Drive into the fall season with van life. From the comfort of your van, experience the best parts of fall from the first flakes of snow to the changing leaves. There are millions of reasons to love this time of year. Choose from your favorite local campsites or a new site yet to be visited by your four wheels and soles of your treasured camp shoes. Before you go, make sure you have these five essentials to make the most out of fall van camping.
Blankets and More Blankets
From windy cold fronts to icy precipitation, weather conditions become unpredictable as the seasons change. Nights tend to be cooler and the warmth of the sun dissipates sooner. If you are camped out by a stream or in a valley, you can easily see freezing temperatures overnight, and you bet you will see frosty mornings.
Wool blankets are perfect for regulating body temperature as well as wicking away moisture. Wool typically feels warmer on the skin and does not get as stinky as some synthetics. Quilted, synthetic blankets are perfect for cuddling up outside around a fire with friends. Synthetic feels a little cooler on the skin than wool, but makes a great option for outside use due to its easy-to-clean face fabric. If you are traveling with pets, packing a blanket for them is a good move to keep muddy paws contained. Fast fact: Blankets can also serve as emergency insulation for water tanks and propane tanks. Check out these cozy blanket options: Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket, Therm-a-rest Honcho Poncho, and Pendleton Yakima Wool Camp Blanket.
Layers, Layers, Layers
Layering is the number one thing to absolutely nail when rigging for a camping trip. Beginning next-to-skin, you will want base layers to be active in and base layers to sleep in. Clean, non-sweaty base layers to sleep in will make all the difference. If you sleep in socks, have a pair of socks specifically for sleeping. We recommend wool socks as they will stay fresh for longer. Pro Tip: Keep your sleep socks in your sleeping bag so you’re not tempted to use them when your daily drivers get a little too dirty.
Next comes the mid-layer- here you can choose between a fleece jacket or a puffy jacket, or both. A puffy jacket can be synthetic or down. Down is warmer, with options of being burly or packable. Synthetic is a better active piece if you are moving around and need something with a little better temperature regulation. Synthetic tends to retain its warmth even if wet, whereas down needs to stay dry to remain warm. Finally, a hardshell or rain jacket will seal the deal. The best part of layering is the options you will have mixing and matching your layering system. Do not forget gloves and a hat!
Insulation For Your Van
Now that you have your personal insulation figured out, it is time to really lock down your van’s insulation. If your van is already insulated, this usually happens in the beginning stages of the build, then respect your limits. Make a plan for nights at colder temperatures. If your van was insulated for west coast autumns, you might have to bring more blankets for an autumn in the Rockies.
Thorough insulation is crucial when it comes to protecting appliances from freezing temperatures (ie. water tanks, pipes, and faucets) and all-round moisture control. Even a well-insulated van will have moisture on the inside walls in the morning after a really cold night. Usually you will see little frosty sheets on any exposed metal or windows. The easiest way to combat morning moisture is to have a designated towel to wipe it away. A more long-term plan is to use window covers to help keep the heat in and the cold air out. If you are at all crafty, these are easy to DIY. Whether you make window covers or purchase them, make sure to fit them so that they sit snug to the window.
If the budget is there, investing in a heater is a very practical move if you are planning to conquer camping in colder temperatures.There are many options of van heaters out there, but it all comes down to personal preference and van type. Fast fact: Open up the door accessing the spaces where your sink pipes and water tank are kept so your heater can protect them from freezing overnight, just like you would at home.
Turn Leftover Space into Guest Space
Maximize your van with an air mattress that transforms extra space into a comfortable sleeping area. The Luno Front Cab Air Mattress is ideal for kids and pets, but it is also the perfect size for guests 5’7” and below. Made of durable fabrics, you can trust that those sharp claws and dirty paws will be no match. The base extenders help turn any surface into a level surface, and the mattress is as easy to set-up as it is to pack down. When you camp with the Luno Front Cab Air Mattress, no one is left at home.
As nights grow a little longer and days grow a little shorter, you may find your campsite wrapped in darkness sooner than expected. Camp lights during the summer can seem like the epitome of a camping trip but realistically, you may be in bed before the sun goes down. Charge up those lights and bring them out for your next fall camping trip. Choose from an array of string lights to lanterns. Leave the lights off in your van when the doors are open unless you want to welcome in moths and a variety of skittering bugs. Instead, drape string lights around your campsite or enjoy the light of the fire. Stash a headlamp in your pocket and make sure that the batteries are charged. Here are a few lighting options we love: Luci Solar String Lights, Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern, and Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp.
One Pot to Rule Them All
Nothing says autumn like a hot bowl of soup for dinner. Heating up a simple, one-pot meal is sometimes the perfect way to end a day. You may already have the ideal soup pot in your van’s kitchen artillery, but when camping in the fall, you want to make sure you are not caught without one. The recipe does not need to be anything fancy, some of the best soups come in boxes. The less time you spend cooking the more time you get to spend around the fire. Throw in a couple of grilled cheeses if you have a hungry crowd. For more cooking inspiration, check out our favorite One Pot Wonders Recipes.
The shorter days are perfect for nights around a fire or cozied up under your favorite van lights. A warm pot of tea and endless conversations are tonight’s schedule, or maybe you are dropping back into your book. We love the peace in the little things of fall, and your van is the perfect vessel to carry you forward.