This Pictured Rocks Packing Guide 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.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places in the Midwestern United States if not all of North America. Tourists flock to this stretch of the Lake Superior shoreline each year to do some kayaking, hiking and enjoy the beautiful landscapes. However, each year I see tourists arrive at Pictured Rocks 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.
In this Pictured Rocks Packing Guide, I am going to give you all of the information that you need to pack for a fun and safe trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In this guide, you will find a list of the essential gear that you absolutely must bring to the lakeshore, a list of gear that I would recommend to anyone who is thinking about camping out near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and a list of photography and video gear that I like to bring when I visit.
Pictured Rocks Packing Overview
If you are just starting to plan your trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and would like some additional tips on how to efficiently pack and prepare for any trip or outdoor adventure, I have included some links to additional packing guides in my Pictured Rocks Packing Guide below. In these guides, you will find tips and tricks on how to maximize space in your bags, how to keep your gear protected while traveling, and convenient checklists to help you make sure that you don’t forget any important gear that you will need.
The Great Lakes region of North America is one of the most underrated and under appreciated travel destinations on the continent. There is a wealth of incredible places to hike, kayak, camp, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in this region. If you are planning on visiting the Great Lakes region to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and would like some more ideas on destinations to visit, I have included links to some great guides that you might enjoy below.
NOTE: This Pictured Rocks Packing Guide 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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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 Pictured Rocks. I have listed those pieces of gear for you to review in my Pictured Rocks Packing Guide below.
Having a good wicking T-Shirt with you when you visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.
If you plan on getting into the water while at the Apostle Islands, you will want to make sure that you have a towel to dry off. You should not count on the weather being sunny or warm while in the Great Lakes region, so having a way to dry off after being in the water will keep you warm and comfortable during your visit.
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. In fact, if the water temperatures are cold when you visit, this may be the most important piece of equipment you will find on my Pictured Rocks packing list.
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.
If you plan on being in or around the water while in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
When doing a lot of hiking or kayaking in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
A swimsuit is essential when you are visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
When you visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
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.
There is an old joke that the state bird of Michigan, 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.
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.
When you are doing some long hikes or kayaking in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
You are definitely going to want to have some rain gear with you when you visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.
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.
With so many absolutely beautiful spots in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
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.
If you are planning on doing some camping near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I have included a list of essential camping gear to bring for you to review in my Pictured Rocks Packing Guide below.
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.
If you are going to be camping near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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. The last thing you want is to be cold at night when on a big kayaking or hiking trip, which makes the tent you choose the most important piece of camping gear on my Pictured Rocks packing list.
Having a good sleeping pad to use when you are camping is not essential for the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore where it can be quite humid during the daytime and see a lot of dew overnight.
Bringing your own toiletry items is important when visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 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.
Most of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.
While there are towns where you will find restaurants in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore if you do so.
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.
If you are planning on bringing water with you to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, it should always be stored in the bear-proof food storage lockers (when provided).
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Fear not, I have you covered. I have included a list of the essential photography gear that I would recommend bringing to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for you to review in my Pictured Rocks Packing Guide below.
The most important piece of camera gear you have to think about bringing to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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!
If you are interested in filming your time in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
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.
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.’
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
If you are going to bring a GoPro to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 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.
Because the weather around Lake Superior is so unpredictable, and the fact that you are around water a lot in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I strongly recommend getting a weather protector for your camera before you visit. The last thing that you want is to have your camera gear get ruined, so a weather protector is the most important piece of camera gear that you will find on my Pictured Rocks packing list. If you don’t want to invest in a re-usable one, they do make some pretty inexpensive disposable ones you can buy.
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 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I would recommend bringing a few extra batteries just in case.