Have you ever tried or thought about solo camping? Perhaps you had a camping trip lined up with a friend and last minute he or she cancels, did you decide to cancel the trip and not go alone? Solo camping for me is a lot of fun, but it’s not for everyone. In this blog post I want to hit on key tips for solo camping. Perhaps you will discover if going solo on a camp trip is for you, or not.
This blog post is not about solo camping in a State Park or State Forest campground. Such camping is not what I consider being alone when there are people likely to be fifty to one hundred yards away in another campsite. What I’m writing about here is solo camping all alone in the middle of a wilderness setting far away from towns and other people.
Imagine hiking out into the middle of the forest a few miles from a town and setting up camp for the night, without knowing what’s over the next hill or around the bend in the game trail you followed. Or going on a wilderness canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario Canada where the next closest person could be miles and miles away, if that. Even a trip into the BWCA where the next person may be across the lake you are camping on qualifies as alone.
The point is you are alone with no close aid or support, fending for yourself, using camping and bushcraft skills you have learned. The idea of this can excite and scare people all at the same time.
Don’t Psych Yourself Out!
Before jumping into the tips for solo camping I want to address the psychological barrier that keeps people for solo camping. Fear!
Yeah, it can be scary. I know first hand. A dozen years ago I went on a solo canoe trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area towards the end of the season. Nobody around. I even picked a lake that was a popular entry point thinking there would be more canoe campers around ‘just in case’. I portaged into the BWCA a couple lakes, found an island with a campsite that I liked, and setup up base camp.
First night was scary for me. I admit it. All alone, nobody around for who knows how far. The thought of bears on the island didn’t frighten me. I was just on edge, and I really don’t know why. Any sound I didn’t recognize from outside my tent in the pitch black of night got my head racing; Psycho killers on the loose! Sasquatch! Chupacabra! Circus Clowns! Wendigo! Aliens! Stampeding Chipmunks! Fishmen! And then the scariest one of them all… alien-rabid-bear-circus-clowns!
A person’s mind will run wild.
I was all alone. It was disconcerting at night. During the day was not a problem, as long as I didn’t see any clowns, and I didn’t. It was the darkness of night that freaked me a little (okay, more than a little). I’m not ashamed to say that I was scared. It’s human nature. But I got over it.
My second night was pretty darn good. I went to bed feeling some of those same nervous feelings, but I fell fast asleep shortly after I laid down. I did wake up a few times in the night but I pushed back the fearful thoughts and fell back asleep. I think I was too tired that night from lack of sleep the night before and just went for it.
When I woke up the second day I was over my night fright fears of camping alone, or mostly so.
Remember, people solo camp all the time, thousands and thousands of every night. Nothing happens. I was just another solo camper in the game of camping life. No monsters to worry about. Wild animals leave you alone… they know not to mess with you (just don’t have food in your tent or where you sleep).
I’m here to tell you that yes, it can be scary solo camping. But don’t let that keep you from experiencing it. The first couple nights you will be on edge. It passes. And you will have a good time on future outings and memories to last a lifetime.
Tips For Solo Camping – Dealing With The Fear Issues
Concerned about tackling a solo camping excursion? Start our gently… ease your way into it. The various location types listed below are based on solo camping exercises.
- Easy: Go camping alone in a State Park or State Forest campground. There will likely be other campers in the sites around yours within earshot if not visual range. Knowing there are other people around, especially families, can be easier on the mind. You’re alone in your campsite, but not really alone.
- Easy to Moderate: Dispersed camping along a popular hiking trail in an area where there are other hiker/campers can also be a good first test run if you feel you may have fear issues from being all alone in the woods.
- Moderate to Advanced: Work your way up to Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip or a solo hike on a more remote section of hiking trail. People may still be around and be seen or heard from time to time.
- Advanced/Expert: Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Canada, 2000+ kilometers of lake and river canoe routes, over 1.2 million acres in size! Remote camping, with less than 1000 people per year accessing this beautiful undisturbed boreal forest. Never been there, but I eagerly want to go. Learn more here.
The Benefits Of Solo Camping
There are some great benefits to solo camping. You will experience of certain kind of peace… tranquility, like you have never had before. It’s just you with nature all around. Your senses will be more keenly aware of your surroundings, and you will likely notice new things about the world and yourself.
- Solo camping provides an opportunity to develop and learn more about your abilities of self reliance. Bushcrafters know this one better than others. Learn knew skills, practice old ones.
- It can help you discover not only physical limits you may have, which can be improved on, but also mental limits, which can also be improved on.
- Being alone allows time for person introspection. It’s a great time for deep thoughts.
- Relieve stress and heal from hardships you may have recently gone through in your life.
- What happens on your solo camping trip is yours… the memories belong to you. Share or don’t share. Solo excursions can be a very personal and private thing that you cherish.
- Live by your watch and do what you want when you want. Nobody else to worry about entertaining or finding things to keep you both preoccupied.
- No Distractions caused by friends or family.
- Solitude in the wilds can be amazing for the soul.
- Live by your schedule and not others… If your friends can’t go along just go anyway!
The Risks Of Solo Camping
Camping all alone does pose some risks. Recognizing what they could be and preparing for them ahead of time is important to ensuring a good time, and your safety.
