Are you already yearning for camping season?
It may seem like breaking out your tent and hammock are only reserved for the summer season, but today, we’re breaking that summer-only stigma!
You can successfully go camping in the spring with just a little bit more preparation and planning. These spring camping tips will help you know what to pack, how to set up to stay comfortable (and dry), and ways to pack your things away correctly when your trip is over.
We’ll break down step by step our own system of planning early spring camping trips, and how you can start planning for a full season of outdoor adventure!
8 Essential Tips For Camping In The Springs (In The Pacific Northwest)
This post is sponsored by Stanley. All opinions, ideas, and adventures are our own.
1. What is the best spring camping destination in Pacific Northwest?
The trick is to head to the coast before you head to the mountains. In early spring, snow still covers the Cascade Mountains, so your options are limited to lower elevation camping.
There are actually tons of places for early spring camping in the PNW!
Consider spots like the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.
The Redwood National Park and State Parks are also great options if you’re planning a Northern California road trip.
One of our favorite places to go camping in the spring is on the Oregon Coast. Yes, the chance of rain is high, but if you are prepared, the adventure possibilities that surround you here are abundant!
Read More: 25 Incredible Oregon Coast Campgrounds to Book ASAP
2. Spring Camping Gear Essentials
Blankets: Make those mornings and evenings extra cozy and pack your favorite washable blanket.
Water Jug: Essential for hydration, cooking, and cleaning. We have the 2 Gallon Fast Flow Jug and LOVE it.
Sleeping Pad: Pack a sleeping pad for extra comfort in your tent, and to insulate you from the cold ground.
Plenty of Layers: Pack extra socks, and ditch the cotton. Go for wool or synthetic layers.
Camp Cooking Tools: Things like a pot, pan, plates, silverware, and spatula. We have Stanley’s Adventure Even Heat Camp Pro Cook Set.
Tarp: Probably the most useful item when camping in the spring. Versalite and durable!
Water bottles: Bring your favorite water bottle to hydrate, and vacuum bottles for warm drinks.
Cold weather sleeping bag: Depending on where you go, check the lowest temp your sleeping bag will keep you comfortable.
Twinkle lights: Brighten the mood with some ambiance lighting!
3. Spring Camping Planning
When planning an early spring camping trip, there are some things to consider that you wouldn’t normally think about for summer camping.
Check campground opening dates. Some campgrounds close in the winter season, so double check to see if your desired location will be open.
If it’s open, consider making reservations. This is especially true if you are planning to book structures like yurts or cabins.
It’s the perfect spring break trip! Forget expensive hotels or costly vacation towns. Just book a campsite and relax even better if it’s near a beach or lake!
Plan early. Looking into booking a popular campground? Consider making your early spring camping reservations far in advance, like in the fall or winter.
Your favorite trails may have changed. If you love summer hiking, the trails may look very different in the early spring. Pace yourself, expect the unexpected, and take it slow!
Perks of Early Spring Camping
So what are the perks of early spring camping?
For starters – there are fewer camping crowds in the spring season. Most people wait until the rainy months have passed in the Pacific Northwest, but if you are willing to risk a chance of rain, you have a plethora of spots to choose from!
Challenges of Camping In The Spring
Early spring camping certainly comes with its own challenges.
The biggest one? Unpredictable weather. In the Pacific Northwest, March, April, and May come with wild weather swings. One day will be sunny and 50 degrees and the next will be, grey, cold, and rainy.
You also have to prepare for cold mornings and evenings. It’s essential to pack layers when camping in the spring, so you can add or shed them depending on the outside temperature.
Some campgrounds close for the season, so you may need to double-check the opening dates.
Finally, you must prepare for rain and mud. There’s a high chance your camping trip will involve rain during spring in the PNW. Packing things like tarps, rain boots, towels, and dry bags will help keep you warm and dry.
4. Check the Forecast
One of the most essential spring camping tips is to check the forecast before you go!
Knowing what weather to expect can prepare you for camping in the spring in a lot of ways.
First, you’ll be able to know what kind of clothes to pack. (Layers are always a good idea.)
Second, you will know if it will be raining/snowing, so you can pack the right kind of shoes.
Finally, checking the forecast will help you decide if you need to bring extra propane, gas, blankets, etc, to keep you warm at night.
It pays to double-check, and even triple-check the forecast before you go camping in the spring!
5. Practice Setting Up And Check Your Gear
Are you planning to use a new piece of gear you got over the holiday season? Give your gear a test run!
Clear a space in your house (like the living room) and practice setting you your tent or equipment before heading out. You don’t want your first time to be in potentially rainy weather.
Alternatively, you could practice setting up your new gear by going backyard camping!
