Want to Try Solo Camping? 6 Things to Ask Yourself First
Just you, nature, and hours of free time. Solo camping is a rewarding way to connect with the outdoors, explore new places, and experience nature on your own terms. But for a lot of people, it can also be pretty intimidating. And if those people are female (like our entire editorial staff at KEEN), solo camping for women can be more than just intimidating, it can be downright scary. Luckily, with some preparation, practice, and a few deep breaths, camping alone can be a wonderful adventure for anyone who wants to give it a try. To make sure you’re ready to go at it alone, (and enjoy the trip to its fullest) we put together a list of important questions to ask yourself so you can head out feeling properly prepared.
1. What gear do I need?
In order to venture out on your own, you’ll need to pack the right gear to stay safe, feel confident, and of course, have fun. The good news is that you get to make all the decisions — so whether you decide to sleep in a hammock vs. tent or cook with fire vs. a camp stove, is entirely up to you.
A good place to start is by condensing an existing pack list like our Car Camping Checklist. Read through the items, and omit things that you might not need on a solo mission, like a family-sized tent or large cooler.
Anyone camping alone should also bring a Ten Essentials Pack — a bag consisting of supplies like a first-aid kit and flashlight for staying safe in the wilderness. Even though this list was originally developed for mountaineering and backpacking survival, these tools provide more than just emergency resourcefulness, they provide peace of mind (and that’s an absolute must-have when it comes to solo camping).
While comfortable, supportive footwear is a must for any camper, it's especially important for going solo. Not only will you be setting up camp on your own, but you’ll want shoes or boots that you can easily walk in should an emergency arise. With a super supportive stability shank and built-in flex in the toe, our waterproof Ridge Flex Collection for women and men keep feet comfortable and protected from the elements. On warmer days, opt for sandals instead, and check out our classic Newport Collection for men and women. They come standard with a grippy outsole and toe protection so you can take on the trail, the water, or setting up that borrowed tent with ease.
2. What skills should I practice before I go?
If you’ve never used the rain fly on your tent, lit your camp stove, or changed a flat tire on your car, the time to practice is before you head out. That way, you’ll easily get to your camp, set up will be a breeze, and you can get to the more important things, like finally dipping your toes in that beautiful blue lake nearby.
If you’re lucky enough to know a camping pro, consider asking them to teach you the basics. There are also loads of camping tutorial videos on the internet that offer instructions on how to learn outdoor skills. For a more in-depth way to practice and master outdoor preparedness, consider taking a class or course before you go to boost your confidence.
But what if the “sleeping outside alone” part is what you feel like you need to practice? Well, you can always do a dry run in your backyard to see what it feels like to set up your tent and sleep on an air mattress. Or you can plan to ease into solo camping by starting with just one night in a nearby campground. After that, you can work up to a few nights away in more remote locations. Practice makes perfect right?
3. What steps should I take to stay safe?
For a lot of folks new to solo camping, this is a big one. In addition to making sure you feel confident in your basic outdoor survival skills, always be sure to tell someone where you’re planning to camp, the dates of your trip, and your estimated return time. KEEN friend Jim Couch, an outdoorsman and mountaineer guide, always shares his itinerary before he heads out. Since he’s been solo adventuring since the late ‘70s, he’s got his system dialed and uses a template to email out his trip details. “Having a well thought out and clear trip plan to leave with someone responsible gives everyone peace of mind. Your friends and family will feel better knowing where you are going and what to do if you do not return on time. You will be able to better enjoy your alone time knowing someone at home has your back.” Download the template, fill it out, and send it to one or two friends before you leave. Once you get in the habit, you’ll likely feel a whole lot safer going solo.
A few days before you plan to hit the road, ensure that your vehicle is in good working order. Check that your spare tire is in good condition and inflated, that you have a tool kit and car jack, and that your gas tank is as full as possible when heading into no-cell-service territory.
4. Where should I go?
Campground, dispersed camping, or backpacking adventure, you can solo camp just about anywhere. The only requirement? That you feel safe and prepared to camp. Campground camping is a great way to test out solo camping. Many campgrounds have amenities, helpful hosts, or other campers that can help if you end up needing anything. If you’re after a genuine solo trip, dispersed camping or a short backpacking trip could be the way to go. And yes, camping in your vehicle is still camping!
KEEN tip: To feel relaxed and safe on your very first solo trip, we recommend trying out a location you’ve already been to. This way you’re familiar with the area, how to get there, and what to expect.
5. What should I do when I get there?
One of the absolute best things about solo camping is getting total control of the itinerary. Want to drink four cups of coffee while you read in the hammock? Go for it. How about a nice long hike followed by a rejuvenating soak in some hot springs? You bet. Solo camping is an opportunity to spend some good ol’ quality time with yourself, so go ahead and do what you want, when you want, how you want. (But of course, always be sure to follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace!)
Whatever you decide to fill your time with, be sure to add the gear you’ll need to your packing list. Kindle? Watercolor painting set? Gourmet food for your fancy camping meal? Solo camping is a great opportunity to take some time for yourself.
6. What if I get scared?
When you’re camping with friends, the eerie sounds of hooting owls or rustling leaves aren’t all that spooky. But when you’re alone!? Practically any sound could be Bigfoot! The first couple of times you go solo camping you’re bound to experience a little bit of unease. After all, doing anything that’s out of our comfort zone tends to feel strange at first. Here are a few tips to help you through those, “Wait, what was that!?” moments:
• Take some time before you leave to think through what would give you peace of mind if you start to feel uneasy. Do you need cell service in order to feel safe? Or maybe you’d feel better if you purchased an emergency beacon? Perhaps taking a self-defense class before your trip? Plan and pack accordingly so you can fully enjoy your time in the woods.
• Consider bringing your pet with you for companionship. Don’t have a pet? Offer to take a friend’s dog with you on your adventure! Plus, they double as heating pads. Win-win.
• Camp near other people. If you’re nervous about being all alone, try camping in a campground or better yet, picking a site near the camp host. That way, if you start to feel lonely, you can always pop over to the site next door and make some new friends.
Whether your first solo camping trip is a night at a nearby campground or a weekend in the middle of nowhere, if you take the time to prepare and work through the jitters, you’ll have an amazing time. When you’re back from your trip, let us know how it went. Share your stories, pictures, or tips @KEEN!
Comfort for expanding your comfort zone