Solo camping is camping by yourself, plain and simple.
You don’t have a partner with you, you don’t have any friends tagging along, and you certainly don’t have any family members around nagging you to do camp chores.
It’s just you, your sense of adventure, and the great outdoors.
Is solo camping normal?
Yes, solo camping is very normal, and in fact, it’s a growing trend.
The peace and tranquility that comes with solo camping can be incredibly fulfilling, and for those who may be feeling stressed or dealing with difficult situations in everyday life, solo camping can provide the best opportunity for self-reflection, self-discovery, and self-improvement.
Solo camping is essentially a form of nature therapy—something that many people are seeking more often to help balance out their busy, modern lives.
But solo camping isn’t just for people who need to do self-inquiry work, or heal from something that happened to them.
Even if you’re not going through something especially stressful or life changing, solo camping can still be a great way to simply unplug, shake up your routine, escape from the daily grind, and recharge your batteries.
The benefits of solo camping
There are lots of reasons why solo camping is becoming more popular.
Here’s what you can expect to get out of it.
You’ll finally get the alone time you deserve. If most of your time involves constantly being around other people, you may feel a sense of peace once you physically and digitally distance yourself from others for a few days.
You’ll be able to do what you want, at your own pace. You can set up camp however you like, wake up when you want, explore places you’re interested in, and eat whatever you want—without having to consider other people’s best interests and expectations.
You’ll improve your skills. Solo camping can be a great way to sharpen the skills you already have and try out new ones, such as navigation, starting a campfire, and cooking.
You’ll develop your sense of self-reliance. When there’s nobody else around to help you make decisions or complete tasks, you’ll be faced with the challenge to figure it out on your own—and you’ll probably be surprised at how capable and confident you become!
You’ll get to know yourself better. When you’re alone, there’s no one to influence your thoughts and feelings—which makes it easier to reflect on who you are and what you want out of life.
You’ll appreciate the people in your life more. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and once you rejoin the people in your life, they may seem even more precious to you.
The drawbacks of solo camping
Solo camping can be great, but it does have its fair share of disadvantages.
Luckily, these don’t have to be dealbreakers.
As long as you’re aware of the risks and tradeoffs, you can still have an amazing time.
It’s a lot more work. When you’re camping alone, there’s no one else to help you split up the camp chores and get things done more quickly.
You may feel isolated or lonely. As much as people appreciate some time away from everyone else, spending days and nights completely alone can be tough for some—especially during challenging times like bad weather or unexpected situations.
You may feel uncertain or unsafe. If you’re not used to being in the wilderness by yourself, it can be a little nerve-wracking knowing that there’s nobody around to help reassure you that everything is fine, or assist with something you’re struggling with.
It’s riskier if something goes wrong. If you get lost or injured, there’s nobody else who can help you find your way or get medical attention.
It can be boring at times. Even if you love solitude, there may be times when you wish you had someone to talk to or do an activity with—either to pass the time, or to help lift your spirits.
Wth a little extra preparation, you can avoid or at least minimize the risk of experiencing each and every drawback listed above (except the extra work involved with going solo).
What do you need to go solo camping?
Your gear list for solo camping shouldn’t be much different than any other camping trip that involves two or more people.
The biggest difference you’ll notice is that you’ll need less gear and less food.
You won’t need to bring two or more sleeping bags, air mattresses, camp chairs, sets of dishes, headlamps, and other items that are usually needed for every person.
You may opt to bring items that make solo camping more enjoyable (such as a hammock) or convenient (such as dehydrated meals instead of fresh food).
Here’s a basic list of items you might take on a solo camping trip:
Tent and sleep system
- A three-season tent that fits 1-2 people
- A tarp
- A sleeping bag
- An optional sleeping bag liner
- An air mattress or sleeping pad
- A camp stove and fuel
- A pot or pan
- A long spoon or spatula
- A mug or thermos
- A plate and/or bowl
- Utensils for one
- A dishwashing kit
- A water bottle
Fire starting supplies
- Fire starter
- Multiple lighters, matches, or a ferro rod
- Leather work gloves
- A folding bow saw
- A pocket knife
- A hatchet or axe
- Dehydrated meals prepped at home
- Prepackaged or prepped snacks that are ready to eat
- A method or device for water filtration (such as a gravity filter, Sawyer mini water bottle attachment, or water purification tablets)
- A package or two of electrolyte mix
Clothing (depending on weather, activities, length of trip)
- At least 2 sets of base layers (breathable T-shirt/shorts or long-sleeved shirt/long pants made of merino wool for colder weather)
- At least 1 mid layer (sweatshirt/sweatpants or wool/fleece/down for colder weather)
- At least one waterproof, breathable outer shell (rain jacket, rain pants)
- Multiple sets of underwear
- At least 2 sets of socks (thicker for colder weather)
- Hat or toque/beanie
- Gloves or mittens
- Scarf, neck gaiter, or buff
- 1 pair of hiking shoes or boots
- 1 pair of comfortable camp shoes
- Extra batteries or battery charger
- First aid kit
- Travel size towel
- Extra cordage
- Bug protection
- Bear hang
- Bear spray
- Dry bags
- Personal locator beacon/GPS satellite device
- Map and map case
- Toiletries (toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
These are the types of things you would bring on any kind of camping trip, no matter who you are (or aren’t) going with.
