We all have varying definitions of what it means to go camping. Some campers find great pleasure in lugging their 4-ton travel trailers behind their big diesel trucks, finding a flat piece of earth, and dropping anchor on their home away from home. Others discover that the Zen-like solace of settling way out in the woods – far from any human noise or influence – is the ideal version of camping. Regardless of your particular leanings, everyone should at one point in their lives try solo camping. But before you do, keep the following tips in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable expedition.
PRACTICE WITH A GROUP
You’ll have abundant opportunities to learn from others when you make mistakes in a group setting. Plus, you may find greater confidence in trying new things when you have a backup person or two in camp. Don’t camp by yourself until you are confident in your abilities.
TAKE A CLASS
Partner with an outfitter or camping guide to teach you the finer points of navigation, weather forecasting, wilderness first-aid, and general survival techniques. A class like this can be one of the biggest confidence boosters you’ll ever experience before embarking solo.
STRETCH YOUR TRIP
Solo campers, once prepared for the challenges of camping without help, should try to extend their trips to several days or more. The real mental clarity begins to develop a few days into the excursion, far beyond the initial setup of camp and the excitement of the first night outside.
Since you’re going alone, pack light and pack smart. This means choosing a sleeping system like a hammock. A lightweight hammock tent is a popular choice these days as it gets you off the ground, is a flexible system for uneven terrain, and is lightweight.
When out in the woods for a week by yourself, you often need little more than a good book, a couple of writing pens, and a sketch pad. Think of the inspirational works by authors who spent time camping solo.
INFORM OTHERS OF YOUR PLANS
One of the smartest preparatory steps you can take before heading out into the wild is to tell others where you’ll be. Write it down, email it to several responsible people, and provide a map of where you’ll be.
BRING AN EMERGENCY BEACON
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on fancy emergency electronics, but toting along a personal locator beacon like the SPOT or Delorme models can get you out of a bind if the going gets tough.
VISIT THE DOCTOR FIRST
Camping solo can be grueling. After all, you have to carry everything and do everything. Before heading out, visit your primary care physician to make sure that you are healthy enough for an extended solo camping trip.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Pushing yourself beyond the breaking point won’t earn you a badge of honor. Instead, it will put you at great risk of physical harm, emotional distress, and you may never want to go back into the woods again. When you’re done, you’re done!
KEEP IT CALM
While being out in the wild by yourself can be quite exhilarating, make sure that you take the time to calm down, mentally relax, and enjoy your stay in nature.
We all need to unwind from time to time, and a systematic decoupling from our electronic devices and day-to-day responsibilities can work wonders for the psyche. Solo camping may just become your new brand of therapy – just make sure you’re prepared!