By: David Ball
Anything in life worth doing, is still worth doing alone. That’s something I’ve always tried to live my life by. Have you really never experienced the pure joy of going to a movie by yourself? If not, consider this a challenge to go and do just that. What might sound even more daunting than going to a movie by yourself is enjoying a camping trip on your own. Solo camping just sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Vulnerable even. But as with most things outdoors, the more we open ourselves to the experience the more we get out of it - solo camping included. So how do you demystify heading on a camping trip solo?
The first thing is to make sure that you have a plan that you’re going to execute against. Where are you going? Are you backpacking in? From there you can start to decide how much food you’ll need to bring, if you’ll need a water purifier, cold weather gear, etcIt's always a good plan, especially when traveling solo, to pack equipment that is multi-use. An example would be a jacket that is both warm and water resistant, or a single utensil to use for eating, like a spork, rather than multiple pieces of equipment or clothing. Efficiency is the name of the game when adventuring out on your own and being mindful of what you pack and how you’ll use it helps ensure that your experience will be on you want to repeat again rather than swear off of.
In many ways solo camping is just like camping with friends, but it increases the importance of several pieces of equipment. Some of those items are:
A GPS tracking device, preferably one with an S.O.S. feature. An example of this is the Garmin In-Reach or In-Reach Mini. These devices allow you to share your GPS location with anyone you choose, who can then view it on a website, share either preselected text messages, such as “I made it to the top! Coming back down.” or “Delayed, but everything is okay” to a predetermined list of people or, usually for an additional fee, send text messages via the device to communicate specifies.
These GPS devices are invaluable when you’re on your own, if anything were to happen, such as a serious leg injury or anything else where you need emergency assistance most have a feature that will notify and share your current location with Search & Rescue and local authorities.
A water filtration device. Water is heavy, and so carrying all the water you’d need for a multiday trip would be exhausting. When planning your route make sure you’ll know if you’ll have a water source to replenish what you’re using and where it is so you can plan your usage accordingly. You won’t have anyone to count on for extra drinking or cooking water if you use all of yours - so again solo camping requires an increased attention to detail.
Bear Spray. Are there bears in your area or other wildlife that might get curious what’s in your campsite and could cause some trouble? Having Bear Spray as a repellent against unwanted visitors, if nothing else, is great for peace of mind when on your own. Self-reliance is a constant in the outdoors, more so when you’re literally on your own. Having your own back with keeping yourself safe from unwanted camp visitors is always worth the extra ounces in our pack - you’ll make up for it with the better sleep you’ll get at night.
What if we get nervous or, even if we hate to admit it, scared out on our own? I know I have. One of the best ways to combat this I’ve found is to bring a battery pack for your phone and fall asleep listening to a book or some music. Sure, it isn’t as novel as falling asleep to the sounds of open wilderness like we might normally get, but if it’s going to make the experience more enjoyable for you and sleep better, I say bring it out.
Solo camping, like i said at the start, really isn't all that different from camping with friends. The two biggest new variables are the increased self-reliance to plan and pack to ensure that you have the equipment you’ll need and a plan to follow to make sure you’re safe and then the mind games we all experience being on our own “out there.” It’s part of our evolutionary survival instinct to be inherently distrusting of the dark, so plan against it. Bring something to help distract you and enjoy the experience and not focus on every thing that makes a sound at night.
With those two main considerations and the tips above you’ll be set to enjoy your first solo outing!
About the Author: David Ball
David considers himself the ambassador of the “Radically Mediocre” lifestyle. He defines this as being able to “hang with people doing just about anything and not slow them down.” You can find him trying to get people to talk to him about the book he just read in coffee shops, or in the western U.S. getting pumped out on scary trad leads (and follows), skydiving, split-boarding and trail running in his home mountain range, the Wasatch, with his dog Margo. Follow him on instagram at @DavidDenverBall.