The Complete Guide to Solo Camping

There are few better ways to regain your mental health, de-stress, and find creative inspiration than by communing with nature while camping. For those growing tired of their day-to-day routines, a solo camping trip might be exactly “what the doctor ordered.” However, solo camping carries with it a few risks that traditional camping trips don’t.

To help keep you safe in the woods, we’ve developed a list of solo camping tips to people of all experience levels should follow. 

The solo camping experience

As you might expect, camping solo is a lot different from camping in a group. For many solo campers, this is precisely the point.

Solo camping means going at your own pace, doing what you want when you want to do it, and allowing yourself to commune with nature on a much deeper level. That said – you won’t have anyone to roast marshmallows with or have anyone help you out if something goes wrong. 

Because of the differences between camping alone and camping in a group, there are unique solo camping tents and solo camping gear. There is also a completely different solo camping checklist that any newbie will want to peruse before hitting the woods.

Preparing for a solo camping trip

Solo camping for beginners and experienced outdoorsmen alike involves a lot of preparation, both physically and mentally. It also requires a lot of planning, as there are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re away from civilization. In the following section, we’ll go over some solo camping tips that you can use to put your best boot forward.

Mentally prepare yourself

Meticulously packed bags and the latest in high-tech equipment won’t count for anything if you’re not mentally prepared to spend time alone in the woods. If you do end up in a situation for which you’re unprepared, how you react to it can mean the difference between life and death.

The first step to mental preparation is to learn how to keep your mind calm. Come up with a motivational speech for yourself – something that reinstalls confidence and gives you the drive to succeed. Also, bring items with you that you find calming and relaxing, such as books or magazines. You might also want to look up calming techniques in case you get a terrible case of outdoor anxiety.

Pack as light as possible

Camping solo means that there won’t be anyone there to share the load. This fact is why it’s a good idea to pack as lightly as possible. Investing in solo camping gear will be a massive benefit in this regard. In general, these items (like sleeping bags and first aid kits) feature light construction and are easy to carry. Also, making a proper solo camping checklist can ensure you have the essentials and can minimize fluff. My personal favorite piece of small equipment for solo camps is this TOAKS stove that weighs less than half a pound: 

TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove (Large)
  • Material: Titanium (no coating)
  • Weight: 7.9 oz (225g)
  • Dimensions: Packed: 4 1/8" (D) x 4 1/8" (H) (105mm x 105mm) Assembled: 4 1/8" (D) x 8" (H) (105mm x 205mm)
  • Origin: Designed by TOAKS in California and made in China
  • Notes: 1. Received Outdoor INDUSTRY AWARD 2015 Friedrichshafen, Germany. 2. TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove is compact/light, very easy to light the fire and of high efficiency. 3. The stove comprises of three parts, which can be stacked into each other and packed inside a fine and strong nylon stuff sack. 4. It can nest inside TOAKS 1100ml and 1600ml pots. 5. It can nest TOAKS 450ml Cup from outside.

Stick with the familiar (for now)

For your first solo camping experience, it’s a great idea to choose a campsite with which you’re already familiar. Experience in an area can make all the difference when it comes to building confidence for the trip or in an emergency. 

You’ll also want to consider a place that’s closer to your car or the site entrance. After all, you don’t want to be lugging your gear all over creation on your first foray into the woods.

Work up to it

Confidence is essential for solo camping, but it should be rooted in actual experience. If you’ve never been camping at all, it’s a terrible idea to head out into the woods alone for your first time – regardless of how much preparing you do.

 Start by camping in groups a few times. After that, talk to people that have camped solo before. Many first-timers overlook the social aspect of preparing for a solo camping trip and miss out on great advice.

Use the “buddy system”

In the case of solo camping, your camping “buddy” is the person back home who knows your itinerary and location. If something does go wrong, this is the person who can contact the proper authorities and give them information on your whereabouts and activities. While it’s a good idea to be in contact with this person during the trip, just telling them of your plans can still be a lifesaver. 

Get technological

Just because you’re out in nature doesn’t mean you can’t take a bit of the modern world along. From satellite phones to high-tech GPS devices to magnesium firelighters, there are dozens of tools that make camping solo safer and more accessible. Though some are expensive, they can be an excellent investment if you plan on spending a lot of time in the woods.

Plan for every possibility

As with any trip, you’ll want to hope for the best but always plan for the worst possible outcomes. For starters, never go into the wilderness without at least one “escape plan”. Second, be sure to pack clothing for a variety of weather conditions, including extreme cold and rain. That amount of space a pair of mittens take up in your pack won’t matter one bit if you end up needing them.

Another way to plan for every possibility is to bring more food and water than you’ll need. The average person requires around half a gallon of water a day. You’ll want to either ensure access or a clean water source or plan on sealable jugs being the majority of your pack’s weight.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you bring all the “bells and whistles” that are appropriate for the place you are camping at. These include everything you need to protect yourself from the local wildlife, be they mosquitos or grizzly bears, and one or more ways to signal help if required. 

Ready to “fly solo”

As with any time you enter the outdoors, safety depends on research, preparation, and common sense. If you stick to all of the above tips, you should your first solo camping trip should be a walk in the park.


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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