The Complete Guide to Camping Alone

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you are the adventurous type. If you’re the adventurous type, then you likely have a bucket list with things that both terrify and thrill you at the same time – things like going on a camping trip alone. 

There’s something rustically romantic about roughing it and having a completely unique and individual experience. However, camping alone can also feel wildly overwhelming when you’re used to having others around to help carry gear, set up and take down camp, and enjoy the experience with you. 

From having the initial idea, to planning the trip, packing your bag, and the trip itself: 

this article will be your complete go-to guide to camping alone. 

Keep reading if you’re ready for your next and greatest adventure. 

Planning Your Trip

The first step when it comes to taking any trip is to choose where you’re going to go and for how long. For solo camping, you’ll want to choose a hiking trail and a campsite. For your first trip, it’s recommended that you start on a smaller scale and you can choose more advanced hiking trails as you gain experience. 

Do your research and look at the reviews online for any place that you’re considering going. If a place has multiple negative reviews, it’s probably best to steer clear of camping alone there. You also want to make sure that the campsite has all of the necessary permits and that it’s safe from any predators, poisonous creatures, or anything else that could be life-threatening. 

A few of the safest and most scenic places to camp alone for the first time are: Bartlett Cove Campground (Alaska), Tingles Island & Pope Bay Campgrounds (Maryland), Jumbo Rocks Campground (California), Tuweep Campground (Arizona), Floods Cove Campground (Maine), and Ash Grove Mountain Campground (North Carolina). 

Of course, there are many other campgrounds that are great for solo campers, but if it’s your first time – the campgrounds listed above would make for a great first solo camping experience. 

Once you’ve chosen where you’re going, make sure that you have the appropriate permits and double check whether or not the campground takes reservations (some operate on a first come, first serve basis). You’ll also want to go ahead and lock in the dates that you’re planning to camp. We recommend checking out the local weather before choosing your travel dates. 

Solo Camping Packing List 101

Now that you’ve got your dates locked in and have chosen a campground, it’s time to make sure that you have all of the necessary packing essentials. We’ll break down every item you need to bring from clothes to camping gear to food. 

Clothes. If you’re hiking and camping, it’s important to dress in layers. Layers help keep you warm, or can be stripped down to keep you cool. 

    • For your base layer, we recommend wearing loose fitting, sweat wicking clothes. Bring at least two sets of clothes for your base layer so you can rotate between days. 
    • Your mid-layer should include clothes made of fleece or wool. These fabrics will help keep you insulated and warm. 
    • The outermost layer is the layer that will fight back the most against the weather. You want to make sure that you pack something that is waterproof from top to bottom.

Gear. We’ve got you covered from cooking gear to camping gear. It’s also important that, before you leave for your trip, you practice setting everything up. This helps ensure that your equipment is working properly and can boost your confidence for setting up a campsite on your own. Below is a list of everything you’ll need for a safe and successful trip. 

 

    • Emergency List. Having an emergency contact list with important information like your name, emergency contacts, the name and address of your campground, any medical conditions, allergies, and blood type is crucial. Were anything to happen to you on the trail, this list could potentially save your life. 
    • Ultra Light Tent or Hammock. It goes without saying that when you’re camping you’ll need somewhere to sleep; however, keep in mind that everything you bring will have to be carried on your back while hiking or exploring. It’s important to bring something light, yet efficient like an ultra light tent or a hammock. If you choose to bring a hammock, make sure that you have something to hang above you that will keep the bugs out.  
    • First Aid Kit. It’s important to bring a first aid kit that’s fully stocked with anything you might need if you get hurt in any way on the trail. We recommend that you bring along the following items in your solo camping first aid kit:
      1. Butterfly band-aids (these cover more real estate than regular band-aids)
      2. Sterile gauze pads (non-stick, for larger wounds)
      3. Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic ointment (to clean and treat cuts)
      4. Micropore Medical Tape 
      5. Hand sanitizer
      6. Latex-free gloves
      7. Pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Aleve
      8. Upset stomach medicine like antacids and anti-diarrhea tablets
      9. Allergy medicine
      10. Eye drops
      11. Duct tape
      12. Tweezers, safety pins, small scissors
    • Map. Before leaving for your trip, make sure that you have either a well-drawn map or that you print one out. Most hiking trails won’t have wifi and having a map handy will help keep you from getting lost. 
    • Sunscreen. Even if you’re not hiking in the summer heat, UV rays can still penetrate and burn your skin. Nothing hurts worse than carrying a hiking backpack over a sunburn. Pack sunscreen. SPF 30 or 50 is recommended. 
    • Bug Spray. Similar to sunscreen, bug spray is both easy to forget and yet wildly important. Not only are bug bites incredibly annoying, but bugs oftentimes carry diseases that can be life threatening to humans. In order to keep yourself healthy, safe, and free from itchy bug bites, be sure to pack bug spray. 
    • Rope. Having a rope can be helpful for many reasons. One of the most popular ways to use a rope is for hanging up your food so that it’s out of reach from roaming hungry animals. It’s best to keep your food locked in your car, but if that’s not an option, you can use the rope to hang food high above the ground. 
    • Hat & Sunglasses. If you’re hiking at any time while the sun is out, it’s a good idea to bring a hat and sunglasses for your trip. 
    • Journal. Bringing a journal is not necessarily a solo camping must-have; however, camping alone can be a great time for letting your thoughts and creativity flow. After your trip, it will also be nice to read back through your journal and see how much you’ve grown as a person by camping alone. 

