Everything You Need to Go Lake Camping


Jenny Anderson

Favorite Trip

Road trip through South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana where we visited the national parks and went fly fishing for trout.

Home Base

Land of 10,000 Lakes aka Minnesota

Favorite RV

I absolutely love our current fish house, a custom Glacier Ragen R216. But if I could have any RV, it would be YETTI A816-PK.

About Contributor

Jenny Anderson is an outdoor content creator, best known as the Girl of 10,000 Lakes. As someone who didn’t grow up “outdoorsy,” she believes it’s never too late to fall in love with the great outdoors. Prior to becoming an outdoor content creator, Anderson was a news anchor and reporter in western Wisconsin. She now uses her passion for storytelling to inspire families of all experience levels to get outdoors. Anderson is a published children’s book author and shares her love for nature, fishing, and the outdoor life with her husband, two children, and their yorkie named Kiwi.

Lake life is where it’s at. Whenever our family goes RVing, we make sure we are camping near a lake so that we have opportunities to play at the beach, go fishing, boating, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding. Being by the water not only gives us plenty of things to do but also triggers a sense of calm and joy. I love hearing the sound of loons calling or waves hitting the shoreline. And there’s nothing better than ending a beautiful day of RVing with an even more beautiful sunset at the lake.

To prepare for a day of RVing at the lake, there are a few essentials to check off the list to make sure you have a great time while lake camping.

Book Early

Lake Camping at Boundary Waters
Image: Jenny Anderson

Waterfront campsites are among the most popular spots to get taken at campgrounds. Be sure to book your lake campsite far in advance if you want to guarantee a spot for your RV. Be sure to hit the refresh button often because there are last-minute cancellations at campgrounds all the time. 

Shoo, Bugs!

Where there is water, there are typically pesty insects — especially when temperatures warm up. It’s the unfortunate part of camping next to a lake. It is hard to truly enjoy the outdoors when you’re constantly swatting away unwanted insects. Mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks are among my worst enemies when lake camping so I always come prepared with my anti-insect weapons of choice: bug spray with DEET, permethrin-treated clothes, Thermacell, and a screen room. Learn How to Repel Bugs When Camping

  • Bug spray. Look for a spray with 25 to 50 percent DEET will get the job done. I spray every couple of hours, especially if I’m using repellent that isn’t sweat or waterproof. After a day on the water, I always make sure to douse myself in bug spray before coming back to the campsite.
  • Permethrin. Treating your clothing with permethrin will work wonders. I always try to treat my clothes a few days before a big camping trip to make sure it’s working at its highest potency. The treatment usually lasts up to five or so washes though. The best part is that after you treat your clothes, there’s no smell or sticky residue that bug spray sometimes leaves behind. 
  • Thermacell. Create your own little forcefield of protection around your lake campsite by using a Thermacell or two. This thing works wonders and I make sure to bring ours with us anytime we’re going to be hanging out at an outdoor area whether it’s the dock, beach, campsite, or the park. Thermacells run off a butane cartridge which heats up a replaceable mat that’s saturated in a repellent called allethrin which releases into the air to create a protection zone. 
  • Screened room. A screened room is an easy way to create an outdoor space that’s bug-free. It’s basically a large tent with screen walls so that you can still see and feel the outdoors while keeping unwanted pests away. It does take up space so make sure you have room for one when booking a campsite. 

Reel in Your Next Big Catch

Jenny Anderson and Family Fishing
Image: Jenny Anderson

If we’re camping by a lake, we never leave without our fishing gear. In fact, we usually choose lake campsites because we want to fish. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors alone or with friends and family. Plus, we are teaching our kids about conservation and how we can cook lake-to-table meals. We always keep an extra travel rod in the RV just in case we forget to pack the fishing gear or we end up breaking a rod. Find fishing gear at Camping World, and get inspired for your lakeside RV trip:

My favorite travel fishing rods are telescopic rods which are perfect for RVers. These rods telescope in and out so that they can be a full-sized rod but also collapses to fit inside a backpack for portability. Be sure to have a ready-to-go tackle box filled with a variety of lures including spinners, jigs, bare hooks, crankbaits, spoons, and bobbers. And be sure to swing by the bait shop for minnows, leeches, nightcrawlers, or grubs depending on what you’re fishing for.

If you plan to catch and cook, then be sure to pack a sharp filet knife, cutting board, and your favorite dry batter. We keep these fish fry essentials in our RV pantry at all times so that it’s fewer things we have to remember to pack.

Safety First with Life Jackets

Lake Camping in a Kids Life Jacket
Image: Jenny Anderson

When it comes to spending time on the water, safety is always first. If you plan to boat, kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board, a life jacket should always be worn or on board.

