Back Woods Camping Alone
Many people love it many people are terrified of it. Me personally? I love it, nothing beats the sound of nothing. I go on solo trips to get away from people, the hustle and stress of work and to simply be alone with my thoughts. Out of my social circle I am the only one who consistently goes on and enjoys trips alone. My family being scared for me alone in the woods. There imagination going to the dark recesses of their minds where man eating bears roam. However after countless solo trips and just as many companied trips I find I am just as safe if not safer on my own. The reason? I don’t take risks or push myself excessively or over do things. Solo trips for me are on the straight and narrow path leaving little in the form of chance or risk. If weather is brewing and winds are picking up I am often tempted to out run it or paddle through it if I have a companion. On my own its not even a choice. Before you can say ‘storms a brewing’ my tents set up, waters filtered, meals cooked, tarps up and I am happily sitting down watching the clouds role in knowing full well if it gets intense I am fully prepared for a long rainy night. If your thinking about going solo read some of the tips I have found over many solo trips. But be warned solo trips in the back country are not for the faint of heart or those with minimal experience. If you don’t think you should go solo or are not ready for it stay home or find a friend to go.
That noise? It has to be a bear
On several different trips I have seen bears of all shapes and sizes while on group trips and alone. I distinctly remember a trip paddling Philip Edward Island on Georgian Bay when after finishing my paper work (if you catch my drift) a bear walked within 6 feet of me. Forever answering the question ‘does a bear crap in the woods’ Answer being I have no idea but they are awfully disruptive while I am going. I yelled and the cute little fellow ran off. Bears have a bad reputation but for the most part black bears are non aggressive creatures of the forest. My first time spending a night in the woods alone I heard rustling near my tent. My mind immediately went to ‘paddler eaten by bears’. I quickly loaded my bear banger and waited. Surprise surprise nothing happened. The noise I heard was more then likely a roaming squirrel. Have you noticed out of all the animals they make the most noise? Good think I didn’t panic because had I set off the bear banger inside the confines of the tent it would have caused more damage to me as it bounced around inside my tent then it would have to the loud squirrel. Point being don’t always assume bears are the enemy and they are out to get you. However things do happen and are often caused by human neglect. Remember your intruding on there home not the other way around. So practice smart camping. Place your food in scent proof containers, hang it in a tree at night and if your so lucky as to catch a few fish for the night make sure you don’t clean them at your camp. Consider purchasing a bear bell, bear banger (fires a loud fire work like projectile that explodes loudly) or bear spray. That way in the unlikely possibility of encountering a bear your prepared.
Plan your time accordingly
Solo back country travel has tons of rewarding experience however you can’t forget your alone. If you normally go with two or three people who share the workload you now have to do all the tasks. That includes yes filtering the water, yes setting up the tent and sleeping bags, yes roaming for fire wood and yes all the cooking and cleaning. When on a solo trip most of your time will be oriented towards camp related tasks like the ones listed above. So plan your time out, get it all done effectively and get ready to enjoy a quiet night. Some tips I suggested are finishing a task before moving on to the next one. Set up your tent, sleeping bag and bed role all at once. Gather all the fire wood you think you will need at once. Filter all the water at once. You catch my drift? I also advise getting up and starting earlier because you have to do all of these tasks yourself. This prevents that mad rush to set up camp before the sunsets.
Plan what you take
Use to splitting the gear between 3 backpacks? Ha think again! It all has to fit into yours. You may then think that you would have one third the gear because its only one person but thats incorrect. You might not have three sleeping bags three bedrolls etc. but much of the gear has to go on the trip regardless of how many people go. For example you need a stove, pots, cooking utensils, tent (can downsize the tent to a single person tent but it still counts), the water filter, knives, camp axe first aid kit. All of which could be split between three is now solely your responsibility. So plan what you take cut out some of the unneeded or rarely used pieces of gear. Your back will thank you. If your paddling its not so bad, the difference from a full kayak to a half full one is minimal in my opinion but I still choose to reduce what I bring. It is often a good idea to write every piece of gear you bring then put a check mark beside it each time you use it. At the end of the trip take a look. Some things have no check marks or only one or two? Consider leaving them at home next time you venture into the backcountry. This does not hold true to pieces of gear you may not use but should still bring like a first aid kit and other emergency equipment.
You may get behind, be rushed or worried about making time, setting up before a storm or any other situation that requires immediate action. But be advised: slow down. Accidents happen mostly when your rushing, not paying attention or panicking. Didn’t see that tent guy line because you were rushing to get the fly on before the rain began to fall? No? me either resulting in a very ungraceful fall. If your rushing or panicking you may not be so lucky an only receive an uninjured fall. Cuts, burns and falls will be your primary concern while on the campsite. Take special care around the fire, splitting wood or cutting anything. Instead of rushing or even proceeding as you normally do. Slow down. Remember your alone and have to look after yourself if anything goes wrong. Your buddy can’t carry you out if you sprain your ankle or knee. Slow down, take care and be aware.
Don’t fight with your self
I don’t know if this happens to everyone but it certainly does to me. We are so use to talking to other people, having a companion, friend or even enemy to look at judge, reflect on or converse with. When solo you have only yourself to keep you entertained and your restless wandering mind occupied. Don’t fight it, enjoy it. You may find at first you talk to yourself, can’t sit still, need to be occupied with tasks and need to keep busy. Worry not, that is normal and happens the first few days. We live in an instant gratification age and our minds need time to adjust to the silence, the lack of people around and the stillness. I find myself fighting to be silent and still the first few days alone. After about the third day my restless conciseness gives up and allows my subconscious mind to take over. The result is the rest of the trip being like a form of meditation. Gliding from one task to the next speechless and without judgement. It’s a hard experience to explain but worth it. Be silent on your trips and you may hear things you have never heard before. Experience feelings you can not experience on a group trip. Who knows, it might just be the best trip you have ever been on.