This week was really eye opening to me about the type of content I can share here on the blog and on my Instagram. I went on a solo camping trip last weekend and, on a whim, decided to share about it in my Stories… and WOW, I got so many responses! I was totally not prepared for it, to be perfectly honest with you. So many people were amazed that I go camping by myself! I’ve never really thought too much about it, but I do get it. There are safety concerns, for sure. So today I wanted to share how to solo camp as a woman and why it’s so important to me to do this for my mental health and well-being (more on those benefits here)! I hope this post inspires you to do give it a try and see if it works for you, too.
How to Solo Camp as a Woman
The biggest concern I’ve heard is that solo camping as a woman feels unsafe and scary. It makes me sad that this is our reality as a society, but I get it. So most of this post will be about how I ensure my safety and also combat paranoid feelings that aren’t really helpful in the moment.
Tell everyone where you’ll be
Honestly, the most important part of solo camping is to inform loved ones with where you’re going. It seems so obvious, but definitely has to be on this list of suggestions! Most of the time, I camp totally off the grid, away from traditional campsites (aka disperse camping), meaning that I don’t have phone service. So having them know where I’ll be really helps everyone feel calmer about the trip. And sometimes all it takes is a dropped pin on a map, especially if you’re disperse camping!
If you arrive somewhere and it’s not what you thought or too full, you can still change your mind… you just need to update your friends and family accordingly. That’s where having beacon comes in really handy. Often, you can pre-load messages onto it and then send it to specific people. At the moment, I don’t have a recommendation for a beacon because we’re investing in a new one this summer, but once I do, I will update this post!
For me, this means sleeping in my vehicle, so either our Vanagon or my Land Cruiser. For the truck, I stripped out the back seats and put sleeping pads down. It’s so comfortable! Plus, I know I’m safe from bears and other predators. Also, it’s definitely warmer, so I highly recommend doing this if you’re camping in the fall or winter months. When it’s hot out, I’ll pitch a tent, but usually I just prefer to sleep in a car.
Another part of sleeping safely is being very fastidious about your food. Nothing attracts predators like food! For this reason, I take a lot of precautions including storing all dry food in an airtight, waterproof plastic tub inside my truck until I need to cook. Also, I use a Yeti cooler which has the option of using a padlock to make it bear-proof. I literally store nothing edible outside of my vehicle. If I’m backpacking, I bring a bear canister.
In terms of protection, I travel with bear spray. I’ve never had to use it, but it’s good to know it’s there. When I tuck in for the night, I keep the bear spray near me, as well as my headlamp. Usually, I loop it around a handle on my truck so it’s in the same place every time and I can find it in the dark.
I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt unsafe. I think this is for a few reasons: I select very remote places to camp, meaning that if someone were to come and try to mess with me, I would definitely hear their car pulling in or they would have to be REALLY good at hiking in silently. In the places I go, I would definitely be aware of any visitors. Plus, I always bring at least one of our dogs with us. Lucy is great because she knows the sounds to listen for, but doesn’t bark at the slightest noise. Having a dog around definitely makes me feel more secure. BTW, I suggest putting a bear bell on your dog because the constant jingling helps you know where they are at all times, while also making noise enough to keep bears away usually.
Bring more than you need — especially clothing
Always check the weather before you go, but regardless I always end up packing way more clothing than I’ll need. That includes a bathing suit, extra socks, and warmer jackets… and a raincoat!! That last one is key for the Pacific Northwest. You never know when it could start raining (or snowing, as was the case for me this past weekend). Conversely, if you discover it’s swimming weather, it’s always nice to have your bathing suit with you!
This rule also applies to shoes. I bring hiking shoes, waterproof sandals, outdoor slippers, my Birkenstocks, and maybe rain boots. It’s just a good idea to have a variety of options. And I love having shoes that are easily slipped on for those middle-of-the-night pee breaks or just jumping out of the car to check out something along the way.
Use a paper map
Yes, a PAPER MAP. I know. But if you don’t want to get stuck without cell phone service, a paper map is so handy. I also love it because you can find new places to go if you arrive at your destination and aren’t happy with it. I suggest buying an atlas for your specific state, as well as a United States one. Then, pick them up as needed if you go to another state. Usually, we just get ours at the first gas station or automotive store as we cross into a new state.
Why I Love Solo Camping
I’ve kind of always been a mountain woman and interested in doing outdoorsy stuff. I accredit it to the fact that I was born in Wyoming and now live in Washington, where the mountains are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. In the past few years, camping by myself was an idea I explored and fell in love with. The first time I did it, I went whole hog and lived out of my Land Cruiser in Wyoming and Montana with Noodle for 3 weeks. During that time I didn’t check my email, open Instagram, or really use my phone for much other than music… and it was INCREDIBLE. I got to know myself so well and really sit with the emotions I was processing at the time. I was going through a bout of depression and felt like I was in a place where self-reflection was necessary. So I spent about a month or two planning it all out on a map, making lists, stocking up, etc.
I am someone who likes to talk things out with people and get feedback, but sometimes that’s to a fault. And sometimes you just need to figure things out for yourself. So that’s another big part of why I enjoy going on solo camping trips, even if it’s just for a weekend. I find that I come back recharged, inspired, and more secure in myself.
Admittedly, while I’m out there, I will start to feel paranoid or scared that someone could come get me… but that is really all in my head. I combat this by not drinking too much (just enough to unwind) and literally a conversation with myself. I tell myself that I’m ok, that I’m safe, that I’ve done everything I can do to be safe and I have nothing to worry about. It’s all about re-framing the fear and instead, focusing on keeping busy at camp. So I’ll chop firewood, clean up dishes from dinner, etc. If it gets bad, I just tuck in for the night in the truck and read. That usually calms me down.
Interested in more camping posts? Let me know! I am planning a ton more posts about this topic, including what I cook when I go camping, all of our gear, and more.