Going camping is an exciting experience, but for some people, it can also trigger feelings of anxiety.
Fear of the unknown, uncertainty about your surroundings, and being away from your usual environment can be overwhelming.
But you’re not alone in feeling this way, and there are lots of practical ways to manage and reduce your anxiety about camping.
Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common signs to look out for include feeling nervous, restless, or tense, having rapid heart rate and breathing, and difficulty focusing on anything other than what you’re worried about.
What’s important to remember is that camping can actually help alleviate anxiety.
Spending time in nature, taking in fresh air, and disconnecting from social media are just some of the benefits that can contribute to reducing stress and anxiety levels.
That said, your feelings are valid, and you don’t have to ignore them.
Here are some of the most common reasons why people feel anxious about going camping, plus some tips on how to cope.
Anxiety about wild animal encounters
Camping brings you closer to nature, which means there’s always a possibility of seeing wild animals during your adventure.
After all, you’re in their home.
You might see signs of bears, coyotes, wolves, snakes, or other creatures that could be potentially dangerous.
It’s natural to feel a bit anxious about this, but with proper knowledge and precautions, you can reduce your anxiety and keep yourself safe.
How to feel less anxious about wild animal encounters
First and foremost, educate yourself about the wildlife in the area you’ll be camping.
This will help you know what to expect and how to respond should you come across any wild animals.
You can find information about local wildlife from park rangers, guidebooks, or online resources.
When setting up your campsite, be mindful not to disturb the animals’ natural habitat.
Choose a spot that isn’t near active animal trails or feeding areas.
Also, remember to store your food properly.
Most animals wander near campsites because they smell food, so securely storing your food in airtight containers or in designated wildlife-resistant storage boxes can greatly reduce your chances of attracting wildlife to your campsite.
While camping, follow these tips to minimize the risk of wild animal encounters:
- Keep the campsite clean and free of food scraps to avoid attracting animals.
- Maintain a safe distance from wildlife and use binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to observe them from afar.
- Avoid feeding wild animals, as this can cause them to associate humans with food.
- If you come across a wild animal, speak calmly and firmly to alert it of your presence, and slowly back away without turning your back on the animal.
- Carry bear spray or other approved wildlife deterrents if you’re camping in bear country.
Lastly, remember that wild animals are generally more afraid of you than you are of them.
They’re usually not aggressive unless they feel threatened or cornered.
Anxiety about hot, cold, or unpredictable weather
One of the most common concerns when it comes to camping is the weather.
You could also face sudden rain, wind, or even storms that can make your camping experience uncomfortable and nerve-wracking.
You can’t control the weather, but you can certainly do your best to prepare for it.
How to feel less anxious about unpredictable weather
Preparing well before your camping trip is the key to alleviating anxiety related to weather changes.
Consider the following tips:
Check the weather forecast. Keep an eye on the temperature ranges, humidity, and wind speeds for the area where you’ll be camping a few days in advance.
Even though the forecast may change, it helps you be ready for the most likely conditions.
Pack proper gear for the expected (and unexpected) conditions. Bring a wide range of suitable outdoor clothing—such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, waterproof jackets and shoes, and extra layers for warmth.
A high-quality three-season tent, stakes, and guylines can likewise help secure your campsite against strong winds and rain.
Choose a sheltered campsite. Opt for camping spots with natural windbreaks like hills, trees, or bushes, which can offer some protection against harsh elements.
Keep your camp secure. Ensure your tent’s structure is firmly secured and zipped, and store your belongings in waterproof containers to prevent damage from the elements.
Anxiety about lacking experience
Feeling anxious about camping because you’re a beginner is normal.
You might feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to set up a tent, build a fire, or even navigate outdoors.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce anxiety and gain more confidence in your camping skills.
How to feel less anxious about lacking experience
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your anxiety about camping due to inexperience:
Start small. Try a short day hike or an overnight trip at a local campground before tackling more challenging adventures.
This will give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with your gear and the basics of camping.
Bring a seasoned camper along. If you know someone with camping experience, ask if they’d be willing to join you on your trip.
They can provide guidance and boost your confidence.
