A few months ago I decided that I was going to go on my first solo camping trip in Shenandoah National Park.
I experienced the same as most female travelers – some family and friends were supportive and others were vehemently opposed.
Yes, camping alone as a woman can be dangerous but so can anything else we do in life. There are precautions you can take that will make it as safe as anything else.
I did a ton of research before my trip and there are a few things that I learned along the way that I’ll be sharing too.
If you are on the fence about taking a solo trip, I want to encourage you to just GO. This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had to date.
Why Go Camping Alone as a Woman?
Before we get into all the tips, I wanted to give you a few of the benefits of camping alone as a woman.
Solo camping is incredibly empowering. With solo travel in general you become a better problem solver and that can be even more true when you are camping.
Why wait on someone to go with you? As you get older it’s harder to get anyone to go with you. People are busy with work, kids, or just life in general.
If you are waiting around for someone to travel and go on adventures with then you might be waiting a long time (read: forever).
Personally, I love being alone and traveling alone. I am an introvert so being around people all the time exhausts me.
When you are alone you get to make all the choices and you don’t have to compromise on what you do.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Depending on whether you are camping alone in a campground or if you are camping in the backcountry there will be a different level of prep.
There are some basic preparation guidelines though that will apply no matter what.
Make sure you have the right gear and you know how to use it. If you are taking a tent, then make sure you know how to set it up by yourself. Be sure you have all the tent camping essentials you need.
Test out your camp kitchen equipment before you leave. Make sure your headlamp or flashlight has fresh batteries.
If you are backcountry camping then there will be a lot more prep work that goes into the equipment. You don’t want to get out there, miles away from everything, and realize something doesn’t work.
Do some research on the location. Will you need bear spray?
Download a map either on Google Maps or an app like AllTrails (pro version required).
Are there convenience stores or grocery stores nearby? Water source readily available?
Is this location generally safe? You can look up crime rates wherever you are going.
The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be. Typically the way I ease my anxiety about anything is thinking how things could go wrong and then how I would come up with a solution to fix it.
Camping Alone Checklist
For me, checklists are a must to stay organized. Whether you are going camping alone for the first time or the fiftieth time, a checklist will give you peace of mind.
You’ll know that you are prepared for any situation and you have all the equipment that you’ll need.
You can sign up at the following link to get a complete packing list that includes camping equipment.
Know Your Comfort Zone
I am all about pushing outside your comfort zone. However, when you are camping solo for the first time, I’m not so sure that’s the time to do it.
On my first solo camping trip I did go about five and a half hours away to an area that I wasn’t familiar with but I’m told that I’m a bit more adventurous than most.
Going 30 minutes down the road to a local campground is still camping alone. So if that’s what it takes to get you comfortable doing it then by all means do that!
Don’t think you have to go on some epic journey for your first time. Start small and go from there.
Pick Your Location Wisely
This tip goes with the previous one just a little bit. If you have never been backcountry camping then I don’t think it’s a good idea to go by yourself on your first solo outing.
That’s just my opinion. Backcountry camping would be way out of my comfort zone and I feel like there are certain skills you should learn before doing that alone.
For example wilderness safety, navigation, and camp cooking for starters.
If you aren’t familiar with camping in the backcountry you can either try dispersed camping or go to a campground.
For your first time, I would recommend a campground. Here you’ll have the campground hosts that you can check in with so someone knows you’re there.
Some of the best spots are campgrounds in National and State Parks where you have park rangers that will be there.
This means there will be people patrolling the area and making sure that you and everyone else are safe.
While many people may be worried about what the other campers might do, generally people who camp in these areas are incredibly friendly and good people.
In a dispersed camping or backcountry situation you don’t have people around that you can alert if something is going wrong.
Pack The Right Gear (And Make Sure It Works!)
I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a camping trip when suddenly my tent collapses or arrive at the campsite only to figure out I don’t know how my camp stove works.
Make sure that you have quality gear that will hold up to the elements you are camping in and then make sure you know how to use it.
If your tent hasn’t been used in a while then set it up at home to make sure all the parts are there and the material is in good shape.
If you have some new cooking equipment then test it out at home so you know how to use it before you get out of range.
