On our very first camping trip my kids, then 3 and 1.5, woke up and immediately started chanting, “We’re freezing!” and “Cold!”. My husband kept sleeping and I couldn’t get the fire lit so I did what any quick thinking mom would do. I put the kids in their car seats, gave them their chocolate milk, and sat there with the car heater running until we got warm. Not my best moment, but it got the job done. That trip was in May.
After that trip, I realized the window for camping comfortably with kids was pretty short. My husband and I enjoy camping off-season, in spring and fall, when rates are cheaper and campgrounds less crowded. Off season might not be the best time to go if you or your kids have never camped before, but if you follow a few tips for keeping warm, I definitely recommend a fall camping trip.
Why I love a Fall Camping Trip
• Bonfires, hoodies, and snuggling. These things just scream fall and you’ll get them all on a fall camping trip.
• Crisp air and the way the light reflects the beautiful colors of the changing leaves.
• Waking up in a hot tent is not my idea of fun. You can always get warmer with more blankets. You can’t cool off a hot tent in the middle of summer.
Tips for Keeping Warm on a Fall Camping Trip
• Pack layers. Each of us had a t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, thermal henley, and a hoodie or fleece for each day’s outfit. This might be excessive, but I felt better being prepared and you can always remove layers if you get hot.
• You can buy a “base layer” or long underwear for bottoms, or buy fleece lined jeans, especially for the kids.
• For night, I packed a tight fitting pair of pajamas for them to wear under their fleece footy pajamas.
• I actually slept with gloves and a hat.
• Each of us had a sleeping bag, but I also packed extra blankets from the house. We covered the floor of the tent with blankets first, to keep the moisture from the ground away from us. Then each of us had a fleece or knit blanket for inside our sleeping bags.
• And then for good measure, I covered the kids with another blanket.
• If you have them, pack more than one pair of gloves, especially for yourself. My first pair got wet and it was great to have an extra dry pair. Same with my fleece jacket.
• The tight fitting gloves that cost $.99 at Walmart have so far been the easiest to keep on the kids. Be prepared to put gloves back on them a lot.
• When in doubt, always pack extra socks. You can also double them up on the kids or wear them over their hands as mittens at night.
• Stay dry! Things don’t dry out as easily when it’s cold and water takes heat away from you.
• I hate to say it, but leave the alcohol at home. Alcohol consumption results in rapid heat loss.
• Make sure you change clothes before bed. If you wore it all day, your clothing will be damp.
• Keep your clothes for the next day in the bottom of your sleeping bag so it’s warm when you put it on in the morning.
• Eat and drink a lot! Your body needs more fuel to stay warm.
• Give the kids a snack (S’mores or Popcorn) and some hot chocolate to warm them up before bed.
The temps got in the 20’s the first night and we didn’t freeze! The hardest part of the trip was trying to get the kids to keep their gloves and hats on. Those tiny hands were so cold! We spent time outside, but also went for a day trip in the car and the bathrooms at our campground were heated, so we went there to get dressed. This was our 3rd camping trip as a family and the kids were definitely old pros. Like I mentioned, you want your kid’s first experience to be a fantastic one, so I would recommend sticking to warmer temps until you know they are comfortable with camping in general.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! You can read more camping tips here, and stay-tuned for my upcoming e-book.