Take a camping class or workshop. Many outdoor organizations, like the American Camp Association, offer courses on camping and outdoor skills to help you build your knowledge and know-how.
Research and plan. Before your trip, research your destination and make a checklist of essential camping items to help you feel more prepared and organized when you arrive.
Practice setting up your gear. Set up your tent, cook a meal using your camp stove, and test any other equipment in a controlled environment before your trip.
Anxiety about the lack of modern amenities
Some people find it really hard to cope without the conveniences of modern life, such as electricity and running water.
This can be a source of anxiety when camping, especially if you’re used to being connected to the internet or having access to hot showers.
But while it’s understandable that some people may have difficulty adjusting to living in nature for a few days, remember that camping is an opportunity to embrace simplicity and connect with nature.
How to feel less anxious about the lack of modern amenities
To help ease your concerns about the lack of amenities while camping, consider these practical tips:
Research the campground. Before your trip, look into the available amenities at your chosen campsite.
Some locations offer facilities like restrooms, showers, and camp kitchens.
Knowing what to expect can help you prepare and ease anxiety about the unknown.
Pack appropriately. Make sure you bring essential items like a portable camping stove or solar shower to make up for the lack of amenities.
This way, you’ll feel more comfortable and self-sufficient during your camping experience.
Establish a routine. Set up a daily camping routine that includes designated times for personal hygiene, cooking, and other activities.
Sticking to a schedule can help you feel more organized and in control, alleviating anxiety related to the lack of amenities.
Anxiety about your safety
When it comes to camping, safety should be a top priority.
It’s natural to have some anxiety about potential dangers.
But you can alleviate many of these concerns just by taking the time to familiarize yourself with basic safety guidelines and create a plan.
How to feel less anxious about your safety
One key to reducing safety-related anxiety is being knowledgeable about potential risks and having solutions to address them.
Here are some tips to help you feel more secure while camping:
Plan ahead. Research your campsite and its surroundings.
Know what to expect in terms of the weather conditions and any potential hazards in the area.
Identify nearby emergency facilities and make a list of important contact numbers, such as park rangers or emergency services.
Pack the right safety gear. Bring a first aid kit, flashlight or headlamp, extra batteries, a whistle, insect repellent, and sunscreen.
Make sure you have a reliable cell phone or communication device with a means to charge it.
Learn basic survival skills. Know how to start a fire, set up your shelter, and navigate using a map and compass.
It’s also worth practicing or brushing up on your first aid skills.
Respect wildlife in the area. Understand the types of animals that might be in the area, and learn how to safely give them the space they need.
Always store food and trash properly to avoid attracting them to your campsite.
Use the buddy system. If possible, camp with at least one other person—especially if you’re new to camping or anxious about your safety.
Make sure someone knows your camping plans and expected return time.
Anxiety about getting sick or injured
Sickness and injuries do happen during camping adventures, but again, there’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk.
In addition to taking preventive measures, knowing how to respond to such situations and taking preventive measures can help you feel more at ease.
How to feel less anxious about getting sick or injured
The following tips can help you stay safe and healthy while camping:
Pack a well-equipped first aid kit for your camping trip.
This should include essential items such as band-aids, pain relievers, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medications.
Learn how to recognize common symptoms of illness when camping, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues—such as abdominal discomfort, nausea, and constipation.
Being aware of these signs can help you take appropriate action and attend to your health in a timely manner.
Practice good hygiene while camping by washing your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer, especially before preparing food or eating.
Keep your campsite clean by immediately washing dishes, cleaning up garbage, and securing anything that smells in airtight containers, bags, or your vehicle.
Store food safely—such as meat, which can spoil if not kept cold and make you very sick.
Listen to your body. If you’re tired or even just frustrated, it’s worth taking a break, having a snack, and hydrating to avoid potentially injuring yourself.
Anxiety about getting lost
If you’re traveling, such as going on a backpacking trip, or you plan on hitting the trails during the day while base-camping, you may be anxious about losing your way.
It’s good that you’re aware of the risks of getting lost since not everybody takes it as seriously as they should.
But you don’t have to let your fears keep you from getting out there to explore.
