Deciding to go into the wilderness on your own can be scary. That’s okay. We’ve all been there and experienced those same feelings. Why might one camp solo? Maybe your schedule differs from your friends. Maybe you don’t know of anyone who wants to go camping. Maybe you simply want to be by yourself for a while. It doesn’t matter why you choose to go camping by yourself but having a game plan will make the adventure much easier.
Step 1: Decide where you want to go and pick your camping spot. I prefer provincial parks as I know they are regulated and always have staff on site. I always choose a basic site, but I know some people like sites with electrical hook up so they can plug a speaker in for music or charge their phones. I try my best to choose a site away from other sites and close to the water. The smaller the campground, the more likely I’ll visit. I prefer to get away from busy-ness when I’m camping. The Manitoba Parks Reservation Site shows maps and often has pictures of the campsites which can be helpful. You may choose your campsite based on how far it is from your home, what you’ve heard about it or amenities in the area.
Step 2: Scope out the area. Are there any hikes nearby? You can search a location on Instagram which can give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind any gas stations, coffee shops or grocery stores on the way in case you need to stop for anything. A restaurant or café close by can also be a great back up plan if you are craving a meal with no dishes or need a break from adverse weather conditions.
Step 3: Get your gear ready! If you don’t have any camping gear, this is the biggest challenge. Once you have the basics, everything else is easy.
Tent: If you plan on mostly solo camping, you’ll want a 2 or 4 person tent. The price range can vary greatly. I’m all about thriftiness and I wasn’t sure how much I would use a tent or if I would even like camping, so I was reluctant to drop more than $100 on a tent. I found mine on Kijiji for $40 and it is probably the best Kijiji find to date. The sellers had it set up for me to check out when I arrived. It’s a dome tent from the 70's and I’m in love with it. I researched my options (Canadian Tire, MEC, etc.) for a month beforehand so I had an idea of what to look for.
Sleeping Bag: Maybe your parents or friends have a few kicking around that you can use until you’re ready to buy your own. This was something I didn’t want to buy second hand. I ended up buying mine from MEC, but Canadian Tire also sells a variety of them and often has sales. The type of weather you plan on camping in will determine the temperature rating you want on your sleeping bag. A 0C rating will be sufficient for most.
Air mattress + battery powered pump: This is a life saver. If you want to wake up feeling refreshed rather than like a truck ran you over, the air mattress is a great thing to pack. They’re made to be relatively easy to pack, blow up and deflate. This one has a built in carrying case and comes with a pump.
Portable lawn chair
Cooler – I use a small backpack style cooler. It’s perfect if it’s just me or maybe one other person. If you like more food or need more space, you’ll have to invest in something bigger. Ice packs are also helpful to keep things cool.
Tote to carry the goods: The size will depend on how much stuff you have and how easily it can fit into your vehicle. It’s also nice to have for winter storage or moving. In the tote, you will keep:
Plastic bags – good for dirty dishes, impromptu garbage, wet clothes
Fire starter – I use any combination of paper bags, toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, laundry lint and keep it all in a small paper bag.
Lighters – always have at least two. I have found mine to not have any juice left on occasion.
Flashlight and/or headlamp – Nice for post sunset wood searches, finding your way to the bathroom or just because it makes you feel cool.
Cup or mug – for wine at night and coffee in the morning.
Plate, fork, spoon and tongs
Hand sanitizer – it’s nearly impossible to find a sink to wash your hands when you are camping. I was gifted this one and I love it for travelling.
Towel – I prefer a travel towel because they take up a lot less space and dry fast.
Utility knife/Multi use tool – you never know what you’ll need.
Campfire safe pot, kettle or percolator – because coffee while camping just tastes so much better.
Selfie stick + tripod – how else are you going to take amazing pictures to share with the world?
Tarp and rope or cables to carry it – this is just in case of rain. Truth be told, if I see rain in the forecast, I’m bailing on camping. But, you might be more willing to make a go of it!
Step 4: Pack up the perishables. The food you bring will take the most work. But, once you know how to prep, it’s so worth it!
Tin foil meals – Veggies, sausage, oil and spices. Wrap it all up in little tin foil packs. Double the foil wrapping so it doesn’t leak in your cooler. You can keep it in the fridge for a day or so before you pack it up to go. I pack one for the first evening I’m there and one for the next morning or early afternoon. Most of my solo camping trips are just an overnight trip. You’ll obviously need more of these if you intend on staying extra nights. I pack mine with chorizo from Crampton’s, potatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, salt and oil.
Snacks – I’m always ready for a snack when I’m camping. Trail mix (purchased in bulk from the grocery store), dried or fresh fruit and Lara or Kind bars are always with me.
Wine or your drink of choice – campfires, wine and a good book create my perfect solo camping night.
Big jug of water
Coffee – I am absolutely not opposed to Nescafe instant coffee. Have you had it? It's way better than you might expect. If you are into something fancier and have a campfire friendly coffee making option, you could do that, too!
Book + Notebook
Step 5: Pick out your clothes and toiletries.
Some type of athletic shoe or hiking boots
Sandals, preferably waterproof or can handle getting wet
Shorts, tank/tee, underwear for each day
Something to sleep in that you can wear in public (you'll need to go to the bathroom at some point)
Hoodie and sweatpants/jeans for when it cools off at night
Eye wear (I wear contacts so I need to bring solution and a case - this is the most inconvenient time to wear contacts)
Toothbrush and toothpaste if you get lucky enough to find a place to brush your teeth
Deodorant just in case you make a new friend
Step 6: Tell someone where you are going. Most provincial parks have WiFi somewhere, but not everywhere. Make sure someone knows where you are, when you are leaving and when you expect to be home. Just in case.
All of my solo camping adventures are for one night. For many, this might not seem worth it. I always find my one day away to be more than enough. Being away from home, work, internet and television gives you all the time in the world to enjoy your environment. Eat a big meal before you go. Plan something to do right when you get there. Set up camp, wind down with the campfire, go for a swim, read a book, throw your tinfoil dinner on the fire, sip some wine. Sleep deeply and wake whenever you’re ready. Make your coffee, heat up your breakfast (I always cook mine at the same time as my dinner the night before) slowly pack up camp and your vehicle. Go for another hike, swim or exploration. Make your way home feeling refreshed, relaxed, restored.
This checklist can also work for a duo! You simply need more food, another sleeping bag, chair and cutlery. That’s it. That’s all. Let us know if there is anything you think we missed or that you can't camp without!