, we really are a two season family. Summer and Winter. We aren’t hunters, much to our kids’ dismay, so the fall is simply an extension of summer, until it snows … and spring, well spring either dumps snow or we start hitting the rivers.

We stretch our favorite activities into the changing environment using the best gear and the best mindset we can summon. And really, it’s not hard to kayak in freezing waters, anymore than it is to snowboard in knee deep powder. Thanks to super advanced technology, staying comfortable and safe is a matter of choosing the right gear.

With the right gear and a little planning, specifically to keep the younger crew comfortable and happy, we really have few hurdles to our adventures. Even when it comes to Fall Camping!

Now, our kids are camping purists. They like to travel in the RV, but they almost always pitch tents or throw up hammocks in which to sleep…even in the dead of winter. I can’t fathom. I mean, I’m renowned for opening windows in the winter, but the heat is also on and I’m under a plethora of blankets. Not my kids. They pile into their -5 degree sleeping bags and Dan’s military blankets and fall soundly asleep without a chill.

So, I thought I’d put together a little list to help you pull-off a mid-late fall Family Camping trip that will create great memories, reconnect your family right before the crazy season and get away from the crazy that’s already happened.

Simply getting out of the house, even if only for a few days, is often the best gift you can give to your family!

Affordability

Fall Camping is a great way to spend quality time with your family.
One of our favorite seasons to camp is the fall! Photo: Susie Kellogg

Great news in the affordability arena when talking Fall Camping. While campgrounds gouge the family traveler beginning on Memorial Day and lasting all summer, post Labor Day campgrounds tend to reduce their rates.  From National parks to privately owned campgrounds, rates mysteriously drop, due to less demand. This may or may not be why we are famous for hitting the beach after schools start and everyone goes back to the daily grind, making it the perfect time to vacation!  

In addition, the fall is the quietest, most breathtaking time to visit both National and State Parks.  From the changing of the leaves, to the perfect hiking weather, the crowds will be minimal and you and your family will create unforgettable memories!

Stay Awhile

Fall Camping is a buffet for the senses!
The smells, the colors, the crunchiness of the leaves, I love fall camping! Photo: Susie Kellogg

In my opinion, Fall Camping with kids and all the work it takes to pack for all weather conditions is absolutely not worth it unless you can stretch it out into at least two nights.  If you can grab a teacher work day or, even let your kids play a little hooky, do it!  Three nights is the optimum.  

This is true because set up and take down seemingly take forever.  Two nights or more allow you to unpack, relax and actually enjoy the state of chill that Fall Camping elicits.  I know that some friends and family have a really hard time checking out of society for more than a few hours, if this sounds like you, pack a solar charger, like the Goal Zero Switch 10 Multi-Tool Kit.  It’s a phone charger, flashlight, and solar panel all in one!  Win/Win!

Bring Toys

Fall Camping combined with mountain biking makes for an epic mini vacation!
Mountain biking in the late fall is super fun. Photo: Susie Kellogg

Nothing screams Fall Camping than riding bikes over crunchy leaves. So be sure to pack your racks and bring your bikes, your scooters, your longboards, and depending on where you are going, maybe even your dirtbikes. Fall is one of the best seasons for hitting dirt trails and go braaaaping! The air has a chill, so dressing like you do when you go riding isn’t a big deal, like in the summer, when you sweat profusely. LOL

It’s also a great time, to let your older kids run wild and cruise up and down the roads on their bikes and scooters and other wheeled items of wonderment.  There a so few people around, that you don’t have to worry constantly that they are going to get kidnapped or run over and you get to chill in your hammock or actually carry on a conversation with your spouse. Fall Camping is so  awesome, that kids are automatically entertained, even without toys. I mean you can keep them busy for EVER in the woods!

Campfire

Fall Camping would not be complete with a huge campfire!
Campfires are a must regardless of when you are camping, but in the fall, they offer a sense of comfort and warmth! Photo: Susie Kellogg

This is legit my favorite aspect of Fall Camping. During months in the West where fire bans are in effect, I essentially avoid camping all together, because it’s nothing without a fire. So, with that in mind, check for fire bans and plan accordingly. If it’s legal, you MUST have one. Kids love them, they are mesmerizing and things like S’Mores and Story Time around the fire become an integrated family tradition.

Also check to see if you can collect fallen branches and twigs from the surrounding forest, like you can just about everywhere back East.  Be sure to check, though, because some places, like Moab – the greatest fall camping spot in the world, requires that you bring your own firewood.  That’s kinda a good thing to know, beforehand, ya know?

Pitch Perfect Tents

Fall Camping in the PNW is wonderfully therapeutic!
I love the smell of pine trees, and waking to them in the am is the best! Photo: Susie Kellogg

When our kids were all little, we bought a family tent that supposedly slept 8 adults … plenty for us and our teeny tiny kids.  It had a divider in the middle that separated two separate sleeping quarters.  This was perfect as it gave us and the littler kiddos the privacy we needed to sleep and it gave the older kids the feeling of being slightly independent and they were able to lay awake and continue the campfire tradition of story telling and/or use their head lamps for reading without bothering us at all.

As the kids got older and way more independent they started asking for tents for birthdays and Christmas.  It started out, they wanted 4-man tents. Then two-man tents and now that they are all into backpacking and mountaineering, they are gravitating toward the lightweight one person tents, like the Kelty Salida 2 Tent. Eventually Fall Camping turns into Winter Camping and their gear takes them from season to season.

Stay Up Late

Fall Camping is a great opportunity to hike and bike.
Fall Camping means tons of outdoor play for kids! Photo: Susie Kellogg

We never used to worry about bedtime when we are out camping and we still don’t. We used to camp all the time with a family member who was strict as heck about the times her kids went to bed. They would be in their tents crying while we all sat around the the campfire in our jammies roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories!  I mean, come on, all the best stuff happens after dark. I used to beg her to let go of the schedule and relax, but she was having none of it.

My advice to ALL families is to let loose, live in the moment and let kids consume S’mores, drink too much soda, get dirty and just be totally and completely free. They will crash when they are tired, I remember being shocked when our hate to sleep kiddos actually asked to go to bed.  It was like 9 pm and they were exhausted from all day play.

Fall Camping with Family is the best season!

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