Going for a practice run by setting up your camping gear before your trip will allow you to set up confidently when you reach your destination.
Using your used gear? Take this time to check for holes, mold & mildew, or any snags or rips. Testing all your camping gear will make sure they are in working order, and in good condition for your trip.
6. Rent a Shelter
Overwhelmed by the thought of getting rained on? Luckily in the Pacific Northwest, you can go camping in the spring in style!
Washington and Oregon state parks have a plethora of unique structures to rent for camping in the spring. The perks of yurts, cabins, and shelters? extra warmth and dry conditions!
Berty and I booked a yurt at Cape Lookout State Park in March. It came with a lock, electricity, a heater, and comfortable camp furniture! If you are extra concerned about staying warm and dry when camping in the spring, booking a shelter is definitely the way to go.
Not renting a shelter? Let’s chat about three-season tents and sleeping bags…
Three-season tents are commonly understood to be for “spring, summer, fall” use. But the actually different between three and four-season tents is the snow and wind low it can withstand. Not the warmth!
This means if you suspect snow on your early spring camping trip, make sure you’re equipped with a tent that has durable poles to withstand snow.
This goes for water-resistant sleeping bags too! A 15-degree sleeping bag is a safe bet for early spring camping. However, you should also consider a bag that has been down-treated, making the fabric hydrophobic against any water.
Most importantly, keep your bag from touching any water by using an insulated sleeping pad between you and the ground!
Read More: The 10 Best Sleeping Bags For Backpacking and Camping
7. Pack Warm And Wear Layers
Don’t put away your winter gear just yet!
Ever heard of False Spring? It’s in the very early spring, even late fall, where it feels like it’s going to heat up but then you get slammed by a surprise snowstorm.
Don’t give in to the temptation to pack for ONLY spring! Weather can be quite fickle during early spring camping, so it’s essential to pack plenty of layers.
Packing proper layers is one of the most important early spring camping tips to know because it makes the difference between a good trip and a bad trip. (AKA being warm or cold!)
Pack things like an insulated coat, gloves, warm socks, and waterproof boots – just in case!
Read More: How To Layer Cothes For Winter Adventures
8. Wake Up and Warm Up
In our opinion, one of the best parts about early springs camping are the mornings! (But we are morning people, so sunrise kind of our jam).
The coffee mugs, French press coffee, and cozy drinks – it’s all so nice!
In the mornings, start by designating someone to be the point person for each breakfast meal. Have them start a fire, boil some water for coffee, and get breakfast going on the camping stove.
For a constant source of water, we like to bring our Stanley 2 gallon fast-flow jug. It’s a great way to have water available at all times, ready to go when you are!
If freshwater isn’t available to you at your spring camping destination, consider bringing a water purification tool. You can also boil water before drinking it to kill of any bacteria.
You Might Also Like: How To Make Coffee While Camping + 5 Delicious English Muffin Breakfast Recipes For Camping
9. Make Meals An Event
When the weather outside doesn’t look that great, don’t fret – just stay put! One of the best ways to enjoy camping in the spring is to make your meals the main event of the day!
Now is the time to go all out on your camp cooking set by bringing a portable stove, pots, and pans, and your favorite ingredients to make elaborate meals.
Our favorite set is by Stanley, called the Camp Pro Cook Set. It comes in 11 pieces that all nest together, and I sufficient enough to prepare meals for 4-6 people.
We like that it’s a great space saver, so we can pack even more goodies like hot chocolate and yummy salads in our camping bin too!
You Might Also Read: The 11 Best Camping Stoves For Backpacking & Car Camping
10. Bring Snacks on Adventures
In cold weather, your body burns more calories to get warm and stay warm. Pack more snacks than you think you might need!
Bring a mix of sweet and savory to satisfy any craving. Our favorites are any kind of jerky, granola bars, and gummy bears.
If you want to prepare and pack some meals to go, you can store them in a food jar. This way, you can eat at your destination!
Read More: Delicious & Easy Hiking Snacks To Bring On Any Adventure
11. Stay Dry!
Thanks to both the potential for rain AND snow, it’s really important that you stay warm and dry during your early spring camping trip.
Hypothermia is actually more common and dangerous in the springtime. This is because people can be fooled by the weather and think it’s warm enough to not pack layers.
Tips for staying dry when camping in the spring:
Pack a rain shelter. (Tarp with rope, gazebo, car awning are all good options)
If on wet ground, place a tarp under your tent to keep water from entering your sleeping area.
Don’t wear cotton. It holds onto water and can make you feel cold, fast! Pack quick dry layers like synthetic fabrics.
Pack waterproof boots to keep your feet and socks warm.
