Everything You Need To Know About Safely Camping Alone

For the longest time, I had always gone camping with at least one other person. In more recent times I decided to try to go camping alone by myself for the first time. Since that first experience, I have gone camping alone many times and have learned a lot of things about how to safely go camping alone. I want to share some of those things I have learned with you.

So is camping alone safe? Camping alone can be a safe activity if you take some basic proper precautions before, during, and after your camping trip. Camping is a relatively safe activity, and doing it alone doesn’t change that fact.

Safety is one thing that concerns us all, the safety of our friends, our family, and of course ourselves. If you follow some of the following tips and tricks that I will give you then you can effectively make your trip as safe as you can. Of course, there will always be some degree of risk involved in everything you do, and you must be able to manage, but accept some risk.

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Is camping alone safe?

Camping is a safe activity. According to StatistaOpens in a new tab., In 2017, “41.8 million people participated in car, backyard or RV camping in the United States.” Now I don’t know exactly how they acquired all of that data because I never filled out a survey, but I find it easy to believe that many Americans participate in camping related activities.

That is just in the United States, people all over the world regularly go camping and safely at that. Millions of people can’t be wrong, most of them are perfectly safe. It’s hard to say how many of those campers went solo, but many people do. There are some steps you can take to ensure you are managing your risk when you go solo camping.

Before Your Camping Trip

Don’t leave unprepared.

One of the most important things that you need to keep in mind for safety’s sake is to be prepared before you leave. One of the best things that you can do is get an offline map to take with you when you go camping, especially if you are going somewhere that is unfamiliar and/or you plan to do some hiking during your camping trip.

Bring enough food and water.

Another way to come prepared is to bring more water and food than what you think that you will need. When you are going camping alone, you are solely responsible for making sure you have everything you need. Ensure you pack enough food and water to last you beyond what is just enough. It’s never good to run out of either of these things when you are camping, especially alone.

Plan a trip of appropriate length.

An appropriate length to camp will be completely dependent on you. Recommendations for planning a solo trip for the first time vary drastically. Some say that it is best to plan a longer trip s that you can get over the initial fears that develop within the first few nights.

Other’s suggest that for your first time you should plan a shorter trip to dip your feet in. You will have to decide for yourself which option works best for you. I typically lean on the “shorter trip is best” for the first time and then slowly ramping up to longer trips later on.

Bring a simple first aid kit.

Bringing a first aid kit is essential whether you are camping alone or in a group. Pay extra attention if you are going solo camping because you might not have someone in your group that happens to have a first aid kit in their car because you have no group. Being on a solo camping trip means that you are completely responsible for yourself and for bringing everything that you need. A first aid kit is something that you need, even if you don’t end up using it (which would be ideal).

Follow a checklist before you go.

With that being said, before you leave you should follow a checklist to ensure that you bring all the necessary things that you are going to need for your trip. Forgetting an essential item could jeopardize your trip or even your safety while on the trip. You can find many great camping checklists online, but I prefer to eventually build and maintain my own since we all have different needs for gear, necessities, etc. when we go camping.

Inspect your gear before you use it.

Speaking of gear, before you go on a solo camping trip you should inspect your camping gear somewhat thoroughly to ensure that everything is in working order. If your gear is faulty then you will be out of luck since you will be alone. You should check at least the essential items before you go. The same rules apply to any brand new gear, you should inspect and make sure it too is ready to take camping.

Let someone know where you are going.

One more very important thing to follow before you leave is to tell someone about your plans. Tell someone where you plan on going, how long you’re are going to be there, how you are going to get there and give them an action plan to take in case they don’t hear from you within a time frame that you give them. It is important that you instill this responsibility in someone that you actually trust.

Write (or text) your plans down.

Don’t just tell someone your plans, but actually write it down or send it in a text, that way the person can reference the written text in case they forget some of the details (most likely they will). It may seem unnecessary for shorter camping trips, but it is necessary no matter how long you will be gone. You might not have any reception, and anything can happen.

That is not to say that something will happen, but the best thing we can all do is make sure that we are as prepared for it as best we can.

Don’t forget to check the weather forecast.

The weather might have looked good when you were first planning your solo camping trip, but things change, especially the weather. Make one more view of the weather forecast the day before you leave and make your judgment call. If it is the first time you will be camping alone then you certainly don’t want to do it with bad weather.

Doing so would associate solo camping with something bad, and that’s not fair. Look at the weather and decide if it is good enough to keep your plans.

During your camping trip

Manage your risk while you are solo camping.

During your solo camping trip, you need to make smart decisions in order to manage risk as best as you can. Never take unnecessary risks. Some risk management is obvious, but not all of it. Follow some of the upcoming tips to manage risk while camping alone.

Realize that camping is a relatively safe activity, even alone.

Millions and millions of people go camping every year. The National Park ServiceOpens in a new tab. alone reported 318,211,833 visits to their parks in 2018. They aren’t the only place in town to go camping, you also have The Forest System, Bureau of Land Management, State Parks, and privately-owned campgrounds.

