New Cold Weather Camping Gear

We’re getting close to turning the corner into spring. The beginning of February is when we start getting restless to get outside, and this year is no exception. Cold-weather camping isn’t always for the faint of heart, but we’re here to prepare you. Below you’ll find some of the newest wintry camping gear, sorted by price for your convenience. If you’re well equipped, camping can be a delightful adventure any time of year!

$ – $10 – $50

$$ – $50 – $125

$$$ – $125 – $200

$$$$ – $200+

GSI Outdoors Microlite 500

http://www.gsioutdoors.com/glacier-stainless-microlite-500.html

microlite

Looking to keep your drinks really hot for a long period of time? This vacuum bottle kept 500ml of boiling water 100 degrees after 9 hours in a -5 degree freezer. You can hike all day, and still have actual hot chocolate as you wind down at night.

Primus Winter Gas

http://www.primus.eu/winter-gas-230-g

primus

 Most canister stoves can’t be used in freezing temperatures. This Primus Winter Gas canister has a VaporMesh lining in the can that absorbs the liquid gas inside and spreads it out. Basically, it’s a canister that can be used in cold temps.

DryGuy Warm N’ Charge

https://dryguy.com/product/Warm_N_Charge

dryguy

This rechargeable hand warmer provides up to 5 hours of warmth per use. It will also charge your phone twice. These are a necessity for a cold overnight trip.

$$ –

Exped Down Booty WB

http://www.exped.com/international/en/product-category/sleepingbags/down-booty-wb-m

booty

So, these are a little more expensive than your average boot insulator, but they work wonders. The problem with down booties is that they usually wet out and are unusable. In a test, the Exped Down Booty didn’t wet out while in the snow for 45 minutes.

Julbo Vermont Classic Glasses

https://www.julbo.com/en/16/home.html

julbo

These retro mountaineer glasses will remind you of Edmund Hillary climbing Everest in 1953. Although they’ve adorned the faces of climbers for 125 years, they can transition into today’s urban world as well.

SOG Reactor Multi-tool

https://www.sogknives.com/reactor.html

sog

This knife and multi-tool has ten different components, including a stainless-steel blade (of course), bottle opener (always needed) and screwdrivers.  The versatility of this tool will come in handy all year.

$$$ –

Big Agnes Q-Core SLX

http://www.backpacker.com/gear/sleeping-pads/big-agnes-q-core-slx/

big-agnes

This inflatable mat has synthetic insulation plus heat-reflective material, which keeps you warm down to 15 degrees F. The mat has separate holes for inflation and deflation.

$$$$ –

Summit Alpine 50L Backpack

https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/alpine-50-pack-nf0a2sch

summit

This lightweight (2 lbs., 9 oz. empty) pack uses FuseForm construction, where the fabric is folded and fused rather than stitched. The pack is rated to carry 50 lbs.

Patagonia Men’s Grade VII Down Parka

http://www.patagonia.com/product/mens-grade-vii-down-parka/84845.html

patagonia

OK, so this isn’t cheap. At $899, it’s not for the novice cold-weather camper. As North Face says, it’s for “thriving, not surviving,” cold temperatures. If you’re going to be outside in the frost, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a safer, warmer parka.

LED Lenser XEO 19R Headlamp

https://www.ledlenser.com/uk/products/headlamps/xeo-series/xeo19r/

led-lenser

2,000 lumens is a lot. With two LED cannons, this headlamp will help you navigate the dark on the blackest winter night. Both lights can be adjusted and focused separately, and they also adjust automatically to the surrounding brightness. It’s not cheap at $330, but you won’t find a better device for lighting up a campground.

As technology advances, cold-weather camping becomes easier and more fun. While not many of us can afford some of these extravagant devices, you’ll find that you don’t need to spend the entire winter indoors. As always, we’d love to see your cold-weather camping experiences in the comments!

2017 Hot New Snowmobile Trends

As I write, there’s a large shakeup taking place in the snowmobile industry. Minnesota- based Arctic Cat, an industry leader, has been sold to the Rhode Island company Textron, which makes all sorts of specialized personal and commercial vehicles. Textron is known for E-Z-GO golf carts, Cushman vehicles and aviation brands like Bell Helicopter, Cessna and Beechcraft.

While the full impact of the $247 million-dollar sale will not be known for awhile, it is probably a good thing for Arctic Cat. The company recently reported that it had suffered a sharp decline in sales, and being backed by a financially stable company like Textron will allow them to innovate and compete with some of the other original equipment manufacturers. Chances are, Arctic Cat will bounce back better than ever with different sales tactics and innovative trends.

