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!

Our Top 4 Tips to Beat Holiday Stress

Merry Christmas! Hopefully, those two words still bring you a childlike sense of wonder and joy. Remember when the holidays were fun? School was out, you were anticipating what Santa might bring (and in my case, contemplating if you’d been truly good or bad), the sledding hill was packed and all the holiday burden was on the adults. It was truly the best time of the year.
Once you’re older, however, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We have an increased sense of responsibility, especially if there are relatives visiting or we’re hosting a dinner. This often leads to not-so-healthy stress management habits like overeating and overdrinking as we jump from one holiday party to the next. Doing this season after season can lead to the holiday blues, where we begin to feel anxious, angry and even depressed during Christmastime. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Below are some tips to help get you through this and future holiday seasons. Follow these, and you’ll soon look like those happy-go-lucky people in Christmas commercials.
Do Less, Enjoy More–
See if you can turn down a couple of events. We’re not advocating sitting home alone all December, but when you have your office Christmas party, your friend’s ugly sweater party, recitals for the kids and are still having crazy Uncle Johnny over for Christmas dinner all in the same week it’s a bit much. Don’t be afraid to turn down something you’re not interested in or that’s not important. The main idea here is not to go overboard to please everybody.
Shopping –
You don’t need to seek perfection here. In fact, the best practice is to simply ask people what they want before you buy anything (especially other adults). This way, you’re not giving anything they don’t want and you don’t have to waste time scouring the far corners of the earth for something. Also, budget early, shop early and stick to it (we’ve got some budget gift ideas here). Set a date to have all shopping done, say December 10th, and you won’t have to worry anymore.
Try Something New –
Have you ever wanted a warm Christmas vacation? Tried cooking something other than ham or turkey or going out to eat? Invented your own family tradition? The more we can get away from the monotony of the season the better. A trip to California or making a meal from another culture (check out some recipes here) might be just the break you need. This is especially true if you’ve done the same thing year after year and are really stressed or dreading the holiday season.
Cope –
So you’re definitely stuck at home this year, you have relatives storming in and everyone expects you to be an excellent host. No matter the situation, we can always find simple ways to relieve stress. Taking a little chunk out of the day for ourselves is important anytime, let alone around Christmas. Volunteering and exercising (even if it’s just a 30-minute walk in some much-needed sunshine) can offer big benefits in a short amount of time. If you’re religious, finding the spiritual significance of the holidays and going to your place of worship can help feelings of isolation and loneliness. As difficult as these things may seem when you’re stressed, they will quickly brighten your overall mood and allow you to actually enjoy the season as it’s meant to be enjoyed.
If you can abstain from perfectionism, budget and shop early, stave off monotony and find ways to exercise and get some sunshine, you can bring back the Christmas joy you had as a child. Feel free to add any comments or experiences you might have with holiday stress, and Merry Christmas!

 

A How To Guide For Thanksgiving in Small Spaces

Will you be traveling this holiday season? Are you staying in an RV, cabin or hosting Thanksgiving in any modestly-sized accommodation?  While holiday dinners can be difficult in the most spacious areas, there’s no need to be stressed. Here are some simple tips you can use to throw a fantastic Thanksgiving feast in a small area.

  1. Realize that your friends and family aren’t expecting something out of a lifestyle magazine – While everyone wants to be comfortable, they probably aren’t expecting anything glamorous if they’re eating in a studio apartment or RV. Thanksgiving dinner is generally casual and relaxed, so don’t worry too much about everything being perfect. Keep decorations to a minimum. If you can make people fairly comfortable, they’ll be plenty happy.
  2. No formal seating required – Seating is one of the biggest concerns when hosting a large dinner. Benches and armless chairs are your friends here, if available. They take up far less space and can seat more people. If needed, you can use an ironing board for a serving table or set out floor pillows for extra seating (better to use for after dinner rather than during). You can also try diagonal dining. Setting up your main table diagonally will maximize floor space and give your dinner a non-traditional look.
  3. Let in the light! Naturally light as much of your space as possible to give the space an open feel. Natural light is best, but candlelight also offers a very relaxed atmosphere (if you can, avoid overhead lighting). The more natural light you let in, the better.
  4. Write down cooking times to avoid clutter – One of the trickiest parts of prepping a large meal is the cooking times of different foods. Turkey, of course, can take hours, while certain side dishes may only take a few minutes. If you’re preparing a feast in a small space, it will be extremely helpful if you write down exactly how long everything will take so you can keep pots and pans stashed away until needed. Avoiding clutter is one of your main goals in this scenario.

