Camping is one of the best ways enjoy Michigan’s outdoors. Every year my family and I go on camping adventures all over the Mitten State. There are over a thousand campgrounds to choose from here. Sometimes we wake up just steps away from Lake Superior. Other times we’re in a thick, shady forest. There are a few essentials we always bring, and they’re must-haves for any Michigan camping trip, whether you’re sleeping in an RV, tent or roughing it in the backcountry.
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1. Insect Repellent – Water is everywhere in Michigan. You’re never more than six miles from a river, lake or stream. Our countryside and woodlands are lush and green during the warm months. These same things that make Michigan a wonderful place for your summer vacation, also create the perfect habitat for all kinds of biting, flying bugs. Ticks, mosquitoes and black flies are the biggest pests.
You need a good insect repellent that contains 20 percent DEET to get effective protection. Skin-so-soft will not cut it in the Upper Peninsula where black flies swarm like bees. Don’t head to Michigan in the summer without your bug spray. Once the first frost hits, you can usually go without until the following May.
2. Rain Gear – We have a saying in Michigan, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It’ll change.” If you’re near one of the Great Lakes, it’s even more unpredictable. A sunny day can suddenly be clouded over by a downpour. Lake effect rain is actually a thing. Bring along your rain gear, and you’ll be ready. If you’re camping in a tent, make sure it doesn’t leak. A tent with a good rainfly will keep you dry.
3. Swimming Suit – You gotta bring your swimsuit if you visit Michigan in the summer. Take a dip in one of our Great Lakes or cool off in one of the thousands of inland lakes. You can even play in a waterfall.
4. Paper Maps – You can’t rely on the GPS app on your phone if you find yourself in some of the more remote parts of Michigan. Especially in the Upper Peninsula, cell phone coverage is unreliable and the GPS map is often wrong. Many a tourist has mistaken a snowmobile trail for a road and regretted it. Paper maps and a compass will make sure you don’t get lost.
5. Layered Clothing – Even in summer, mornings can be cool. But by afternoon it will be hot and humid. When the sun goes down, it might cool off quite a bit again. Wearing layers means you can stay comfortable all day. Also, remember air temperatures at the beaches along the Great Lakes can be 10 degrees cooler than inland, and it’s often breezy by the water.
6. Flashlight – There aren’t any street lights in the forest or along remote beaches. The sun is out until 10 PM mid-summer, but when it does set, it gets dark quickly. A good flashlight will help you find your way back to the car or campsite.
7. Secure food storage – If you’re backcountry camping where there are bears, you’ll need a way to store your food so the bears and other critters can’t help themselves. The best way is to us a bear bag, a bag that holds your food and hangs from a branch 10 feet out from the tree trunk and 10 to 15 feet off the ground.
8. Sunscreen – Don’t let that Up North vibe fool you. The sun is still strong in Michigan, and you can get a nasty sunburn. Protect your skin with a good waterproof sunscreen.
9. The right shoes – Boots for hiking, flip-flops for the beach. Supportive shoes for sightseeing. You trip will be a lot more enjoyable if your feet are comfortable and blister free.