The Definitive Apostle Islands Packing Guide

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The Apostle Islands is one of the most beautiful places in the Midwestern United States if not all of North America.  Tourists flock to the islands each year to do some kayaking, hiking and enjoy the beautiful beaches.  However, each year I see tourists arrive in the Apostle Islands completely unprepared.  They either don’t have the right clothing for the climate, don’t have the right gear for the activities they would like to try, or don’t have the equipment to keep them safe and comfortable while camping.

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In this Apostle Islands Packing Guide, I am going to give you all of the information that you need to pack for a fun and safe trip to Northwest Wisconsin.  In this guide, you will find a list of the essential gear that you absolutely must bring to the islands, a list of gear that I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about camping out in the islands, and a list of photography and video gear that I like to bring when I visit.


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If you are reading this guide, the chances are that you have already read my Apostle Islands Visitor Guide.  If you haven’t, I would definitely recommend checking it out for some great information on the top things to do in the area, my recommendations on where to stay and where to eat, and other important information like what times of the year it is best to visit.

The Essential Packing List

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NOTE:  This post contains references to products on my Amazon Store site.  I may receive a commission when you purchase these products from my store, though at no additional cost to you.   I hand-pick and recommend only the products that I am either familiar with or comfortable recommending.

When visiting the Apostle Islands, there is just some gear that is so important that you really shouldn’t visit without it.  Whether it be for safety, comfort, or just convenience, these are pieces of gear that I always have with me when I make a trip to the Apostle Islands.  I have listed those pieces of gear below for you to review.

Wicking T-Shirt
Having a good wicking T-Shirt with you when you visit the Apostle Islands is important, especially if you are going to be doing some hiking or getting out on a kayak.  A wicking T-Shirt will wick away moisture so that you don’t feel cold when you get wet from sweat or from the water when kayaking.
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Beach Towel
When you are out-and-about at the Apostle Islands, you can’t count on finding a restroom with toilet paper.  Even if you do, it is typically the single-ply stuff that is essentially useless.  Carrying your own toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other essential items are key.
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Wet Suit
Lake Superior can be cold.  And when I say cold, I mean it can be painfully cold at certain times of the year.  Even in early summer, it can be quite uncomfortable, especially in deep water.   While many tour companies do supply them, if you have your own I would bring it just in case.
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Waterproof Phone Protector
If you are going to bring your phone with you out on the water, you are going to want to make sure it is protected from the water and elements.  Having a waterproof phone protector won’t save your phone if it falls in (that is what a wet bag is for), but it can save it from unforeseen splashes.  Definitely worth purchasing and bringing.
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Water Shoes\Aqua Socks
If you plan on being in or around the water while in the Apostle Islands, which many people who visit typically are, then you are going to want to have the proper footwear.  This is especially true if you are kayaking.  I have found that water shoes, or aqua socks as they are sometimes called, work best.
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Water Bottle
When doing a lot of hiking or kayaking in the Apostle Islands, it is important to stay hydrated.  Instead of bringing plastic bottles of water, a more environmentally friendly thing to do is bring your own reusable water bottle that you can fill up.
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A swimsuit is essential when you are visiting the Apostle Islands, especially if you are going to be spending some time at the beach or in a kayak.  When picking out a swimsuit to bring, make sure it is something that is fairly tight fitting that will fit underneath a wetsuit.
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When you visit the Apostle Islands, chances are you will be spending quite a bit of time outdoors.  You are going to want to protect yourself from the sun, especially if you are out on the water kayaking.  Bringing an adequate supply of sunscreen is crucial.
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If you are planning on doing some kayaking and you get motion sickness easily, you might want to consider bringing some motion sickness tablets such as Dramamine with you on your trip.  The waters of Lake Superior can get quite choppy at times.
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Bug Spray
There is an old joke that the state bird of Wisconsin, or any other state in the Midwest United States, is the mosquito.  They can get pretty bad in the morning and evenings, especially during wet years.  Having a good supply of bug spray is important.
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If you are going to be doing some hiking or kayaking, you will want to have a good pair of sunglasses with you as well.  Especially if you are out on the water, the glare from the sun can really wear your eyes out.
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Safari or Sun Hat
When you are doing some long hikes or kayaking in the Apostle Islands, the sun can get intense.  Another great way to protect your neck and face from the sun is to bring a wide-brimmed hat such as a safari hat.
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Rain Gear
You are definitely going to want to have some rain gear with you when you visit the Apostle Islands because the weather around Lake Superior can be rather unpredictable.  Having a way to stay dry if you are hiking or kayaking and a storm rolls in is important.
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Hiking Boots
The Apostle Islands has some fantastic hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, but those trails can also be slippery and can have some fairly precarious areas for footing.  For this reason, it is important to bring a good pair of hiking shoes with you if you would like to do some hiking while you visit.
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Sweaters or Sweatshirt
The weather around Lake Superior can get quite chilly at times, even during the summer months.  If you are going to be spending time outdoors hiking or kayaking, then you will want to make sure you have a warm layer that you can put on if you get cold.
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Digital Camera or DSLR
With so many absolutely beautiful spots in the Apostle Islands, you will want to make sure you have a camera with you to document your travels.  For more information on the camera gear that I recommend, please see the photography section of this guide below.
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Dry Bag
For anyone that will be heading out on the water to do some kayaking, boating, or paddleboarding, you are going to want to make sure that you keep your valuables safe and dry.  The best way to do this is to have a dry bag with you.  Some kayak tour companies will provide one to you to use, but not all of them do.  It is a great piece of equipment to invest in if you do a lot of activities near the water when you travel.
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The Camping Packing List

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If you are planning on doing some camping in the Apostle Islands, you will want to make sure you are prepared.  If you aren’t prepared, it can be a fairly miserable experience.  Seriously, sleeping in the north woods without the proper tent, mosquito repellant, and sleeping bag can be a real drag.  In case you are wondering what type of camping gear to bring with you to the Apostle Islands, I have included a list of essential camping gear to bring below for you to review.