2017 is an intriguing year for snowmobile product. The four big companies (Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha) are introducing more product this year than in any year since 2003. It may surprise you to learn just how big of an economic impact of snowmobiling has, generating $26 billion annually in the U.S. alone. Between manufacturing, dealerships and tourism, snowmobiling generates over 100,000 full-time jobs in North America. Large-scale competitive events like the X Games (Aspen, CO, Jan. 26-29) have brought a worldwide spotlight to the sport as well.

If you’re new to snowmobiling, a great place to start is GoSnowmobiling.org. They will give you all sorts of tips and tricks to get started, whether you like to ride across the open plains or into the mountains. They have great resources on where to rent sleds (snowmobiles) as well, so you can dip your toes in the water before diving in headfirst. You may also want to consider joining a snowmobile club, where you can meet people who share your interest (there are over 3,000 snowmobile clubs in the U.S.). Some places will require you to take safety classes as well, so be sure to check with your local snowmobile association for more information (safety classes are a good idea regardless of age or previous experience).

The Soo Line Trail near Lake Mille Lacs in Central Minnesota is a fantastic place to start your snowmobiling adventure. Offering hundreds of miles of groomed trails that weave through forests, farmlands and wetlands, the Soo Line Trail is a fantastic route for rookie and veteran riders alike. You can ride in seclusion, or rent snowmobiles for the whole family and make a weekend of it.
There are all sorts of snowmobiling events in winter 2017. January 21 – 29, for example, is International Snowmobile Safety Week. February 11 – 20 is the Take a Friend Snowmobiling Campaign. There are various competitions, conferences and symposiums throughout the year as well. Snowmobiling is a fun way to get outdoors in the winter, and is a great way to interact with nature, friends and family. It will give you a lifetime of winter recreation, and you’ll find that snowmobiling is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Happy sledding!

Embracing the Cold & Catching the Big One: Ice Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs

The 132,500-acre Lake Mille Lacs is the second largest inland lake in Minnesota (which is saying a lot). About 100 miles north of the Twin Cities, it offers a fantastic winter destination for the whole family (see here). Containing the smallest National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. (two small islands in the middle of the Lake), Mille Lacs is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, some bear, quail, grouse and pheasant.

HISTORY

Mille Lacs is also known to archaeologists as one of the earliest sites of human settlement in Minnesota, as copper tools thought to be over 5,000 years old have been found around the lake. Various tribal groups lived around Mille Lacs throughout history, most notably the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe, who settled in the area between 1745 and 1750.

In the late 1870s, the timber industry boomed around the area, and began Lake Mille Lacs’ transformation into the “sportsman’s paradise” that it’s known as today. Well-known for camping, resorts (see here), beaches, hunting, golf and of course…fishing. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) guide to Minnesota says “Walleye and northern pike abound, as do perch, whitefish, bass, and crappies.” Fishing tourism has long been the most critical aspect of the area’s economy, and the Lake does not disappoint.

During the winter, thousands of ice-fishing houses sprawl throughout Mille Lacs. Luckily, the Lake is so large there is plenty of room to set up camp. During especially cold Novembers, the Lake is frozen by Thanksgiving, but normally ice fishing starts in the first week of December near the shore. By late winter, Mille Lacs is frozen all the way across, with ice sometimes three feet thick. Lake roads are plowed for easy access. The melting season usually begins in March.

If you’re travelling to Mille Lacs, or don’t have your own fish house, there are plenty of rental options. Guides are available year-round as well, enhancing your experience by putting you smack-dab in the middle of the hottest spots on the Lake. The Minnesota DNR also allows darkhouse spearing of northern pike, tullibee and rough fish. Darkhouses are painted black inside, reducing light and allowing the spearer to see all the way to the lake floor. While you may not get as many fish, spearing does allow you to be more selective, and is a tradition passed from Native Americans to European settlers.

TODAY’S CATCHES 

Many anglers on Mille Lacs are interested in walleye fishing. While nothing beats talking to the locals at the bait shop on the best strategies, here are a few quick tips to get the most out of your experience:

  1. Walleye are generally most active during the changing light conditions of sunup and sundown. Chances are, you’ll catch more walleye during dawn and dusk than any other time.

 

  1. Walleye are generally found a few feet from the bottom of the lake (luckily, Mille Lacs is shallow, with a 42-foot max depth). They will likely hang close to lake structures like points, rock piles and humps. They want fast access to deep water, so steep breaks are great spots as well. Trying drilling multiple holes in multiple depths for the best opportunities.

