Solo camping is an experience that everyone should try at least once in their lives. It’s the ultimate activity to escape your daily life and stress, but is it worth it? Is it safe to go camping alone? Well, group camping will always be safer than solo camping, but with the right preparation and knowledge, you can rest assured that solo camping is safe.
Here are 18 tips to make your solo camping trip an enjoyable experience.
Don’t lose your cool
I definitely understand your fear of solo camping. It’s dark, weird animals are making weird noises, twigs are snapping, and the only thing protecting you is the canvas of your tent. It sure can be scary, but freaking out won’t help you. Instead, keep your cool and realize that the weird noises you hear is just nature working its night shift. It’s not a killer approaching you with an axe but probably just a hungry bear planning to devour you (just kidding).
If talking to yourself helps, then you should just do so. There’s no one around to judge you, just do whatever it takes to calm your mind.
Know what you’re doing
If you’re a beginner to camping, it may be a smart idea to postpone your solo trip until you have more experience under your belt. Seriously, solo camping can be dangerous. Every year, experienced backpackers get lost, go missing or worse—die.
So for your own safety, know what you’re doing. Make sure you’re sufficiently skilled to camp on your own. Start camping with a friend who can show you the ropes and learn from them. After a few duo trips, try your first weekend trip and work your way up from there. Not only is this method much safer, but you’ll also feel more confident, making it less scary and more enjoyable.
Know how your gear works
Knowing how your gear works is important, especially when solo camping. If you’re camping in a group, you can put your brains together and figure it out a lot easier than when you’re alone.
So find the right checklist (camping, backpacking), buy the necessary gear and do research on how to use it. Practice setting up your tent in your backyard and make sure you can make a proper campfire. Seriously, imagine showing up at camp and realizing you have no clue how to pitch your tent, or worse, finding out there’s one pole missing.
While it’s important that you know how to set up your tent, you should also know how to use a map and compass. Using a map and compass is not as easy as you might think. Nowadays everyone has a GPS, but don’t forget that sooner or later electronics will fail. Therefore, always bring a map, compass and the knowledge on how to use it.
I’m sure there are people who bring a first-aid kit but have no clue how to use it. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking bad things won’t happen to you. Murphy’s Law gets to all of us, and the only thing you can do is paying attention and making sure you’re prepared.
Know how to defend yourself
You’re pretty much on your own in the wilderness. You can call 911, but they can’t help you through the phone. And by the time they get to you, it may already be too late. I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s the truth. So don’t make it easy for your attacker. Kick his balls, pull his fingers apart, target the kneecaps, stick your fingers in his eyes or hit the throat. These are all examples of techniques that my mom told me when I was a little kid. She was afraid I would be kidnapped while walking to school, and I can’t blame her, the road to school was quite worrisome.
Now, kicking a guy in his balls will only temporarily disable him. While he’s screaming in pain, you want to run and find another person or hide and call 911. When he comes back, he will be much angrier than before, which means you want to avoid a second encounter. For more information on how to defend yourself, check out this wikiHow article.
Let people know where you’re going
This is undoubtedly the most important tip that I can give you. Make sure there are at least two persons who know your route and expected return date. This will make it much easier for your rescuers to find you in case you get lost or hurt.
But don’t shout it from the rooftops
Although you should share your route with your loved ones, it’s not a good idea to put it on social media. There are way too many crazy people who’d like to hurt you, and you’re very vulnerable in the wilderness. You may have heard the story of two hikers who were murdered in Morocco during a hike (2018). They posted their destination on social media just a few days before their attack. Of course, it’s possible that this was a coincidence but still…The spooky sounds from the forest can be scary enough on their own. If you know that everyone who has seen your post on social media knows your location, it only gets creepier.
So to avoid shitting your pants, mention the specifics of your location only after your trip. This way, you can be sure there’s no crazy guy coming to get you.
Keep it short for the first time
A solo camping trip will definitely be more rewarding if you make it last longer. You’ll truly understand the nature of solitude and experience inner peace, but try to make your first trip one or two nights long.
It’s a good idea to get a feel for it first. Maybe you’ll get way too lonely because it’s certainly not something everyone loves. I do believe that introverted people tend to enjoy solo camping more than extroverts, generally speaking of course.
So it’s better to make your trip short, leaving you eager to go again, than too long so that you never want to do it again. If you loved it, you can start planning a much longer trip.
Stay close to civilization
For your first solo camping trip, I’d recommend keeping civilization close in case something goes wrong. You’ll also feel much more comfortable and less scared knowing that help is nearby.
As you progress and feel more comfortable, you can go deeper into the woods. Just make sure you’re prepared.
Bring some entertainment
Time is what you have most of in the wilderness, and don’t underestimate how much it can weigh on you. If you like to read books, bring an e-reader. It’s super small, weighs next to nothing and has enough space for thousands of books. If journaling is your thing, bring some pen and paper and start writing. Or learn something like survival skills. You could bring a book and learn to tie knots or learn about poisonous plants, mushrooms and berries.
