Lake life is where it’s at. Camping near a lake allows for playing at the beach, going fishing, boating, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding. Being by the water not only gives you plenty of things to do but also triggers a sense of calm and joy. I love hearing the sound of birds calling or waves hitting the shoreline. And there’s nothing better than ending a beautiful day of RVing with an even more beautiful sunset over the lake.
To prepare for a week 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.
Waterfront campsites are among the most popular spots 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 and check for last-minute cancellations at campgrounds.
Where there is water, there are typically pesky insects—especially when temperatures heat up. It’s the unfortunate part of camping near a lake or in the woods. It is hard to truly enjoy the outdoors when you’re constantly swatting away unwanted insects. Mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks are among your worst enemies so come prepared with you anti-insect weapons of choice: bug spray with DEET, permethrin-treated clothes, Thermacell, and a screen room.
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Bug spray: Look for a spray with 25 to 50 percent DEET. Spray every couple of hours especially if you’re using repellent that isn’t waterproof. After a day on the water, douse yourself in bug spray before coming back to the campsite.
Permethrin: Treat your clothing with permethrin a few days before your camping trip for best results. The treatment usually lasts up to five or six washes. The best part is that after you treat your clothes there’s no odor or sticky residue that bug spray often leaves behind.
Thermacell: Create your own little forcefield of protection around your campsite by using a Thermacell or two. It works wonders for any 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 ensure you have room for one when booking a campsite.
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Reel in your next big catch
If you’re camping by a lake, be sure to pack your fishing gear. In fact, many RVers choose lake campsites because they want to fish. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors alone or with friends and family. Consider keeping an extra travel rod in the RV in case you forget to pack the fishing gear or end up breaking a rod.
Telescopic rods are perfect for RVers. The telescope in and out so that they can be a full-sized rod but also collapse 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. If you keep these fish fry essentials in your RV pantry at all times there will be fewer things you need to remember to pack.
Safety first with life jackets
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 at least 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.
Stay safe in the sun
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. A day on the water usually means stronger sun rays due to reflection from the water.
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UV rays can even impact your skin even when swimming in a lake as the rays penetrate through the water. Look for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and apply it often.
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.
And don’t forget to protect your noggin and peepers by wearing a wide-brimmed 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.
Get on the water without towing a boat
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 other ways to bring a boat with you to the lake. You can paddle around on a lake in a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board. It allows you to fish and explore different areas of the lake that you otherwise can’t experience.
Many kayaks can fit through the door of most RVs. Wrap your kayak in a blanket before sliding it in to avoid scuffing up cabinets and walls.
Most toy haulers are perfectly suited for hauling all your water sports equipment. Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards will easily slide 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 in your RV. Another advantage of a toy hauler is that they have hooks on the floor to secure any objects while on the move.
If you want to be able to take your kayak to a lake that isn’t within walking distance, you’ll want a roof rack for your toad/tow 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 hauling 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 come in a kit with a carrying case for storage and portability and a manual pump so that you can pump them up anywhere. Since it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to fully inflate, consider an electric pump.
Beach Party Essentials
A day at the lake may put you in the mood for a beach party or at least the atmosphere that feels like a beach party.
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Must-pack essentials that make your lake day feel more like a party may include:
- 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
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.
It is good to appreciate that life is now. Whatever it offers, little or much, life is now—this day—this hour.
—Charles Macomb Flandrau