Ever wanted to sleep out under the stars, wake up listening to the morning birdsong and feel 360 of nature around you – but have no one to go camping with? Well then, just go it alone!
Although we might imagine the more stereotypical scene of friends hanging out by the campfire, sharing s’mores and stories before squashing into a tent; the reality is that many women choose to camp alone and they have good reason to do so.
My first solo camping experience was 7,000 miles from home in Chile – and I have never looked back. Whether part of a backpacking trip or simply just a jaunt out to the wilderness for a night, camping alone is one of my favorite outdoor activities!
Is it safe to camp by yourself?
The advice for camping by yourself is the same for any solo outdoor activity: be prepared, tell someone where you are going and don’t be over-confident or complacent. If you follow these principles then camping alone can be perfectly safe.
There are extra safety considerations when alone, as you have nobody else to bail you out should you forget something or need medical assistance, and you should know enough about your surrounding area to know what risks or threats there might be (such as predatory wildlife) and how to deal with them.
How to feel safe while camping
Heading out on a backpacking trip or into the bush for a few nights by yourself doesn’t mean that you have to totally cut yourself off from the civilized world. I would always recommend traveling and camping with an emergency satellite device so that you can call for help if you need it.
Some models – like the Garmin Inreach Explorer+ even allow you to send some SMS messages to your friends or family to check-in in a non emergency and let them know you are safe. It’s the little things like that which keep our mind at ease when going it alone!
On top of that, I can’t stress enough that the main way to feel safe is to be thoroughly prepared and be smart when outside alone. If you have any doubts or fears or simply don’t feel up to it, then there is no shame in canceling and rescheduling your trip for when you’re feeling better prepared and ready to head out.
Safety and camping alone as a woman
The narrative that solo backpacking and camping are “too dangerous for women” is constantly being squashed by awesome women doing awesome outdoor things.
That being said, there are natural in-built fears that we must conquer as women when we are alone, in the dark in the middle of nowhere with little chance of immediate rescue. Ask any seasoned solo camper, and their list of fears will likely boil down into three categories: Wildlife, forces of nature (such as tree-fall) and other humans.
Here’s a little advice on how to combat those three main dangers:
- Wildlife. Research your chosen campsite and make a list of any dangerous wildlife you may come across. Know what you need to do should you encounter any of these animals, what protective gear to take with you and how to minimize your risk of encounter at your campsite. (For example: using a bear canister to conceal your food and having bear spray on hand.)
- Forces of nature. Obviously, this is a little harder to predict. If you are in a known flood-risk area: Don’t go camping during or after heavy rain. If it is particularly windy: Don’t camp in a forest and risk a tree to the tent in the middle of the night. Essentially, do some research and use your common sense as best you can!
- Other people. Perhaps the most prevalent fear among solo female campers is the nightmare scenario where you are discovered by a madman or someone with mal-intentions in the middle of the night. The chances of this happening are slim and the number of reported cases of this per year compared to the number of women who camp alone are low. That being said, sleeping with a personal alarm device under your pillow is not a bad idea, and may help to deter anyone untoward that you might come across. Knowing a little self defense goes a long way in life too – not just when camping!
It is all too easy to allow your mind to wander when camping alone, and convince yourself that every snap of a twig or rustle of leaves is sign of something sinister. One of the best ways to stay safe when camping alone is simply to keep yourself calm and not start to act irrationally or panicked – as this is when accidents are likely to happen.
How to safely camp in a tent
Tents are one of the safest forms of shelter, as long as you choose the right one for your terrain and weather conditions, and follow some basic safety rules:
- Choose the right tent for your surroundings. You’ll need to know whether to expect rain, strong winds or even snow whilst you’re camping. A simple one-layer shelter will likely not protect you from the elements! Know whether you need a simple shelter, 3-season or 4-season tent for your trip.
- No fires or stoves inside! This may seem obvious, but there should be absolutely no flames lit inside a tent – no matter how cold or wet it is outside! Tent material is highly flammable, and lighting a fire burns up oxygen which could cause you serious respiratory problems, even if you have a well-ventilated tent.
- Don’t keep food loose in your tent. Food is a sure-fire way to attract wildlife to your tent. This can be especially dangerous when there are large predatory mammals, such as bears, in the vicinity. Learn how to hang food from a branch away from camp, or take a sealed bear canister so that no odor from food lingers in your tent.
