Camping - Manistee River and Gun Lake, Michigan
Updated: May 22, 2020
We started a camping tradition when Tobe turned 2. Surprisingly, I enjoyed camping and it has become an event I look forward to each fall. Michigan is a great state for camping with a big array of options from rustic sites to others with RV hook ups, and fully functional bathrooms and toilets. There are beach campsites, plenty in the woods, and along lakes and rivers. On the DNR's website, you can plug in all your campsite requirements to find one that fits your needs.
Manistee National Forest
Our first camping trip in the fall of 2018 was to a campsite in Baldwin, Michigan. It was along the Manistee River, in the Manistee National Forest. We picked this site because we wanted an authentic camping experience. It was easy making this decision given that my husband, Patrick, is an Eagle Scout and knows his way around a campsite.
Ours was a rustic site. There was a river nearby where Patrick fished and Tobe splashed.
There was a nice tree at our site and flat grass where Patrick pitched our tent. It was quite cozy in the tent. We had an air mattress, cozy blankets and sleeping bags. We were out there for three days.
There were a lot of mosquitos but we were armed with mosquito coils and sprays. The afternoons during this trip were quite hot so I was thankful for the river close-by. It cooled down significantly in the evenings and the night time was chilly. Sleeping bags, heavy clothing, and bedding helped us stay warm. I shared a bag with Tobe and all three of us slept close so it worked well to keep the heat in.
Tobe's favorite activity was making a fire with some wood he had gathered earlier in the day. He also, of course, enjoyed making and eating mashmallows.
He had a blast throwing things in the fire while we sat around and watched it burn. Patrick made delicious camp meals like stuffed peppers, potatoes, sausage links, and breakfast food. We brought a french press for our morning coffee.
Our second camping trip in the fall of 2019 was to a campsite on Gun Lake. It was not a rustic site like the previous year but we treated it as such. This was a shorter trip because the trip we initially planned to a northern and more secluded campsite had to be canceled secondary to weather.
We didn't want to miss out on our new tradition so we planned this as a backup. It was closer to home so we we just went on a weekend and didn't have to take time off work. Tobe had a blast, as usual.
He remembered his trip from the previous year so he knew what to expect and was all about the fire and marshmallows.
This year he was also into singing disney songs loudy and star gazing. In the morning we took a walk by the lake. It was so calming and a perfect quick getaway that we needed.
This is a family tradition I intend to keep alive. Time outdoors is good for the soul. I am excited to see how our camping style evolves as we have more children and I can't wait to share stories.
Must-have List for Camping with Kids
This is obviously in addition to everything else you would normally take camping if you were going without kids.
Kid friendly bug spray
Lots of wipes/napkins
Thermos to hold hot water
Sleeping bags/portable crib
Extra sweaters and jackets for layers
Extra clothes, they will get very messy
Extra trash bags
Lots of snacks including marshmallows for the fire
You don't need to pack a highchair or booster seat, you can hold your kid while you feed him or her. I also don't pack toys or games because the whole point of going into nature is to enjoy it. Lots of sticks and stones to occupy the little kids. Older kids can throw a football around, go for a hike, or fish. At night we tell stories instead of reading books.