I can’t think of a better way to enjoy Michigan’s outdoors, than with a camping trip. August’s warm days and slightly cooler nights make it the perfect month for sleeping out under the stars here. There are over a thousand campgrounds in the Mitten State. Some are lakeside, some are in the woods. You can camp along a hiking trail or with an enormous sand dune for a backdrop. Whether you’re sleeping in an RV, a tent or roughing it in the back-country, there a few essentials you’ll need to bring to make the most of your Michigan camping trip.
1. Insect Repellent – I turns out, all of Michigan’s flora and fauna and abundance of water that makes it the perfect place for your summer vacation, also makes it the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of pesky, flying insects that like to feast on your flesh. You’ll mainly battle mosquitoes, ticks, and if you visit the Upper Peninsula, black flies. Use an insect repellent that contains 20 percent DEET for the most effective protection.
2. Rain Gear – The weather here in Michigan can change almost instantly. If you’re near one of the Great Lakes, it’s even more unpredictable. You never know when a sunny day can suddenly be clouded over by a downpour. Bring along a rain jacket and pants. If you’re tent camping, be sure there aren’t any leaks in it. You don’t want rain putting a damper on your trip!
3. Swimming suit – You can’t come to Michigan in the summer and not go swimming. From the the Great Lakes to smaller inland lakes to rivers and streams in the forest, you won’t have a problem finding water to cool off in on a hot day. Bring a swimsuit so you’re ready to take a dip.
4. Maps – If you find yourself deep in one of Michigan’s forests or on a remote beach, that map app on your phone may not work. Cell phone coverage is spotty and unreliable in a lot of Northern Michigan and non-existent in much of the Upper Peninsula. That is great if you want to really go off grid and get away from it all. It’s not so great if you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. Paper road and trail maps will help ensure you don’t get lost. A compass is probably a good idea too.
5. Layered clothing – Summer mornings can be chilly. The afternoons get downright hot. When the sun sets, it can get chilly again. Pack clothing you can layer, then put it on and take it off as needed. Also keep in mind temperatures at the shore of one of our Great Lakes can be as much as 10 degrees cooler than inland locations just a few miles away.
6. Flashlight – Those remote beach and forest locations that don’t have cell coverage don’t have any street lights either. It gets really dark when the sunsets. Which makes for great stargazing, but it also makes it difficult if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. A bright flashlight with a long battery life will help you find your way.
7. Secure food storage – If you’re camping in an RV or in a busy campground, this probably isn’t an issue. But if you’re tent camping in the backcountry, you’ll need to store your food where critters like raccoons and black bears can’t get it. The best way is to put your food in a bear bag and hang it from a branch with a rope, 10 feet out from the tree trunk and 10 t0 15 feet off the ground.
8. A sleeping bag you can adjust for temperature – The unpredictable weather means it can be hot and humid one night and cool and damp the next. Bring along a sleeping bag that allows you to add and remove layers, so you’ll sleep comfortably no matter the air temperature.
9. Sunscreen – Even though you’re Up North, the sun is still strong in Michigan. Protect your skin from sunburn and damage with a waterproof sunscreen while you’re camping.
10. Hiking boots or other comfortable shoes – Camping always involves a lot of walking. Even if you’re not hiking, you’ll find yourself walking to the restroom, the buy firewood, to the beach, to get the kids at the playground. Be sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes, so you don’t end up with blisters and aching feet.