Double check that your sleeping bag is rated for the weather you’ll be camping in. Have you tested out your sleeping pad?
Packing the right gear also means the right clothes. Weather can change unexpectedly so you always want to be prepared.
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Tell Someone Where You’re Going But Not Everyone
A significant other, parent, or close friend should know where you are supposed to be at all times. Before your trip make sure you give someone your itinerary and then let them know if it changes.
Then check in with them at agreed-on times. This way if you don’t check-in someone knows that something is wrong and they can send help sooner.
While you definitely want to tell a friend or family member where you are going, this isn’t something you want to widely broadcast.
There are two different reasons for this. The first is that if someone knows you are gone and they know where you live then your house is an easy target for break-ins.
Second, if someone knows where you are going or where you are in real-time based on Instagram stories or something of the like then they can easily find you.
This may be less common but it’s still a concern. This is actually why I don’t post stories in real-time when I am traveling.
Nothing would likely happen, but I have heard stories of women being threatened by men saying they will track them down when they’ve posted their exact location.
So I choose not to post my exact location while I am there.
Check the Weather
Like I said, weather is completely unpredictable sometimes especially if you are in a mountain climate.
Check the weather and prepare accordingly but always prepare for it to be 20 degrees colder and bring a rain jacket.
This way if the weather takes an unexpected turn you’ll be prepared.
Also know that you can always change plans. When I was camping up in Shenandoah all of a sudden instead of a little rain they were calling for severe thunderstorms one day.
I decided instead of camping up on the mountain I would come down and find a hotel to stay in. I’m so glad I changed my plan because when I came back up there were fallen limbs everywhere.
It would have been very unpleasant to stay up there in the storm. So just because you planned to camp the whole time doesn’t mean you have to.
Solo Camping With a Dog
Do you have an adventure pup? Think about taking them along with you!
Yes, this does take a little more prep work but I know many people feel a lot safer when they have their dogs with them.
Just make sure that you take plenty of extra water for your dog and follow all rules for pets in the campground or wherever you choose to camp.
Also, be sure to look up leash laws in the area. If you plan on taking your pup then check out this complete guide to tent camping with a dog.
The first night of sleeping alone can be a little eerie. I chose to sleep in the back of my car instead of a tent so I don’t think I noticed all the little sounds as much.
Download podcasts or music that you can listen to while you are trying to go to sleep. You can also bring a book to keep your mind busy.
Just don’t do what I did and bring murder-mystery novels.
If you do bring a book, then take a reading light along so you don’t have to use a super bright lantern to see after it gets dark.
Have a Plan for Activities
Before you go on your trip it’s a good idea to check and see what there is to do in an area. Especially if it’s a place that doesn’t have great cell phone reception.
Having at least a vague plan or a list of activities that you are interested in means that you won’t be sitting around camp wondering what to do.
Some people worry about being lonely but as long as I keep myself busy, I am too focused on what I’m doing to get lonely.
Take a Wilderness Safety Class
This isn’t a must but it’s definitely helpful and can give you a little reassurance that if something does happen and you get injured then you’ll know what to do.
It goes back to the original pointer of being prepared. If you are prepared for any situation then it will be much safer for you to camp alone.
Know How to Deal With Wildlife
Do a bit of research to find out what type of wildlife will be in the area. Most people think bears when they think of animals you could run into but they aren’t the only ones.
Depending on where you are there can be snakes, mountain lions, bison, bees, and no telling what else. It all depends on where you are located.
Just make sure that you know what to look for and what to do if you run into one of these animals.
If you need bear spray then make sure you purchase it and know how to use it.
Know How to Deal With Other People
When camping alone as a woman, sometimes it’s other people that you can be worried about the most.
Trust your gut with this one. If you find yourself at a campsite beside someone who gives you a bad feeling then don’t hesitate to ask if you can move sites.
If they won’t let you move then leave the campground and find somewhere else to stay. The price of that spot isn’t worth you getting hurt.
Make sure you know what you’ll say if someone starts asking questions about you being alone.
Will you say that your boyfriend or husband is meeting you here? Your family is coming out tomorrow? It’s always a good idea to have a story in mind in case someone starts asking.
