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Is it Safe to Camp Alone?
Outdoorsy people have all eventually run into a scenario where they want to go explore somewhere but don’t have anyone to go with them. Most people eventually become comfortable hiking alone, or even kayaking alone, but something about an overnight camping trip alone gives people pause. Is camping alone really safe, and can I do it?
Yes, it is entirely safe to camp alone, even as a woman. But, it is important to keep in mind that solo camping requires more preparation than camping with others. This includes preparing yourself and your mind to solo camp, bringing all the proper safety gear, and having a back-up safety plan. With these precautions in place camping alone can be an amazing and confidence-building experience.
I have only recently started camping alone in the past couple of years, and want to share the top 10 tips I have for solo campers.
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Camping Alone: Preparation for your Mind and Trip
Preparation is the key to successfully camping alone. A poorly prepared camping trip is never fun, so do yourself a favor and be sure you’re prepared.
Being prepared to camp alone means knowing what to expect, and choosing the right place to go at the right time. In other words, if you’ve never camped before, don’t plan on a 10 day remote wilderness trip, or else you’re setting yourself up for a potentially dangerous situation.
Let’s discuss four preparations you should do before camping alone in more details so you can be ready to take on the wilderness by yourself.
1. Having Basic Camping Knowledge
Knowledge comes in many forms, and when camping solo you need to have some specific knowledge about the outdoors.
If you’re hiking to your campsite, you need to have some basic understandings of how to hike and what to expect while on the trail and at the site. Once you’re at your site, you need to be prepared to set up your tent, navigate around, get clean water, handle wildlife encounters, and build a fire or use a stove to cook.
This is why it’s always good to have camped with others a few times before attempting your first solo camping adventure. You’ll have a better idea of what to expect and what to do. If this isn’t an option, then I recommend doing a test-run by camping in your back yard or nearby park. That way if you forgot something, you can run back in to grab it, and when you go on your real camping trip, you’ll be much more prepared.
2. Choose a Proper Campsite
If you’re camping solo for the first time don’t go too big. Staying local can bring you a lot of confidence as you venture into the woods alone for the first time overnight.
My recommendation for anyone camping alone for the first time is find a place that is within an hour of your home, has cell service, and is a place you’ve at least hiked near before. This way you feel more comfortable pitching up here, and if you do need to bail out mid-way through the night, you’re not too far away from your house.
As you gain more confidence and experience you can venture further away and even try solo wilderness camping. But, build up to that – don’t start there.
3. Be Aware of Weather
Weather is always important to be aware of in any outdoor adventure, but when solo camping it is even more important. That’s because camping alone is one thing, but camping alone during a thunderstorm is a completely different challenge.
If you’ll be heading out for the first time go when there will be good, safe weather conditions. And, if there’s even a chance of adverse weather, be sure you have the proper rain gear for yourself and your tent and are aware of what to do if you need to camp in dangerous weather conditions.
4. Be Prepared to Calm Your Mind
Finally, a preparation many overlook is preparing their mind for the trip. Often, people are so excited to give it a go they forget to plan for the amount of time you’ll have with your thoughts in the woods. And trust me, this can be overwhelming.
Every twig breaking or brush rustling you hear is going to make your brain run wild with worst case scenario’s of animal attacks. When you have the silence of the woods for hours on end, those thoughts that you’ve pushed to the back of your brain will all come forward and you may have to confront something you’ve been avoiding.
Preparing the mind can be hard work, but is absolutely essential if you plan to camp alone. Luckily, this is something that becomes easier with experience, so even if your first trip out is a bit scary, by the time you’re a few solo-camping trips in you’ll have this down and feel much less frightened.
Camping Alone: Bring Proper Safety Gear
Safety is usually the first concern people have with camping alone. There are worries about emergencies, running into animals, or unsafe people, and just generally needing something you don’t have. It can be intimidating to venture into the woods alone, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
However, being safe in the woods alone is all about having the right gear and knowing what to do in emergency situations. Let’s dive into each of the situations you may encounter and what you need to be ready for them in the woods alone.
5. Bring All the Gear You Need
The first aspect of being safe is having everything you need. This includes rain gear in case of rain, or extra clothes if needed, a way to cook food, and a whole host of other things needed while solo camping.
