The Ozark Mountains are pure paradise for the outdoorsman. Old-growth forests, seeping springs, and high waterfalls ignite our passion. We want to go deeper here, to get dirty and bruised. Yet for many, exploring the heart of these mountains is nearly impossible. Pockmarked with massive cave systems and high rock bluffs, these hills hold secrets that most people will never see. Exploring the deepest parts of the Ozarks is an incredibly difficult and dangerous undertaking. Sinkholes, rockfa...
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Solo camping is one way to escape the bustle of everyday life, connect with nature, and enjoy deep introspection. While camping is statistically safer than going to the grocery store, many women feel anxious about going alone.
There are universal concerns every solo camper must face, but there are some dangers unique to women adventurers. However, with some planning, preparation, and a proper mindset, there’s no reason female solo campers can’t experience refreshing solitude in nature.
Here are some safety tips for women who are thinking about camping all by themselves.
Practice Makes Perfect
Camping solo can be a profoundly fulfilling experience. However, if you don’t have at least a smidgeon of outdoor experience, it can be more frustrating than fun.
Before heading into the great outdoors alone, try to get some experience under your belt. Ask a few seasoned campers if you can tag along. Camping alongside veteran outdoor adventurers will help you learn valuable skills and helpful camping hacks. It will also boost your confidence, which is a major asset when adventuring in wild places alone.
You should also practice with your camping gear before your trip. You want to make sure you can operate your camp stove, pitch your tent without help, and can get a campfire going by yourself.
Make A Plan and Share It With Someone You Trust
Scheduling out your camping trip may feel like you are compromising spontaneity. However, purposefully preparing a rough outline of your plans is just smart. Thinking through which trails you’ll hike, and contemplating the difficulty and time commitment of your camping activities can help prevent fatigue and injury. A little forethought and planning can ultimately make your outdoor foray much more enjoyable.
Don’t broadcast your solo camping plans on social media. A public announcement that you’ll be wandering around in the woods by yourself could potentially draw attention from someone with nefarious intentions. You should also avoid posting about your adventures in real time. Save that awesome sunset photo and post it to Instagram later.
Although you should keep your adventure cards close on social media, it’s also dangerous to head into wild spaces without letting someone know your plans. Leave a detailed itinerary of your adventure with at least two trusted friends, neighbors, or family members. Include the location of your intended campsite, the trails you’ll be hiking, and your anticipated return time.
Leaving behind an agenda for your weekend adventure may feel like overkill, especially if your plans are relatively tame (like a simple overnight stay at a campground in a popular state park). It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when you’re staying in wilder spaces. If something does go awry, you’ll be thankful someone in your everyday life knows where you are.
You can also reach out to park rangers or campground staff. I’ve never met a ranger who wasn’t incredibly friendly, and park safety is always their main priority. They don’t want anyone getting hurt on their watch. If they know you’re a solo female camper, they will be more than willing to keep an eye out for your well-being.
Don’t Broadcast that You’re Alone
Encountering strangers on the trail or near your campsite can sometimes be unsettling for women camping alone. Always trust your gut. If someone makes you feel uneasy, you don’t have to entertain them with friendly banter. You definitely don’t need to inform them that you are camping by yourself.
If you’re hiking, you can always tell some little white lies, like “My boyfriend/husband/brother is waiting for me just up ahead on the trail.”
You can also dress up a campsite to make it look like you’re staying with someone. Consider adding an extra camp chair around the fire, or placing a pair of men’s boots just outside the door of the tent. Those small signals may be enough to get someone pestering you to leave you alone.
Take Your Dog
Man’s best friend isn’t just for the guys. Dogs love the outdoors and make fabulous camping buddies.
Their presence can be comforting at night when every little noise is magnified in your imagination. An alert canine makes a great early-warning system for camp intruders (both the two-legged and four-legged variety). Plus, a dog can be a deterrent for anyone who might have theft or other bad intentions in mind.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
When camping alone, avoid activities that inhibit situational awareness. Leave the earbuds and AirPods at home. You want your attention to be on your environment, not just so you can appreciate nature, but also so you can stay safe. You don’t want predators of any kind sneaking up on you when you are by yourself in the wild.
If you feel like you must listen to music or the last chapter of an engaging audiobook, use a portable speaker with the volume turned down low. You can also opt for open-ear headphones or headphones with ambient sound technology. Both let you enjoy your favorite playlist while also allowing you to listen to what is going on around you.
Often outdoor adventure takes us to places with shoddy cellphone reception. Going beyond the reach of a smartphone can have both positive and negative consequences. Unplugging is good for the soul. However, a strong cell signal is a blessing if you ever need to call for help.
If you plan to camp in an area with an unreliable signal, consider investing in a cell signal booster. A cell signal booster is an electronic device that amplifies a weak cellular signal so you can make calls, send texts, and surf the internet if you need to.
Cell signal boosters only work if there is a signal to boost. In seriously remote areas, there may be no signal at all. In those areas, a personal locator beacon can provide peace of mind and could potentially save your life. The sole purpose of a PLB is to transmit an SOS, alerting authorities that you have an urgent need for help. The beacon also transmits your exact location so search and rescue know right where to find you.
If you are just planning a casual stay in a campground, you may not need either a signal booster or a PLB. However, a strong flashlight with a strobe function could help grab the attention of campers at a neighboring site.
It’s also a smart idea to keep your keys within easy reach, especially when you turn in for the night. In an emergency, you can hit the car alarm. The noise will scare off overly curious wildlife and draw the attention of nearby campers. (Just be sure you don’t accidentally roll over on your key fob in the middle of the night. Very embarrassing.) An air horn will also work if you’re camping away from your vehicle.
Arm Yourself (Maybe)
Carrying a weapon, whether it's a knife, taser, or firearm, is a highly controversial topic. While a gun might make you feel safer, they sometimes provide a false sense of security. Weapons can be used against you, and if you aren’t experienced and skilled, there is a greater risk of accidental injury. If you do choose to tote a pistol, defense blade, or stun gun on your camping trip, get some training and practice first.
Some places, like many state parks, don’t allow visitors to carry firearms, so make sure you check local laws and park regulations before your trip.
It’s also never a bad idea to learn basic self-defense. Take a few karate or jiu-jitsu classes. You’ll be grateful for the hand-to-hand skills if you ever need to use them.
Although camping alone may seem daunting for some women, solo outdoor adventures can be enjoyable, fulfilling, and empowering with a little planning and forethought. Ultimately, camping is an incredibly safe activity, even when you go it alone. Don’t let fear keep you from what could be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.