The Essential Packing List for First-Time Fall Campers

October 23, 2023

We are so thrilled that you are getting ready to embark on your first fall camping adventure! Camping is a great year-round activity (at least we think so), but for many parts of the country, fall is when camping really shines.

Fall is the season when you get to enjoy more moderate weather. Though temperatures may dip a bit lower at night, you get to bask in the days that won’t exhaust you with their heat. Fall is also the season where you get to enjoy more space, as the crowds tend to dwindle as temperatures drop.

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors but it is also the time when more people find themselves camping. Thus, fall gives you a break from the crowds and gives you more time and energy to explore on your own and see what you want to see.

To see all of the reasons why we love fall camping, check out our reasons why we think fall camping is the best.

The preparation for fall camping is a bit different than it is for other seasons. This is mostly because the gear you take with you is not the same as what you take for spring and summer trips. Thus, it is important to adjust your packing list for each season.

So, regardless of whether you have gone camping in other seasons of the year, if this is your first time camping in the fall, then your list will look different.

And we are here to help you build that perfect fall camping list so that you can fully enjoy this experience and make it one that you repeat every year.

Here are all the things you need to bring with you on your fall camping excursion, along with some tips and tricks to ensure you have the best possible time.

What You Need for Fall Camping

1. Layers

Fall is a time where temperatures fluctuate and aren’t always as predictable as the summer or winter. Thus, you must bring a lot of layers so that you can pack them on when things get cold, and peel them off as temperatures increase.

You want your layers of clothing to be breathable and water-resistant. If you’re looking for extra warmth, be sure to bring clothes that are made of materials like fleece, wool, and anything synthetic. These will help to bring you heat and also keep you dry. Cotton clothing is not the top choice for fall camping.

Here are some of the essential layers you want to bring with you:

  • Thermal underwear
  • Fleece jacket or a wool shirt
  • Wind-resistant and water-resistant jacket
  • Winter coat (better to be safe than sorry)
  • Gloves or mittens. Mittens are better at keeping your hands warm because your fingers can work together to keep the others warm. So, if you’re worried about your hands getting cold, opt for mittens instead.
  • Winter hats. Bring one for the daytime and one for sleeping
  • Waterproof boots
  • Wool socks. Be sure to bring extra pairs, as they will likely get wet and you always want to have a dry pair of socks when possible
  • Extra shoes
  • Raincoat
  • Rain pants
  • Extra changes of pants and shirts in case your clothes get wet so that you have something else to change into

Group of friends caming in the fall.

2. Sleeping Gear

Fall camping requires more sleeping gear than summer camping, so refer to this list while packing to ensure that you don’t forget crucial things.

Here are the top sleeping items to bring for your fall camping trip:

  • Sleeping bag. Bring a sleeping bag that is built to withstand temperatures that drop to zero. Even though the weather may not show that night temperatures drop that low, you never want to deal with being cold throughout the night. It is always easier to cool off by shedding layers than it is to get warm when you don’t have the right sleeping gear. If you are really worried about getting cold, consider bringing two sleeping bags.
  • Mattress pad. Though you may feel like you are comfortable enough sleeping on the ground, that is different when it comes to camping in cooler weather. A mattress pad serves not only as extra padding for you but also as an extra layer between your warm body and the cold ground. Mattress pads are very important for insulating your body from the cold, so you want to get a closed-cell pad to keep you warm.
  • Warm water bottle. You may even want to bring a warm water bottle to put in your sleeping bag while you sleep. This helps a great deal in keeping the inside of your sleeping bag, and thus your body, warm.
  • You want a three-season tent that has a rain fly. This will help to keep moisture out and is a must in our opinion. It is also a good idea to bring a tarp to put under your tent to keep additional moisture from getting in.

3. Firewood

Dry firewood is not as easy to come across in the fall as it is during the summer. Check to make sure that there are no fire restrictions in the area that you’re planning to camp and if there are none, then bring plenty of firewood with you to keep you warm at night.

4. Extra Fuel

If you’ve got a camping stove, it is important to note that it takes longer to cook things when the weather is cold. Thus, you want to have extra fuel for your stove.

5. Headlamp

Headlamps are necessary no matter what time of the year you go camping, but they become even more important in the fall and winter and when the days are shorter. Headlamps help you to better navigate your camp when the sun goes down.

6. Insect Repellent

Though the bugs tend to be more of a pest during the summer, they can still linger into the fall. Thus, remember to bring repellent with you to keep any bites at bay.

7. Survival Kit

In the case of an emergency, you want to have certain things on hand that will help you when times get tough.

