Best fall camping gear: 4 things you’ll want to pack

So you’ve decided to go camping this fall. Great. U.S. too. Autumn is the prime time for camping. Hot, sweaty summer days are over, but cold, miserable winter nights are still far on the horizon.

That said, packing the same gear you’ve been using all summer for your fall excursions is a great way to have a bad time. Fall is campfire time for a reason – mornings and evenings get terribly cold, and it doesn’t always warm up during the day, either. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to start revising your list of materials from square one. With these four simple adjustments to your typical gear, you’ll be ready to enjoy all the best of the scary season.

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Bring the right socks for the season

Whether you’re hiking or just hanging out around camp, if you don’t pull out those merino wool socks with the change of seasons, you’re wrong. Wear them with your best hiking boots for their extra cushion and moisture-wicking properties. Wear them in your camping sleeping bag for warm, dry feet all night long. Hell, wear them with your outdoor hiking sandals if you like: their natural antimicrobial properties won’t cling to the usual funk detected in cotton or synthetic socks after a full day (or two) of use and abuse. Just be sure to pack an extra pair or two.

Darn Tough Hiker Crew Socks

A Darn Tough Hiker Crew sock on a white background.

This isn’t the first time we’ve recommended a Darn Tough sock, and it won’t be the last either. The Darn Tough Hiker is the perfect balance of cushion and warmth for all-day comfort on the trail, while still being breathable enough to keep your feet from overheating. Around the camp, they’re incredibly comfortable, and all that antimicrobial / odor-fighting stuff is a big deal when you share a confined space (like a tent) with someone else all night.

Typically we stick with the mid-length hiker for summer / spring, but when the temperatures drop we like to increase it up to Darn Tough’s crew length as it works best with full-length base layers (more on those below). And before you balk at spending over $ 20 on a pair of hiking socks, just know that Darn Tough includes a lifetime warranty with every pair. If you ever manage to wear a hole all at once, they will replace it. No question asked.

Wear quality base layers for all-day comfort

Rocking full-length base layers on the outside is a game-changer. Quality base layers of merino wool or synthetic fabrics (remember, no cotton is allowed outside) both wick moisture away from your skin and help regulate your body temperature, you keeping warm when it is cold and refreshing you when you are very active. Depending on the drop in temperatures in your area, you’ll either want to turn to light or medium base layers.

Smartwool Intraknit 200 Merino Base Layers

A base coat Smartwool Intraknit Merino black on a white background.

Smartwool is probably the biggest name in merino, and we’ve put many miles on their woolen clothes. Their latest line, the “Intraknit” base layers, takes a best of both worlds approach, using a 50/50 blend of merino wool and polyester. Smartwool claims this results in a more durable, faster drying base layer that still has all of the benefits of their classic 100% Merino tops and bottoms. We love the 200-weight fabric, which is the perfect compromise for 99% of fall conditions.

Don’t forget a good hat for cold weather

Fall marks the start of the actual beanie season. The same rules that apply to those socks and base layers also apply here: anything is better than cotton. Most beanies for men are a blend of wool (you know, sheep) and acrylic, which is basically synthetic wool. You’ll also see a few made from polyester, which is a bit more breathable than wool or acrylic but not as warm.

Lightweight REI Co-Op beanie

A lightweight REI Co-Op beanie in a Wisp Gray Heather variant.

If it is not broke, do not fix it. The REI Co-Op Beanie is the perfect hat for fall camping. Made from 70% acrylic and 30% wool, it’s warm without being too hot, but does everything we love about wool, like wicking moisture and regulating body temperature. It’s a beautiful hat that comes in a ton of colors at a price that’s hard to beat. Combine that with REI Co-Op’s knack for absolutely crushing the basics of the outdoors, and you watch a real winner.

Read more: The best woolen hats

Patagonia fisherman’s hat

A brown Patagonia fisherman's hat on a white background.

For fall camping in mild weather, we love the Patagonia Fisherman’s Beanie. It’s made from polyester rather than wool or acrylic, so it provides warmth on cooler nights without being uncomfortable during the day. Speaking of comfort, if you generally find woolen or acrylic beanies itchy on your skin, polyester is an “itch-free” fabric, so the fisherman’s beanie has that advantage as well. We also love that Patagonia adds a touch of spandex to the fabric, which makes this beanie nice and stretchy without stretching over time.

The perfect camp blanket

A camp blanket is one of those great pieces of equipment that you never knew you were missing until you brought one along. Bring it to the campfire in the evening for previously unknown degrees of comfort. When it’s time to stay overnight, your camp blanket fits into the tent with you, adding extra warmth and comfort on cooler evenings. When the sun comes up and it’s time to brew coffee in the crisp morning air, throw it around your shoulders to keep your body heat in its place. You have two choices here: a classic rugged wool blanket or the modern convenience of a squeezable “puffy” blanket.

Pendleton jacquard wool blanket

A Pendleton jacquard wool blanket with a bison pattern.

If you lean towards the rustic charms of a woolen blanket, no one does it better than Pendleton. Pendleton has been weaving 100% virgin wool blankets at its Portland, Oregon factories for over 100 years. They’re often imitated, but when you’ve got an authentic Pendleton in your hands, you know you’re holding a quality blanket that will last for decades. We love their Jacquard blanket series because they are as beautiful as they are sturdy and look as natural around the camp as they are draped over the back of your sofa. Wool is also naturally fire resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the occasional fly ash that burns a hole in your investment.

Read more: The best camping quilts

Kelty Galactic Down Blanket

Kelty Galactic down blanket in Cathay Spice variant.

If you prefer something light and compact, a modern “puffy” blanket is pretty much a down jacket for your whole body. Our favorite right now is Kelty’s Galactic Down blanket, which uses 550 duck down in a blanket that costs somewhat the same (or less) as the synthetic-filled competition. In addition to the natural warmth and compressibility of its down filling, we also offer Kelty Galactic blanket accessories for its 50D polyester outer fabric. That’s about 20D above your average inflated coverage, which makes Galactic more durable and more resistant to stains, tears and punctures.

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