 

  1. Jigging (raising your rod about a foot and dropping) is imperative to catching walleye. Jigging attracts the fish, but they often won’t bite until the lure stops. Try raising and dropping the tip, then waiting a few seconds before doing so again (http://www.ice-fishing-source.com/walleye-tips-techniques.asp).

Finally, be sure to check the local fishing regulations here. Walleye currently has a limit of one over 28”, due to significant changes in the aquatic system. The Minnesota DNR is working to increase the walleye population as quickly as possible, so hopefully regulations will be eased soon. Northern pike and bass fishing is available, but has limits as well.

Please let us know about any experiences you have in the Lake Mille Lacs area. If you’re into fishing (or many other activities) you won’t regret a trip to Lake Mille Lacs this winter!

Our Top 6 Things To Do In Northern Minnesota This Winter

Let’s face it, when you’re thinking of a winter vacation, your first thought probably isn’t on Northern Minnesota. Most of us would like to take a long break in a tropical paradise, but it’s often not feasible. Luckily, there are plenty of fun options in the Upper Midwest, even if you’re not necessarily escaping the frost. Minnesota is a winter haven for outdoor activities, and offers plenty of indoor destinations if you’re not the winter sports type. Take a gander at the list below, and let us know in the comments if you have experienced any of these adventures yourself. Hopefully this will give you an idea of just how enjoyable a Minnesota winter can be!

Ice Fishing –

It’s no secret that Minnesota has lakes. 11,842 of them in fact. Many of those lakes offer some of the best ice fishing in the world (seriously). You can even rent an ice house if needed, bare-bones or stocked with heaters, stoves, bunks and your very own bathroom. Lake Mille Lacs, in Onamia, is home to mighty walleye and northern pike, and has plenty of open area for you to stake your claim. You can even spearfish northern pike on one of the largest lakes in the entire state. If you need a place to stay check out, our blog on Soo Line ( https://vacationmor.com/2017/01/06/take-a-soo-line-trail-weekend-vacation-this-winter/. )

Duluth –

Duluth is spectacular in the winter. Yes, the weather can be harsh, but a visit to Canal Park or skiing the many slopes around the area will make you rethink winter fun. Lake Superior offers an unmatched charm, and the restaurants will melt the chill with comfort food. Shopping is sensational throughout the area as well.

Snowmobiling –

There’s a reason the open road is so appealing. It gives us a chance to clear our minds, leaving behind the traffic and monotony of daily life. Snowmobiling through a secluded forest on the Soo Line Trail is the epitome of a mind-clearing getaway The trails are open December 1 – April 1, are well groomed and take you through miles of open wetlands, farmlands and woodlands. Even if you’re not into snowmobiling, it’s a trip you don’t want to miss.

Highway 61 Revisited –

Take a cruise up Lake Superior’s North Shore to experience a scenic drive that changes every year. The charming small towns along the way only add to the ambiance, and you’ll find a distinct beauty driving it in the winter. You’ll find treasures you never knew existed.

Hiking/Snowshoeing –

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the scenery! Minnesota has miles of well-kept trails that will give you a reprieve from the treadmill. Check out Sibley State Park in west-central Minnesota, where Mount Tom presides. There are a variety of landscapes to enjoy, including lakes (of course), farmland, forests and prairie knolls. You can also rent snowshoes (only 6$ per day) and get some truly fresh air in the open countryside.

Festivals –

The Twin Cities are chock-full of winter festivals, but Northern Minnesota has the most fun. Where else can you partake in a toilet seat toss? Icebox Days in International Falls (Jan. 19-23), the International Eelpout Festival (an ugly, bottom-dwelling fish, Feb. 23-26) and the Grumpy Old Men Festival (Feb. 25, conflicting) all have ice-fishing contests, polar plunges and much more debauchery. Simply put, Minnesotans know how to have fun, and will be happy to have you join in the revelry.

Of course, there is also skiing, skating and camping to be done. Hopefully this list is a jumping-off point for you. Minnesota is an incredible state to explore, even in the cold heart of winter. Enjoy!

This Weekend, Try Soo Line Trail Campground!

Winter is what we make of it. It’s often difficult to escape the drab monotony of never-ending snow, small windows of daylight and clenched fists on icy roads. If we let it, winter can really get to us mentally, physically and emotionally.