    • Camera. One of the best things about camping is the scenery. If you’re camping alone, by definition, you won’t have anyone to share the scenery with so it’s a good idea to bring along a camera so you can show your friends and family later on. 

Pro Tip: Bring a journal, scotch tape, and a polaroid camera and you can scrapbook your trip on the go. 

    • Garbage Bags. Garbage bags are great for not only throwing away trash, but also for keeping any wet clothes separate from the rest of your pack. 
    • Sharp Knife & Compact Axe. These are useful for cooking and chopping wood for fires. 
    • Padded Gloves. Gloves are great in case you need to use an axe to chop some wood. 
    • Flashlight, Lantern, & Batteries. Without a big city nearby, it can get quite dark at night, so you want to bring a flashlight and lantern to keep your campsite well lit. 
    • Toiletry Kit. You might be camping alone, but you still want to make sure to bring essential toiletries like a toothbrush, body wipes, deodorant, or anything else you need to keep your hygiene in check while you travel and hike. 
    • Entertainment. While hiking and exploring are incredibly entertaining, there will still be downtime to fill. Be sure to bring along a book, sketch pad, music playing device, or anything else that will help keep you entertained. Be mindful to keep it light, though.
    • Cooking Gear. We’ll tackle what food to bring below. But first, here’s a full list of cooking gear for your solo camping adventure. 
      1. Compact Cooking Stove (you can get away without one if you’re really good at starting fires)
      2. Matches (to start fires) 
      3. 1.5 Liter Pot 
      4. Cleaning Sponge 
      5. Eating Utensils 
      6. Foil (foil is great for cooking directly in the fire or wrapping up leftover food)
      7. Cleaning Detergent 
    • Hiking Backpack. Once you’ve made sure that you’ve got everything ready for packing from this list, you need to be sure that it all fits into your hiking backpack. We recommend that you have a backpack that carries at least 50 litres, but 80 liters is probably the best. After filling your backpack, try it on for size and weight. If it’s too heavy, take out anything you don’t need. 

Food Essentials. Packing food that won’t weigh you down, but that will also be nutritious and filling, can be complicated and feel overwhelming. If you stick to our food essentials guide, you’ll be well fed but not overstuffed. 

    • Powdered Hot & Cold Drink Mixes. Imagine watching the sunrise one beautiful morning. Now imagine that same sunrise with freshly made instant coffee in your thermos. Bringing along powdered drink mixes can help keep your palette entertained while also keeping you hydrated. Powdered instant coffee, tea, or hot cocoa are great for warming up and waking up. Lemonade or iced tea are great for cooling down midday. 
    • Protein Bars & Instant Oatmeal. Depending on how long you are traveling, you could actually get away with only bringing protein bars and instant oatmeal. However, if your trip is any longer than 2-3 days, you’ll need something with a little more sustenance. Protein bars and instant oatmeal are great for breakfast, or snacks because they fill you up well and are quick and easy. 
    • Dry Food. Dry food is great for cooking at dinner time. Pack a few things of pasta or rice and let it boil over the fire. Another great food to bring dry is fruit. Dried fruit is great for a little sugar pick-me-up and is easy to carry along for your trip. 
    • Salt, Pepper, & Other Seasonings. If you’re planning on cooking anything, bringing a few essential seasonings can help give you a variety of flavors and keep you from getting bored.
    • Canned Food. Bringing along small cans of beans and vegetables is great for healthy snacks or additions to your meals.
    • Water & Water Filter. Arguably the most important food item to bring is water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things for you to be mindful of when you’re hiking and camping alone. Pack your own water, but also bring a water filter so that you can refill and make sure it’s safe to drink. You can also boil the water down as an alternative to using a filter. 

A Few Things to Keep in Mind While Camping Alone

Now that you’re all packed and ready to go on your solo camping adventure, we’ll leave you with a list of pros and cons when it comes to camping alone to help with your decision. 

Pros

Camping alone can give you a unique experience with nature that allows you to connect with your surroundings in a deep and meaningful way. 

When camping alone, you only have to worry about yourself. That means no arguing over what to eat that night, and you don’t have to worry about other people in your group hiking slower than you, faster than you, or any other concerns. 

Hiking and camping alone can also give you a fresh sense of confidence and self-awareness. 

Cons

Being alone for an extended amount of time can begin to feel lonely. This is why bringing a journal can be incredibly useful. 

While camping and hiking alone is safe, for the most part, if something were to happen to you while you’re alone, waiting for help can potentially take a long time. If you’re seriously injured, this could result in life threatening conditions. Having a loud whistle can help bring attention to the area you’re at. 

All in all, camping solo has many benefits and if your heart beats faster at the thought of a little adventure, then camping alone is a great option for you. Always be mindful of your surroundings and be sure o let family members and friends know where you’ll be. 

For your first solo camping trip, choose a place relatively close to home and only stay for a few days. After you’ve conquered your first trip, you’ll be ready to go farther away and for longer periods of time. 

So, where will you go for your first camping trip alone?

Caleb Cole

Caleb Cole

I grew up in Montana, spent my free time camping, hunting and fishing. I began writing as a side hobby while camping. Very happy to be working with the guys here at Outdoor Command and look forward to providing best in class outdoors content for you.