Tent Camping Still Popular at Minnesota Parks
Though RVs are ubiquitous on Minnesota’s roads and at many campgrounds – there are more than 140,000 in the state and their numbers have hit record levels nationally – the simple tent remains a cheap alternative, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“I’d say 70 percent of our campers are tenters,” said Paul Sundberg, manager at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It’s the state’s most popular park. And nearly 20,000 of the park’s 28,000 campers last year slept in tents.
But Sundberg noted that his 70-site campground doesn’t have electrical hook-ups, which many RVers want.
Statewide, tent campers and RV campers at state parks are split about 50-50, said Chuck Kartak, deputy director of parks for the Department of Natural Resources.
“Tent camping numbers appear to be more than holding their own,” he said.
State park camping reservations through May reflect that split: There were 19,908 reservations for RV campers and 17,056 reservations for tent sites.
“Our campground is dominated by RVs, but there’s no shortage of people tenting out here,” said Bill Anderson, park manager at William O’Brien State Park near Forest Lake. He guessed 75 percent of his campers are in RVs and 25 percent sleep in tents.
“What we’re seeing is people with tents want more amenities, like electrical sites. They want to plug in a blow-dryer or a stove or whatever.”
Added Anderson: “But there still is a segment that wants a more remote camping site.”
Many state parks offer back-country camping, and four offer only tent camping. The popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – by definition and geography – only allows tents. But there are state and federal forest campgrounds in remote areas of the state where both RVers and tent campers are welcome.
Chuck Carbert, manager of the Grand Marais RV Park and Campground, a popular city-owned campground in tiny Grand Marais on the North Shore of Lake Superior, sees plenty of campers of all stripes.
Each summer, the town of 1,400 people nearly doubles in size just from the infusion of campers alone, Carbert said.
And RVers make up the largest population at his campground. Half the 300 sites have electric, water and sewer hookups and another 100 have water and electric. Forty-four are primitive sites for tents.
“The majority of our visitors are RVers, but we do get a fair amount of tent campers,” he said. “A lot of tenters use us as a stopping point, coming or going from the BWCA.”
Generally, younger people are in tents, he said.
“Families and young folks start out tenting, and as you age, you get tired of waking up on the ground in a dewy tent,” he said. “You don’t see many elderly tenters.”