Choose a camping location that’s under cover – like under a tree canopy or where you can tie up a sloping tarp for water runoff.
Bring waterproof matches. This way you can still light a fire if they get wet.
12. Bring an Emergency Kit, And Think Ahead For Potential Risks
A lot of campers might have some false confidence in their abilities, especially after a winter season of taking a break from early spring camping!
Therefore, it’s essential to pack an emergency kit when camping in the spring. Pack it full of items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, sterile gloves, gauze, and ointments.
Don’t forget multi-tools like a swiss army knife, to come ni handy for a variety of issues.
Read More: How To Build An Emergency Car Tool Kit
13. Prepare For Mud (And To Deal With Moisture)
When choosing spring camping destinations in the Pacific Northwest, mud is inevitable!
Spring runoff from snow, heavy rain and just the wet climate can almost guarantee that you encounter mud at your campsite and on the trails.
The best way to keep the mud at bay is to choose the right hiking boots. Waterproofing is the feature to look for!
However, to respect the trails and minimize your impact, it’s actually proper trail etiquette to trudge THROUGH the mud rather than stepping off trail to avoid it. If you know you’ll be hiking and there is a possibility for mud, it’s important to plan ahead!
Pack plenty of towels to dry off your gear before you pack it away, and consider placing a mat outside of your tent to set your boots on. That way you don’t have to bring your muddy gear inside.
14. Keep Electronics Dry (and Warm)
In today’s day and age, electronics are very normal items to bring when camping in the spring.
Things like power banks, portable solar generators, and lanterns can really elevate your early spring camping experience. For example, when it gets dark, you can light up your site and keep the party going!
Batteries and power storage depletes quickly when cold, so it’s important to keep these items in a dry place that isn’t susceptible to the elements.
Keep them off the ground and away from the side of your tent. An ideal place for small phones and batteries are tucked away in sleeping bags, pockets, or dry bags. Better yet, stash them in your car for safekeeping!
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
15. Fully Dry Your Gear Before Packing Away
After your spring camping trip, it’s super important to fully dry your gear before you pack it away!
If you don’t, you run the risk of moldy gear, dangerous mildew, or gross smells next time you pull it out to use.
If it’s a nice day, lay out your tent, tarps, or anything else that got wet on your lawn to dry it out in the sun.
Don’t have a lawn or yard? That’s okay! Drape it across a balcony, or lay it to dry over a few chairs in your dining room. You can also put it in your dryer under the “air-dry” setting with no heat.
Whatever your method, don’t pack it away wet!
16. Be Aware of Wildife
Depending on where you plan your early spring camping trip, you’ll probably encounter some type of wildlife. For us in the Pacific Northwest, that would be animals as small as squirrels and as big as bears!
Remember to seal away all your food so that critters don’t get to it overnight. You can store coolers and containers in a locked car.
If you are backpacking, bring a bear canister to store all smelly items, including toothpaste and deodorant. Keep it at least 50 feet away from where you sleep.
True story: We used our Stanley Easy Carry 16 Quart cooler and left it outside our yurt overnight. In the morning we discovered it had been tossed around by a raccoon. However, the seal was unbroken keeping all our things safe inside. It’s indestructible!
17. Keep The Bugs At Bay
While the bugs may not be as bad in the spring as in the summertime, it’s still possible to encounter pests like flies and mosquitoes. If you are camping and hiking in Sedona or other southern/desert locations, you may encounter even more bugs.
However, here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t have to worry much about bugs. Maybe spiders, but most of the mosquitoes don’t come out until June.
Pack some bug spray just in case! If you know you’ll be camping in a place with lots of bugs you may also want to consider a bug net too.
18. Pack Plenty of Light Sources (Headlamp, Lantern, Flashlight)
During early spring in the northern hemisphere (and especially in the Pacific Northwest!) there is still little daylight to enjoy. Make sure you have plenty of light sources for the early morning and evening hours.
Things like a headlamp, a lantern, and a flashlight give you lots of options! Use the around the picnic table, or for a hike during the wee hours of the day.
19. Use a Tarp
One of the most important spring camping tips we can share is to bring a tarp! It doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can probably get one at our local hardware store.
Tarps are versatile and can be used in a variety of situations. Hang it above your tent to drain water away from the entrance. Put it under your tent to keep it off the wet ground. Use it as a quick rain cover to keep things dry outside. The options are endless!
20. Don’t Forget To Hydrate
The cool weather fools many into thinking you don’t have to hydrate as much. That’s simply not true!
It’s really important to always pack enough drinking water for everyone in your group. A good rule of thumb is to bring 1 gallon per person per day of your trip.
What are your favorite tips for camping in the springs? Share your spring camping tips with us in the comments below!
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