Benefits Of Solo Camping
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Most camping trips will be with a group of people. However, many people like to camp alone. And while you need to take proper precautions, there are several benefits to solo camping. The first benefit is that you go camping anytime. You don’t have to schedule the camping trip with anyone else. You get a chance to practice self-reliance which will help improve your self-confidence. This improvement in self-confidence will carry over to other areas in your life. Finally, it’s a great chance to disconnect from everything. And if you want you can practice meditation.
Let’s now deep dive into the benefits and how to camp solo safely.
You Can Go Camping Anytime
I believe the biggest reason why people go solo camping is they want to go camping and their friends can’t go camping. For example, until I met my friends Scott and Lee I didn’t have anyone to go camping with me.
My wife will stay in a rural cabin or an RV but she has no interest in sleeping in a tent.
And while I do have several friends who like to camp, because I have worked remotely for my entire career, all of my friends live far away. Until recently, my closest friend I had made from work who would go camping, lived 400 miles away.
Thus I did a solo camping trip just to get out of the house after the pandemic lockdown.
You Learn Self-Reliance
When you’re camping on your own, then you don’t have anyone else to rely on to do everything.
While modern camping isn’t the same as exploring the woods like Daniel Boone anytime you’re out in nature, in particular, if you’re backpacking or primitive camping there’s always chances for something to go wrong.
As a result of you solving the problem you will improve your overall self-confidence. This improvement won’t just enable you to feel more comfortable while camping by yourself. The confidence that will build within you, will spill over into every other area of your life. Even if you don’t recognize it.
For example, if you have a tricky report to write at work and are worried about how you will complete it by the deadline, think back to your solo camping adventure. And remember that you got past it and this report is a lot simpler than that situation.
I think the most difficult situation to deal with when solo camping is that you are entirely by yourself.
You might spend the entire camping trip without speaking to any other person. This is how I was on my solo trip.
Even though I was at a state park and there were people all around me. I intentionally did my best to avoid talking to anyone.
My buddy Scott on the other hand, likes to go visit other campsites. While I am friendly, when I’m camping, unless I’m on a group trip, I try to stay to myself.
While part of this might be shyness, it’s also a side-effect of my day job. In my day job, I can be on the phone 10 hours a day talking to 100 different people. And often they’re tense conversations.
So when I go camping, I like the fact that I can avoid talking to people. I enjoy the peace.
But if you’re not used to complete silence you will need time to adjust to this. I would recommend studying meditation. This doesn’t have to mean you learn any mantras or become a Buddhist monk.
Meditation is about paying attention to your breath and keeping yourself calm. I don’t practice it often but knowing these techniques helped me when I recently got very sick. I had a high fever and strong coughing fits. That led to panic attacks.
Focusing on my breathing (at times I had to physically put my hand on my stomach) and keeping calm.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to bring your smartphone along. Many people like to watch movies in their tent. My buddy Scott reads several books on his tablet. I like to listen to podcasts.
We’re now going to share tips that will maximize your chances of having a safe and fun camping trip.
Stay In State Parks
I would encourage beginner solo campers to start by staying in state parks. By staying in a front-country state park campground, you will have the benefit of camping by yourself without actually being completely alone.
Most likely, there will be other campers around you. They will be far enough away that you won’t interact with them unless you choose to. And with enforced quiet hours, they won’t keep you up all night.
There will also be park rangers and other park staff that will be around.
The benefit of this is that while you can enjoy your alone time if you have an emergency, it will be easier to summon for help.
Know Your Limitations And Be Conservative
When camping by yourself, in particular, if you are backpacking or primitive camping, it’s important to know your limitations. And stay well within those limits.
This is because a minor injury like a sprained ankle can turn into a potentially life-threatening situation when by yourself.
The same thing if you get a bad burn on your hand. Or a deep cut.
While you’re solo camping trip, likely will be safe, you have to remember you are far away from civilization and it will be hard to get help if you’re not a state park with a regular visit from a park ranger.
Make Sure Someone Home Knows Where You Are Going And When You’ll Be Back
Before going on your camping trip make sure someone who is not traveling with you knows your itinerary and when you are expected back.