How to feel less anxious about getting lost
First and foremost, always inform someone about your camping plans, such as your location and expected return date.
This way, if anything goes awry, someone will know where to look for you.
Next, make sure you pack the essentials to help you navigate your environment.
These items include:
- A reliable map of the area
- A compass or GPS device
- Extra batteries or a portable charger
- An GPS map app installed on your device that can be used offline (like Gaia GPS)
- An emergency whistle
Keep in mind that it’s normal to experience some anxiety when you’re in unfamiliar territory.
Start by paying close attention to your surroundings and landmarks when you arrive at your campsite.
Understanding your environment can help reduce anxiety and make it easier to find your way back.
Before embarking on your journey, consider brushing up on your navigation skills.
There are countless tutorials, books, and even online resources that can help you become more confident in finding your way around a wilderness setting.
For instance Basic Land Navigation is an affordable and highly rated online course offeredn via Udemy that you can take on your own time to enhance your skills.
Anxiety about the unknown
When camping, it’s natural for you to feel anxious about what lies ahead.
This could involve anything and everything your imagination can dream up—from wild animals, to bad weather, and even the fear of being alone in the dark.
You can never know exactly what will happen, but that’s how it is in modern life too.
All you can do is do your best to prepare and plan a trip you’re most comfortable with.
How to feel less anxious about the unknown
First, familiarize yourself with your camping surroundings in daylight.
By getting a lay of the land, you’ll be better able to navigate and identify potential hazards once the sun sets.
Next, plan ahead and pack what you think you’ll need for the trip.
Make a checklist of necessary items and double-check them before you leave.
This will help to ease the fear of forgetting something important while you’re in the great outdoors.
Bring some comforting items from home, such as a favourite book or a familiar snack.
These items can provide a sense of familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings.
Engage in activities that are familiar to you. This might include card games, reading, or yoga, which can foster a sense of calm and normalcy despite being in a new environment.
Lastly, it can be helpful to spend time with others during your camping trip.
Sharing experiences and having someone to talk to can provide comfort and support when anxiety creeps in.
Plus, having others around to help problem-solve if a challenge arises can ease your fears.
Anxiety about total darkness
The dark may not bother you so much at home, but outdoors, the thought of absolute darkness can be a bit intimidating.
But don’t let fear prevent you from enjoying the beauty of nature after dark.
Just because you can’t see beyond the trees doesn’t mean danger is lurking behind every one of them.
How to feel less anxious about being in total darkness
You don’t have to be in total darkness until it’s time to go to sleep.
Bring along a powerful LED flashlight or headlamp to help you see your way around camp and prevent any trips or falls.
Bring items like candles, solar lights, and lanterns to create a warm atmosphere so that it’s not completely dark at night.
Build a campfire, if it’s allowed in the area to provide you with light and warmth that can help to make your campsite feel more inviting.
If you’re also anxious about sleeping in total darkness, you can always bring a nightlight, such as a battery-powered lantern that can hang from the top of your tent and have its brightness adjusted.
Many campers also set up their tents facing east to allow the morning sun to provide natural light when they wake up.
Anxiety about noise
Though the wilderness may be peaceful and calming, it can also have its fair share of noise.
The sound of trees rustling, bugs buzzing, and other unfamiliar noises can make your camping experience a bit less enjoyable if you’re feeling anxious about them.
It can also make it hard to sleep if you’re sensitive to noise at night.
How to feel less anxious about noise
One effective way of managing nighttime noise anxiety is identifying the source of the sounds you’re hearing.
Familiarize yourself with the local wildlife and their voices, so you know what to expect.
Knowing what is making those noises can help bring some comfort.
Try wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when you sleep.
This can block out some of the bothersome sounds and help you rest easier.
Another option you have is to listen to some ambient sounds or calming music using headphones, to drown out the unfamiliar outdoor noises while you sleep.
In addition to these techniques, practicing mindfulness and deep-breathing exercises can help you refocus your thoughts and calm your nervous system when anxiety creeps up.
Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly—repeat this process until you feel more relaxed and centred.
Lastly, consider talking to fellow campers or friends who have experience with camping.
