Going on a solo camping trip is one of the most wonderful outdoor experiences you can have, allowing you to connect with nature in ways you won’t be able to when you go in a group. Besides, there are times when your mind and soul craves a solitary rendezvous with Mother Nature to be able to rejuvenate them. However, camping alone may not appeal to everyone, especially for those who have never done it before. It becomes even more intimidating when one starts to wonder just how safe he or she will be being alone out in there.
Fortunately, camping alone need not be dangerous and many people are doing it all over the world. With sufficient knowledge, a bit of common sense, and the right camping gear you should be able to protect yourself from the weather, wild animals, and any other thing that may pose a threat to your safety while camping solo.
Picking a Camping Location
Most campsites, especially the ones managed by the government or private corporations, are practically safe for solo campers. Park management officers are going around and checking the premises for any signs of trouble and ensuring that their visitors are safe and enjoying themselves. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to be vigilant and remember the following considerations when choosing a camping destination.
Research Your Camping Destination
You’ll want to do your research several weeks or even months before your planned solo camping trip. Most campsites have websites which you can visit or you can look for campsite reviews and read about other people’s personal experiences there. If possible, visit or scout the place (go on a day hike perhaps) before finally deciding to go camping there.
Go Somewhere Near
If this is your first solo camping trip, you’ll want to pick a location that is somewhat close to your home. This can be a local state park or a managed campground, either way, it should be near your home. This should help you feel more at peace and ease your anxieties because you’re still camping on familiar grounds.
Choose a Familiar Campsite
If you’ve gone to a particular campsite before, then you’ll want to consider going back to that place again for your first solo camping trip. This way, you’ll know how to get around in case something goes wrong while you’re camping since you’re already familiar with the place.
Stick to Managed Campsites
As a first-timer, you may want to stick to managed camping grounds. At least there you’ll near other campers who can readily lend a hand if you ever get into trouble. There will also be designated officers who are a stone’s throw away if you ever need any help. Besides, managed campsites have amenities that will make your first solo camping trip much easier (which in turn will help you ease your way into solo camping in the backcountry).
Get to Know the “Authorities”
If you’re solo camping in a managed campsite, introduce yourself to the campground manager and get to know the person in charge. Do the same with the park ranger if you’re camping in a state park. In any case, you’ll want to let them know that you’re on their premises, and get their contact numbers (or any other way of contacting them) as well so you can get in touch if you ever need assistance.
Protecting Yourself from the Weather
Out in the wilderness, you are very much exposed to the weather, which can bring its kind of risks and hazards. The most common issue here would be hypothermia or excessive exposure to cold. Even during the summer months, early mornings and late nights can still be pretty chilly. Naturally, your camping tent or backpacking tent will be your first form of protection against the elements. However, the clothes you wear will play an equally important role in keeping hypothermia at bay. That said, you’ll want to wear the following or at least have them in your backpack just in case the temperature suddenly drops while you’re at the campsite.
Your base layers will have a significant effect not only on your comfort but on your safety as well. Base layers are responsible for wicking away sweat and moisture from your skin, thus leaving you dry and keeping you safe from hypothermia. Base layers are made from different materials. Regardless of the material though, what you need to look for in a base layer is its moisture-wicking ability. Also, you’ll want your base layer to have a snug fit because it has to be in direct contact with your skin for it to do its job well.
When the weather turns cold, your mid-layers (the ones you wear over your base layers and underneath your outer layers) usually won’t be enough to keep you warm, in which case you’ll need to have an insulated jacket. Insulated jackets can either have down insulation or synthetic insulation, both of which work well in keeping the wearer warm (although down insulation has certain advantages over synthetic insulation and vice versa).
The right camping pants will not only keep your lower extremities warm on a cold day or night, but they will also protect your legs from scratches and bruises which may be caused by thorns or other sharp objects. This is important since some plants have toxins that may trigger allergies, while some objects may carry certain types of bacteria that may cause an infection. That said look for hiking pants that are made from strong and sturdy fabrics.
Gloves or Mittens
You’ll also want to protect your hands and fingers from being too cold. Cold hands will not only make you uncomfortable but will also affect your dexterity and make it more difficult for you to prepare your meals or do other camp chores. You’ll want to wear a pair of waterproof shell gloves to keep moisture out and another pair of fleece mittens underneath to keep your hands warm. You’ll also want to bring along an extra pair of mittens just in case the ones you’re wearing gets wet.
Choose hiking boots that are made from sturdy materials and are made with high-quality stitching. The soles of the boots are very important, and you’ll want to go with a solid and thick sole so it doesn’t easily get punctured by rocks or other sharp objects. Choose a pair of hiking boots that have good treads as well to avoid slipping. And to keep your feet warm, look for boots with built-in insulation.
Keep your feet warm by wearing the right pair of socks. Most hiking socks are thick and warm and have moisture-wicking abilities as well. You may want to bring an extra pair of socks to sleep in though and keep your feet warm at night, in which case you’ll want a pair of synthetic or wool socks. In any case, make sure that your socks aren’t too tight or they’ll cut off blood circulation to your feet.
Hat or Beanie
It is a fact that a significant amount of heat goes out through our heads, which is why a hat is just as important in cold weather as it is during hot days. Even if your jacket has a hood, you’ll still want to wear a hat or a beanie.
Camping Clothing Tips:
- Avoid Cotton. Say no to cotton fabrics at all costs. They take a very long time to dry when they get wet which will leave you feeling damp and cold. Opt for fabrics like wool or synthetics instead.
- Cover Your Skin. Exposed skin is at risk of frostbite in cold temperatures, so make sure that you have everything covered. For your ears and cheeks, wear a gaiter or balaclava.
- Choose the Correct Fit. This is very important because a loose-fitting garment will not be efficient in retaining your body heat while tight-fitting ones will be too restrictive and even cut off circulation.
- Go Waterproof. When choosing jackets and pants, looking for waterproof ones. Remember, keeping moisture out is very important when battling cold environments.
Protect Yourself from Wild Animals
The wilderness is home to several wild animals, and though you may not come across one during your solo camping trip it is still best to be prepared just in case. Here are some tips to help protect yourself from potentially dangerous animals that may block your way or drop in at your camping ground.
Know the Wildlife in the Area
Knowing is half the battle so they say, which is why the first step is to get to know the different wildlife residing in or near the camping site. This will help you to better prepare for any encounters with them. You can get this information by talking to the park ranger or checking the park’s website.
Eliminate Food Odors
The smell of food is what lures critters and bears to a campsite, so naturally, you’ll want to make sure that they can’t get a whiff of your tasty delicacies. You can do this by keeping your food in airtight containers or coolers. You can also put it in a bag and hang it high up in a tree, at least ten feet from the ground. Also, make sure that you clean your cooking and eating utensils thoroughly before putting them away.
Grab a Bear Spray
Bears are one of the biggest concerns of many campers and their growing population (which is a good thing by the way) only means there are more of them roaming around the woods and the wilderness. That said, you’ll want to have a bear spray at hand just in case you come across a hot-headed grizzly. This is one of those camping safety essentials that you hopefully won’t ever need to use but still would like to have at hand.
Be Wary of Non-furry Threats
Snakes are pretty common in some camping grounds and many campers have been scared out of their senses when they see one slithering towards them. Fortunately, not all snakes are venomous. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to stay away from them at all costs. Snakes are fond of hiding in old logs and crevices in rocks or tree roots, so be very careful when walking around these areas. Wearing sturdy boots and pants will also help to protect your lower extremities from snake bites.
Make Loud Noises
If you do find yourself face to face with a wild animal, you can scare it away by making loud noises. Shouting, banging on pots and pans, or simply revving your car engine (if you’re going car camping) is often enough to send them running.
Learn Survival Skills
Outdoor survival skills are important for all campers. It becomes even more important for solo campers because you don’t have anyone to rely on but yourself if something goes amiss. So before you head out, be sure to pick up on the following survival skills.
Learn how to use a compass and read a map. Always have a map of the camping grounds available, whether that’s a paper map (which you can buy from the park office or print out from the internet) or an app-based map which you can save on your phone.
Fire is important in keeping you warm, cooking your food, and even fending off wild animals. Having a fire starter will make this endeavor much easier, but even if you have one you’ll still want to learn how to make fire using nothing but sticks or stone.
Keeping yourself dehydrated is very important. It is known that you can survive out in the wild for days without food, but your survival rate will drastically go down if you don’t have water as well. That said, learning how to purify water from streams and rivers is an essential skill for every camper. You can do so by boiling the water in a pot or using a water purifying bottle.
Applying first aid to yourself when you get injured can be challenging but it’s something that you can learn to do with continuous practice. Try practicing how to make a splint just in case you fall and break an ankle. Also, practice with common materials (twigs, rags, etc.) which you can find in the outdoors. Besides, check your camping first aid kit and make sure that you know how to correctly use every item there.
In addition to the ones above, here are some more tips to ensure that you stay safe while camping alone.
Check the Weather Forecasts
Forgetting to check the weather forecast can leave you vulnerable to plenty of dangers and hazards while camping. Rain will make the trails wet and muddy exposing you to potential slips and falls. It will also make it difficult for you to make a campfire to keep you warm which can potentially lead to hypothermia. Although it is possible to still go and enjoy camping even during inclement weather (provided you bring the necessary camping gear and equipment), you’ll still want to check the weather forecast so you can be better prepared.
Get to Your Campsite Early
Make sure that you arrive at your campsite while there is still daylight. You’ll want to survey the place first before you pitch your tent there. You don’t want to be setting up your tent and supplies in the dark. This will not only make it more challenging to do but it also exposes you to possible dangers that are difficult to spot in the dark.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Headed
Lastly, remember to let your family or friends about your camping adventure. Leave a copy of your camping itinerary with someone or paste it on the fridge before you set off. Include the campsite’s address, contact numbers of the campsite manager or the ranger’s office, and when they can expect you to be back. Also, you’ll want to periodically update them via social media, email, call, or text just so they don’t worry.
Identify Potentially Dangerous Plants
Some plants carry toxins that can cause itchiness, rashes, or even trigger an allergic reaction. So do your research and check out the types of plants that grow in your camping area. Knowing which plants to avoid can go a long way in ensuring that you won’t need to turn back and head to a hospital and cut your camping trip short.
Accidents do happen sometimes, and during such times you’ll want to keep calm instead of getting all anxious and panicking. Keeping calm allows you to think thing clearly and logically and will help you figure out the next steps to take to get out or deal with your predicament.
One of the leading causes of wildfire is an improperly put out campfire. Untended campfires with their embers blowing here and there is also another cause. That said, never leave your campfire unattended and completely put out the campfire before you leave the campsite. Be aware of the direction that the wind is blowing as well and make sure that there is nothing there that can catch fire.
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Whether you are camping alone in a state park or out in the backcountry, always remember to put your safety first. Solo camping is very doable and safe, and as long as you are prepared there’s no reason why you couldn’t go out and enjoy nature by your lonesome.
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