Needless to say, millions of people go camping, and very few of them are harmed. When you look at 318,211,833 visitors in 2018 and then look at actual fatalities, they are extremely low. According to Fox NewsOpens in a new tab. “When looking at fatality rates during the 2007-2013 timeframe, the average rate is 0.57 deaths [per] 1 million visits,”. 

Don’t arrive at your campsite after dark.

Setting up camp in the dark is not fun, no matter how many people are doing it. When you are solo camping then it’s you doing all the work by yourself. If you can help it, try to arrive at your campsite as early as possible.

The earlier the better, but try to have at least two hours before it gets dark to set up everything, survey the area, and unwind. It also makes things a lot less scary if you are not used to being alone while camping.

Follow the rules for food storage.

This is one thing you should do even if you are not camping alone. It is often overlooked when camping in a group, but you should pay extra attention if you are camping alone. Proper food storage will help keep any unwanted visitors away. Especially larger visitors like bears and mountain lions.

The basics are to utilize bear boxes at all times, never store food in your tent, always clean up food and trash after each use, if you store food in your car then keep the windows up and food out of sight. If you must you can tie food up in a tree, but black bears are really good climbers so it would have to be a branch they aren’t willing to climb.

Additionally, bear canisters are a safe bet. There aren’t just large animals to worry about either. Small animals like squirrels and mice can reak havoc on your food supply so keep them in mind too when storing your food safely.

Keep your mind occupied to stay at ease.

One of the worst things that you could do is keep thinking about what you are doing and not staying occupied. You can keep your mind occupied in many ways, but you need to be doing something. Here are a few ideas of what to do while solo camping instead of thinking about how scary it is:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Draw
  • Hike
  • Fish
  • Cook
  • Explore
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Meet new people

Go to bed early.

If you’re nervous then go to bed early, it might take some time for you to get to sleep on your first night, but also you want to maximize your daylight hours when you are alone. Wake up to the bright light of the sun and go to sleep shortly after it disappears over the horizon. Getting to bed early could present a psychological boost, plus you won’t be outside in the dark alone for so long.

Go easy on the alcohol.

We all know that alcohol can be used to settle down and relax, but if you are camping alone then you should go easy on its consumption. Alcohol impairs judgment and actually inhibits a good night’s sleep. Drink it sparingly while you are alone, especially if it is your first time.

Be wary of strangers, but don’t count them out completely.

Solo camping is a great time to spend some much needed alone time, but it can also be a great time to meet some new people. Don’t fear strangers as much as you were taught to fear them as a kid. Most people are good people, but of course, you need to exercise good judgment and go with what your gut says.

Start small and casually strike up conversations with new people, you never know what might come of it. There could be some great food in it for you, or just some great stories and conversation around a campfire. One thing is for sure, you will have love of the great outdoors in common.

Don’t openly advertise that you are alone.

While camping alone is a cool and exciting thing, you don’t need to openly advertise that it is what you are doing. You might want to set up your campsite to look like there is more than one person occupying it. You can do this simply by doing things such as leaving two chairs out, or multiple water bottles.

At the same time if you are meeting new people you don’t have to come right out and say you are alone. It’s just one of those things you should follow your inner voice on and perhaps just keep it to yourself if it is not necessary to talk about.

Keep some kind of protection close by.

Feeling safe is one of the best things you can do to stay safe. One of the best ways to feel at ease is to have something to protect yourself with nearby. This can be anything, but here are a few popular ideas:

  • Mace
  • Stun gun
  • Pocket knife
  • Bear spray
  • Really bright flashlight
  • Batons

These protection items are relatively safe and pretty much legal in most states. The effect they can have on your confidence by just having them close by is tremendous. Our minds are powerful drivers of our bodies, so keep something close and you will feel a lot more at ease when solo camping.

After your camping trip

Let someone know that you are headed home as soon as you can

Just as you would need to tell someone when you are leaving, you should give a heads up to that same person when you are on your way back. It will help keep them at ease, and it will help you realize that you made it.

Check on your gas

You might have been so excited to get to your campsite that you might not have realized that you were running low on car fuel. Check and fill up if needed before heading home.

Plan the next one.

After it’s all said and done, the last thing you need to do is plan your next solo camping trip. By now hopefully, you had a good time and are hungry for more. Solo camping is a unique experience very much unlike that of camping in a group. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Clean your gear and properly store it away

Doing this correctly will ensure your gear will be safe to use on your next camping trip, and before using it again be sure to give a nice quick inspection.

Related Questions

Is car camping safe?

Car camping is a safe way to go camping. It is also a good way to get started with camping as it can be a great way to camp with a group or go solo.

What is fear of camping called?

There is no designated phobia for fear of camping, the closest phobia to fear of camping would be Agoraphobia, where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape.

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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