Even as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, Minnesota DNR still seeing high interest in camping

Petra and Jerry Hennek are among the people who will skip their traditional vacation this year for some time out camping. (FOX 9)

If you were headed out for a weekend away, Thursday wasn't the perfect day for camping. With rain throughout the day and chilly temps, the showers left some campers soaked. But, that didn't stop some from getting an early start to their Memorial Day weekend.

After the pandemic sent many people to the outdoors and trying out new hobbies, the state is still seeing an influx of campers out in parks.

Petra and Jerry Hennek, like a lot of campers, roll with the weather and, like a lot of campers, would never have even been out here in it if not for COVID-19.

"We’d be on a Rhine cruise," said Petra, if not for the pandemic.

"We have other friends we travel with and we gave up the options," added Jerry. "We gave up the options of even thinking about those kinds of trips [like Mexico] because of the pandemic. It just isn’t, wasn’t going to happen."

They bought their Airstream, named "Georgie," two months ago after isolating at home all last year -- after decades away from camping, when their kids were young and they hauled around a pop-up.

"We knew that, as seniors, we weren’t going to go that route," said Petra. "We wanted more comfort."

Last summer, in the height of the pandemic, sales of campers and camping supplies took off, as other types of vacations were cancelled. The DNR says even now coming out of the pandemic they’re still seeing its effects. State campgrounds were always full on the weekends but they saw an increase in weekday reservations. So far this year, campers who were new to it last year are already returning this spring.

So far in 2021, reservations at state parks are up about 5 percent more than pre-pandemic 2019.

"Actually, on our trip back today, we stopped at another RV park over in Taylors Falls and they said they’re booked through August," said Jerry.