Camping Solo: A How-To Guide & Checklist for Camping Alone
Solitary camping is a unique and enjoyable experience. There are many reasons people camp alone. Perhaps you have chosen to go solo camping for the peace and quiet that it provides, your friends all had other plans, or your camping buddy canceled at the last minute. Whatever your reason, this guide will help make your camping experience a safe and enjoyable one!
What to Know
There are many more benefits of camping alone than you may think. For example:
- You will develop your self-reliance.
- You will experience a kind of peace and quiet that is simply unmatched.
- It provides an opportunity for personal growth through introspection.
- It can help you discover your own physical and mental limitations.
- Without company, you not only have more space in your shelter for yourself and your things, but you also have extra space in your vehicle for any equipment or luxury items you may wish to bring with you on your camping trip. All the space that another person and his or her equipment would have taken up is now available should you desire to use it.
Camping by yourself also poses some risks and complications that should be fully understood. Note:
- There are many challenges involved, such as setting up equipment and performing other tasks without assistance.
- It is also more dangerous to camp alone than it is to camp with a companion, and proper precautions must be taken to secure your safety.
Consideration should be given to both the positive and the negative aspects of solitary camping before heading out alone. Unpleasant experiences that could have been avoided are too often the result of improper preparation, poor foresight, and a lackadaisical approach to the planning process.
It is a good idea to put some serious thought into safety concerns. When you are camping by yourself, you have no one to rely on should a potentially life-threatening incident occur, especially if such an incident results in your inability to seek help.
Potential risks abound, and the more secluded you are, the greater the odds are stacked against you should an accident or illness befall you. Things which normally would be of no major concern can become life-threatening if you are alone in a secluded area. This problem is only compounded when you consider that there are still many areas where you can not get cell phone reception. If you are allergic to bee stings, camping several miles from the nearest paved road, and unable to get cell phone reception, you could be looking at a serious situation.
Illness and injury are the two primary concerns. You can greatly reduce the risks involved with solo camping by preparing for possible injuries and illnesses and practicing intelligent action. This means that not only should you think of and prepare for what could happen ahead of time, but that you should also take practical steps to avoid hazardous situations.
Simple steps that you can take include having proper medication available, keeping a good First Aid Kit handy, wearing protective clothing, using a saw instead of an axe or hatchet, watching where you walk, protecting your hands with gloves when handling firewood, properly securing your footwear, and refraining from eating unknown plants and animals. You should also wear brightly colored clothes, prepare for unseasonably cold or warm weather, bring along extra food and water, and abstain from intoxicating substances.
Besides the potential hazards associated with accidents and illness, there are also risks posed by man and beast. Take proper precautions to ensure you are as safe as possible from poisonous creatures, large predators, sick or disturbed animals, and even human threats. Practical suggestions for personal protection are everywhere, but I would recommend simply not turning over rocks or tree stumps, looking before you grab, and giving adequate warning to animals that you are about to enter an area (singing works). Depending on your personal views and the laws governing the area where you will be camping you may also want to consider a personal protection device such as a large can of bear repellent or a lethal or non-lethal weapon.
Preparing for Camping
Once you have given some thought to the rewards, difficulties, and potential hazards of camping by yourself, you will need to choose where to camp. Research the location online to obtain the permit for the campsite and any other permits you may need. If costs are an issue, then you may wish to consider one of the many states that allow free tent camping. Most campgrounds or state and federal parks and forests require reservations, which may be acquired up to three months in advance.
Reach out to the office, if you're staying at a private campground, or ranger station, if you're camping on state or federal lands.
When you call the office or ranger station, you should:
- Request a map of the area.
- Request a copy of the rules and regulations.
- Ask questions regarding anything else you may need to know.
- Say that you're camping alone and inform the ranger of any medical conditions you may have. If you are concerned about letting anyone know that you will be camping alone in a secluded location, then you may wish to give the ranger the impression that you are expecting a companion to accompany you or to arrive at a later time so long as you are not breaking any laws by doing so.
The ranger may ask about the following information, so it's best to prepare it beforehand:
- The site number, letter, or name of the location you wish to stay at (if you already know it).
- Your name, address, and phone number.
- The make and model of the vehicle you will be parking on the grounds of the camp area.
- The vehicle license plate number.
- Your driver's license number.
After that, turn your attention to driving directions. You can easily obtain driving directions from such websites as MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps, and Expedia, or you can procure them through your local automotive club such as the American Automobile Association (AAA). You should also get driving directions to the ranger station or office that you spoke with and directions and phone numbers to the nearest hospital and the closest police station.
