By Dan A. Nelson
October often gets often overlooked as a prime season for outdoor adventures. It’s generally too early for snow sports, and well past September’s lingering days of summer. But for those in the know, October is optimal for many outdoor adventures. Setting up a comfortable car camp as a base of operations is one of the best ways to take advantage of October’s bounty.
We’ve got a few recommendations of gear to get you started in autumn car camping comfort, and some gear to use to enjoy those mountain and riparian adventures around your camp.
Nemo Aurora Highrise 6 Tent
Building on its solid, well-earned reputation as a maker of premium backpacking tents, Nemo Equipment offers an assortment of ‘basecamp’ tents suitable for family car camping. The Aurora Highrise 6 utilizes the some of the same modified-dome structure as the backpacking models with similar names, creating a tent big enough for a family of six along with their canine companions. In total, you’ll have more than 83 square feet of interior floor space (100-inches by 120-inches) and nearly 50 sq. ft. of vestibule space (23.5 sq ft per door).
The Aurora 6 proved sturdy in howling winds over up to 25 mph. The tent vents well, but buttons up tight to seal out even the heaviest rains. With an interior peak height of 77 inches, I found that I (6’2” tall) could stand comfortably inside. The Aurora Highrise is also available in a 4-person model, but the 6 gives room for campers to stretch out and relax, even if storms push you into long hours of sheltering inside. 18 lbs., 10-oz. $500. Buy Now.
ZenBivy Light Bed 2.0 – 10ºF
The ZenBivy system replaces a traditional sleeping bag with a full-featured backcountry bed. Instead of a narrow, tapered bag, the ZenBivy bed provides campers with insulated mattress and integrated sealed quilt. The quilt is tapered to match the rectangular mattress, and instead of a simple bag design, it spreads out from the footbox section in a broad blanket design. That provides incredible warmth, while giving campers the comfort of their normal bed and comforter.
For use during the cool shoulder seasons, we opted to test the ZenBivy Light 10º system. With a 700-fill HyperDry Down, the bed is water-resistant and warm, while keeping weight minimal. The size Large, fitted on a 20-inch by 72-inch pad, weighs in at 2 pounds, 15 ounces making it useable as a backpacking bed, but the incredible comfort is suitable for car camping use as well. The 10ºF rating was spot on – we slept soundly during snowy nights in Washington’s high desert coulee country. The ability to vent via the open nature of the quilt design, and the drawstring-opening at the base of the footbox make the bed versatile enough to be a functional summer-weight bed as well.
The ZenBivy Light bed replaces traditional sleeping pad and bag with one complete bed system that is light, warm, and incredibly comfortable. $329 (regular), $349 (long). Buy Now.
Ignik FireCan & Gas Growler
Everyone loves a good campfire, but scrounging up clean, dry firewood to build a fire is nearly impossible sometimes. A much easier – and safer! – option is a propane fire and thanks to the engineers at Ignik, you can have a beautiful roaring fire in seconds, and later when you are ready for bed, a simple turn of the dial kills the fire and makes it safe to leave alone.
The Ignik FireCan Portable Fire Pit is a sturdy steel contain, with vented side panels, fold-out legs, and a removal cover. Hook the FireCan’s gas line to a 1-pound propane bottle – or better yet, the refillable Gas Growler (see below) and you get near instant flame for heat, ambiance, and even roasting potential. Add some of Ignik’s option Fire Rocks if you want an even attractive fire as the lava rocks spread the flames and give them ‘life’ as the fire dances around the hot stones. $200. Buy Now.
The Ignik Gas Growler Deluxe works perfectly with the FireCan. The Growler holds the equivalent of 5 1-pound single-use propane bottles, but unlike those wasteful throw-away bottles, the Gas Growler can be refilled anywhere bulk propane is sold – it refills just like the much bigger propane tanks. The Gas Growler comes with its one protective zip-top carrying case, and a connecting hose with an adapter fitting that matches the threaded ends of the throw-away bottles for easy compatibility with propane appliances. $150. Buy now
Ibex Indie Hoodie
The hallmark of great gear often comes down to its versatility. And while it is not often that apparel can be supremely versatile, the new Ibex Indie sets a new standard. The merino wool material —a weave Ibex dubs MECool — is a great insulator on cool mornings, and a great moisture-managing material when condition warm up. In short, the Indie Hoodie works a cold weather base layer, and a warm-weather UV blocker and sweat-manager.
Our lead tester said she wore the Indie Hoodie from sunrise to sunset while fall hiking around the alpine meadows of Mount Baker. During the cold mornings, the hood provided great insulation and protection from the wind for her ears and face. During the heat of late afternoon, the hood kept the blistering sun in the high-altitude meadows from scorching her neck and ears. The Indie Hoodie proved so versatile, our tester refused to relinquish it. After the test, she took it back out into the field for some fly fishing adventures on the salt flats! $170. Buy now.