I’d recommend checking out our Solo Camping Gear Checklist page for a full guide of what to bring, and make sure you don’t forget anything on the list. It can be easy to not bring enough food, or forget shoes to navigate a river crossing – so having a god checklist and a good plan for solo camping can make sure you’re never in a situation where you’re missing something important.
6. Animal Safety Preparedness
Depending on where you’ll be camping, it’s important to know the wildlife of the area and how to handle them should you have an encounter.
In the northeast, we’re most worried about Black Bears, Mountain Lions, and Moose – but if you’re camping in other areas you may need to prepare for other types of bears or wildlife encounters (including snakes, scorpions, etc…).
Each wildlife encounter should be handled differently – so do your research. Know what to do if you run into these creatures while camping solo, and bring any preventative measure you’d need to help you out if you encounter animals.
7. Human Safety Preparedness
Although most people that you run into while hiking or camping will be absolutely wonderful people, there’s always a chance you run into someone looking to cause others harm. This can happen outside the woods too – but camping alone can make you a different type of target should you run into these people in the woods.
I find it’s always good practice to have something to protect yourself with. Most choose a sturdy knife, but others do go for guns depending on how comfortable they are with them. Animal spray, like bear spray, can also be a useful deterrent in these scenarios.
I like to carry a knife with me for situations like this, though I’ve never had to use it!
8. Keep Yourself Healthy and Well
In preparing for encounters with other animals or things – it’s important to keep in mind that probably what’s most likely to harm you in the woods is yourself.
By this I mean that not prioritizing your health and wellness while in the woods alone is the number one cause of injury. In practice, this looks like feeling terrible and lightheaded, but continuing to hike to the top of a mountain without resting. Or, it could look like not bringing enough water and not having a way to purify water. I’ve even seen people push through foot pain to find their feet a bloody mess by the time they take off their boots.
Be aware of your body and your needs and make them a priority on the trail. It’s always better to stop, rest, and take care of yourself than it is to push through and end up in a bad situation. Take care of yourself first, especially when solo camping.
Camping Alone: Have a Back-Up Safety Plan
Camping alone unsurprisingly means being alone… the entire time. So, no matter what happens out there it’s entirely on you to be able to keep yourself safe.
Most of the time, nothing happens. Sometimes though, unexpected things occur and you have to rely on others to help you out. If you have no way to communicate and don’t have an exit plan prior to you leaving for your trip, then you could end up stuck in an unsafe situation without a way to get out of it.
This is why it’s incredibly important for you have ways to communicate and an emergency exit plan anytime you plan to camp alone.
9. Have a Way to Communicate
The go-to device for communication is typically a cell phone. If you’ll be camping in a place with great cell service then this is a perfect choice (although you’ll want to bring a battery bank to ensure it will stay charged the entire length of your trip).
Things get more complicated when you’re headed into an area with spotty or no cell service at all. In these cases its even more important you have a communicator, but you can’t rely on your cell.
A common choice in these situations is to get a satellite communicator, which doesn’t rely on cell towers to communicate. They are pricey, but if you’ll be camping alone they could save your life one day in an emergency situation, and are well worth the investment.
10. Create an Emergency Exit Plan
Creating an emergency exit plan means that in the worst case scenario, even if you haven’t been able to contact someone, you still have a way to be found and rescued. This exit plan always involves having a designated safety person who is aware of the following things:
- Where you’re going to be
- When they should expect to hear from you
- What to do if they don’t hear from you
For example, if I’m going on an overnight backpacking trip in an area with cell service, my communication plan involves laying out my entire trail, letting the person know they’ll hear from me every 5 hours, and a step-by-step guide of what to do and who to contact if they haven’t heard from me.
If I’m going into an area without cell service, they know how long I plan to be gone and what to do if I don’t check in with them at the agreed upon time.
If you’re going to camp solo, then this is an essential part of your safety plan that you absolutely cannot go without.
Camping alone can be an incredible adventure that anyone can safely enjoy. Hopefully you’ve learned the basics for how to make camping alone a safe activity, and are ready to hit the campsite solo!
For other tips like these check out our hiking tips page so you can be even more confident getting into the woods.
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