Trust Your Instincts
I just want to make it clear that trusting your gut is so important. If you get an off feeling whether it’s at the campsite, a hiking trail, or about a specific person, get out of there.
You don’t want to spend the whole time feeling uneasy so it isn’t worth staying at that location. Don’t just brush off your instincts. Listen to them.
Mentally Prepare Yourself
This may sound strange, but one way that I unintentionally prepared myself is by turning off the radio while I was driving in my car around home.
Just sitting alone with your thoughts for a little while is so powerful. Then once you get used to that, going somewhere alone isn’t as hard.
I think one of the hard parts of being alone is sitting with all the thoughts that run through your head. Once you calm your mind and get used to your own voice, it isn’t so bad.
Know that going somewhere alone may be a little nerve racking and you might have to push through a bit of anxiety.
Think of a few ways to cope with that in case it does come and then implement those if it does.
These tactics will be different for everyone but some examples are deep-breathing, listening to uplifting music, or meditation.
Take Advantage of Being Alone
Here is the fun one. We can change our personalities depending on who we are with. So while you’re alone, do whatever YOU want to.
Be weird, do something you don’t usually get to do, take advantage of this time where you don’t have to take other opinions into consideration.
When planning your schedule think about activities that make you happy. Figure out the things you really love and do more of that.
Safety Tips for Solo Camping
For the tips that didn’t really fit in the categories above here they are:
If you feel comfortable with it, bring a weapon whether that’s a gun, knife, or pepper spray. If you do bring a gun make sure you have the proper permits and know the laws in the area.
Sleep with your self-defense items nearby and put them in the same place each time.
You can make it look like there is a man at your campsite. Bring a second chair, a pair of men’s boots, and two of anything like towels. If someone is REALLY paying attention though this won’t work.
A Garmin inReach device will go a long way in making you feel safe. This is a satellite phone and I have the inReach Mini.
I can send preloaded messages to check in when I don’t have service and there is an SOS button in case of emergency.
If you don’t feel comfortable sleeping in a tent then sleep in the back of your car so you can lock the doors and if something ends up spooking you, then you can easily hop in the front and drive off.
Camping Alone as a Woman FAQs
Aren’t you scared to go camping alone?
Yes, yes I am. I was always a nervous kid and when I was really young (5 and under) I would cry if I was left without an adult in the room.
While I was never diagnosed with anxiety, I believe I had some anxiety issues in college. Finally one day after some major life events I decided that was no way to live life.
I’ve been pushing outside my comfort zone ever since. Camping alone is no different.
Yes, it makes me nervous but the benefits outweigh the risks to me.
Don’t you get lonely?
While I do love sharing experiences with my husband and family, I also love traveling alone and I don’t really get lonely.
Besides, I meet lots of people while I’m out and about and I’m an introvert anyway. I love talking to new people but I recharge when I’m by myself.
Taking a trip alone also means that I’m in charge of my itinerary. I get to make all the decisions. For me, I love that autonomy.
How can I have fun camping alone?
Again – you can do whatever. you. want. Whatever you find the most fun, go do that!
I love to hike, eat at new places, find new wineries and breweries, or explore unique attractions nearby when I go camping alone.
I don’t need another person to have fun doing those things.
Would I go to a theme park alone? I don’t really think so. A museum? Probably not. But that’s my personal preference. Figure out what works for you.
Is camping alone as a woman safe?
Is anything truly safe? The way I look at life is I could be in a car wreck tomorrow, a tree could fall on my house, I could come down with a terrible disease.
Accidents happen every day and while I think it’s important to prepare for a long and happy life, there’s something to be said for living like there’s no tomorrow.
Balance in everything.
SO – is camping alone as a woman safe? If you take these precautions then solo camping is just as safe as anything else you do.
What are some ways a woman camping alone can protect herself?
Some women choose to carry a gun. Some choose to carry a knife. Some prefer pepper spray or bear spray.
Tasers are also an option. Check the laws where you are traveling for both guns and tasers though.
You can also take a self-defense class which will not only help you be safer outdoors but will boost your overall confidence level.