This way in the unlikely event that something happens to you that someone can call the authorities to activate your area’s Search and Rescue team.
If they have at least an idea of where they expect you to be, this will allow them to locate you much faster.
Don't Forget Essential Survival Tools
The 4th level of the Texas Survival School is an intense class. All you are allowed to carry with you is your bushcraft knife. You must survive for 5 days with nothing more than your knife. You can only start a fire with a bow-drill.
On average students lose 15 pounds. The instructors like to joke they should market it as a weight-loss clinic.
I think many beginning campers, and definitely, most backpackers think this is how you should prepare to go camping.
When in reality, nothing is farther from the truth. While tent campers want to escape from technology and “rough it” at least a little bit, we all also want to make sure we bring along some creature comforts.
This includes sleeping pads, cots, chairs, etc.
However, if you are going solo camping, you need to make sure you are prepared with basic survival gear that you know how to use.
Survivorman Les Stroud said in an interview the most important survival tool was a reliable way to make fire. You will be tempted to only pack a Ferro rod and striker. That should be your last resort. If you can bring along a propane torch, bring it. Pack several Bic lighters. Bring along waterproof matches. I like to make sure to have at least 1 emergency candle because it’s easier to light a tinder bundle in the wind with a candle than burning yourself with the Bic lighter.
I don’t think you need a bushcraft knife like my Morakniv Gerber. Instead, a good multi-tool like a Swiss Army or Leathermen will do.
You are unlikely to need the blade but tweezers are handy in case of thorns or ticks.
Make sure you have a good headlamp so that you can see at night. I love the Boruit. It’s 5000 lumens and will last several days on a single charge with normal use.
Make sure you have something you can boil water with. If you’re car camping this can be a camping cooking pot or your coffee percolator. If you’re backpacking, make sure to bring along a filter like a Sawyer mini. This is so that you can always make sure you can have access to potable water. This isn’t an issue at a front-country prepared campsite but at a primitive or backpacking site you may only have access to the water you bring with you. Thus you need to make sure you have a way to make water safe to drink. Boiling is the best. But a quality filter, in particular, in the US, works well too.
You need to make sure you have GPS and/or compass and map. While camping at a state park you’re unlikely to get lost if you just stick to your camp, primitive or backpacking there’s always a chance of getting lost. Purists will insist on a compass and map. But maps are not always updated anymore. And you must be trained how to use a compass. And practice regularly with it. Meanwhile, GPS works very well in most spots you will go camping. And it’s not hard to keep them charged. FYI your phone has a GPS chip in it that works even if you don’t have cell or WiFi service. The AllTrails app is my favorite.
Next make sure that you have signaling devices in your bag. Signaling devices assist in helping Search and Rescue find you in the case of emergency. You do not want to depend upon yelling because your voice doesn’t travel far, you will waste a lot of energy, and you might be too injured to yell. Signaling devices should include glow sticks and a whistle. Glow sticks will provide light for yourself but can be seen for a very long way at night in the backcountry. And a whistle is much more effective than yelling.
First-Aid kit. You should bring along at least a basic First-Aid kit with some Band-Aids, Alcohol Wipes and OTC painkillers. If there’s any additional medication you need, don’t forget that.
Finally, pack in either a 3XL Orange 100% cotton t-shirt like the one we sell on Amazon or 2 orange 100% cotton bandanas. While we typically don’t wear cotton when in the outdoors, having a cotton shirt or bandana is helpful in an emergency. If you are hiking in hunting territory, you can tie it to your pack to let hunters know that you’re a human and not a target. You can put over you to assist Search and Rescue. You can fashion into a sling or bandages. You can even shred to create tinder for a fire.
Don't Be Afraid To Leave Early
The most important tip is that you should never be afraid of leaving early on a solo camping trip. You’re camping for fun. You can always go camping some other time.
There are three reasons why you will consider leaving early.
When we go camping, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature and the weather. While it is possible to camp in the rain, being stuck in your tent for a weekend isn’t much fun. It’s possible to camp in freezing temperatures and even snow, but you must be prepared. Make sure that you know how to properly camp in the cold.