They can often provide valuable insights and advice on dealing with nighttime noises, as well as sharing their personal experiences.
Anxiety about socializing and sharing a campsite with others
Social anxiety can be a concern for many people, especially when participating in group activities like camping.
Camping with others might seem daunting, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable and less anxiety-inducing.
How to feel less anxious about camping with others
Firstly, it’s important to understand the situations that can trigger social anxiety.
Factors like new environments, meeting new people, and group activities can cause feelings of unease for those with social anxiety.
Knowing your triggers can help you plan and prepare for your camping trip.
Go camping with friends or family you’re comfortable to help ease some of the tension.
Familiar faces provide a sense of security and enable you to have more open conversations about your feelings and anxiety.
When packing for the camping trip, include items that bring you comfort or help with relaxation, such as a comfortable camp chair, soothing music, or a board game you enjoy playing with others.
Here are a few more tips to help reduce anxiety while camping:
- Take breaks: If you start to feel overwhelmed, step away from the group to catch your breath or take a short walk to clear your mind.
- Participate in activities you enjoy: Engage in hobbies or interests that make you feel at ease, like reading, photography, or journaling.
- Practice mindfulness: Incorporate relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga during your trip.
- Communicate: Share your concerns and feelings with others in the group. They may also have their own apprehensions and can offer support.
As you become more comfortable with camping, you may notice your social anxiety easing over time.
Anxiety about the lack of privacy
When camping, you might feel anxious about the openness of the campsite and campground, sharing a tent with others, and sharing bathroom facilities.
It’s a common concern, especially if you’re used to having your own space at home and rely on it to relax and unwind.
How to feel less anxious about having less privacy
One way to reduce anxiety about lack of privacy is to choose a campsite that offers a bit of seclusion.
Look for spots that are a bit away from the main camping areas, surrounded by trees, or are nestled between hills.
This will give you more of a sense of privacy while camping.
Bringing along some privacy-enhancing gear can also help alleviate your concerns.
A simple camping pop-up toilet and shower tent is a great solution for those who worry about their personal space.
These tents can offer privacy when you need to change your clothes or take care of personal hygiene.
It’s important to remember that everyone camping is in the same situation, so don’t feel the need to stress too much about having less privacy.
Most campers understand and respect the need for privacy, so communicate with them if you feel uncomfortable.
You’d be surprised at how accommodating others can be when you express your concerns.
Setting healthy boundaries is essential when camping with friends or family members.
Talk about your needs beforehand and let them know what you’re comfortable with and what you aren’t.
This open communication will help establish a sense of understanding and respect for each other’s privacy while camping.
Anxiety about forgetting to pack something
When you’re packing for a camping trip, it’s easy to forget some of the essentials.
And if you don’t have those items on hand, it can cause high levels of stress and anxiety.
To reduce this potential worry, make a list ahead of time (or sign up to get our “forgotten items” checklist below) with all the things you need to bring and check off each item as you pack it.
This will give you peace of mind that all your essentials are packed and ready for the trip.
If you do happen to forget something, don’t worry!
Remember that camping is meant to be a relaxing experience, so try not to let any small mistakes ruin it for you.
Chances are, there’s probably someone else in the group who has what you need or can help you find a solution.
It’s also important to keep an open and flexible mindset when packing for a camping trip.
Although having the right supplies is essential, don’t let it take away from enjoying your time outdoors.
If you find yourself running short on anything, improvisation and creativity can go a long way!
For example, if you’re missing cooking utensils, simply use a sturdy stick as a skewer or grab some rocks to create makeshift ovens.
Being able to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions can make camping even more enjoyable and exciting!
Overall, the key is to stay organized and plan ahead.
With a little bit of preparation, camping can be an enjoyable experience filled with lots of fun memories.
Camping anxiety is a common experience shared by many, but you can always learn strategies to overcome it.
Embrace the opportunities camping presents, like bonding with friends and family, soaking up nature’s healing powers, and gaining new experiences.
And remember, it’s okay to feel anxious—it’s all a part of the journey to becoming a more confident and happy camper.
Next up: What to do if you hate camping
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).