This month’s solo insight is sparked by an interview where I was asked about camping solo and whether I thought it was a good idea to do something outside of your comfort zone. The answer was a resounding ‘yes!’ Pushing your limits and doing activities that stretch your mind and body is so beneficial. And as for camping, if I can camp solo, anyone can.
As a backpacker, I’m used to roughing it around the world but when it comes to camping, I’m pretty clueless, to be honest. But even as a novice, I have camped at a festival in Panama, camped in the UK, wild camped in Albania, in front on a sand dune in the Sahara Desert and camped my way around both West Africa and East Africa on two separate overlanding trips. So for this month’s insight, I’m sharing my tips on camping for beginners.
Camping is something that you may have a love-hate relationship with. On one hand, you get to enjoy the beauty of nature and sleep under the stars; on the other hand, you are often forced to deal with insects, bad weather, and lack of comfort. One thing is for sure, camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. It can be a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Camping provides many benefits such as no distractions, reconnecting with nature like never before and recharging your batteries with plenty of fresh air and hiking. I’ve had some of my best night’s sleep in a tent. There’s something about the fresh air and the sounds of nature that just lulled me into a deep night’s sleep.
You don’t have to go all the way to West Africa to experience camping. If you’re intrepid about travelling alone, you could just try a night somewhere local to give you a taster. Look for local campsites and check if they are just one big field where you may feel more isolated and awake half the night worrying about being there alone, or choose one which has facilities and is more touristy so that you have showers, toilets and company available if you need it. You’ll also have people around you if you struggle to put your tent up (which happened to me the first time).
* Read: Benefits of Camping For Solos
If you’re travelling abroad, some places already have tents set up that you can just rent for the night so you don’t need to take any gear with you. But if you do need a tent, you can find my recommendations here.
When you’re looking for a tent, a one-man tent may be enough if you don’t need much space but a two-man tent will give you more room and maybe more comfortable. You may even want to opt for an extended porch design!
You’ll want to choose a quality tent that is weatherproof especially if the weather is unpredictable where you are planning on travelling to. Try looking for some on the more expensive side, because they will last at least several years without ripping or losing quality. I slept in a one-man tent which was easy to assemble and had just enough room to sleep. I did prefer my two-man tent as it had more room for my backpack and I felt more comfortable spending time in my tent, reading before I fell asleep. Make sure there’s a flysheet that you can put on top. It gives you extra protection from the elements.
I recommend taking a sleeping bag or just a sleeping liner if it’s too hot. My sleeping bag opens up like a duvet so I feel as though I’m in a bed (just laying on the floor) instead of cocooned and more restricted in a mummy-style sleeping bag.
If it does get cold in the evenings, a down sleeping bag means that you’ll stay warm and cosy during the night. Down insulation for clothes and sleeping bags is recommended as it is lightweight and does not take up too much space in your bag. Down makes for a warmer and way more comfortable sleeping bag to avoid back pain while you stay warm during the nights.
You may want to pack an inflatable camping mattress to make sleeping on the ground more comfortable. Some of these roll up so they carry just like a yoga mat. Don’t forget to take a pillow too, whether it’s a blow-up one or your normal one from your bed.
The right backpack can be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker. You wouldn’t want to take a backpack that you’d normally carry books in for example, as it wouldn’t be too comfortable on your back and shoulders. You might want to invest in a hiking backpack since they are made from high-quality materials and are really durable. Also, the backpack should be big enough to fit all your stuff. Look for a backpack that has foamy places on the parts where it lays directly on your back and shoulders. It will make moving around easier, especially if you’re packing your things into it during the day and exploring the area before returning at night.
I also took a combination padlock which I used to fasten the tent when I wasn’t there. Although others seemed to think this was a strange idea, it stopped the baboons from entering my tent in Ghana because they couldn’t unzip the tent!
Take a good book or a Kindle and your diary. Camping gives you plenty of reflection time and most importantly, ‘you time' (if you’re going solo). Even if you’re with others, you still have your tent that you can retreat to when you need some alone time.
Clothes and Shoes
If you’re not sure what to pack for your camping trip, one tip is to pack the right clothes and shoes. You could take some flip flops for walking around the campsite too. You definitely won’t need your little black dress and heels for this one! You want the clothes you are wearing while outside on your camping trip to be comfortable and durable. The last thing you need is a brand new top getting ruined after one day of wear. Patagonia women's clothing are great for the outdoors.
Try wearing long sleeve shirts with pockets, wool socks, hiking boots or shoes (I recommend my Loom shoes that are waterproof and super comfy), sunglasses (especially if they have UV protection), a hat, gloves, sunscreen (I use P20), and bug spray. Long sleeves help to keep away the mosquitos, especially if you’re camping near the water.
Make sure to have extra clothes or layers in your backpack too. You never know when it might get freezing cold or rainy.
Other Things To Pack
Nights outside of the city can get pretty dark. The sky will light up a bit, but not enough for you to see clearly. That’s why you’ll need a small battery-powered lamp or a flashlight. I use a head torch that fits on my head and keeps my hand’s hand free. I’ve also taken a pen torch and tied it to the top of my tent at night so it hangs down like a light bulb. You’ll definitely need some light if you need the toilet in the middle of the night too.
Another item to pack in your backpack is a first aid kit. You never know when you might need it. Camping can be unpredictable. Even if it’s just for a small cut, a basic first aid kit may come in handy. Include plasters (in case you get blisters), rehydration formula, and antihistamines for any insect bites.
You may not have access to electricity either so take a portable battery. I have a solar-powered one that kept me going in Africa as I used to charge it in the sun to be able to use it. Take a plug and handwashing lotion. You can just throw your clothes on the top of the tent to dry in the sun but you may want to take a washing line that you can tie to a tree instead.
You may have facilities where you're going but if not, take a water filter too. Sawyer Europe is a great brand or you may prefer a Brita Filter bottle (I used to have a pink one!) During my camping trip in Africa, I took some flavoured water sachets to give the water a better taste. I would also stock up on breakfast bars and nuts. Or take some porridge bowls that you just need to add water to.
Most importantly, enjoy every single minute. Camping can be a great experience especially if you’ve never done it before. And it can be as relaxing as you want it to be. Just make sure you’re prepared and have everything packed then enjoy every single minute of being surrounded by nature with just you for company. You’ll definitely return feeling relaxed with a sense of peace.
Have you been camping solo?