Next, you will want to calculate the mileage to be traveled round-trip and the estimated cost of gasoline. While you're doing the math, remember that the amount of gas you utilize per mile will be significantly increased due to the added weight of a vehicle being filled with camping gear, food, water, etc.
Lastly, research the climate of the area in which you're camping. It is very important that you understand the environment to avoid any unwanted and potentially disastrous circumstances. Once you have familiarized yourself with the local climate, you can then select your choice of clothing and supplies for the trip accordingly to avoid freezing, overheating, dehydration, or similar issues caused by improper preparation.
Camping solo doesn't really impact what equipment you should bring—just be sure everything you're using isn't too complicated or heavy to be set up without a second person. If you're bringing a tent, shower unit, or complicated camp furnishing that you have never used before, test it to make sure you can set it up by yourself.
Unless you're really breaking out the luxury items, your tent will probably be the most complicated thing you have to set up. Most dome tents can be set up without any help, but doing so requires patience and a little bit of ingenuity or skill. Again, if you haven't put it together by yourself before, you may want to practice before you're by yourself in the woods—save yourself the unnecessary headache. If the tent you have is just too hard to assemble yourself, there are some tents available on the market that require no assembly. Tents such as the CampRight Pop Up Tent simply fold out and up as a complete unit. If you don't have the budget to buy a new tent, several stores rent them by the day for low prices.
Keeping an Eye on the Weather
As previously mentioned, you should keep an eye on the weather. You can literally camp in all types of weather, but it is best to know what you are getting yourself into—nothing puts a damper on camping like failure to prepare for the temperature or precipitation.
Most websites offer an extended weather forecast, so you should be able to start getting an idea of the weather two weeks in advance. Continue monitoring the forecast each day up until the day you leave—forecasts are usually fairly accurate when they are made no more than three days prior to the date of your plans.
Regardless of the weather forecast, you should have preparations for temperature differences of up to 30 degrees below the projected temperature range and 10 degrees above them to stay safe and comfortable.
Bear Encounters & Attacks
Have you ever had a close encounter with a bear while camping?
Creating a Camping Checklist
You are now prepared to create a camping checklist. This list will ensure that you do not forget anything important on your trip.
Creating a camping checklist is easy, and I'm going to show you how to do it! I will also provide a sample checklist at the end of this section for you to use as a starting point for your own checklist.
When creating your camping checklist, you will want to start by listing important information at the top. Since you'll want to take a copy of the checklist with you on your trip (so you don't leave anything at your campsite) and you will want important phone numbers and information with you for emergencies, might as well put it all in the same place. You will want to include some very important information for emergency personnel in case something happens.
Important info that should be listed at the top of your checklist includes the following:
- Your name, address, and phone number(s)
- Name/number and location of campsite
- Name, address, and phone number of ranger station or office
- Local emergency number
- A list of any allergies or medical conditions you have
- A list of any medicines you are taking
- Your blood type (if known)
- An emergency contact name and number
- A description of the clothing you intend to wear
- Anything else that might be useful knowledge should you get lost or found unconscious/ incoherent
Keep a copy of this checklist in your vehicle, so if anything should occur anyone finding you or your abandoned vehicle and campsite will be capable of attaining this valuable knowledge in a timely manner. If you are camping in a secluded area where your vehicle is visible you should place this checklist on your driver's seat so that it can be seen through the window. If you are not in a secluded area or your vehicle is in a location that is not in your direct line of sight it is recommended that you place this paper in the glove compartment of your vehicle.
The next step in making your camping checklist is simply a matter of creating categories and placing well-thought items in those categories. The very best way to make a camping checklist is to divide the categories of your list up as if you are listing the items that would go in various rooms of your home. Then go through those categories (or rooms) and consider the various items that are in them which you use on a daily basis and then refine those items for outdoor use. The idea is to look at the tent, RV, or camper as your bedroom and the campsite as your entire living area. The categories of your checklist should look something like this:
- Living Room
- Laundry & Utility
The list you are making is not for where your things will go while camping (though you can plan that too, if you wish), but for what things you will be taking based on what you keep in the various rooms of your home. You should walk through each individual room of your home and make note of what items would be practical and useful while camping and what items you use on a daily basis. This is the very best way to personalize your own camping checklist.
There are plenty of checklists available on-line, but years of experience has taught me that using any of them ultimately results in forgetting an item, including useless items, or in forgetting personal items that you would have included had you created your very own checklist.
While walking through your home and making note of various items you should consider your daily activities including use of the bathroom, showering and grooming, cooking, eating and washing dishes, preparing meals, lounging, dressing and undressing, cleaning, and also sleeping and awakening. Special attention should be given to the fact that moisture and temperatures may be a factor and your list or the planned storage of items should be adjusted or compensated for accordingly.
