While I love camping during the summertime, there’s something special about camping (and travelling in general) during off season. However, camping during off season brings its own set of challenges, but if you have the right things, you can do it!
That’s why I’m putting together this ultimate packing list with the top 10 things I bring every time I camp during off season.
After the unusually hot and dry summer we’ve had on Vancouver Island this summer, I’m itching for some rain. The forest and ocean look incredibly beautiful when it rains, which is why I plan on doing a good amount of camping this off season (and September).
My boyfriend and I are trying something new when we go camping, and that is sleeping in the bed of his truck instead of a tent. While you can camp in a tent when it’s raining, it obviously requires tarps and whatnot, so sleeping in his truck is a little more appealing. It also makes me feel like I’m living my vanlife dreams. 🚐
Anyways, here’s what I bring when I go camping during off season!
A canopy will save your life. If you choose to bring just one of the items on this list the next time you go off season camping, let it be this one. Canopies can be a bit pricey, but if you search Facebook Marketplace and websites similar to that, you can find one for a good price.
My boyfriend and I will be using a canopy to cover the bed of the truck just because rain leaks in a little. You can do this with a tent too (as silly as it may look) if it’s small enough and you don’t have a tarp. Or, you can put the canopy over your picnic table.
If you’re on the hunt for a canopy, while I haven’t purchased this canopy myself, after doing some research,I saw this one had great reviews. Check out this water-resistant canopy!
TIP: If you use the canopy overnight to keep your tent dry, use a tarp or some other water repellent covering to place over your picnic table (if your campsite has one). Otherwise, it’ll be all wet and unusable for the next day.
Since tarps are fairly cheap, it can’t hurt to have 3 or so in the back of your car when you go camping. You can use them to put under and on top of your tent, over your picnic table, or over anything else that needs to stay dry.
You’ll always find a way to use a tarp during off season camping. Believe me!
Don’t want to run to your nearest outdoors store? Here’s a quality tarp that’s perfect for outdoor camping.
A camp fire is a great source of light but surprise surprise, when it’s raining, you can’t have a fire. That means you need to rely on flashlights and that just isn’t practical all the time. That’s why you need to get a lantern or two!
Place them on your picnic table or hang them off the trees. Not only are lanterns more efficient for keeping your campsite lit up, but hanging them up will transform your atmosphere into a super cute and cozy one.
Maybe this is an obvious thing for some of you veteran campers, but to me, it’s one of those things I saw some people bring camping but never thought about it myself!
These are the lanterns I want to get for my next camping trip. I love that not only are they LED-powered, but you get 4 of them too!
4. Fairy Lights
Is this a little extra? Yes, but it’s worth it. Trust me.
Since it’s not summertime, it get’s dark out quickly. That’s why you need to bring fairy lights and decorate the inside of your tent, van, or back of your truck with them. (Wherever it is you’re sleeping.) Not only does it transform your space into a place of relaxation but it also means you don’t have to use your phone flashlight to try and find your way into your sleeping bag.
And when it’s raining, that can get messy.
TIP: Make sure to buy the battery-powered fairy lights because otherwise, you’ll need an outlet to turn them on.
Here are some cute battery-powered and waterproof fairy lights that are great for camping if you’re as fairy light obsessed as I am!
5. Portable Stove
Without a campfire to rely on for heat and maybe even cooking certain foods, a portable stove will be your best friend. Most people camp with a portable stove, but I had to include it on this list because it’s super helpful.
Imagine being able to heat up some soup or tea on a warm day? Little things like that brighten up even the gloomiest of days, which can be quite often when camping during October, November, December, etc.
TIP: When camping in cold weather, opt for a propane stove. Not a butane stove!
6. Reusable Heat Packs
A reusable heat pack is sooo nice on a cold night. I love to snuggle into bed and crack a heat packs so they keep my fingers and toes warm. It feels like luxury while camping, honestly!
Heat packs are also nice for when you decide to go on a chilly walk.
Make sure you purchase reusable heat packs because when they loose their heat, all you need to do is put them in some boiling water and boom! They’re ready for their next use.
A lot of heat packs don’t last too long and need to be re-heated often. I haven’t found ones that are my absolute favourite yet, so I recommend doing some research and trying out various brands.
7. Extra Clothes
If it’s going to rain, you need to bring an extra pair of everything. That means an extra pair of socks (or 2 honestly), underwear, pants, and an extra sweater. Inevitably, things will get wet even if you have tarps and a canopy.
TIP: Leave the cotton at home! f it’s going to be cold and possibly even snowing, bring wool socks and clothes instead.
8. A Poncho
Wouldn’t you rather keep your clothes dry and not have to change out of soggy sweaters every few hours? The solution to this is to bring a poncho!
There’s always a time and place for wearing a poncho and one of those times is when you’re camping during the fall or winter time.
9. Spray Bottle
This isn’t exclusively an off season necessity, however, I had to include it on this list because it’s a small thing that makes things a looot easier.
Have you ever had a moment where there was something sticky on your hands, or you woke up and your hair was sticking up all over the place? Same. Well, your solution is simple: A spray bottle.
So, instead of dumping your water bottle and wasting a bunch of water, bring a spray bottle!
10. Hanging Makeup Organizer
Whether you bring makeup camping or not, a hanging makeup organizer is incredibly helpful. You can hang it up on your car door when you need something, keep it in your tent, or really, put it anywhere.
Since I wear contacts and glasses, keeping this hanging organizer near me makes things 10x easier. I can just grab them when I need them and I don’t need to riffle through all my bags and whatnot. When it’s raining, this is a lifesaver as well because I don’t need to keep the car doors open as I try to find what I need, thus getting practically everything wet.
Here are some other things I like to put in my organizer:
- Lip balm
- Makeup wipes
And anything else I might need to quickly grab during the night or day.
This cute flamingo one has three spacious compartments and is the one I’m going to buy when I need a new one!
Those are my top 10 things I bring every time I go camping during off season, and you should bring them too!
If you ever decide to camp during off season on Vancouver Island, here are a few of my favourite campsites that you should definitely check out.
- Miracle Beach – In between Courtenay and Campbell River
- Rathtrevor Provincial Park – Parksville
- Cowichan Provincal Park – Cowichan
- Goldstream Campground – Langford
- Juan De Fuca: China Beach Campground – Jordan River
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