Preparing for your first solo camping trip
There are a lot of reasons to give solo camping a try. It’s the ultimate form of meditation: not only will you reap the benefits of spending an extended period of time in your own mind, but you will also walk away with a renewed sense of confidence and trust in yourself. In fact, many specialized outdoor programs have included solo camping trips in their curriculums for decades due to the transformative experience it can provide. There is also something to be said for enjoying the outdoors on your own schedule and at your own pace, with no one to answer to but yourself.
Of course, camping solo for the first time can be intimidating. There is a lot to think about, and you are solely responsible for all of it. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do in advance to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible, so you can spend your time focusing on yourself and the world around you. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your first solo camping trip:
More often than not, if you tell someone you are going on a solo camping trip, the first question they are going to ask is if it is safe. The answer? Absolutely, if you are prepared.
1. Keep others in the loop
Before you leave, write up all of the details of your trip. This should include when you plan to leave, exactly where you will be, and when you plan to return. If you have access to the information ahead of time, let them know if and when you expect to have cell service and make sure you have a communication plan in the event of an emergency. Depending on how secluded your campsite is, you may also be able to provide contact information for the nearest ranger station or point of civilization. Leave this information with someone - or a few people- you trust. Of course, don’t forget to let these people know when you do return.
2. Pack Smart
Pay careful attention to the weather and make sure you are prepared- not only for what is forecasted, but for anything nature may bring. This will vary by location and season, but it is always a good rule of thumb to have gear that will protect you and your gear from rain, cold weather, and high wind. If you are in bear country, keep bear spray on hand and make sure you know how to use it before you leave home. First aid supplies, a whistle, a knife or Leatherman, a compass, and a map should all make it into your pack. Finally, make sure to pack some extra food- you never know when you may need (or want) it!
Before you leave, make sure you can confidently and easily operate all of your gear. Practice setting up your tent and the rest of your campsite. Make sure you can start a fire or operate your cooking gear. Check everything over for holes or other malfunctions.
4. Choose the right location
This is a personal decision. For many, the purpose of solo camping is the solitude it provides. If it is your first time, however, really consider how much solitude you are ready for and comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with choosing a site that is near others or close to civilization. When it comes to the outdoors, underestimating yourself is always better than overestimating yourself, especially when you are alone. Remember, you are solo camping for yourself and yourself only, so only you can decide what is best for you.
5. Be on time
Or better yet, early. When arriving at your campsite, make sure to leave yourself plenty of time before nightfall to navigate any complications that could arise. At the end of your trip, try to leave the backcountry when you say you will to avoid causing your emergency contacts any unnecessary worry.
6. Stay calm
Anytime you camp, whether solo or in a group, it is important to go in aware that problems could arise. One of the beauties of nature is that it is unpredictable. If something does go awry, it is important to stay calm and collected. The same goes for any nerves or fear that could arise from being alone in an unfamiliar place. Remember that you prepared for this, you can handle it, and no matter what happens, you will emerge stronger than you were before.
Spending time by yourself can feel just as daunting, if not more so, than the camping itself. Try these tips for passing the time and making the most of your experience.
1. As much as you’re able, put your phone away
For safety reasons, it is not a bad idea to bring your cell phone- and maybe even a portable charger- on your trip. With that being said, try to keep phone use to emergency purposes only (so hopefully, none at all). Being in nature is a chance to disconnect, and if you truly want to reap the benefits of solo camping, leave all contact with others silenced in your bag.
2. Bring a book or art supplies
Even if you don’t consider yourself much of an artist, time alone in nature can be the perfect time to give drawing or painting a try. You have all the time in the world to try to capture what you see. This solitude also provides an excellent opportunity for undisturbed reading.
3. Sit with your thoughts
This one can be scary, but it’s what solo camping is all about! If you’re not much of a meditator, try bringing a journal along.
4. Let nature entertain you
Go exploring! Take a walk or a hike from your campsite and take the time to really pay attention to the small things you might not usually notice. You can also use the things you find to get creative: make art out of colorful rocks or build a small house from sticks and moss. Just make sure to be respectful of the land and follow Leave No Trace guidelines.
With all of this in mind, remember that the most important part of a solo camping trip is you. Above all, make sure you are embarking on a trip that you are excited about. Think about what you want to get out of your solo camping experience and create your trip with that in mind.