Writer Patty Hodapp on a solo camping trip with her dog Pele along Lake Superior’s north shore in Minnesota.
Camping alone as a woman might sound crazy. Uncontrollable variables like weather, wackos and wild animals give credit to the old adage “safety in numbers”. But if you’re comfortable in the outdoors and want to camp solo, don’t let fear stop you. It takes common sense, good instinct and adaptability. Yes, it’s risky, but so is driving a car or stepping out your front door. The good news? There are a few things you can do to sleep outside alone, safer. Here are 7.
1. Know Your Gear
Test your camping gear before you pack — especially if it has been sitting unused in storage for a while. Bring extra batteries, matches, a lighter, tinder and paper in a plastic bag so they don’t get wet. Own a tent you can pitch by yourself (sounds obvious, but believe me, shelters with complicated pole structures are tough to set up solo).
2. Be Accountable to Someone
If you’re sleeping outside alone, tell someone where you are. Text a friend or relative your location, loose plans and end game, so someone knows when to worry and where to look for you. If you want to get specific, try SPOT — a sweet little GPS device that beams your location via text, email or emergency notification to those at home.
3. Stay at Family-Friendly Campgrounds
If you’re nervous about sleeping outside alone, splurge on a site at a family-oriented campground. Ask the park ranger or do your research online before you set up shop. Better to neighbor-up next to a couple with small kids than a rowdy group of partiers who might trash your gear or give you trouble.
4. Stick to the Trail
It’s simple: When you take day-trip hikes, stick to marked trails. That way, if you need help, you’ll be in a higher trafficked area so you’re more likely to get it. Bushwhacking is fun, but leave it for camping trips with friends. Also, invest in a backpacker’s first-aid kit or build your own, and keep it in your daypack always.
5. Skip the Booze
Sure it’s fun to have a brew around the campfire, but when you’re alone stick to water, sports drinks, coffee or anything that won’t impair your senses. You’re the only one out there to watch your back, so don’t get tipsy.
6. Bring a Dog
Some people argue that dogs provide a false sense of security. I say it depends on the dog. If your dog is used to the woods and alert, chances are it’ll hear, smell and respond to approaching animals and people faster than you. It was only because of 2 dogs that I survived a run-in with a mountain lion in New Mexico. Or so a professional lion hunter told me when I called him up the next day. I believe him.
7. Leave Room for Error
Think ahead and anticipate problems. Have a backup water supply; learn how to change a tire and use bear spray (don’t hose it upwind); master map reading. No trip ever goes as planned, but if you expect error it won’t catch you off guard.
Sleeping alone under the stars? Here are the best campgrounds for solo travelers who want a last-minute summer getaway.
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by Patty Hodapp
Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.