Let’s face it, traveling alone as a woman is difficult. Between always having to be on guard and finding time to be overly prepared, it can seem like more of a chore than an exciting experience to travel alone. Camping alone creates an added layer of complexity as it often involves off-the-grid wilderness locations, feral animals, and sleeping in a tent. Camping alone can be food for the soul with the right mindset and preparation. Here are some of my favorite solo tips to set your mind at ease so you can get out there feeling confident and ready.
Know Where You Plan to Sleep
This summer I did a small road trip on my own and mapped out different places I could be sleeping. While I’d normally sleep in a tent, since it was just me, I figured sleeping in my car was the safest bet. I purchased a SUV-specific inflatable air mattress and blew it up ahead of time. I also chose a spot right on the road, which I normally wouldn’t do, but if something happened, I prefer to be close to an exit. I also make sure that when I’m camping, I arrive a few hours before dark in case I can’t find a spot right away.
If you are traveling through towns and plan to sleep in hotels, book in advance to avoid those soul-crushing No Vacancy sighs at the end of a long day. Knowing where I plan to sleep or at least having mapped-out options always alleviates my anxiety on the road.
Let People Know Where You’re Going
It may seem obvious why this is at the top of my list, but I can’t stress enough the importance of communicating to a handful of people your plans. Telling one person may seem like enough, but if you need something and they aren’t around, it’s best to have a group of people in the know–and if your plans spontaneously change, let those folks know! Take pictures of maps, show them actual photos of your destination, share coordinates.
Create Privacy if You Plan to Sleep Your Car
I taped old beer boxes to my back windows and purchased magnetic window covers, giving me at least some semblance of privacy while I slept. The thought of opening my eyes while someone was peeking into my car windows was a little too American Horror Story for my liking. The discretion is also nice if boondock in a Wal-Mart parking lot or a residential side street.
Decide Whether You Need Cell Service
This was a decision I didn’t make ahead of time on my trip and wish I had. The first night I had no cell service, was sleeping right off the side of a dirt road 30 mins from the nearest town on a winding, narrow pass with 1000-foot drops on either side. I felt trapped and didn’t sleep most of the night. I likely would’ve felt more comfortable with cell service. This is a personal choice and I do categorize myself on the safe (read: paranoid) side.
I recently purchased a Garmin InReach Mini because I like having the option to get ahold of loved ones with or without service. If you decide you’re okay without service, take note of where you lose it so you can easily drive back if you need to contact someone.
Be Okay with Plans Changing
Though I planned to sleep at a dispersed campsite the second night of my trip, a sleep-deprived anxious first night led me to book a campground (Amphitheater Campground near Ouray) so I could sleep in the tent, have service, and be close to the town. I slept great and felt much more comfortable than the night before. Don’t forget to let people know when your plans change!
Stock Up on Distractions
For my solo adventure, I wanted to have as many creature comforts as I could fit. I grabbed two good books and a blank notebook, and downloaded two audiobooks, four Spotify playlists, and a few Netflix shows. Since I was alone, I didn’t spend much time outside at night, so I would snuggle into my car after sunset and read, the stories and characters making me feel a lot less alone.
Have an Emergency Plan in Place
I’ve gotten 4 flats in the last year and one of them I was at a trailhead with no service. Luckily it was a busy trailhead and someone was able to help us, because otherwise I don’t think us girls would’ve been able to remove the tire ourselves. Since then, I’ve practiced changing a tire, but it sparked something deeper: the need for an emergency plan. Now, I like to take note of things like:
- Where the closest hospital is
- Where the nearest emergency vet is
- How close the closest police station is
- Where I plan to go if I need to leave
- Carrying an electric, car adapted tire pump
Be Smart with Social Media
I’m careful not to post the name or specific pictures/videos of the area until after I’ve left. I feel safer knowing that strangers on the internet can’t pinpoint my exact location. I also watch too many murder shows (again…paranoid). If you feel comfortable, traveling alone is a good time to meet up with people you’e only chatted with online (in a public place of course). I’ve met some great people through Instagram.
Take a Moment to Appreciate the Solitude
With all the stress of trying to fit everything into a trip, I find myself sometimes missing out on chances to appreciate it all. I like to take a moment and share gratitude with myself, taking note of the privilege that affords me the opportunity to travel as a woman alone or at all. I find that solo travel allows me to think about all the things that seem to fall by the wayside during the normal hustle and bustle of “real life”.
Pack all the Things
Overpacking can often be a good thing when you’re solo because that one item you leave behind might be the exact doo-hickey you need in a pinch. Here are some key items I pack as a solo camper:
- Comprehensive camping first-aid kit
- Enough layers for changing weather while camping and hiking
- Rain jacket
- Puffy jacket
- lots of socks – hiking and warm
- multiple pairs of hiking shoes (in case one starts giving me blisters)
- Go Girl urination device for those times you need to pee into a Gatorade bottle in your car or tent
- Window shades and covers for my car
- Inflatable SUV mattress and blankets/ pillows from home
- Cash in case you find yourself in a place that doesn’t take credit cards (they exist)
- 5-gallon jug of water
- Jet Boil + camp meals to cook quickly and easily with no mess
- I love quick/cheap meals that just take hot water that I can eat in a hurry like oatmeal and Ramen noodles–there’s nothing like warm, comforting meals while camping alone
- Cooler – I borrowed a friend’s Yeti cooler and it kept my beer and Kita’s dog food cool for 3 days without re-stocking ice
- Portable chargers for phones and camera
- Tire repair kit for when you get those rusty nails in your sidewall
- Electric tire pump
- Bear mace
- Human mace
- A large knife
- A protective dog
- A handgun*
The point of solo travel for me is to reconnect with myself on a foundational level. Stepping out of my comfort zone into a healthy dose of fear has always been where I find inspiration and motivation. But not being prepared can lend to anxiety and missing out on the good stuff. Hopefully these tips encourage you to take a trip to into the Great Wild on your own.
*Note: Some women aren’t comfortable carrying a gun around and that’s okay. This was a personal choice and gave me added confidence being on my own in remote areas. I would discourage bringing a gun if you don’t know how to use it or don’t feel comfortable using it.