This solo camping gear guide is brought to you by our friends at OOFOS, who make women’s footwear that’s not just comfortable, but designed to aid runners and hikers in active recovery from all of their favorite outdoor pursuits.
Let’s face it, even if you’ve logged plenty of backcountry hours, solo camping can be a little scary. When I went on my first solo camping trip this summer, I was excited to experience the exhilaration of being in the woods all by myself. I felt confident enough to wing it a little and find a campsite near Crater Lake National Park without a prior reservation. Sure, I’d be arriving after dark, but I knew from plenty of practice that I would be able to string my hammock up quickly and get a fire going no problem.
Still, I got little sleep the first night. Nervous questions kept running through my head. What if a bear thought I was a tasty prepackaged snack hanging there in my thin nylon hammock? Did I have enough water? Should I have brought that extra pair of socks?
When dawn finally came, I was relieved to discover I hadn’t been eaten by wild animals or withered from dehydration. Instead, I’d nailed my first night. I packed up my things and headed to Umpqua Hot Springs just down the road to celebrate.
The next night, I returned to that same spot at Thielson Forest Camp with no fear. I finally found the serenity that I’d been seeking for the past twenty-four hours. It wasn’t my preparedness that I needed to worry about. It was just the very loud doubts in my own mind.
The secret to successful solo camping, I found, is preparing not just for what you actually need to survive a weekend in the woods. It’s preparing for all those midnight scenarios that will probably never happen, just so the nervous voice in your own head can simmer down and let you enjoy the sensation of being by yourself outside.
7 Ways To Make Solo Camping Easy, Soothing, and Safe
Besides the obvious camping gear, here are seven extra items I’d recommend for anyone going on a solo camping trip.
1. Emergency Kit
The Dyrt Ranger Kayla H. loaned me her LifeLine emergency kit, which contains everything from first aid supplies to fire starters in a handy 32-ounce water bottle. It was reassuring to know there were extra matches and a flint in tinder in case my duct-tape wrapped lighter (that’s another handy camping hack) gave up the ghost. There was paracord in case I forgot one of my hammock straps, as well as bandaids. Fortunately, I never had to unscrew the lid to get at the contents. But I knew I’d be covered for any potential mishaps.
2. Bear Canister
If you are camping in bear country and there’s no box at the campground, it certainly offers peace of mind to know that your food will be safe from wild visitors. At some parks, storing things in the car is a fine way to keep critters out of your food. At others, the food storage protocol is to always use a bear box or canister. Read up on the campgrounds you’re considering to find out what the recommendations are for food storage. With a bear canister, though, you’ll be prepared for almost any scenario.
3. Comfortable Footwear
A pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off are a must have. These come in handy when you need to hop out of the tent or hammock to tend the fire or head off to the bushes when nature calls. It’s a little thing that really makes a big difference for how relaxed and at home you feel in the great outdoors.
4. Camping Knife and Multitool
One of the most important approaches you can take when solo camping is to pack with your deficiencies in mind. For example, I’m not very handy. If my car breaks down or a piece of gear needs to be repaired, that’s usually when I call in help from friends or professionals. Solo camping though, I have to be ready to rely on myself if things go sideways. Having a knife and multi-tool on-hand makes it easy to get things done around the campground. With these items, I’ll at least have the gear I need to cut wood and rope or mend what gets torn or busted.
5. Open Ear Headphones
Listening to my favorite songs always calms me down when my anxiety is getting the best of me. All of the little forest noises can amp up your nerves when you are alone in the woods, so not being able to hear every single one of them can help.
However, not being able to hear them can be nerve racking, too. A solution that satisfies both sources of unease is a pair of open-ear headphones, which transmit music not through your ear canal, but through the bones in your face. The result is crystal-clear sound while also leaving your ears open to hear what’s going on around you.
You can lull yourself to sleep and play your favorite seize-the-day jams in the morning while you make a mug of cowboy coffee.
6. Toiletry Kit
For years and years, I was able to get away with always assuming someone else could spare a square if the campground bathroom was out of toilet paper. When you’re camping solo, though, there is no such luxury. Bring the essentials— TP, wet wipes, a shovel for digging cat holes, hand sanitizer or bio-degradable soap, etc. Ladies might also want a few specialized items, too, such as a Diva Cup for camping on your period or the Tinkle Bell, to make doing your business easy breezy. There’s also no law that says you can’t keep up with your usual routine for freshening up in the woods. Store the essentials like face cream, toner, or beard oil in small, reusable containers like HumanGear’s silicone travel bottles.
7. Creativity Supplies
One of the best camping experiences I’ve had was a women’s camping retreat where we chilled out with adult coloring books. Next time I go solo camping, I’m absolutely bringing a sketchbook and art supplies so I can recreate that experience for myself. As much fun as it is to talk all night by the campfire with your ride-or-dies, it’s also really nice to quietly journal by the light of flames, translate your favorite scenery from daytime hikes into watercolors, or just doodle with some drawing pencils. If you aren’t much for the visual arts, that’s ok. Bring along your knitting, a good book, or whatever other soothing activity you like to keep your hands busy and mind occupied.
It is exciting when you come back home from a foray alone outdoors and realize that you succeeded not only in surviving your experience, but turning it into an opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy yourself as well.
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