GEAR REVIEW: Ice Castle for summer camping.

72013 - ice castle side logo

We say that the Minnesota Sporting Journal is about Minnesota and what Minnesotans like to do.  This past weekend a lot of Minnesotans were at Moondance Jam in Walker.  It isn’t about hunting and fishing as much, but there were a lot of sportsmen there, judging by the number of Ice Castles that people were camping in.

72013 - ice castle side full

In between sets from Slash, Cheap Trick, Motley Crue, Halestorm, The Offspring and more, people were lounging around in the campground, playing bags or relaxing next to a campfire.  Then at night, they’d crawl into their campers and try to get enough rest to do it again the next day.  It’s a tradition that Bill Bieloh started 22 years ago.

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This year I wanted to camp in an Ice Castle so I called up Mark Harmon over at Smokey Hills in Park Rapids.  They are the biggest Ice Castle dealer in northern Minnesota so I knew they’d have one in the lot for me to check out.

They almost didn’t.

I wasn't the only one in an Ice Castle this weekend
I wasn’t the only one in an Ice Castle this weekend

Ice Castles were flying out of the parking lot, one after another, but fortunately there was one 2013 Lake of the Woods model that would be the ideal shelter for my weekend in Walker.   A 8 x 16 that sleeps 5, v nose, with the most important amenity for the past week:  Air conditioning!

When the mercury rises past the 90 mark, I like having a respite from the heavy, humid Minnesota climate.  This Ice Castle would do the trick!

72013 - ice castle bed

I took down the table and made myself a nice bed with plenty of elbow room, ignoring the two other beds and couch.  Although the couch would come in handy when I had some friends over.    The heat, sink,  stove went unused, as they weren’t needed for this trip, but it was nice to know they were there.

72013 - ice castle sink

These units are becoming more and more common in the campgrounds at various festivals, state parks and anywhere in the environs that life takes you.  I lost track of how many ice fishing shelters I saw at the Jam this year.  Starting at $12,900, it makes an affordable camper that can be used 12 months out of the year.

72013 - ice castle couch

I did rent a generator to run the AC since I didn’t have an electrical campsite.  A 3000 watt unit was recommended, but I went with a 6000, because I don’t think you can ever have too much power.  As Harmon put it, “You’ll be able to hang meat in there.”  That was true, it was a sauna outside and a meat locker on the inside-perfect.

This was a nice touch for a radio guy like me.
This was a nice touch for a radio guy like me.

The unit hauled perfectly behind my Silverado 1500 and I never bothered to lower it to the ground.  Just un-hitched and let ‘er sit.

Smokey Hills has a wide variety of units to choose from and can help you figure out which one is right for you, just give them a call at 218-237-5099 or visit their website at

smokey hills summer quar page3

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