Shelter, Warmth, and Protection
The best camping areas in Minnesota are those closest to Lake Superior and the border with Michigan's upper peninsula. While comfortably warm most days during camping season, the nights begin chilling early in the summer and stay cooler to late in the spring. Clothing on the camping trip needs to support layering up or layer removal. Windbreakers, sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, and denim pants make for a good mix with T-shirts and shorts. Remember warm socks and an extra pair of shoes. With regular thunder shower potential stirred up by Lake Michigan and cold Arctic air, the tent needs a functional rain fly plus ropes and stakes to tie the tent to the ground. Three-season sleeping bags are a must. A nicety is a "welcome" mat or vestibule for the tent to provide an opportunity to shed wet clothing and shoes avoiding dragging mud into the tent.
Safety and Bugs
Minnesota is reputed to have mosquitoes large enough to haul away small pets. While probably an exaggeration, the "no-see-em" gnats, mosquitoes, ticks, and horseflies can turn a peaceful camping trip into a scratchy memory. Strong insect repellent is necessary. A net to drape over the face may also be advisable. The tiny black gnats get into just about any opening in the tent or face. Mosquito coils and citronella candles are ineffective. DEET is the recommended repellent. A fully equipped first aid kit is necessary as the farther from civilization, the greater the need for the camping group to be prepared as first responders. Inflatable splints, cloth bandages, anti-itch relief, and burn treatments are important inclusions in the first aid kit. Humidity can reduce battery life, so it's important to bring extra batteries and eight-hour emergency light sticks. LED flashlights and lanterns use less power than traditional lighting equipment with halogen or incandescent lights. Ensure the spare tire is safe and inflated. Bring a car charger for the cell phone. While there may not be cell signals for voice, text messages require less power and can sometimes be sent and received when there is a very weak cell signal. Always have a hand compass, current area maps, and a USGS topographic map of the area.
Meals and Kitchen
Emergency food supplies not requiring a can opener or cooking are important extras in the camp kitchen. Frozen meat and poultry provide extra cooling for perishable foods in the cooler. This allows fresh meals to last longer in the afternoon heat and humidity. Depending on water quality, straps to weight a cooler to rocks for partial immersion in rivers or lakes is another way to extend cooling capacity. To save on drinking water supplies at campsites away from developed campgrounds, heat river or lake water for washing and bathing, and retain packed-in water for drinking and brushing teeth.
Stormproof matches and wet-wood igniters are also important additions to the kitchen gear. One of the best combinations is the magnesium block igniter combined with a tube of gelled fire starter.
Everyone has specific camping gear enjoyed out in the wild, whether it be folding lounge chairs or a cook stove. Creating a camping checklist avoids heading out with important gear still sitting at home. A simple checklist is best organized dividing the list into task centers. Food, kitchen gear, clothing, campsite gear, activity gear, and first aid are the most common divisions. Sample templates are available from office.microsoft.com.
What to Leave Behind
A camping trip away from the well-traveled route means it is important to leave some information behind--the emergency contact list. With a trusted neighbor or friend, leave a copy of your driver's license and a list with your license plate number and make, model, year, and color of car. Leave a copy of a map showing where you plan to camp. If there is a lodge, resort, or gear shop in the area known in advance, leave its phone number on the list as well as the local sheriff. The emergency contact list should identify when you expect arrival at the camping area and the expected date and arrival time for the return home. A "time to notify" needs advance agreement so that if the return home isn't verified by a certain time, the sheriff is called.