Keep in mind that your list may include many extra items you might need for the type of trip you’re planning, and you should customize your food and clothing list to match your preferences as well as the conditions you’ll be camping in.
Is it safe to solo camp?
One question you might have about going solo camping is whether or not it’s safe.
The truth is, every risk and danger that comes with camping also applies to solo camping.
And unfortunately, those risks are amplified when you’re alone because there’s nobody else to help you if you get in trouble.
But as long as you use common sense and take extra precautions to stay safe, there’s no reason why you can’t have a totally safe and enjoyable solo camping trip.
Here are some tips for staying safe while camping alone:
Tell someone where you’re going. This should include what day you’re leaving, your itinerary with planned locations/campsites, and the day you expect to be back.
Check all of your gear before you head out. Make sure nothing is damaged and be sure to restock items like lighters, matches, fuel, and bug spray.
Be realistic with your route and activities. For instance, if you’re backpacking, give yourself extra time to pack up and unpack camp, and consider giving yourself at least one rest day.
Bring navigational tools like a map, compass, and GPS. We recommend purchasing the premium version of the Gaia GPS app so you can plan your routes and use them even when you’re offline.
Don’t rush or take unnecessary risks. That could include taking a shortcut through unfamiliar terrain or pushing yourself too hard physically.
Listen to your body and know your limits. It’s far too easy to make bad decisions or make a mistake when you’re mentally and physically tired.
Give yourself downtime. Plan to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night and make time to take breaks throughout the day—either at camp or on the trail.
Keep a flexible schedule have a backup plan. Avoid being too rigid with your planned route in case weather, terrain, or something else forces you to make an unexpected detour.
Carry a personal locator beacon or GPS satellite device. We use the SPOT Gen4, which has a built-in GPS map that our family members can use to follow us online, as well as an SOS button that sends out a distress signal in the event of an emergency.
Things to do while solo camping
Wondering how you can keep yourself busy and entertained while solo camping?
Here are some of our favourite ideas!
Write in a camping journal. Spending time outdoors is the perfect opportunity for some creative writing and reflection.
Read a good book. Bring your favourite novel or pick up a guidebook about the area.
Document your trip through photos and videos. You might even try vlogging to the camera to help you feel less lonesome.
Enjoy the silence and take in all the sounds of nature. Take it all in while you can.
Take a nap. One of the best parts about solo camping is that you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s sleeping schedule.
Explore the area. This could involve something as simple as taking a short, casual hike around your campsite (as long as you know how to get back).
Go fishing. Whether it’s river or lake fishing, it’s a great way to relax and enjoy nature while getting a little thrill of anticipation with each bite.
Watch for wildlife. If you stay still and silent enough, you might get lucky and spot anything from birds and frogs, to deer and moose.
Should you go solo camping?
It’s worth nothing that solo camping isn’t for everyone.
If you prefer the company of others, and you don’t quite feel confident enough to go out on your own to test your skills, it’s perfectly okay to stick to camping with friends and family.
But for the camping enthusiast who’s looking to challenge themselves in new ways and experience a real sense of freedom, solo camping could be just the ticket.
It’s a great way to gain a new perspective while also building personal confidence and resilience.
You might like solo camping if…
- You’re an independent type who enjoys the outdoors and exploring new places.
- You love adventure and new challenges.
- You’re comfortable with the idea of being in the wilderness on your own and navigating your way around unfamiliar terrain.
- You’re willing to bring all the necessary gear and equipment to stay safe.
- You want to strengthen your camping skills and become more self-sufficient.
- You’re enjoy solitude and are comfortable with spending long periods of time by yourself.
You might not like solo camping if…
- You’re a beginner who’s uncomfortable with being alone in the wilderness.
- You don’t feel confident enough to manage all aspects of camping on your own.
- You don’t like being away from friends, family and other people for extended periods of time.
- You prefer to have others around who can help you with tasks and provide comfort if something goes wrong.
- You’re not willing to take the extra time and effort to ensure you are properly prepared and equipped for your trip.
- You don’t enjoy the idea of being completely alone in unfamiliar surroundings.
At the end of the day, solo camping is all about reconnecting with nature, discovering yourself, and challenging yourself in new ways.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, then give it a try!
Consider starting small and simple with something like a short one-nighter in a familiar or local area to see how you like it.
If you do, you can up the ante and challenge yourself further with a longer, more remote camping trip.
Next up: How to plan the perfect camping trip
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).