10 tips to plan your summer camping trip

This week’s weather doesn’t make for the best camping experience, but the parks will be packed this summer. As Minnesotans plan for the summer camping season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is sharing a few tips for your outdoor adventures.

“We know Minnesotans love being outdoors, and getting outside after a long winter is exciting,” said Ann Pierce, Parks and Trails Division director. “We also know time and knowledge can be barriers in planning a camping trip. We’re working to alleviate this for folks by providing information to help them prepare for a fun experience.”

#1 Book campsites early, and be flexible if you can’t book early

Reservations for campsites in state parks and recreation areas can be made up to 120 days in advance. Reservations are in high demand for holiday weekends and at the most popular parks, like those on the North Shore.

If reservations are full, the DNR has three suggestions. First, sign up for the “notify me” function on the reservation website to get notified by email if there’s a cancellation. Second, consider a camping trip on weekdays instead of the busy weekends if your schedule allows. Third, look for open reservations at less busy parks. Our list of quiet state park getaways on the DNR website provides suggestions for locations more likely to have open reservations.

#2 Looking for flexible camping options? Try camping in a state forest.

If spontaneity is your style, try camping in a state forest where all campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and dispersed camping is allowed. Learn more on the DNR’s state forest camping web page.

#3 Buy a vehicle permit

A permit is required for each vehicle entering state parks and recreation areas. Permits can be purchased online or at park offices during open hours. The cost is $7 per day or $35 per year. If you’re camping just one night, a one-day permit will be valid until check-out time. Find details on the Minnesota state park vehicle permit web page. State forests do not require a vehicle permit.

#4 Pack smart

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what to pack for a camping trip, especially for those who are new to camping. For a good starting point, the DNR has a camping supply checklist.

#5 Check equipment before you leave home

Broken tent poles or a leaky air mattress might ruin a camping trip or make it less comfortable. If your camping gear hasn’t been used in a while or is new, test it at home before the trip to make sure it works.

#6 Research events to enhance your trip

Events and programs are scheduled at state parks throughout the year, offering a wide range of activities from fishing and birding, to interpretive hikes, to crafting. Visitors of all ages are welcome, and no prior experience is needed. Find event listings on the state parks and trails event calendar.

#7 Check visitor alerts before leaving home

State park and recreation area websites post visitor alerts to communicate important information related to safety, closures, construction projects and other helpful details. Find visitor alerts by choosing a park from the state parks map.

#8 Don’t get lost, navigate with a smartphone

The Avenza Maps app uses GPS location tracking so visitors can stay found, even off the grid. After you download the app and a GeoPDF map, no internet or cell service is needed. DNR maps can be downloaded for free. Get details on the DNR’s GeoPDF web page.

#9 Watch the weather

Stay in the know by enabling severe weather notifications on your smartphone. Because cell service is not available in all locations within state parks, recreation areas and forests, visitors may want to bring a weather radio to get information about severe weather warnings, watches and advisories.

#10 Document your trip and share your photos

Make sure to bring a camera to document the great memories made on the camping trip, and we’d love for you to share your photos with us. Images submitted may be featured on the Parks and Trails social media accounts. Share photos on the DNR photo sharing web page.

For more information about any of these camping tips, visit www.mndnr.gov or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 from 8:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday.