Voyageurs National Park, located on the Minnesota/Canada border, is an incredibly unique park – a series of interconnected lakes, rivers and streams with hundreds of small islands scattered throughout. A small number of short hiking trails are scattered throughout the park along with two visitors centers on “mainland” Minnesota. And it is the only National Park I’m aware of at which all of it’s available campsites are accessible only by water. How cool is that?
Given the unique nature of reaching your campsite only by boat, in the remote Minnesota wilderness hours from the nearest city, let’s just say this trip requires some extra special planning.
I put together the following lists for our trip so that we were well organized and prepared for everything we would need to have a great time. Other than the “documents” and “fishing/boat” sections, these same lists apply to most of our front country camping trips. Since we’d be spending time crossing several large lakes with our gear on board the boat, we did take care to pack everything as waterproofed as possible. Some gear was stored in plastic tote containers with the lids taped down. Other gear was stored in waterproof duffel bags lined with garbage bags for extra protection.
- Drivers License
- Minnesota Fishing License – Technically fishing isn’t required, but even for a novice it’s a perfect place to give it a try
- Canadian Fishing License – if you plan on fishing both sides of the border
- National Parks Pass – Voyageurs is actually one of the few parks that does not collect entry fees so you will not need a parks pass here, but you will need to purchase camping permits
- Camping Permit
- Boat – bringing your own boat is the easiest, but if you don’t have a boat there are a number of rental options in the area surrounding Voyageurs National Park
- Fishing Gear
- Life vests
- Safety Gear – ie: air horn, lights, etc.
- Extra boat parts/repair tools, etc – remember it’s super remote so in case something goes wrong you may need to do minor fixes yourself while on the water to get back safely
- Solar battery charger for trolling motor – depending on how much you plan on fishing and the length of your trip
- Compass & Map and/or GPS units
- Bungee cords & tiedown straps – you’ll most likely need to strap down your bags and supplies in the boat while you’re moving at speed across the lake
- Dry ice – this will help keep your food colder in coolers for longer and not take up as much space as regular ice but be careful working with dry ice as it tends to freeze food and is dangerous to the touch
- Cooler(s) – space permitting, I tend to bring two coolers – one for drinks and things you access often and another for food that only gets opened occasionally and will keep food cold longer
- 2-Burner Camp Stove
- Fuel Canister for stove
- Small backpacking stove for making coffee, etc.
- Plates, bowls, silverware, etc for each person
- Cooking utensils – ie: spoon, spatula, tongs, knife
- Skillet – bring a skillet that can be used on both an open fire and on the stove for multiple options
- Can opener – if planning any canned goods in meals
- Hot dog forks – if planning to roast hot dogs or marshmallows over a fire
- Aluminum Foil – great for warming food in a fire or reheating leftovers
- Coffee mugs – I carry an insulated tumbler with me everywhere and it comes in handy for both hot and cold beverages
- Paper towels & cloth hand towel – great to have both for different uses
- Dish soap, Hand soap & Sponge
- Water filter/purifier – You’ll want to bring drinking water with you for all of your uses as there is no water provided at camp sites, but I generally bring a small water filter with me in case of emergency or water treatment chemicals as a backup
- Trashbags & Ziplocks – Ziplocks are great for sealing up each meal’s trash then put into a larger trashbag. You do need to pack out all of your trash
- Sleeping bag
- Pillow – inflatable camp pillows work best for packing and space savings
- Sleeping pad
- Extra Batteries
- Bug Spray, Sunscreen & Hand sanitizer
- First Aid Kit
- Bear Spray – not a requirement in Voyageurs, but always good to have while in bear country
- Whistle – bring 1 to keep in camp and 1 in the boat for emergencies
- Toilet paper – there are primative vault toilets at each campsite
- Hatchet & foldable saw
- Waterproof bags for clothing, gear
- Daypack – if planning on hiking
- Hammock (optional)
- Camp Shower
- Rain Jacket & Rain Pants
- Flip flops/Sandals
- Tennis shoes
- Socks, underwear, etc.
- Quick dry towel
- Battery pack – for recharging phones and other devices
- GoPro & GorillaPod tripod (optional)
- Cards/Travel games
- Bluetooth Speaker
The Voyageurs National Park website says that you can filter water from the lake but they advise bringing in your own water instead. Drinking water is available at both visitor centers if you need additional water.
For this trip our group included 4 adults. Based on our typical habits I estimated our water needs as follows.
Approximate water needed per day:
2 L per person for drinking – 8L
1.5 L total for coffee
1 L for cooking
1 L for dishwashing
= 12 L per day total (4 gallons per day)
As it turns out, the weather was relatively cool during our trip and we did not drink as much water as we had estimated so we had more than we needed, but it was nice to know we had plenty without filtering or refilling at the visitor center.