22 Sep 2010

Autumn/Off Season Camping (Part 1)

Autumn and early winter can be a great time to go camping. As the leaves start to change colour and vast swathes of the countryside begin to languish in copper hues, brush off the tent and get out there and enjoy some of UK’s most jaw dropping sites.

However, camping during the autumn and early winter months does not come without its problems. There is cold, wet and don’t forget the mysterious weatherman phenomenon of “blustery” too. However inclement the conditions though, nothing can beat a crisp autumn night, by a fire under a blanket of stars on a clear night.

I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for autumn camping and as long as you remain relatively comfortable, then nothing should really stop your enjoyment of autumnal canvas.

Pitching your tent
Your choice of pitch location should be paramount. I feel the best location is on a very gentle incline; but don’t pitch too close to the bottom or too close to the top. Obviously near the bottom, and you run the risk of water cascading down the hill and using your tent as some kind of reservoir. Too close to the top and you may not be as sheltered from the wind as you might hope. If you pitch your tent on dead level ground, again, you run the risk of flooding as the natural drainage in the soil around your tent may not be all it cracked up to be. Check for prior signs of flooding – washouts, debris and check nearby river markers. If you can, try to pitch above the level of any nearby streams/rivers. If needs be check the environment agency’s flood warnings page before you set off: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx

Try to pitch in sheltered areas, maybe by using hedges or old stone walls as protection from the elements. It may seem like a good, idealised  initiative to pitch under trees but this will probably cause you more problems than you think. First off, wind could quite easily break off dead branches which could land on your tent and damage it. Also, wind could whip branches into your tent causing tears in the fabric off your tent. Additionally, camping under trees could seriously dump more water on your poor old tent than you would’ve liked as all those leaves will channel a serious amount of water onto your canvas.

Tent Selection
Manufacturers generally make tents in general season configurations. There are one/two/three and four season tents. For camping in winter, you’ll need a 3/4 season tent. A 3 season tent should be adequate up to the harsh deep winter months. It should withstand fairly heavy wind and rain and possibly very light snow. A 4 season tent should do for all but the most extreme conditions as the stronger and heavier poles should withstand heavy snow and ice and very strong winds. If in doubt, consult your local stockist.

Part 2 coming soon...