The most important piece of camping gear that you will bring with you is your tent.  A great piece of advice that I have picked up on my travels is to include a bucket of charcoal in your tent.  This will absorb much of the moisture that can leave your sleeping bag (and you) damp in the morning.
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Sleeping Bags
If you are going to be camping in the Apostle Islands during the summer, a bag with a +30° F to +55° F rating will probably be sufficient.  However, if you are camping in the early spring or late fall, then a bag that is rated at +5° F to +29° F would be recommended.
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Sleeping Mats
Having a good sleeping pad to use when you are camping is not essential for the Apostle Islands as the added insulation from the ground typically isn’t needed during the summer months, but if you are camping during the colder months or just want to be extra comfortable, it is really nice to have one with you.
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Camping Tarps
Having an extra tarp to place on the ground so that your tent bottom doesn’t get too saturated with moisture overnight is a great idea, especially in the Apostle Islands where it can be quite humid during the daytime and see a lot of dew overnight.
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Camping Toiletries
Bringing your own toiletry items is important when visiting the Apostle Islands.  You cannot bank on finding a bathroom that has toilet paper, and even the ones that do only have the single-ply stuff that is fairly useless.  Having hand sanitizer with you is also a good idea.
Shop Camping Toiletries on Amazon
Flashlight or Head Lamp
Most of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a wilderness area, so it can get quite dark at night.  Unless you want to be tripping all over yourself, I would recommend bringing a source of lighting for night time with you.  A good flashlight or headlamp works very well.
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Stove or Grill
While there are towns where you will find restaurants in the Apostle Islands, they aren’t in very close proximity to the most popular campgrounds.  I would recommend bringing your own backpacking stove or portable grill with you.  Just make sure you abide by the camping regulation for the Apostle Islands if you do so.
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Matches or Fire Starter
If you are going to have a campfire or use a stove or grill when camping (no great camping trip can go without those things), then you are going to want to make sure you have matches or a good fire starter with you.  If you use matches, I would make sure you bring waterproof matches in a watertight container.
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If you are planning on bringing water with you to the Apostle Islands, then you are going to want to have a way to keep it cool.  Having a small cooler with you can help keep your water and other beverages cool during the hot days.  Remember, if you are going to bring food to the Apostle Islands, it should always be stored in the bear-proof food storage lockers (when provided).
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Campsite Chairs
After a long day of kayaking or hiking, you will probably want to sit by a warm campfire at night and swap stories and enjoy a nice beverage.  This is why I would recommend packing some folding chairs with you if you are going to camp out in the Apostle Islands.
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The Photography Packing List

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If you are like me and love to document your travels in pictures and video, then you are probably wondering what type of photography gear you should bring with you to the Apostle Islands.  Fear not, I have you covered.  I have included a list of the essential photography gear that I would recommend bringing to the Apostle Islands for you to review below.

Digital Camera
The most important piece of camera gear you have to think about bringing to the Apostle Islands is your camera.  Really, any camera will do, including the one on your phone.  Just make sure you know how to use it before you head off on your trip.  There are so many pretty things to photograph!
Shop Digital Cameras on Amazon
GoPro Camera
If you are interested in filming your time in the Apostle Islands, I would strongly recommend getting a GoPro camera.  They are small, easy to handle, can be fixed to a number of different accessories for easy shooting, and they are waterproof.
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Camera Tripod
For those interested in getting some shots at sunrise and sunset (the best shots are always taken during those times), then you are going to want to bring a sturdy tripod.  I really love the new carbon fiber tripods that are both sturdy and ultra-light.  My favorite brand is MeFoto.
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Polarizing Filter
Those of you who read my blog know that I am absolutely obsessed with polarizing filters.  I love the way they bring out the deepness in the sky color and tone down the glare off of shiny surfaces like water.  Which is exactly why I absolutely recommend having a polarizing filter for your lens for the Apostle Islands.’
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Lens Hood
When shooting in the sun, and especially near the water where shade is hard to come by, having a good lens hood for your lenses can be a lifesaver.  I recommend having one for each of the lenses that you bring to the Apostle Islands.
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GoPro Headstrap
If you are going to bring a GoPro to the Apostle Islands, you will want to make sure you have the right accessories with you as well.  For me, the head hardness worked the best when I was kayaking.  The shots from the chest harness were impeded by my paddling and there wasn’t a great place on the kayak to mount the GoPro.
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Camera Weather Protector
Because the weather around Lake Superior is so unpredictable, and the fact that you are around water a lot in the Apostle Islands, I strongly recommend getting a weather protector for your camera before you visit.  If you don’t want to invest in a re-usable one, they do make some pretty inexpensive disposable ones you can buy.
Shop Camera Weather Protectors on Amazon
Extra Camera Batteries
It seems like I recommend this for every destination I cover, but there is a very good reason for that.  The last thing you want is to run out of battery life and then find something you desperately want to photograph.  Finding a way to charge batteries can be difficult if you are out-and-about in the Apostle Islands.  I would recommend bringing a few extra batteries just in case.
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