Your other option is to cook as much as possible before the big day. If you have all of your side dishes ready, making only the main course will be relatively easy. Certain side dishes (cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes, etc.) will taste just as good if they’re left overnight, but be wary.

  1. Use space-saving accessories – If you have cake stands or tiered plate holders, use them! Stackable trays and serve-ware can keep surfaces free of clutter. Try to go vertical rather than horizontal as much as possible.

Keep it simple, relaxed and don’t stress! – Put on some soft music (quiet enough so the guests can talk) and remember that this is a casual time, and spending time with friends and family is the most important part. Have fun arranging your space! If you follow some of these tips and take a little time for preparation, your Thanksgiving will go off splendidly. Enjoy!

DON’T GET CAUGHT WITH YOUR TOES IN THE SNOW, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WINTERIZING YOUR RV NOW.

 

Well, we’ve unfortunately hit that time of year. Camping season is coming to a close, and when the temperature starts regularly dropping below 32°F (0°C), it’s time to winterize. Basically, winterizing entails protecting your RV from freezing temperatures so it’s prepared when the snow melts, the frost thaws and spring flowers start poking out. (Yes, I’m currently listening to The Beatles’ classic “Here Comes the Sun”).Your main goal when winterizing your RV is taking care of the water system. Here is a step-by-step guide so your rig is thoroughly prepared to hibernate through Jack Frost.

 

Before getting started, make sure you read through your owner’s manual carefully to take any additional recommended steps.

  • Drain all water tanks completely –Take your RV to a waste station and drain all tanks.
  • Drain the water from the hot water heater (DO NOT DO WHILE WATER IS HOT OR UNDER PRESSURE)Small lime deposits may come out. This is normal.
  • Drain the pipes –Turn on all faucets (hot and cold), flush the toilet, and turn on the outside shower.You can also use an air compressor to blow out all the pipes (set to no more than 30psi).
  • Open all low-point drain lines –There will be a hot and cold water line.
  • Once all lines are drained, recap, close and turn off all drains and faucets.
  • Bypass the water heater –This isn’t a must, but will save you gallons of antifreeze. If you don’t have a bypass kit, you can get one installed relatively cheaply.
  • Pump antifreeze through your water lines (RV antifreeze is PINK) –Most newer RVs have a valve attached to the water pump that will allow the pump to draw antifreeze directly from the bottle. Turn on water pump, and starting with the closest faucet, open the hot and cold valves one at a time until you see pink antifreeze, then close. Keep replacing the bottle as needed, don’t let it run dry.
  • Open each faucet until each has antifreeze coming out –Also, keep flushing your toilet until you see antifreeze. Make sure you run antifreeze to the outside shower as well.
  • Turn off the water pump –Open a faucet to release pressure, then close.
  • Pour antifreeze down each drain and into the toilet.
  • Make sure if you have an electric heating element on your water heater, it is turned OFF.
  • Make sure all valves and faucets are CLOSED.
  • If you have other appliances (ice maker, dishwasher, etc.) consult the owner’s manual to winterize

 

Tires –

You may want to raise your rig on jacks, but at least make sure you’re parked on concrete or pavement so tires do not sink into the ground.

Batteries –

Remove batteries of any type and store in a warm, dry location.

Propane Tanks –

Fill all propane tanks, and store in a sheltered location.

Not inside the RV.

Electrical System –

Turn off the RV’s main circuit breaker. Block the exhaust pipe with steel wool or aluminum to keep out pests.

Food and Drinks –

Remove all food and drinks as some things can burst and become messy (and attract unwanted visitors like rodents and insects in the spring).

Interior –

Clean stove, make sure to thaw freezer completely and dry. Leave all refrigerator doors open.

Exterior –

Close all roof vents, make sure windows and doors are fully sealed. Cover any holes with screening, and cover vents with cardboard to make sure rodents and

insects can’t get in.

Moisture Control –

Get a container of moisture absorbent and place it on a flat surface inside the RV. This will prevent corrosion and mold.

Weather Protection –

This is a given, but try to protect your RV from the elements as best you can by parking in a shelter or getting an RV cover. Obviously, this sounds like a lot of work, but it will be well worth it when you’re ready to make your next excursion to one of our fine resorts in the spring.

As always, be sure to check your owner’s manual for any additional steps, and happy exploring!