Here are some of the items you want in this survival kit.

  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Waterproof matches
  • Water purification tablets
  • Duct tape
  • Toilet paper
  • This can be used as a breathing mask, a bag, an emergency flag, a bandage, or a water sifter when needed

8. Easy-To-Prepare Foods

In the summer you may enjoy spending extra time at camp cooking up a tasty meal. However, when temperatures drop, the idea of spending extra time in the cold making food sounds less than ideal.

Thus, it is a good idea to bring foods on your fall camping trip that are easy to prepare and require minimal effort. One of the best ways to do this is by cooking your meals ahead of time so that all you have to do is warm them up once you’re camping.

If you’re looking for some good ideas of what food to bring on your camping trip, check out our massive collection of KOA recipes here.

9. A First Aid-Kit

You want to have the survival kit we mentioned above as well as a first aid kit.

Here is what you want to have in your first-aid kit:

  • First-aid supplies
  • Flashlight
  • Pocketknife
  • Map
  • Compass or GPS
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Sunglasses

10. Insulated Cup

This may sound like a silly thing to put on your essential packing list, but trust us on this. You want a cup that is going to keep your warm beverages warm for the cold nights and the cool mornings.

This cup will also come in handy during the day for keeping you warm if it starts to rain and/or if temperatures start to drop.

Senior Couple On Autumn Camping Trip

Other Things to Remember

In addition to making sure you’ve got all the right items to bring on your fall camping trip, there are some tips and tricks to keep in mind before you embark on your autumnal adventure.

Watch the Weather

Fall weather is known to change in an instant. So do your research ahead of time and check the forecasts specifically in the area that you’re camping. Also, see what weather changes in that area can look like. And always prepare for things to get really cold and for you to possibly run into rain, snow, and more.

Test Your Equipment

Before you head out on your trip, test your equipment at home. Make sure that you can put your tent up and that it is fully functioning. Zippers need to work. Also, test your sleeping pad to make sure it’s in tip-top shape, that your sleeping bag zips up, and any other gear that you’re bringing.

Eat Carbs and Fats

While we often try to stay away from too many carbs and too much fat while at home, when you’re camping in the fall, it’s a different story. Carbs help to keep your body warm and good fats are also key to have in your body as you’re adventuring around.

Prepare for Rain

Rain may come at any time while camping in the fall, so rather than have your camping trip ruined by it, prepare for it so you can adapt and enjoy.

Here are some ways to prep for it.

  • Line your backpack with plastic garbage bags to keep moisture add
  • Bring a tarp
  • Bring water tight-containers
  • Bring extra garbage bags for protecting items
  • Bring extra blankets and boots

Be Mindful of Wildlife

Fall is often the time of the year when wildlife mates, so you do not want to get in the way of that.

Always respect nature and be sure to keep your distance from wildlife and leave no trace behind.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Setup Camp

Since the days are shorter in the fall and the sun goes down earlier, you want to plan your arrival to camp with plenty of time to set up.

In your setup, you want to ensure your tent is really staked down in case the winds pick up.

You also want to be away from an area that looks like it may be home to any sort of wildlife. Also, never leave food in your tent and hang your food and garbage from trees or put it in the trunk of your car at night if you’re car camping.

Move Around

If you get cold during the day, get active! The more you move your body around, the warmer you’ll be.

Drink Lots of Water

Though you may not be warm, it is equally as important to stay hydrated when it gets cold as it is when temperatures are warm. In fact, it’s quite easy to get dehydrated when the weather is cool, so do your best to avoid that.

Eat a Snack Before Bed

Yes, we are giving you permission to do this while camping. While working to build calories, your body creates more heat. Thus, by eating a carb-heavy snack before bed, you can help your body temperature increase. And if you’re worried about consuming extra calories, don’t think about it. You will be adventuring the next day to burn them off.

Be Ready to Call It

If the conditions get too bad or if camping in your tent just isn’t working, then be prepared to call it and either head back home early, find a cabin to stay in, or head into town for the night. You embarked on this camping trip to have fun, so if you’re not having fun, change your situation.

All the different activities you get to enjoy in the fall, the fall foliage you get to experience, the comfort foods you get to consume, the warm days and the cool nights you can thrive in, and more are just some of the reasons why this season of camping is so much fun.

As long as you know what to expect ahead of time and prepare well for changes in weather and other things, you will have a great time. We think that after no time, you will be a regular fall camper.

Leslie K Hughes

Leslie is a travel writer, copywriter, and web designer who gets butterflies from telling stories through words and visuals.

Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.

With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie loves the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.

To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing and design world, visit her website here.



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