There are many different types of camping, from car and tent camping to backcountry camping and even glamping. Chances are there are some types of camping you’ve never even heard of and new ways of enjoying the outdoors are being thought of all the time.
One type of camping that isn’t as common is cart-in camping. What is it and how does it work? Also, what is the appeal?
So what is cart-in camping?
Cart-in camping is a balance between car and backcountry camping where you need a cart to haul your supplies from your car to the campsite in a cart. You will not have to go as far from your car as you would backcountry camping but you will still be farther away from things like roads than you would in most traditional campsites. Carts are usually provided at the parking area or the check in area for you to “cart in” you gear and supplies.
There is a lot of equipment and gear that goes into a successful camping trip. Being able to transport all of it to your campsite in an easy and efficient manner will make any trip that much more enjoyable.
You will also spend less time making trips back and forth to the car, freeing up time to get your campsite set up and enjoy the surrounding nature. It also makes packing up to head home a breeze so you can get on the road faster and beat the traffic home.
Some campgrounds have designated sites that are referred to as camp-in campsites. These types of sites are popular in Minnesota and are found in several of their state parks.
The parks which offer cart-in camping are:
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park
- Blue Mounds State Park
- Frontenac State Park
- Glendalough State Park
- Itasca State Park
- Kilen Woods State Park
- Lake Shetek State Park
- Rice Lake State Park
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
- Temperance River State Park
- Tettegouche State Park
Additional unique types of camping offered in other Minnesota state parks include walk-in, backpacking, canoe-in, kayak-in, bike-in, and boat-in sites.
While the walk-in sites are less than a ¼ mile from the place where you park, backpack sites are often more than a ¼ mile. Some cart-in sites could also be a ¼ mile from parking and the path may be up a hill. Carts are often provided in a separate lot near the parking area and can be used to unload your car and take everything to the site.
A camping cart is a great option for bringing supplies to your campsite, even if you aren’t cart-in camping. One of the main reasons they are so popular with campers is because you can bring a lot of stuff without having to carry it on your back. Some carts can hold up to 150 pounds which would be impossible to take in a backpack.
Instead, put everything into the wagon and drag it to the designated area. You can even put your pets and young children in the cart if they are too tired to make the trek themselves.
Timber Ridge Folding Camping Wagon/Cart (Amazon Link)
Pros and Cons of Cart-In Camping
Because cart-in camping is a cross between car camping and backcountry camping, you get the best of both worlds without any of the drawbacks. Cart-in sites are much further apart than traditional campsites and offer a lot of privacy.
You get the feeling of being in a remote area, much like the backcountry, without having to rough it without access to your car. If the campsite also has amenities like showers and flushing toilets, then you can simply walk over to use them.
The campsite itself will also be removed from the main campground so there will be less noise and traffic. You may not even be able to see or hear your neighbors either.
Being further away also means incredible views of lakes and pristine nature landscapes. You’ll love waking up to all the surrounding beauty yet still being able to grab a hot shower after your morning coffee.
Although things will be a short hike away, it will be well worth it for the added peace and quiet, not to mention the scenery. Cart-in sites usually give you a cart to use so you don’t have to worry about owning one yourself.
Cart-in camping isn’t ideal for those who cannot walk long distances or over rough terrain because it requires hiking back and forth to use amenities. These sites are also not handicap accessible so are not a good option for anyone in a wheelchair.
Things to Look for in a Camping Cart
If cart-in campsites are not an option where you live but you think you could benefit from having a camping cart, then look into purchasing one for future trips. Many carts are referred to as camping wagons and there is a wide array to choose from.
Some features that are important when it comes to camping include:
- Lots of storage – The most important feature is that they can hold a lot of things which results in fewer trips back and forth to the car; it should also be strong enough to support a lot of weight.
- Durability – When it comes to camping, you want a sturdy frame and heavy-duty fabric that can take a lot of wear and tear.
- Collapsible or foldable – A cart or wagon that folds and is compact will take up less room and be easy to store; it should also be relatively easy to fold and put away
- All-terrain Wheels – Look for larger wheels that can easily navigate the rustic terrain that is found when camping. Wheels that rotate might also be necessary for smooth maneuvering.
- Lightweight – The starting weight of the cart should be relatively low because you’ll be adding much more as you load it. A cart that is already quite heavy will be even more difficult to pull.
- Safe – If you’re transporting kids or pets, safety is of the utmost importance. Look for seat belts and make sure it also has safety brakes. You also don’t want the cart to tip over and spill everything out on the trail.
- Long Handle – Many carts received negative ratings because the handles weren’t long enough for an adult. When it comes to camping and hauling a lot of gear, kids probably won’t be able to do it on their own.
- Easy to Assemble – Try to find a cart that comes fully assembled or is relatively easy to put together to avoid frustration and save time.
- Carrying Case or Bag – Having a container to store it in while traveling or when it’s not in use will make your life much easier.
- Good Value – Some carts just aren’t worth their price and you don’t want to spend a lot just to find the cart doesn’t work well for camping.
- Design & Colors – Functionality is important but you probably want a cart or wagon that also looks good and suits your style.
- Easy to Clean – Things get dirty easily while camping so the material shouldn’t be difficult to clean once you get home.
- Padded Cushions – When transporting kids and pets, having a soft seat is always nice.
- Cup Holders – Most carts have cup holders built in so drinks are within reach.
- Canopy – Some carts do have a retractable canopy feature to block the sun from any sensitive passengers.
- Warranty or Guarantee – Should your cart get damaged or broken, it’s always nice to have some kind of guarantee so you can get it repaired easily.
- Ergonomic Handle – Make pulling a breeze and don’t strain yourself. It’s also helpful if there’s a mechanism to keep the handle up when it’s not in use so you don’t trip over it.
Video from Split Rock Cart In Campsite
Other Uses for Camping Carts
One of the reasons you might be hesitant to buy your own camping cart is if you just don’t go camping all that often. Will it really be worth the investment? And how many camping trips will you have to take before it pays for itself?
Well, not to worry, there are many other things you can use the cart for during the off-season or whenever you don’t feel up to a full-blown camping trip.
- Hauling Groceries – Make unpacking the car a breeze, especially if you’re in an apartment with an elevator.
- Taking Kids for a Ride – Go for a stroll around the neighborhood or down to the park. It’s also a great way to take the kids around when visiting the zoo or farmer’s market.
- Moving into College – Make moving into the dormitory a breeze by piling all your student’s supplies into the cart.
- Beach Trips – Some carts are made just for the beach but any camping cart should also do really well maneuvering over sand.
- Picnics – Have a picnic in the park and bring all your food and drinks in the cart.
- Napping – Let young children have their nap outside in the wagon after a fun-filled day.
- Put Flowers Inside – While some people permanently plant things in their old wagons, you can simply put pots in it for decor so it’s ready for use when you need it again.
- Mobile Cooler – Fill the bed with ice and keep drinks cold during a barbecue or other outdoor event.
- Fall Harvest – Take the cart along when you go apple picking or the pumpkin patch so you don’t have to carry anything.
- Use it as a Prop – Perfect for Halloween costumes or to use in family photos.
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