By Megan Horst-Hatch
For die-hard campers, there really is no off season when it comes to roughing it in the great outdoors. But for successful overnight camping, campers need to know where they can stay overnight, as well as where to go to stock up on camping essentials. Luckily, the Chicagoland area has many independent camping stores, as well as numerous camping sites within a few hours’ drive of the city. Check out the following tips for where to go before planning your next overnight camping excursion this winter.
Uncle Dan’s — The Great Outdoor Store
3551 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
When it comes to camping outside in the winter, having the proper insulation is a must. Uncle Dan’s, located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, offers parkas and jackets with both down and synthetic insulation for men and women. The store also offers boots with fleece lining, ensuring your toes stay warm even in freezing temperatures. Whether you’re planning a quick overnight trip or a longer expedition, Uncle Dan’s offers a variety of backpacks to properly accommodate your load. Tents, cookware, first-aid packets and hydration packets are also available for sale. Taking the kids with you on your camping trip? Uncle Dan’s can help you out, as it offers down boots, jackets, parkas, ponchos, hats and gloves for boys, girls and babies. Uncle Dan’s has two additional stores in Chicago’s north suburbs.
Erehwon Mountain Outfitter
1000 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
When you think of mountain climbing, you can be forgiven for not thinking of Chicago. But where’s a mountaineer to go for camping supplies? Enter Erehwon Mountain Outfitter. Located in Chicago’s Near North Side, the store offers just about everything a camper needs for camping in mountains or in the flat lands of Illinois, including tents, tent accessories, sleeping bags and water purifiers. Campers can also purchase items specifically for children or dogs, ensuring that every member of the family can stay warm and dry while camping in the winter. Novice and expert campers alike can also find books on camping at the company’s store. While getting out into the woods can be a low-tech experience, Erehwon offers high-tech products like GPS units. Erehwon has two additional stores in the Chicagoland area, and two in Wisconsin. The company has also branched out into other sports and includes products for running, climbing, kayaking, snowboarding and skiing.
Army Navy Sales
3100 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
For some campers, an overnight expedition into the woods requires military precision. Luckily, Army Navy Sales can help out on that end. Located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the store’s field gear products include flashlights, cookware, compasses, water purification kits, insect repellant, knives and lighters. If it’s boots you need, then Army Navy has you covered with its selection of waterproof socks and Gore-Tex insulated boots. The company also sells parkas designed to be worn during extreme cold, which it claims is “the warmest parka the U.S. Military has to offer.” Army Navy Sales also sells emergency blankets, which reflect body heat back to the body. Other camping gear includes shovels, beds, blankets, axes, sleeping bags, towels and tents, including a three-room, family-style cabin.
Chain O’Lakes State Park
8916 Wilmot Road
Spring Grove, IL 60081
If you’re looking for a camping trip close to home, consider checking out Chain O’Lakes State Park. Located one hour northwest of downtown Chicago, the park offers almost 2,800 acres and features four hiking trails. For campers looking for some winter sports, consider sledding, cross-country skiing or ice fishing. For those who want to spend the night in the park, but not outside, Chain O’Lakes offers cabins for rent for up to six people. Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made through Reserve America. The park has 151 Class A-Premium camping sites which are $25 per night and 87 Class B-Premium sites for $87 per night. If you plan to bring your own firewood, use caution. According to the park’s website, only firewood certified through the Department of Agriculture may be brought into the park.
Ottawa Lake Visitor Center and Campground
S59 W36530 County ZZ
Dousman, WI 53118
Fancy a bit of a road trip for an overnight camping expedition this winter? Then head north to Ottawa Lake Visitor Center and Campground in Wisconsin. The only year-round camping ground in the southern unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest, the location has 100 camping sites, 49 of which have electricity. Showers, flush toilets and a winter pit toilet building are all on site. A cabin can also be reserved at this campground. Sites range from $12 to $17 per night and a nonresident fee applies to campers from outside Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, firewood from out of state or from more than 25 miles away is not allowed. You can reserve a camping site online. Ottawa Lake is approximately 2.5 hours from downtown Chicago. For a scenic route, take Route 12 directly to Kettle Moraine.