Checklist for camping alone:
When heading out alone, you should always be totally self-sufficient and not rely on others’ help to see you through. Even if you are headed to a campground and not backcountry, you don’t want to be the one looking under-prepared, having to ask strangers to lend you things or help out*.
*That being said, if you REALLY do need something then I’ve found other backpackers and campers to be some of the most friendly, giving people on earth. Kindred spirits and all that.
Here’s a checklist of the essentials that every solo-camper needs:
- Shelter (Tent or hammock plus all poles and stakes)
- Proper sleeping gear and thermal wear.
- Enough water for your trip or water purifiers if camping near a source.
- Enough food for the duration of your trip & emergency supplies
- Bear canister if camping in bear territory
- Portable stove / kit to make a fire **
- Cutlery, plates and washing-up kit
- Satellite communication device / emergency beacon
- Cell phone and any chargers plus (fully-charged) portable battery pack
- Knife and/or multi-tool
- Personal hygiene kit, toilet roll and trowel
- Map of the area, local ranger station and phone number
- First aid kit
- Whistle & Personal Alarm Device
- Headlamp / flashlight
- Personal Identity Documents with the following information (in case you are found injured/ unconscious):
- Your name, emergency contact name and their telephone number
- Your blood type and any medical information (diabetic, asthmatic etc) and medications
- Your trip start date and intended end date
** If you intend to make an open fire, make sure you are well-practiced at this and do not plan to learn once you get there! Never leave your fire unattended and ensure that it is completely extinguished before you go to sleep or leave the site.
Activities for camping alone
The list of things to do when camping alone are endless. It all depends on how creative you can get! Many people choose to camp alone to allow their creativity to flow: writing, sketching, photography and so on. Most people tend to over-pack activities that they think they will have time for, when the reality is that once you’ve set up camp, made food and read a little you’re probably ready to sleep!
However, here are a few items that are relatively small and lightweight which may bring you some amusement:
- Deck of cards
- Notepad/sketchbook and pens
- Whittling knife
Solo female camping blogs to follow:
Here are a few of my favorite solo female backpacking & camping blogs for you to check out!
All Women All Trails – this is a community of thousands of women who love backpacking, hiking and camping. Not strictly just for solo females – but their blog has loads of advice and stories from a whole range of women. They have a huge community of over 50,000 women on their Facebook group too.
A Woman Afoot – this blog has loads of trail reviews, gear reviews, solo female backpacking and camping advice and heaps more. It’s all written by one woman sharing her personal experiences so is hugely relatable.
Adventurous Kate – I love Kate and her blogs as she is so down-to-earth and relatable. She focuses on safety for solo female travelers and backpackers who love adventure. Well worth a read!
My closing thoughts for solo female backpackers…
Backpacking and camping alone can be one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world. I’ve met so many awesome solo women who feel empowered and uplifted by the trails they’ve completed alone. The more you backpack, the more confident and prepared you’ll feel for the next challenge.
Remember: it is okay to push yourself and test your limits – but it is equally okay to stop what you’re doing if you feel at all unsafe. Backpacking will truly test your mind and body, and recognizing when you’re beat is just as important as reaching your goals.
Is going camping alone weird?
Not at all! In fact, many people prefer camping alone as they are totally on their own time and activities. Backpacking especially can be hugely tiring, and tensions can often run through camp when everyone is feeling cold, hungry and tired. Camping alone gives you freedom and flexibility and means you have no one to answer to but yourself!
How can I enjoy camping alone?
Before you head out camping alone, perhaps see how you feel simply spending time alone. For many people leading busy lives, the thought of being alone in the wilderness is hugely appealing but many feel completely odd when they actually achieve it! Try staying in on a Saturday night with a home-cooked meal, a book and NO television or Netflix as a starter. Enjoying your own company takes a little practice!
What should you NOT do while camping?
In truth, there’s a whole list of things you shouldn’t do while camping. In a nutshell:
Be respectful of other people and your surrounding area.
Follow Leave No Trace principles. As outdoor-lovers we want to protect the natural environment as much as possible. Read more about it here.
Never be complacent. No matter how many times you have camped alone or how confident you feel; always be properly prepared and up-to-date on the latest weather alerts and recommendations.
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Suzie Hall has a passion for all things wild and is a scuba diver and Orcalab researcher based in Hanson Island off the north coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She spends most of her time exploring this great wide earth and her travels have taken her to some remarkable locations including Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan and the wild British Columbia coast. Fueled by a drive to protect our wild spaces and their inhabitants, Suzie works in conservation projects around the globe and lives to write about the amazing people, places and wildlife she encounters.