Most important be on the lookout for severe thunderstorms. If you are camping in the mountains, thunderstorms are common every day during the spring. Make sure that you are off the top of the mountain before these storms roll in.
While a tent is not the safest spot in a thunderstorm there are things you can do to improve your situation and we cover them in this article.
I read the book “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales which is a collection of stories about people who went through incredible ordeals and survived.
For example, there was a new backpacker who went on a trip with an experienced backpacker. They had split the tent so that the experienced person had the poles. The newbie had the tent. On the trail, they got separated.
And eventually, the new backpacker got lost.
A bad winter storm came in. And the new backpacker refused to build a fire because he was a firefighter and there was a burn ban.
He failed to build a shelter because he didn’t have tent poles. Even though he could easily have (and eventually did several days later as I remember) create a makeshift shelter with the tent.
He survived the ordeal but it was horrible. And it should have killed him but he survived.
I highly recommend the book but I’m not here to do a book review.
Rather, I share this story to make a point. And that point is that many situations go bad while in the outdoors because of gear failure.
So if a piece of essential gear breaks or is lost, it’s ok to pack-it up and go home. You have nothing to prove to nobody. And you can always go camping again.
Tweak A Body Part
Last month I rolled over on the bed while I was asleep and twisted my shoulder. I woke up in pain in the middle of the night. I was unable to sleep in my bed. Thankfully I could sleep in my recliner. It was too painful to sleep on it if I was lying down in my bed for 2 days. It wasn’t swollen. And I had full movement. It was just a tweaked muscle.
It was annoying to have this at home. But it would have been devastating had I been camping.
So make sure that you take care of your body and don’t be afraid to pack-it up and go home if your minor aches and pains we get while camping feels like they might be getting worse.
Carry A SOS Device If Backpacking Or Primitive Camping
If you are going to go backpacking or remote backpacking, consider getting a GPS that has a communication system built-in into it like a Garmin InReach or at the very least an SOS signal.
The InReach will allow you to send text messages to let loved ones know how you’re doing back home. It also has a SOS function.
The SOS function notifies the authorities that you are in trouble and need immediate assistance. It results in a massive operation to come get you. So this is not a trivial matter.
However, these devices make solo camping much safer because if you do need to signal for help, they make it much easier to do.
Be Bear Aware
I live in Texas. The only dangerous animal we have you might encounter while camping is feral hogs. And even they are likely to avoid you.
But many people will find themselves camping in bear country. While bear encounters are rare, when you’re on your own, you must be extra careful.
Start by making sure that you keep anything with a smell out of your tent. This includes toiletries and clothes that have food spilled on them.
Keep your food in a bear canister or hung from a tree using the PCT hang. The PCT hang is named after the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT hang is simple to do but bears can’t get the bag down.
Here’s a video demonstrating the PCT hang.
You will want to make noise. Play music on your phone. Wear bear bells. Heck, talk out loud to yourself. In particular, if you’re hiking or backpacking. You want to give the bear warning that you are coming so they can flee.
And if it’s legal where you’re camping, carry bear spray. I know at least a few of you reading this will be hunters and say BS, bring a gun. But based on the studies of bear attacks, the odds of you being able to draw your weapon and shoot the bear in the right spot to get them to stop the attack, are effectively zero unless you are trained and practice regularly.
And by practice, I don’t mean just shoot targets at the range. I mean, practice specifically bear attacks.
Meanwhile, bear spray has proven to be a very effective and safe deterrent for a bear attack.
How Do I Entertain Myself Solo Camping?
I want to end this article with an uplifting and inspirational topic. That’s to equip you with information on how to keep yourself from getting bored while camping by yourself.
Camp chores such as camp setup, getting the fire started, cooking, and cleaning takes up a lot of time. In particular when camping in late fall and winter when the sunsets early.
So you can keep yourself busy with just the camp chores.
Hiking, Fishing, And Napping
During the day there is always popular camping activities such as hiking, fishing, and napping. For the latter, that can be substituted for day drinking. It’s your vacation, do what you enjoy as long as its within the law and campsite regulations.
Fill your evening with reading a book, listening to music or podcasts, or watching a movie on your phone. Again it’s your camping holiday so spend the time doing what you enjoy.