Solo Camping Trip: 6 Tips for Preparing and Checklist for Beginners

Solo Camping Trip: 6 Tips for Preparing and Checklist for Beginners
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Camping trips are a roller-coaster of unbelievable fun and adventure!

Right?

It’s not until you finally decide to take that solo camping trip you’ve always been rather anxious about, that the nervous energy and sheer worry start to creep in despite having camped before in the company of others.

I have to admit, those were my exact feelings when I first did it with absolutely no insight on how to camp alone.

It is not all doom and gloom…

For someone who has camped and hiked solo for numerous numbers of times, I’m here to tell you, don’t be intimidated.

It doesn’t have to be nerve wrecking or scary, in fact, camping alone can be astonishingly liberating and lots of fun in self-discovery.

Don’t forget the level of confidence you’ll gain when emerging from that solo trip.

However, just like everything else in life, camping alone too, has its share of the good and the bad.

Let’s look at some of the things to look forward to and the ones to get prepared for.

The good

  • Solo camping allows you some ‘me’ time where you get to reflect on life.
  • It allows you to engage with the environment and become more self-reliant.
  • While solo camping, you get to be your own boss, which allows you to discover yourself. It is by the kind of decisions that you make that enables you to test your limits and face your fears.
  • When camping alone, you are bound to face challenges and by overcoming them, you become more positive and build confidence over time.
  • There are no distractions when going solo, this helps you to be more focused and in turn, gain more strength of the mind.
  • Camping alone gives you the freedom to determine the equipment to carry, the space required and allows you to budget efficiently and

The bad

  • When camping solo, packing, carrying, unpacking, and setting up can be physically and mentally tasking since you don’t have a helping hand.
  • There’s a risk of getting attacked by both humans and animals (depending on where you camp) and it would be harder to defend yourself when alone.
  • In the event of catching an illness or getting into a life-threatening accident, there may be a challenge as to how to access immediate assistance to safety.
  • It can get lonely sometimes especially during the night without someone to talk to.

The general rule here is to be adequately prepared, keeping in mind that you’re diving into self-reliance mode.

It’s worthwhile to have a look at some solo camping tips that I will share with you here.

And hey, your first try might turn out to be one of your best solo camping trips.

lake at morning

Solo camping preparation tips

When camping solo, you have no one to rely on, and the more secluded you are, the greater the risk of getting stuck in a tricky situation.

Proper preparedness and foresight will go a long way t ensure safety (make sure you check out the 50 safety tips for traveling alone).

For now, the following solo camping tips can get you started:

1. Campsite scouting

Whether you are first-timer or a camping enthusiast like me, you might want to consider putting your safety first because let’s face it, there’s nothing really physically protecting you out there.

I’ve learned that sticking around the ‘authorized campsites’ is the best option when going camping alone.

This is because you’ll be at a stone’s throw away from help should you need it and also not too far away from other campers unless, of course, you are a hardcore enthusiast who’d rather enjoy the wild.

Besides that, most of these organized campsites will offer basic and important amenities such as showers and clean water.

For precautionary purposes, I find it important to make a point of introducing myself to the person in charge of the camping grounds or a park ranger if out at a park, just to make my presence known. A phone number to reach them in case of emergencies is something to arm yourself with as well.

2. Prepare your body

Nothing can ruin a happy camping trip like an achy body.

Having carried a whole load of stuff and possibly engaged in other activities, and yes I agree that it is inevitable to have a few body pains here and there, but making sure you stretch and exercise a few weeks prior to your trip will get you in good shape.

Going to your doctor for a medical checkup will also give you peace of mind. You don’t want health issue surprises away from home.

3. Check your ride…

It’s likely and common to be fixated on planning that we frequently forget to factor in our mode of transport.

If using a car or an RV, carrying an owner’s manual will be a wise decision if you’re not much of a car person.

Also, thorough inspection of your tires including the spare wheel is important. The last thing you want is getting a flat in the middle of nowhere.

Signing up for roadside repair service will be an added advantage even if you probably might not need it.

4. Communication – always inform your loved ones

Often than not, you may likely lose a cell phone or internet coverage when camping. It is, therefore, important to tell someone back home of your plans, routes and any changes to that effect.

Other ways that may come in handy in case of emergencies is the use of satellite phones such as the Garmin InReach or SPOT Gen3.

These can allow you to send messages to your family or emergency responders to your location.

