“A Minnesota State Park hidden treasure!” claims the DNR website regarding its camper cabins. Our family couldn’t agree more. We got hooked on camper cabining a few years ago.
The DNR defines camper cabins as follows:
“…rustic, one-room wooden cabins that provide basic shelter for visitors who want a “camping out” experience but prefer not to deal with a tent.
Each 12 by 16 foot cabin contains a table, benches, and wooden bunkbeds with mattresses. Most cabins have a screened porch and electricity, and many are wheelchair accessible. Sorry, no pets allowed.”
Examples of the Outside of Camper Cabins
Example of the Inside of a Camper Cabin
Video Tour of Camper Cabin at Whitewater
If you are planning a winter getaway in one of these hidden treasures, below are a few tips from our family’s experiences. There’s no right or wrong way; what’s most important is getting outside and enjoying our beautiful state.
For those year-round cabins with heat (most are electric or propane fireplace), it will be off to conserve energy until you turn it on upon your arrival. One November, we arrived late afternoon and it was 31 degrees on the camper cabin’s thermometer – inside! Even though the room was small, it took a couple of hours to warm up. We were in full winter gear as we unpacked and got settled. Next time, we plan to arrive early, turn on the heat, and then go for a hike in order to return to a cozy camper cabin.
Most (if not all) year-round camper cabins do not have access to showers and flush toilets. However, a vault toilet is located nearby. We find it helpful for each of us to have camp shoes, as every time you have to go to the bathroom, you need to put on shoes for the short walk outside to the vault toilet. Our first year, I was trying to pack lightly so I only brought my hiking boots, which meant I had to lace up my footwear every time I had to make a trip to the outhouse – ugh!
Speaking of bodily functions, we now always bring an extra roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer as the vault toilets are shared and sometimes run out of these necessities (recall there is no running water for hand washing). We also throw in a box of tissues for the cabin, as our noses seem to run more in the wintertime.
One last tip for potty runs, be sure to have a portable light. A flashlight would work. We find headlamps work better because then your hands are free to do your business.
The bunk beds have those dorm-like waterproof, nylon mattresses (think: hard, but not as hard as the ground). Early on, we all brought sleeping bags but then spent much of the night listening to the swish of bag against slippery mattress. We now pack bottom sheets to cover the mattresses and reduce the noise. And it is just more comfortable. I still bring ear plugs because of snoring cabinmates (I’ve been told I’m one, but I’ve never heard myself snore).
No cooking is allowed in the cabin, but one perk of those with electricity is the ability to use a slow cooker and coffee maker. Both have added much convenience to our camper cabin meals.
A few other things to remember to bring: garbage bag, plates and silverware, dish towel, reusable water bottles, a water jug that is easily portable and pourable (water is usually available somewhere near the park’s office in the winter), matches, and of course, s’more-making supplies (firewood is available for sale at park office).
- Map of camper cabin locations and seasonality.
- Details on each camper cabin’s amenities.
- General information about MN State Park camper cabins.
- A post I wrote entitled, “MN State Park Camper Cabins: The Perfect Winter Retreat”.
- Reports from our camper cabining experiences at Bear Head Lake and Whitewater. Similarly, Tettegouche Camp offers a memorable winter retreat with a few more amenities (which are worth the uphill hike in!).
Share your tips for winter camper cabining in the comment box below. Thanks!