Whether you are a man or a woman, camping alone can be intimidating for some people. Here is why you shouldn’t (and should) be afraid.
I get it. Being alone in the woods or desert can be scary, especially if you are far from civilization. People will tell you that it’s an irrational fear because “statistically” you are more likely to die at home in the bathtub. They will also tell you that no criminal is going to bother going out to the woods to hunt innocent campers. However, authors of horror fiction and scriptwriters continue to pump out books and movies which play on our fears. There have also been a couple of isolated incidents over the years. I’ve been in dark places on moonless nights, where a screaming water bird made it sound like someone was being murdered behind my van. Humans don’t see well at night and they are tribal, which means even the “loner” can fear being alone. Stating that the fear is irrational is stating the obvious and doesn’t really help the person who is afraid or apprehensive. So let’s look at the situation and come up with some solutions.
Darkness conceals evil AND good!
It’s worth remembering that you are just as invisible in the dark as that imagined threat. It’s true that animals have better night vision, but if you are worried about two-legged predators in remote camping spots, it’s just as likely that they won’t see you, as you not seeing them. In time, the darkness will become a comfort. But if you want to see what’s out there…
Light up your campsite!
Let’s face it, humans are better suited to doing things in the light. It takes a relatively long time for a human’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, which may be one reason we’ve adapted to being more comfortable in the light. While attending the Rubber Tramp Rendevous in 2018, I came across a guy who had added solar-powered motion detectors to the outside of his van; something I’d never considered. He was using some of these:
and attached them with this:
An absolutely brilliant idea, as was the light that these things throw off. So I decided to do a full DIY and video about adding motion detecting lights to your van. Given that most of what you have to fear is what you imagine is “out there” these lights go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable. Of course, if you are “stealth camping” in a city, it’s probably better to leave them off.
You do have a flashlight, right?
I usually have multiple flashlights around the van and on my person. I’ve been using these Ultrafire flashlights for years and find them to be very reliable and ungodly bright.
If you had to use it defensively, the other guy will be seeing stars for a few minutes (shine it in the face, then turn it off). It also has a low setting and an SOS mode (if you get injured hiking or something). The kit above comes with a charger so you won’t need to keep buying batteries. Unless you are going on a commando raid, this is all the flashlight you are likely to ever need.
Carrying weapons while traveling
Being that you are more likely to face an animal threat than one from another human, many campers prefer to carry bear spray (a stronger form of the pepper spray that the police carry). Bear spray also works on humans, but if you ever need to use it that way, it would be wise to tell the police officer that you carry it for bears and it was “all you had at hand, to defend yourself”. Check the local laws for all the areas you travel through. Many states and localities have laws regulating the possession of pepper sprays or mace.
Other people prefer to carry firearms when traveling alone. I’ve done this and although it gives you another tool to use, it can also be an inconvenience. For example, although most National Parks in the US allow firearms (they follow the local laws) almost NO visitor center allows them. So, if you are at the Grand Canyon visitor area for example, you will need to leave it in your vehicle.
That presents other problems because someone could grab it out of your vehicle. An unattended vehicle break-in is many times more likely than having to defend your life with your firearm. If you DO decide to carry your firearm, get a concealed carry permit in your home state and then check the “reciprocity maps” to see what states honor your permit. Also, check what states require you to inform the police, should you get pulled over. If you are going to Canada or Mexico, handguns are a no-no. Long guns (rifles and shotguns) can be permitted, but it’s such a hassle, IMHO it is not worth the trouble. Last, be aware that you can be imprisoned for the possession of ammunition in Mexico. That round you dropped under the seat two years ago, may turn up at the wrong time.
Privacy Panels work both ways
When I initially made my privacy panels, I wanted to completely black out the windows so nobody could “see inside” and so Walmart’s parking lot lights wouldn’t keep me awake. They worked so well that I effectively blocked all views of the outside when in the back of the van. Not being able to “peek” outside can add to your fear of the unknown. If you have curtains, you can always peek around them, but if you use some type of panel, consider adding a hole with a flap or some other way to look outside. After a few days, you’ll realize that the only thing outside is the occasional racoon 😉
What you SHOULD be afraid of
Knowing that it’s extremely unlikely that you will be attacked by an animal or another person, it’s worth remembering that there are a million ways to die in the wilderness. It’s much more likely that you will fall over or down something and die of exposure. Make sure you have first aid equipment (and I would add a tourniquet to the gear), water, blankets, and anything else you might need in the environment you are heading to. If you are hiking alone, spend the money for properly fitted hiking boots and hiking poles. I’m also an advocate of “self-rescue” which means knowing how to change YOUR tire (I also carry a basic plug kit and “fix-a-flat”) and carrying something that can jump-start a vehicle. I like the Sears Die Hard Portable Power 1150, because it also has an air compressor, but you should choose what works best for you.
Come get me!!!
You should also have a reliable form of communication. Usually, that is a cell phone with a portable charging pack, in case you are somewhere that you can’t charge it in your vehicle. Unfortunately, a lot of remote camping spots have no cell signal. If remote camping and hiking is your get down, then you should absolutely have a rescue beacon that can communicate by satellite. Just remember, these beacons need a view of the sky. Heavy tree cover can block the signal and they are pretty useless in a cave. I like the Spot GPS because it has a “life or death, send the helicopter” mode, but can also call a tow truck for less threatening situations:
Nothing to fear, but fear itself
I really dislike that quote and the guy who said it, but in the end, most of what we fear will happen never does. Being prepared will go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable with being alone. In the end, you may have to tough it out for a few days until it becomes familiar and thus, safe-feeling. For some people, starting off with a KOA or more crowded campsite and “graduating” to remote camping is a help (and a few nights in a crowded campground will definitely motivate you to go someplace else!).
There are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people traveling the highways of North America, Europe, and Australia. The number of “incidents” is statistically insignificant. Just remember the old adage, “Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things” and you’ll likely remain safe and in a few months, have your own advice for those that fear the unknown.
If you want to see a female perspective on this, check out this video:
Looking for a safe campground with a lot of people around? Then Check out my reviews of discount camping clubs, here. These discount campsite programs are well worth the money, but you have to pick the right ones.