Once you have created a list of items you can then go through it and check to make sure you haven't forgotten anything, check for practicality, and also remove unnecessary items from your list. You will not want your list to be too large as you will be solely responsible for loading and unloading your vehicle, setting up camp, and tearing your camp back down.
Add the items from your list to the checklist you are creating. You should then have a complete camping checklist. As mentioned earlier, you can review or print the checklist below for help in the process of creating your personalized checklist:
Great Sights Await the Solitary Camper
Solitary Camping Checklist
- Campsite ID and Name of Road:
- (Town) Ranger Station Telephone:
- (Town) Ranger Station Address:
- (Your Name) Home and Cellular Phone:
- Home Address:
- Emergency Contact:
- EMERENCY DIAL: 9-1-1
- Blood Type:
- I will be wearing:
- My planned departure date and time is:
Communications & Electronics
[ ] Apple iPhone 4 (fully charged)
[ ] Charged Radio Shack Pro-528 Portable Scanner with Weather Radio
[ ] Grundig S350DL Shortwave Radio w/ Batteries
[ ] Canon Powershot S95 Digital Camera w/ Spare Batteries
[ ] Buck Knife w/ Sheath
[ ] MXZ Saw
[ ] Swiss Army Knife
[ ] Rubber Mallet
[ ] Trowel
Safety & Protection
[ ] Guard Alaska Bear Repellent
[ ] Hiking Vest (holds many essentials)
[ ] Whistle
[ ] Lensatic Compass
[ ] First Aid Kit (fully stocked)
[ ] Sportsman's OFF
Fire & Illumination
[ ] Refilled Zippo Lighter
[ ] Spare Zippo Flint
[ ] Box of Waterproof Matches
[ ] Bottle of Cotton Balls Soaked in Vaseline
[ ] Rayovac Sportsman Mini-Lantern w/ Batteries
[ ] Citronella Candle
[ ] Rayovac Headlamp
[ ] Mini-Maglite w/ Batteries
[ ] Folding Cooking Grate
[ ] Large Grilling Tongs
[ ] Picnic Plate
[ ] Fork/Knife Utensil
[ ] Bottled Tea
[ ] Bottled Drinking Water
[ ] 6 Gal. Tap Water
[ ] Rubbermaid Cooler
[ ] Bag Ice
[ ] 6 Pk Beer
[ ] Cooking Spray
[ ] Dinner #1
[ ] Breakfast #1
[ ] Lunch #1
[ ] Dinner #2
[ ] Breakfast #2
[ ] Lunch #2
[ ] Dinner #3
[ ] Breakfast #3
[ ] Snack #1
[ ] Snack #2
[ ] Spare Food
[ ] Small Trash Bag
[ ] Dish Sponge
[ ] Small Bottle Dish Detergent
[ ] 3 Rolls Toilet Tissue
[ ] Reliance Portable Camp Hassock (toilet)
[ ] Towel (in bag)
[ ] Washcloth (in bag)
[ ] Soap (in protective case)
[ ] Comb (in bag)
[ ] Deodorant (in bag)
[ ] Toothbrush (in protective case)
[ ] Toothpaste (in bag)
Shelter, Furniture, & Bedding
[ ] Coleman Folding Camp Chair
[ ] Coleman Folding Camp Table
[ ] Tarp
[ ] Kelty Grand Mesa Tent
[ ] Columbia Camping Pillow
[ ] Therm-A-Rest Ridgerest Sleeping Mat
[ ] Alps Mountaineering Mummy Bag
[ ] Fleece Throw Blanket
[ ] Kelty Redcloud 5000 Overnight Pack
Clothing & Laundry
[ ] Sweat Pants
[ ] 3 Pr. Trekking Pants
[ ] Sweatshirt
[ ] 4 Pr. Socks
[ ] T-Shirt
[ ] Long Sleeve Shirt
[ ] 4 Pr. Boxer Shorts
[ ] Columbia Hikers
[ ] Moccasins
[ ] Wristwatch
[ ] Boonie Hat
[ ] Tuque Hat
[ ] Fleece Jacket
[ ] Clothespin
[ ] Small Bag for Dirty Clothing
[ ] Hacky Sack
[ ] Deck of Bicycle Cards
Documents & Papers
[ ] Camping Permit
[ ] Wallet with License
[ ] Checklist
You are now ready to go camping! With this advice, I am certain you will have a safe and rewarding experience. I have over 30 years of experience camping and backpacking, and I have been solo camping and backpacking for the past seven of those years in some of the most remote locations of Pennsylvania. Camping alone is guaranteed to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, and you will more than likely be plotting your next excursion before the first one has even ended. Good luck and happy camping!