Learning new things is always entertaining, and the wilderness is one of the best places to learn without any stress.
You’re free, so behave like it
You’re alone in the woods and nobody can hear you, no matter how hard you scream. That’s what I call freedom, and you should use it.
People do the weirdest things when solo camping. For example, throwing an egg against a tree and just watching it drip down the bark. While I’m pretty sure these are the people who forget to bring some kind of entertainment, you can still do whatever you want without people judging you.
But whatever you do, respect the Leave No Trace principle. Being weird and throwing eggs against a tree doesn’t hurt anybody, assuming the tree can’t feel it, but cutting trees, sawing branches or any other type of damage won’t be tolerated. If you wish to fully enjoy the wilderness, you first have to respect it.
Don’t talk to strangers is a rule that you should leave at home. In campsites and in the wilderness, it’s totally okay to talk to strangers and make friends. However, this doesn’t mean you should lower your guard. Be wary of your surroundings, listen to your gut feeling and know how to defend yourself.
On the other hand, people are often way too friendly in nature, and you’ll have to do your best to find a psycho killer. People all like each other because everyone has something in common and you all want to be there. That’s one reason, but it’s also because people surrounded by nature have stronger feelings of unity with other people, are more concerned with helping and supporting each other and have stronger feelings of belonging. If you’d like to know more about why people love backpacking/wild camping, check out my other article.
Be careful when wandering off trail
Getting lost is no joke, and you wouldn’t be the first one that doesn’t find its way back after wandering off trail. A forest is a beautiful place but it can get scary real quick. And if you decide to wander off the trail, make sure you know how to prevent getting lost and who to do in case you’re lost.
If you’re camping at a campsite, let your neighbors know where you’re going to hike and when you should be back. This way, you know somebody will come looking for you if you happen to lose your way. Probably not your neighbors, but they can point your rescuers in the right direction.
Keep an eye on your tent
Don’t assume that everyone is as good a person as you are. There are plenty of people who’d like to loot your tent while you’re on a hike.
And keep your eyes out for animals too. If you leave your tent open and have no campfire around, you shouldn’t be surprised when you find an animal sharing the bed with you. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to wake up with a rat looking right at you.
Keep your pack light
If you’re backpacking, you want to keep your pack as light as possible. Therefore, you really want to consider buying a one-person tent. You can also try hammock camping or tarp camping. These are great ways to cut the weight of your pack, which you really want to do on a long trip. After a few days of hiking, you’ll notice that ounces will start to feel like pounds.
For more tips on making your backpack ultralight, check out this article.
Don’t leave your campfire unattended
Campfires are awesome. I don’t know why I find them so great, but I guess it’s the cozy feeling they come with. And it’s a fact that campfires lower your blood pressure, making you feel relaxed.
However, your love for campfires shouldn’t make you forget what you’re dealing with. It could cause a wildfire, destroying plants, trees and animals. So it’s important that you never leave your campfire unattended if a wildfire is a possibility. Make sure you don’t fall asleep next to it, set an alarm if you have to.
And if it has been very dry the past few days, consider not lighting a campfire as this can be extremely dangerous. Dry leaves just need one spark for your trip to end in a disaster. And if you’ve made campfires before, you know that it can project flaming-hot embers that are very capable of causing a wildfire.
When it’s time to go to sleep, get some water and extinguish the fire. Make sure you stir it well with a stick so that each coal is cooled down.
Pitch your tent as early as possible
The good ol’ beginner’s mistake—assuming you have all the time in the world, and then end up pitching your tent in total darkness. So try to set up your tent as soon as possible. Maybe it’ll rain later in the evening, making your spot muddy.
Also, pitch your tent a few hours before total darkness. Maybe you’ll run into complications or takes it longer than you had hoped for. Setting up your tent during the night is just an annoying task.
Choose a campsite that meets your requirements
What are you looking for? Do you want to live in solitude for the next few days or do you want to meet new people and have cozy campfire stories? Some campsites may not have a bathroom, cellphone service or forbid you to make a campfire. Other campsites don’t have hiking trails in the area but only places to swim. Are you okay with this?
Bring a satellite phone or personal locator beacon
A satellite phone is great because you can use it to check in with friends or family and let them know you’re safe. Besides, you can use it to call your rescuers in case you get lost or hurt.
The same can be said for a personal locator beacon. It sends a signal that can be read from anywhere in the world. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you should consider bringing one of these, especially if you like to wander off the trail.
I find a solo tent camping trip to be the most rewarding experience. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous, meaning you have to think and act carefully. Fortunately, with a bit of knowledge, common sense and preparation, you can make your solo camping trip the most enjoyable experience ever.