You may be surprised at how much a necktie whistle may also come in handy in deterring a possible intruder.

5. Scale the grounds

You never know when you might be forced to pull the plug on your camping trip. It’s the wild, and anything can happen.

I always find it important to gather as much information as I possibly can about the area I will be camping, while making sure I get there early enough to look around.

Even a seemingly unnecessary thing as marking your trail will save you a lot of trouble in case you wander off.

This will help you come up with a contingency plan or an escape route in case things go sideways.

6. Do a dry run

A few days before you set off, go through your gear each one at a time and thoroughly check for any faults or possible failures.

One other thing I would emphasize, practice pitching a tent if you plan to use one.

Solo camping for beginners – Checklist

camping gear meme

Wondering how to camp alone?

A checklist is a great way to both go shopping and when packing your camping gear.

The idea is to make a checklist based on your lifestyle at home and list the things you use daily on the basis of practicality and outdoor usage.

When going camping alone, keep in mind you have no extra pair of legs to help with the load, this is the time to ditch your “Glamping” patronage and go super light.

Below is the checklist for solo camping for beginners:

Important Information

I suggest noting down important information such as; Emergency contacts, Allergies, or Medical conditions, Blood type, Name and Address of the campsite, Local emergency numbers, and any other useful information, should anything happen to you.

Camping Shelter

When camping solo, you’ll need to consider shaving off the extra weight that comes with most tents but still enjoy a handsome level of comfort.

Ultralight tents, like the name suggests, are very light and do the job well but are more expensive and won’t last for very long. They are great if you don’t plan camping solo too often.

A hammock is a great option as it’s also very light and doesn’t need extra support accessories that require complicated set-up. It will give you good rest and elevate you from the ground away from crawling insects.

And again, when have you made and had breakfast in bed?

A hammock creates the outdoor version of that treat.

camping hammock and lake

Another option is to go for a 2 person light tent if you have more gear that needs housing.

If you opt for a tent, make sure to choose a comfortable and supportive sleeping bag for those chilly nights and mornings.

First Aid Kit

I would recommend a solo camper and especially so, a newbie to look around the camping area for potential hazards and have some weather information about the region.

This will greatly help in getting prepared for all elements you might encounter.

That said, however, accidents happen, and you will want to carry a good first aid kit with you. You will be surprised, however, at the number of redundant items containing your normal first aid kit.

Remember the going light rule?

It still applies here. While putting your kit together, evaluate the nature of your trip, will you be active? What’s the nature of the camp you’re staying at?

For instance, you might be camping at a rough terrain where you’re prone to suffer minor injuries. With this in mind, you can now weed out what is unnecessary and keep what you think will be most useful.

A First-Aid Kit will not be useful if you don’t have basic First Aid knowledge. You can, however, get some classes with the American Red Cross on CPR and first aid in your area.

Here’s a list of my First-Aid Kit items:

  • 1 packet of Antiseptic wipes for cleaning wounds.
  • Butterfly band-aids.
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bigger wounds.
  • A small roll of Micropore Medical Tape for cuts and holding dressings.
  • 1 gram packet of antibiotic ointment.
  • Hand sanitizer and latex-free gloves
  • A packet of Ibuprofen tablets for pain relief.
  • Antacids and Anti-diarrhea tablets
  • Antihistamine to relief allergic reactions.
  • Splinter tweezers, safety pins, and small scissors.
  • Duct tape.
  • Elastic vet warp for bandaging and splinting.
  • Eye drops.
  • Information cards.

Be sure to check the expiry dates on all the medication in your kit.

Meals

When it comes to food, there are many possibilities of camping food in the groceries sections and can easily get carried away.

Try sticking to the basics. I personally like to go with foods that are quick and easy to prepare.

If you are camping further from the trailhead and probably for a couple of days, you might have to enjoy your fresh foods for only a day after which it will most probably go bad and for that reason, I would recommend going for dry, dehydrated, or instant foods. They are light and take up minimal room.

Here is a list of some of the foods I would typically carry when going camping solo. Keep it minimal and only carry in small packages.