Some equipment you may have could be potentially difficult to setup alone, like a tent that may require more than one person to adequately assemble. Then there are life threatening issues that could arise, such as a bad knife or axe accident, or age and health issues. Knowing your limitations and abilities are important. Don’t go out on a solo camping trip and bring an axe or hatchet along for the first time to ‘learn’ how to use it. Be smart.
The more secluded you are, the more dangerous a life threatening issue can be. That is very important to keep in mind. Don’t take risks. Will you have cell phone reception where you are going? Would you feel better with a satellite phone knowing you would certainly have contact with the outside world in case you needed it.
- Make sure you have a good first aid kit packed along for your trip. This should include medicine for common illnesses as well, such as cold, flu, or allergic reactions. Don’t forget Imodium!
- Use a saw instead of an axe or hatchet.
- Working with a knife? Wear good leather gloves as extra protection. Make sure you know the safe and proper ways to use a knife when cutting.
- Bring a cell phone. No signal where you are going, consider a satellite phone. Most outfitters these days rent them out to people heading into the bush.
- Watch where you walk. Be mindful to avoid terrain that could cause a potential ankle sprain, or be more cautious when necessary.
- Don’t ever eat unknown plants. You need to be 100% sure of what you are foraging and eating, if you do that sort of thing.
- Be mindful that in certain areas there could be predators, such as cougars, or grizzly bears. Black bears are not really an issue, but you still need to be mindful and respectful of them. Do you need to carry bear spray where you are going and is it legal to do so? Do you need to carry a snake bite kit? Learn to be alert and mindful of such things, and you should be fine.
- Be mindful of the weather forecast. Bring appropriate clothes as needed to face the elements.
- Make sure somebody else knows exactly where you are going, and when you should be coming back.
If the tips listed above have you more concerned about going solo camping… well, they should. However, don’t let them scare you from going, but let them make you aware and give you cause to realize you need to be prepared for solo camping.
Have you ever gone out for a day long hike with some basic kit in your backpack to get you through the day? Imagine doing that now, but instead you will plan to spend the night in the woods or trail you are hiking. Be safe, be prepared, and you will have fun.
Tips For Solo Camping – Doing It Right
Like I mentioned above, start out going alone in a State Park or public campground setting where you know other people will be near by. It helps ease your fears of sleeping alone in a tent, hammock, or under the stars.
After that, there are some things to consider:
- Review your camping gear, make sure you have proper kit for a solo camping trip. Downsize your gear where needed, such as a smaller cooking set and smaller tent/sleep system. (Check out a review of a 2 man tent I purchased here)
- Triple check your first aid and medicine kit. Make sure you have the basic first aid items and know how to use them. Never had a first aid class… take one online. Be sure to bring common medicines like Benadryl for allergies, Imodium for diarrhea relief, something for common cold/flu medicines, hand sanitizer, as well as something for headaches and body pains. You never know when you might get sick with a common malady, be prepared for it.
- Bring other emergency equipment along as needed; emergency blanket, whistle, mirror, water purification pills, water proof matches. All these items and a few others can be easily carried in a Personal Safety Kit for emergencies.
- Unless you are a highly experienced and skilled axe user, leave the axe and hatchet at home. Bring a hand saw and learn about batoning. Axe accidents are one of the most common mishaps that occur during outings.
- Grizzly bear country? Check into bear spray. Make sure it is legal to us in your area.
- Cell phone coverage where you are going – bring a cell phone. I know I like to get away from modern do-dads when I am in the wilds… but safety first. No cell phone coverage – then consider a sat-phone if it helps your peace of mind.
- Be mindful of the time of year and potential weather hazards. Bring appropriate attire for the season.
Basically everything in the list above regarding tips for solo camping is based on you having a firm understanding of your gear, usage of your gear, and common sense thinking. Be smart, go camping, be safe, and have fun.
Is Solo Camping For You?
There is only one way to find out, and that is to get out there and give it at a try. If you often think about doing it and like the sense of adventure you may get from it, then do it.
YouTube stars that promote the camping and bushcraft hobby are huge these days. Many people are getting the hankering to get out in the remote woods and test themselves and enjoy a new pastime.
Here are a few YouTube Channels you may be interested in to learn more tips for solo camping:
Joe Robinet: Combination of bushcrafting, modern camping, and canoe tripping.
Shawn James: Camping, bushcrafting, hunting, canoe tripping, homesteading… Shawn’s brand is ‘My Self Reliance’, and in his latest video uploads he is building a log cabin in the wilds of Canada all alone with simple hand tools.
Doug Outside: Hiking, camping, wood carving, hunting, woodsy crafting, and good coffee.
Scrambled O: A relative newcomer to bushcrafting, watch Scrambled O learn as he embraces the outdoor camping lifestyle skills. He has some amazing camping food videos.
There are other great YouTube Channels out there that promote much of what I am all about here at TD All Outdoors, but the four above channels are my favorites to watch.
Is solo camping for you? It can be an amazing experience that rewards you with personal insights as well as beauty of the outdoors. The only way to know is to scratch that curiosity bug you may have to give it a try, is by getting out and doing it. The big hurdle is the fear factor. Its real. But it can be overcome by getting out and tackling it head on.
Thanks for reading my tips for solo camping. Let me know if you have any insights to share, or related questions.