Summer is officially over with the Autumn Equinox occurring today. It's not like you weren't aware of that already with the all recent cold mornings that have greeted us with biting air. As the trees start to show off their brilliant colours and the leaves say their final goodbye to the sun we all start think about packing it in. Many take this as a time to begin the long Saskatchewan hibernation where we all wait to wake up when the snow starts to melt, hopefully, in April. However, just because the weather is turning doesn't mean there still isn't time to get out there and do a bit more camping before the elements get a bit more extreme.
Saskatchewan in all its autumn glory!
Fall camping in Saskatchewan can be extremely rewarding for a couple reasons. The first, the forests and valleys are probably the most stunning this time of the year with their palate of colours and secondly you probably will have the entire campsite to yourself.
You might be thinking it would be crazy to spend a night in a tent in the next couple weeks but I can ensure if you make the time you won't be disappointed. To help you have a great time here are 7 tips I suggest to make fall camping the best it can be in Saskatchewan.
1) Make sure the park you want to visit is open
Many of the parks in Saskatchewan close or limit services after the September long weekend. This is due to the massive drop in visitor rates. However, many are still open for self-registration if you wish to spend time there.
Fall in Douglas Provincial Park
This means there will be no one at the gate when you enter the park and you will need to fill out a self-registration form to pay for your camp fees and site.
Some parks still offer online fall bookings through the SaskParks website so I suggest taking some time to see what park is open and which is not and make your decision from there. Don't just show up at a park and expect the gates to be open!
Fall is a fickle time for weather. It can be 20 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. This means you need to be prepared to dress up and down throughout the day. This is where dressing in layers becomes vital to your enjoyment.
Layers can keep you warm no matter the weather!
Don't bring the heaviest coat you have and spend the entire time taking it on and off, instead bring layers of wool sweaters and a rainjacket for activities during the day such as hiking. Even if the weather drops to 10C but the sun is still shining you will be amazed on how little clothing you need while working up a sweat.
As the day drags on and the sun sets, you will start layering up again. As with any camping trip you will find yourself in front of the campfire once the sun goes down. It is here that you should trade out that nice rain jacket and toss on that heavier jacket that you don't mind if gets a couple burn holes in it.
My go to warm fire jacket is this plaid beauty from Peavey Mart for $20.
3) How to sleep warm
This is the biggest concern everyone has when it comes to camping in marginal temperatures. How am I going to stay warm throughout the night? It isn't rocket science but there are a few things you can do to ensure your night is warm and cozy.
The biggest source of heat loss won't be the cold air, it will be the cold ground underneath you. That is why you need to insulate yourself as best as possible from the heat zapping dirt. To do this, especially when car camping, you can bring more layers to separate yourself from the ground. When putting down your air mattress put an old blanket underneath it to provide a protection layer, as well put a sheet or another layer on top of the air mattress. I suggest bringing nothing less than a -10C rated sleeping bag that covers your entire body. A 0C bag,even though that might be the temperature outside, is not good enough. I usually add 10C to a bags rating to determine when I should use it. If you have an extra sleeping bag, bring it and use it as a duvet cover. If you're like me, I hate having my arms inside the sleeping bag so this allows my upper body to remain warm.
For extra warmth bring your PJs. Not only will this give you another layer of warmth it also makes getting up to pee in the middle of the night a massive ordeal.
4) Protect your boots and socks
There is nothing worse than putting on wet boots in the morning because you left them outside and they got covered in frost. I suggest leaving your boots in the vehicle or putting them in a plastic bag and bringing them in the tent with you. Don't leave them in the vestibule part of your tent as they can still get damp here.
Keep those puppies dry!
Make sure you dry out your socks over the campfire if they got wet from sweating throughout the day. Better yet keep a pair of "dry only socks" to put on just before bed. Wet socks mean cold feet, cold feet means going home early.
5) Pay attention to sunset
It is fall - the sun sets much sooner than it did even a couple weeks ago. Don't get yourself caught in the dark because you misjudged the changing seasonal sun.
It gets dark quick out there
I make it a habit to always carry a headlamp in my bag when I head out for the day. You never know what could happen that could delay you. Trying to find your way home in the dark on a trail doesn't sound like an enjoyable time.
Many times I make it back to camp just as the sun is setting. By having my headlamp in a place that I can easily access it ensures I don't have to grope around in the dark trying to find my stove to make some tea. Planning ahead can go a long way!
6) Bring a toque and set of gloves
I don't know if it just stubbornness or maybe we just don't think it will be that cold but often when I camp with people in cold temps no one has a toque or gloves to sit around the fire with. These are the type of items that you would rather have and not need, then need and not have!
Gloves are in the pockets in case I need them!
7) Bring a tarp and ratchet straps/rope
There is a good chance it could rain on you. Bring a tarp for camp and something to tie it to trees. I like using ratchet straps as it make it easier to keep the lines taunt without having to tie fancy knots. (I can do those too but sometimes I get lazy)
Tarps make life better.
Setting up a tarp when it is raining will allow to enjoy your breakfast without getting wet during a quick morning rain. This makes a big difference in keeping spirits up for everyone. We've all heard stories of people packing it in early because they weren't prepared.
When setting up a tarp try and design it in a way that it make an A-Frame shape, with a ridge-line running down the middle. This will let the rain run off much easier and you won't have as many issues with water pooling.
This could be your reward for camping in fall!
Those are 7 quick tips that I have to make the most out of your fall camping trip. Do you have any more to share or think I missed something? Share it in the comments!