  • Powdered hot and cold drink mixes. They range from milk, coffee, or soup for breakfast to other daytime refreshing drinks. It all depends on your preference and need.
  • Protein bars and instant oatmeal. Take either of this for breakfast it will fill you up until lunchtime or the next meal.
  • Dry food like pasta, noodles, or rice are light and make a decent energy boost meal.
  • Dried fruit such as apricots or cranberries are a healthy choice of snacks and give a good sugar boost.
  • Dehydrated food. I dehydrate and pack my own food in a zip-lock bag for every meal such that I don’t have to rehydrate more food than I require at a time.
  • A basic cooking kit with a small bottle of cooking oil, salt, pepper and other spices to keep my palettes from getting bored.
  • Canned food. A few small sized cans of beans or tuna does it for me.
  • Plenty of water. I carry a lot of water with me and also scale around for clean water sources around the camping site. Don’t forget a water filter for that purpose.

camp site

Cooking gear

When solo camping, there’s no need for a big camping stove, besides, there’s no room for that.

A small compact cooking stove such as the MSR WhisperLite Stove or a more advanced Reactor stove systems will be ideal.

These ones use compressed gas, making them lightweight, easy to light and most of them allow temperature regulation – some of the features of the best stoves for outdoor use.

You can also opt to go stove-free altogether if you are a good fire maker. And of course, carry a number of matchboxes or lighters, they can never be enough considering you are in open, windy spaces.

You’ll need a pot to do your cooking, a 1.5-liter pot will suffice since you’ll be cooking fewer quantities of food and can use for both food and liquids.

Eating utensils are also important and I find a small compact set like that from Wildo very useful.

A foil will also come in handy, a compact axe for chopping wood, a sharp knife, small sized cleaning detergent, scouring sponge and a pocket knife for opening your cans, are also things you might consider carrying.

TIP

If you want to carry more protein bars instead of cleaning detergent and asponge, then for the few days you’ll be hiking, you can just wash your dishes with sand and water – works just fine also for oily surfaces.

Lighting

Make sure to pack at least one headlight, flashlight with extra batteries as well as a lantern.

I like to carry extra lights or glow sticks to scatter around my camping area for better vision at night. This guide can help you shop for an ideal headlight.

What to wear

The type and amount of clothes you’ll bring with you will be determined by the prevailing weather at the camping site as well as the length of your camping.

My key rule is practicality and improvisation. I want to be able to carry a minimum amount of clothing and still be comfortable.

The trick here is in layering. Ideally, you should dress in multiple light layers that complement each other and maximize efficiency.

Basically, you should be able to take off or add on layers of clothing when conditions demand and still be comfortable.

  • Base layer – This layer is next to the skin and ideally, should wick away moisture and dry fast. Go for a loose fitting, preferably long sleeved woollen shirts, for cooler conditions and polyester shirts for warmer conditions.
  • Mid-layer – The mid – layer should insulate and keep you warm. Fleece or woollen wear will basically help keep the warm air in and the cold air out.
  • Shell layer – This is the layer that will give protection from extremely dry and cold conditions as well as heavy rainfall. Items made from fleece or synthetic fibres are better suited for this weather types. You may also consider getting a waterproof pair of pants to keep you dry and warm.

Also, remember to pack a good pair of hiking boots or a comfortable pair of sneakers as well as good ankle length pair of socks.

Here’s a list of other things you can’t forget:

  • A well-drawn map
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Entertainment such as a book or an iPod
  • Rope
  • A hat
  • Sunglasses
  • A journal
  • A camera
  • Garbage bags
  • Padded gloves
  • A toiletry kit

Some extra solo camping tips

In case you forget some of your gear, try and improvise. For instance, if you forget or don’t have something to scoop up water with, you would use a tarp for that.

Carry a shovel or use a stick to make a cat hole for your bathroom needs and for draining dirty water.

In case you encounter animals around your space, make yourself bigger, wave your hands, and shout to scare them off.

When going to bed, make sure to lock up your food in your car. If it’s not close by, use a rope to hang up your food to keep it away from animals.

Summary

Camping alone can seem downright scary and the urge to put it off altogether may be stronger than the will to face your fears but remember, it’s all in the mind.

Figure out the root of those fears and with logic diminish them, or at least reduce them.

Having looked at the benefits and ways to best prepare for worst-case scenarios in a solo camping trip, you now have the tools to make a braver decision and dive right into it.

The more you camp alone, the more confident and easier it’ll become.

I am confident you will find the solo trip to be one of the most rewarding and refreshing experiences of your life, and you’ll probably long to do it more often.

With that said, grab your checklist and get trailing.

Have you taken a solo camping trip before? What were your best solo camping trips? Are you considering going camping alone? Share with all of us by leaving a comment.

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