If you don’t like the bulk of life jackets, there are lower profile vests, as well as inflatable vests, that inflate upon immersion in water or manually inflate when you pull the inflation handle. Our kids prefer the life jackets that come with built-in floaties for their arms. It’s great for swimming and insurance for a fun, safe day by the water.

Stay Safe in the Sun

Lake Camping Under a Sun Shade
Image: Jenny Anderson

While soaking up the sun and having fun, it’s easy to forget about sun protection. Before heading out onto the lake, plan ahead and lather on your sunscreen from head to toe. A day on the water usually means stronger sun rays because of the reflection from the water. That’s why I’m always making sure my kids are covered in sunscreen when we’re at the beach.

UV rays can even impact our skin even when we’re swimming in a lake as the rays penetrate through the water. Look for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and apply it often. You can never put on too much sunscreen but you can put on too little.

If you’re not vigilant about putting on sunscreen, there are plenty of athletic and outdoor apparel brands with built-in UPF 50+ sun protective clothing. The material is lightweight and breathable while protecting your body from sun exposure. I always make sure whatever I’m wearing has UPF protection if I’m not planning to lather up on the sunscreen throughout the day. 

And don’t forget to protect your noggin and peepers by wearing a hat and sunglasses. A hat can not only be stylish but also helps block the sun from burning our scalp and ears. Eyes also need protection from sun exposure too. Look for sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.

While you’re at it, check out these ways to stay cool when camping in the heat.

Get on the Water Without Towing a Boat

Jenny Anderson Kayaking
Image: Jenny Anderson

No lake getaway is complete without a way of getting on the water. When towing isn’t an option because you’re already hauling an RV, there are still plenty of other ways to bring a “boat” with you. There’s nothing I love more than paddling around on a lake in a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board. It allows us to fish and explore different areas of the lake that we otherwise can’t experience.

Kayaks can easily fit in many RVs whether through the door or either on a bed or the floor. Just remember to measure your kayak and the dimensions of your RV first. Wrap your kayak in a blanket before sliding it in to avoid scuffing up cabinets and walls. An alternative option is to take advantage of a toy hauler and its ramp door access to get your water vessel of choice into the vehicle. Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards will slide right in through the ramp door opening.

Canoes tend to be longer than kayaks, especially if it’s a tandem, so be sure to measure your canoe before attempting to make it fit inside your RV. One major advantage of a toy hauler is that they have hooks on the floor to secure any objects while on the move.

Lake Camping with Kid and Kayak
Image: Jenny Anderson

Another idea is to get a kayak rack that’s made for the back of your RV. If you want to be able to take your kayak to a lake that isn’t within walking distance, you’ll want to get a roof rack for your vehicle. Again, you’ll want to take note of the length of your kayak and how far forward you can secure it onto your roof rack so that there is enough clearance between your RV and kayak when making turns. 

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of securing a large boat like a kayak or canoe, look into the wide variety of inflatable boats that are available today. From kayaks to stand-up paddle boards, floating docks, and regular tube floats – there are many durable and versatile options to get on the water.

Many inflatable kayaks and SUPs come in a kit with a carrying case for storage and portability and a manual pump so that you can pump them up anywhere. From my experience, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to pump so if you want to save time, you can use an electric pump.

Beach Party Essentials

Floating in Lake on Pool Floats
Image: Jenny Anderson

Being at the lake calls for a beach party or at least an atmosphere that feels like a beach party. Walking through the sand, dipping your toes in the water, soaking in the sun, and seeing others enjoy a day at the beach always gets me in the mood to bust out the fun items as well as the must-pack essentials that make our lake day feel more like a party.

  • Folding beach wagon to carry all your items for a day at the beach
  • Beach bag to carry additional essentials
  • Sand-free beach towels as a way to mark your home base on the beach and to dry off after a dip in the lake
  • Portable beach chairs that you can place on the shallow shoreline to cool off your toes (ideally one with a cup holder)
  • Cooler to keep your food and drinks perfectly chilled throughout the day (throw in some freeze pops for a summer treat and also to keep items cold)
  • Umbrella or portable beach shade to protect little ones and grownups from the sun
  • Waterproof Bluetooth speaker to blast some Beach Boys or other lake-vibe tunes
  • Beach games like volleyball, water frisbee, water pickle, and velcro ball toss 
  • Beach toys for the kids including sandcastle-building essentials, water balloons, and an insect-catching kit to keep the curious little ones occupied
  • Wine tote (if alcohol is allowed at your beach) complete with a refreshing white wine or spritzer, wine glasses, and charcuterie board
  • Portable fire pit to have a beachside campfire as the sun sets
RV at Lake Camp
Image: Jenny Anderson

Lake camping comes with some preparation work, but packing the essentials and planning ahead will help you enjoy your RV getaway even more. After that, relax! You’re on lake time.

What are some of your favorite places to visit for lake camping? Tell us in the comments below!

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