 

Maybe we don’t have the money to get away and take the family on a two-week vacation to the Bahamas. We might not have the time for a road trip to California. If so, we need to embrace winter rather than escape it. If we can leave the day-to-day toils of home-life behind, even for a weekend, it can give us the rejuvenation we need to make it to spring.

 

It may be time to check out Midwest Outdoor Resort’s (MOR) Soo Line Trail Campground. This is the only MOR getaway that is open on weekends in the winter. Located in Onamia, MN (about 90 miles Northwest of the Twin Cities), minutes from Lake Mille Lacs, the Soo Line Trail Campground has plenty to offer, even during Jack Frost.

 

Lake Mille Lacs –

 

Lake Mille Lacs offers fantastic fishing (especially Walleye, Northern Pike, and Bass), no matter the season. Rent an ice fishing house if needed, or explore one of the many charming towns around the lake. Onamia is the gateway to Lake Mille Lacs, and offers the jumping-off point to great snowmobiling on the Soo Line Trail. There is plenty of hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and even kiteboarding in the area as well.

 

Grand Casino Mille Lacs –

 

Grand Casino Mille Lacs is dubbed “Minnesota’s Most Liked Casino,” and for good reason. Offering plenty of entertainment year-round, Grand Casino Mille Lacs offers entertainment from boxing to concerts to comedy. Of course there is gaming and excellent dining throughout the casino as well.

 

Mille Lacs Indian Museum –

 

If you’re looking to shop, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum Trading Post “interprets the contribution of the Ojibwe people to the culture, history and contemporary society of Minnesota and the nation.” While the museum is unfortunately closed until April 1st, the Trading Post is open from 11am-4pm Wednesdays through Saturdays and offers large exhibits, as well as jewelry, books, music and even wild rice. The Trading Post also has its own interesting history.

 

Or you could just stay in…

soo_filmstrip

There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to relax. The Soo Line Trail Campground offers a unique blend of amenities that allow for a fantastic getaway without breaking the bank (or giving you frostbite). With comfy overnight suites with free Wifi, a large clubhouse including a convenience store, game room and library, you don’t necessarily need to leave the resort to leave the stresses of winter life at home. A weekend getaway with your family or significant other might be just the fuel you need to make it all the way to spring.
As always, happy exploring!

 

The 17 Best Gifts For the Camper in Your Life this Christmas!

We all know Christmas shopping can be a challenge. Gift cards are great, but aren’t always heartfelt. Everyone loves getting cash, but it can show a lack of initiative. What do you get the person who seems to have everything? It’s usually best if we can narrow down the recipient’s interests and/or hobbies and go from there.

Well, I have some good news! If you have a camper/RVer in your life, there are all kinds of unique gifts sure to please. Chances are, he or she won’t have one of the items listed below. Whether or not you purchase one of these directly, hopefully this will help spark some ideas. Enjoy!

I’ve listed them in order of pricing:

$=$1-20

$$=$20-50

$$$=$50-100

$$$$=$100-200

$$$$$=$200+

$

Eco Firestarters

firestartershttps://www.etsy.com/listing/120677320/eco-friendly-fire-starters-9-unique

You no longer need smelly lighter fluid, try these firestarters made from macadamia nuts! Use in campfires, fireplaces, grills, chimneys, etc.

Inflatable Solar Lights-

solar-lighthttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DQ1RDWS//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

All you need is sunshine, no batteries required! This is extremely lightweight (4.4 ounces) and waterproof.

Disposable Urinals-

urinalshttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B000NV878S//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

These are a fantastic white elephant gift, but are also great for camping! You never know when you might need one…

$$

Campfire in a Bag-

green-light-fire-baghttp://www.greenlightfirebag.com/

Get one roaring in 30 seconds or less! These light up quickly and last for hours.

Survival Kit-

surival-kithttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B004R1J482//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

This all-in-one tool fits in the palm of your hand! This has a knife, cords, wires, firestarters, you name it. Don’t be caught in the wild without it!

$$$

Inflatable Lounge Chair-

inflatable-chairhttp://shop.fatboyusa.com/products/lamzac-the-original

These lounge chairs inflate in seconds and can seat two. They collapse into a small package so you can take them camping or to the beach!

Backpacking Food Kit-

backpacking-kit

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ABW9BUC//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

Just add water! These are great for camping, backpacking, hiking or whenever you might need to be prepared for an emergency.

Wearable Futon-

Blanket.jpg

http://www.japantrendshop.com/king-jim-wearable-futon-air-mat-set-p-2540.html

This may be a little gimmicky…wear it like a coat! It looks fantastic for a cold winter night!

