From perfect, sunny days to windy, wet thunderstorms — spring camping is a mixed bag. But weather aside, spring can be the perfect time to camp. Fewer crowds mean you often get your choice of campsite, even in popular areas.
Fair-weather campers or those who like to “wing it,” listen up: Camping in the spring requires a bit of prep work.
If you’re itching for a spring adventure, camping is worth the planning it takes. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, we’ve got you covered with six essential tips for camping during the spring.
1. Pick a Good Location
Location, location, location. It means everything when it comes to spring camping. Unpredictable weather will likely be your biggest challenge, so choose your destination wisely. And make sure you have the right gear for the location you choose: For example, spring camping in the desert is very different from spring camping in the mountains, and you’ll need specific gear for each.
Fewer people camp during the spring than in the summer, so you’ll likely have more options when it comes to choosing a site. Don’t hesitate to see if you can snag one of those coveted spots that are impossible to book during the summer.
2. Prepare for the Weather
Even though you can get hypothermia any time of year, it’s common in the spring. Rain, wind, and unpredictable weather can put you at risk if you aren’t prepared. Hypothermia aside, no one likes to be wet or cold while camping. Preparing for the weather means packing and dressing well, but it all starts with getting an idea of what weather conditions to expect. (And then, of course, preparing for the unexpected).
Check the weather before packing for your trip, and check it again before leaving. Make sure you understand what kind of spring weather is possible where you’re headed. Different parts of the country often have different weather risks, like snowstorms in the mountains or flash floods in the desert. If you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar, do some research so you know what the risks are.
3. Bring the Proper Clothes
As we’ve mentioned before, spring — in many places — is a time of unpredictable weather. That means you might have to pack for a wider variety of conditions than you would on a summer camping trip.
Unless you’re camping in the desert, conditions will likely be wet and chilly. To prepare, a few things are crucial:
- Waterproof shoes: Whether you’re hiking on trails or hanging around camp, you’ll want to keep your feet as dry as possible.
- A good rain jacket: For even more waterproof protection, wash your jacket in a waterproofing solution before your trip.
- Rain pants: When it’s super rainy, you’ll want to waterproof your bottom half, too.
- Merino wool socks: If merino wool gets wet, it’ll still keep you warm. Plus, wool socks dry fast. Bring extras just in case.
- Warm weather accessories: Temperatures may drop enough to make hats and gloves a necessity. Everything — pitching your tent, cooking dinner, tying your shoes — is much harder with cold hands.
If you’re camping somewhere warm and dry, you’ll still need to pack carefully. For sunny spring camping destinations, pack or wear these essentials:
- Sun hat
- Lightweight merino wool socks
- Sun shirt or lightweight long-sleeve shirt
- Breathable camp shoes
Of course, you’ll need all the basics, too. And don’t forget to follow these classic rules for dressing for the outdoors: Dress in layers, don’t let your clothes get wet, and avoid cotton.
4. Choose the Right Shelter
Depending on your location, camping in the spring can subject you to rain, freezing temperatures, and unrelenting wind. Which is why you should take the time to consider the right type of shelter for your spring camping trip. There are plenty of options, including staying in a tent, RV, cabin, or even a yurt.
Obviously, not all of these options will be available everywhere you go. But if you’re worried about having nothing but a nylon shell between you and the elements, you can likely rent something sturdier than your tent. Just remember that walls don’t necessarily make things warmer — so you’ll still need to pack for the weather. Plenty of state parks and national forests have cabins and yurts you can rent. Or you can search for rentals using Hipcamp or Airbnb.
If you do end up tent camping, make sure you bring what you need to stay comfortable. Here are a few supplies that can make spring camping more pleasant:
- Tarps for cooking and placing under your tent
- Warm sleeping bag plus a bag liner or blankets for extra warmth
- Camp chairs to keep you off the wet ground
- Extra towels for drying anything and everything
- Lanterns, flashlights, headlamps, twinkle lights — daylight won’t last as long as it does in the summer
- Waterproof matches to start a much-needed fire
Whether you camp in a tent or choose something a little sturdier, pack accordingly to stay warm and dry.
5. Clean and Dry Your Gear After Your Trip
After a spring camping trip, it’s extra important to thoroughly clean and dry your equipment. Not only is your gear likely wet, it’s probably caked in mud, too.
If you went tent camping, pitch your tent as soon as you’re back home. This way, it can thoroughly dry — and you can check it for any dirt or caked mud. Spot-clean any small areas that need attention. If your tent is filthy or is giving off any funky odors, you can give the whole thing a thorough wash.
Make sure all your camping gear gets some attention when you unpack. Air out your sleeping bag, shake out your tarps, and give your kitchen accessories a thorough wash. Once everything is clean, make sure it’s all completely dry before storing it away. Cleaning up after camping isn’t the most fun part of the process, but you’ll be glad you did when your next trip rolls around.
6. Keep It Simple
If bad weather threatens your trip or travel isn’t an option, feel free to keep things simple. There’s no reason you can’t get your camping fix by pitching a tent in the backyard.
If kids are involved, this is an especially attractive option. But you don’t need any excuses to take the simple approach to spring camping. Enjoy the fact that you won’t need to pack up the car and remember all the essentials because anything you could possibly need will only be a few steps away. Plus, if it really does get too cold, wet, or otherwise unpleasant, it’s never too late to bail.
Don’t let the fact that you’re camping in the backyard take away from your “outing.” Here are some ways to make it special:
- Light a fire in the firepit
- Hang up string lights near your tent
- Invite your friends — your backyard can be your very own group camping site
- Cook dinner outside
- Set up lawn games like Spike Ball or cornhole
And above all, enjoy being outside. You don’t have to go far… or, well, anywhere, to have a memorable camping experience.
Where Will Spring Camping Take You?
You don’t need to wait for summer to arrive before you pack up the tent and spend a weekend under the stars. Spring camping, with a little extra preparation, can be a rewarding and crowd-less way to get outside.
Whether rain or shine, one thing is certain: You’ll have a blast getting outside during the beautiful spring season.
We’d love to hear about your spring camping adventure. Comment below with your plans and best spring camping tips, and stay dry out there!