Camping is one of the best outdoor pastimes, no matter what time of the year. While most people stick to summer camping, camping die-hards know that spring, fall, and winter camping is equally as relaxing, especially considering the major lack of campground traffic. However, there’s not a lot of information about the appropriate gear for off-season camping, and as avid campers know, your clothing really does matter when you’re in the great outdoors in questionable weather.
So, if you’re committed to getting out into the woods no matter the time of the year, we’ve got a few suggestions about what to wear for every season of camping:
It doesn’t matter when you go camping, if you’re anywhere that’s not the desert, there’s a reasonable chance that there will be rain. That’s why we’ve put rain gear at the very top of our list of camping outfits for every season.
Ideally, you’ll have a waterproof tent, and maybe even a tarp over your kitchen area. This means it’s not super important that you have waterproof pants, unless you plan on hiking while you’re in the woods too. Your first priority for camping should be a nice, 100% waterproof, seam sealed rain jacket that’s breathable. Breathability keeps the rest of your clothes from getting soaking wet when you sweat inside the jacket, and sealed seams give you the extra protection you need when you’re outdoors 24/7. Since it’s a lot more affordable to have one great rain jacket you can use every season than different rain jackets for each, we recommend a simple rain shell like the Torrentshell from Patagonia. It’s a top-of-the-line rain jacket with incredible durability and waterproofing capabilities.
By choosing a rain shell, instead of an insulated rain jacket, you won’t get too hot during the summer rains, but you’ll still be able to layer under it when the weather cools down. Just make sure to choose a size with a little bit of room so you can layer during those cooler late fall trips.
In the summer, you need an outfit that will keep you cool. A lot of people are inclined to pack comfy cotton tees, which are fine for lounging around, but actually collect and trap sweat and heat when you’re out and about. It’s a better idea to go with a shirt made of synthetic materials. These athletic knits wick away sweat, keeping you cool and fresh no matter how hot it gets. We really like the Patagonia Cap tee and the Orion tee from Prana.
Not only are these superior technical garments that will wick away sweat and odors, but they come with 50 and 40+ UPF protection, respectively. Sun protection is especially important when you’re camping because you’re outside all day, and unless you’re in the tent, you don’t get a lot of cover or shade.
For bottoms, athletic or hiking shorts are the best option for both men and women. They’re lightweight, made to keep you cool, and they’re pretty durable. We’re big fans of the Patagonia Planing short for women, and the Patagonia All-Wear short for men. Both of these are versatile, wear-anywhere options that will work for your trek to the campsite, lounging around camp, and even just to wear on the ride back home! It is good to note that if you plan on doing any hiking in the forest during your summer camping trip, you might want to bring a pair of long pants. Though they’re not as cool, they’ll protect your legs from scrapes and cuts that happen easily on the trail.
Fall and Spring camping trips can be some of the best when you’ve got the weather on your side. Temps have fallen just enough that you’re not sweltering when you set up camp, and the slight chill in the air makes cozying up to the bonfire all the more comforting. For cooler temps, it’s a good idea to bring along a fleece to pull over your long sleeve shirts, or under your rain jacket. Insulation options with grid fleece are especially effective at conserving heat, without feeling too bulky or restricting your movements. We recommend the Transition Hoody from Outdoor Research for men, and The North Face Oso Hoodie for women. Both have textured fleece patterns that trap heat and hold it close to your body, as well as hoods that add an extra bit of warmth.
It’s a good idea to go with longer pants in the fall and spring as well, and the ones designed for hikers are the best. These types of pants tend to resist rips and tears better than standard microfiber athletic fabrics and keep you warmer than other options. Our favorite men’s option––the Vidda Pro Trouser by Fjallraven––is built with a bunch of pockets for storage, and reinforced knee sections to ensure your new favorite pant doesn’t wear out even after seasons of use. Our choice for women––The North Face Aphrodite hiking pant––is a truly functional outdoor trouser, complete with Flash-Dry technology. The bonus of these stylish pants is that they can easily be cinched up in case you need to cross a river, or you’re working with a muddy trail.
When it comes to winter camping, you probably know that layers are key. A big winter jacket, hats, mittens, boots, and everything else you can imagine usually make the cut for this trip. But what a lot of people forget to wear on their winter outdoor trips is a baselayer. This layer, though it seems minor, can actually make a huge difference between being freezing all weekend, or feeling toasty warm curled up in your sleeping bag.
Baselayer is a thin layer of clothing––preferably made of wool––that sits right next to your body and wicks away any sweat while simultaneously trapping heat. When you wear this layer, all of your other layers will be able to function more effectively, keeping you comfy for the rest of your trip. There are a variety of base layers on the market, but for camping, it’s a good idea to go with heavier options, since you’ll be doing less activity than say, a winter runner.
We recommend the Capilene MidWeight Baselayer line from Patagonia for just about anyone. Other great choices are Skar by Kuhl, a merino wool garment, and PHD Wind base layers from Smartwool. There are a ton of great baselayer options out there from most of the major outdoor apparel companies; just make sure to find something that’s made from merino wool or synthetic fibers.
We hope this blog helps you decide what to bring with you on your next camping trip––no matter what season that is. If you’re missing any gear, make sure to check out the Earth’s Edge website! In addition to camping apparel from all of the top brands, we carry a wide variety of camping gear and accessories too.
And if you’re looking for more advice on off-season camping, download our handy Winter Camping Checklist below: it’s a complete list of everything you need to bring with you for a chilly weekend in the great outdoors!