UV Water Purifier-

water-filterhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B003A1MURC//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

This handheld purifier is reusable up to 8,000 liters, and destroys 99.9% of harmful bacteria. Perfect for a long expedition in the deep wilderness.

$$$$

Portable Solar Oven-

solar-ovenhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B008S47I8M//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

Extremely light and packable, this oven sets up and stores in seconds. Cook everything from cookies to pizza!

Jeep/Truck Hammock-

hammock

http://www.jammock.com/

Driving to the campsite without a tent? Sleep in this hammock that can be affixed to the roof of a jeep or the bed of a truck!

Travel Shower-

hot-showerhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B000X4IAMS//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

One of the most difficult aspects of camping is keeping clean. Stay fresh with this portable shower that sets up anywhere!

$$$$$

Anti-Gravity Backpack-

backpack

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U3O8GRW//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

OK, so you’re not actually going to defy gravity with this backpack, but it is extremely nice for camping, hiking or really anything outdoors.

Tree Tent-

tree tent.jpghttp://www.tentsile.com/products/stingray-tree-tent

You can’t write about camping gifts without including a tent, and this three-person canvas allows you to get off the ground (where the animals are) and into the safety of the canopy.

Hot Tub Hammock-

hot tub.jpg

https://hydrohammock.com/

Yep, the name says it all. You can take a hot tub while relaxing in your hammock. If there’s a better way to spend time outdoors, I don’t know what it is.

Glamping Tent-

glamping-tent

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016AC7PUY//ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=duiwath-20

Whether or not you’re actually into glamping, this tent is awesome. Really, you could actually live in this thing.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Invisible Man Kit-

Invisitble Man Kit.jpg

http://www.opticsplanet.com/invisible-man-kit.html

For when you REALLY need to get away…This isn’t necessarily camping gear, but for someone special in your life who’s looking to disappear, look nowhere else.

Hopefully this article helps spark some gift ideas for your favorite camper. If you have any other ideas, don’t hesitate to let us know!

4 Ways Camping Makes You More Thankful!

 

Once a year, I’ll gorge until my pants don’t fit, watch football for 10 consecutive hours and eventually fall asleep in an unflattering position on the couch. This has become my Thanksgiving. In reality, it’s a day that was originally entirely devoted to gratitude.  In that spirit, I’d like to mention a few things about camping and the outdoors that we can reflect on and feel grateful for this Thanksgiving season. Here are 4 ways camping makes you more thankful:

  1. We get the opportunity to be in nature – This is really what camping is all about, isn’t it? Nothing is as humbling as the raw beauty of the natural world. Whether it’s the moon over a lake, a snow-capped mountain or a sun-baked beach, nature has the ability to make our problems feel insignificant and allows us to step away from our egotistical lives. Getting out in nature (even for a short time) is incredibly cathartic, and will improve every other aspect of life.
  2. Camping can be a portal into the past – If we’re tent camping (this is certainly not the only way to camp – glamping, we can hearken back to the days of our ancestors. We can step away from modern technology (even if only for a few hours) and live as our forebears did. Instead of being bombarded by ads, with the glowing screens of four different devices fighting for our focus, we sit around a crackling fire like our ancestors. Our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter as we are constantly besieged by technological diversion. While technology is certainly useful (I wouldn’t give it up!), it is good to get away every once and awhile and appreciate tangible and natural reality.
  3. We get to spend time with friends and family in a different setting – This is often the main aspect of Thanksgiving we feel thankful for. Camping is no different. Almost all my favorite memories growing up are of camping with friends and family (even if that involved a cabin). We had large family reunions on Lake Superior in Minnesota, and I will never forget eating way too much walleye, skipping rocks into the sunset and seeing moose in the wild with my grandfather. While we were always close, times like those really fortified the bond between us (and made for great Thanksgiving dinner conversations years later).
  4. Camping allows you to learn about yourself – One of the fascinating things about camping is that no two trips are the same. One time, the weather is perfect. The next, it’s a constant downpour. There are no bugs one day, and the next you’d swear it’s a plague. Camping really shows us how we behave and react to good, bad and unpredictable situations. As the quote says, “Circumstances don’t make a person, they reveal them.” Camping forces you out of your day-to-day situation. It makes you adapt to a variety of situations and therefore improves your life in a myriad of ways.

These are just a few things that camping has done for me. Obviously there are many more, so feel free to leave your comments and/or stories below. Hopefully you have a fantastic Thanksgiving and get the opportunity to reflect on what you’re grateful for this holiday season!