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Solo Camping Checklist – Everything and a Little More (Printable)

A solo camping trip can be a perfect way to relax and recharge from the stress of a busy life. Camping trips are a way to unwind and declutter thoughts. A solo camping trip would give you absolute peace and quiet. 

To some, this may sound appealing and intimidating at the same time. However, having a solo camping checklist with the most important items can be very helpful and ease some stress. 

Just because you are camping alone doesn’t mean you are a hardcore backpacker. You don’t have to be an extremist; you can solo camp out of your car. This may be a good way to see if solo camping is even for you. 

Either way, you will need some type of checklist for a solo camping trip. We have come up with the most essential items a solo camper would need. 

Later in the post, we will discuss the many benefits of solo camping and the challenging situations you will come across. We also will cover how to plan and be prepared before your solo adventure begins.

Let’s get to the fun part: Solo camping checklist essentials.

Tent

Regardless of whether you are backpacking solo or car camping solo, you will need some type of shelter. A shelter serves as a place to rest, get away from bugs, and protect you from the weather. 

Man standing in the mountains next to a yellow tent

If you are camping out of your car, you have more options for a tent. It can be more spacious than a backpacking tent. You don’t have to worry much about the weight and size of your tent if you don’t have to carry it on your back.

A two-person tent has more space for your clothes and gear. However, a backpacking tent is cozy for one camper, lightweight, and easy to pack.

Another really excellent option is a suspended tent (hammock tent). Imagine being rocked to sleep under the stars. Hammock tents are incredibly lightweight and are perfect for solo backpackers. 

Hammock tents even come with a mesh cover to keep the bugs away and pockets for your small personal items. In addition, they are easy to move, which is very appealing to a camper wanting to explore different campsites. 

Tarp

If you have the space and can bring along a tarp, it can serve many purposes for a solo camper. For example, a tarp can be hung over your tent for protection from the weather. It can also be put under your tent if your footprint isn’t waterproof.

Gray tarp with blue trim

A tarp can be hung up as a vertical tube if you want a little privacy. Think of it as your wilderness changing room, also a perfect place for a sponge bath. 

A tarp hung from the trees can also be used as a windbreak or a shield from the sun. There are so many ways to use a tarp; it is a good idea to bring one if you can. 

Obviously, it may be difficult to bring along a tarp if you are backpacking all your gear around. However, even if you could take a small tarp and roll it up tightly while hiking, that would be helpful.

A tarp is only as good as the rope and the stakes you have. So bring along plenty of cord or thin rope and some stakes. Another must-have of mine is duct tape. I use it every camping trip.

I love this stuff. I even have a small piece of duct tape holding my favorite blush brush together; I don’t need a new one.  

Sleeping bag

A real camper sleeps under a bed of leaves. That’s bologna. You need a sleeping bag to be comfortable, warm, and get some rest. 

If you are a solo backpacker, you will want an extremely lightweight sleeping bag that packs down small. You will also want it to be warm and snuggly, as backpackers tend to be in tents that do not provide a ton of warmth.

If you are camping out of your car, you can take along just about any type of sleeping bag. You are not limited by space, so bring whatever will work best for you. Just make sure the sleeping bag is appropriate for the weather you will encounter.

Camping chair

Isn’t it so nice to sit down and relax a bit while you are camping? A camping chair is a place to relax and a place to have your meals. But, unfortunately, even if you happen to find a tree stump, it won’t be as comfortable as a camping chair.

Blue camp chair by a river

Solo camping is a time to reflect, slow down, and enjoy time alone. This may be relaxing with a good book in the afternoon or star gazing at night for some people. 

Clothes appropriate for the weather

Do your research before you head out camping and know what kind of weather you may experience. Don’t just look at the specific days you are going; look at the past several weeks and going forward. 

You want to see if the weather is trending a certain way, so you can pack appropriately. Do not underestimate how cold the forest can be, especially alone. Bring a good raincoat with a hood. If your clothes get wet, you might be in for a long and cold trip.

Bring along enough socks; you may need to change them more than you think. Don’t bring brand new hiking shoes. You need to break them in long before heading out into the woods. If you have seen the movie Wild, you know what I mean. 

Camping towel

Camping towels are much better than regular towels. They are usually microfiber, lightweight, and dry super fast. In addition, they are soft and pack down small, unlike cotton towels. 

Backpack

Obviously, a solo backpacker will need the best backpack possible since they carry everything in it. Be sure it has plenty of space, proper support for your back, and several straps for attaching extra supplies. 

Any type of camper will need a backpack for exploring and day trips. If you plan to leave your campsite anytime, you will want to take a few items with you in a backpack. 

Camping stove

Hot drinks and warm food are always nice to have while camping. So bring along a portable camp stove on your trip. 

Red camp stove with camping gear in the background

Propane camp stoves come in all sizes, even single burners for solo backpackers. They are tiny and lightweight but still something you need to consider when carrying on your back. 

Mess kit

Mess kits tend to be small and perfect for solo campers. They are lightweight, and usually, all the pots and dishes stack up inside one of the pots. 

You only need one spork, a knife, a plate, a mug for hot drinks, and cookware for a solo camper. You can get away with very little cookware as a solo camper.

Food and water

Bring high-calorie foods that don’t take much space. For example, trail mix, nuts, and dried fruit are perfect for camping and don’t need to be cold. 

Look into pre-packaged freeze-dried meals that are easy to prepare and don’t take much effort. If you are car camping, you can be more relaxed about this, as you will have space for a cooler. 

You may or may not have access to drinking water, so you will need a water filtration device, or you will need to boil water. Keep in mind that you will need water not only to drink but also to prepare food.  

First aid kit

A first aid kit is crucial when solo camping. You are all alone if you get injured. Ensure gauze, tape, pain meds, alcohol wipes, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, and bug spray.

First aid kit, map, rope and radios for solo camping

It would take time for a medical crew to get to you, so you need to stabilize the injury until help arrives. Keep the area clean as much as possible. 

Headlamp

All campers, even those at a busy campsite, need a headlamp. When the lights go down, how else are you going to see where you are going? 

There are tons of sticks, boulders, and shrubs to trip over while camping, so do not go wandering around without a headlamp. 

A headlamp allows you to be hands-free, whereas a flashlight is heavy and has to be held. 

GPS device

Most likely, you won’t have cell service where you are camping, even if it isn’t way out in the woods. So a GPS device is a must for safety. 

Be sure to play with your GPS device before you head out on your solo trip, so you are comfortable working with it. You don’t want to be lost and stressed and unsure how to use your fancy device.

Firestarter

A fire starter will come in handy several times during your trip. For example, making a campfire to warm up to in the evenings. You also may need a flame to get your camp stove going. 

Ferro rod and magnesium fire starter

Multi-purpose tool

A multi-purpose tool is a small but functional item to bring on your solo camping trip. They come with several attachments, such as a knife, scissors, mini screwdriver, file, bottle opener, and pliers. 

A good multi-purpose tool will help build your shelter, cook your dinner and could also be used in self-defense if needed. 

Camping saw

If you truly are out in the woods camping, you may need a camping saw to get you out of a situation. For example, if a tree branch is in the way or gathering firewood, you will need a saw. 

Camping saws are pretty small, portable, and lightweight, but they get the job done. They can hang from the back of your backpack and take up almost no space. 

Camping shovel

A camping shovel is important to help clear the ground for your tent and build your firepit. You will also use the shovel to stir up the coals and put out your campfire at night. 

Camping shovel on the ground

Poop. How else do you plan on burying it? It’s gross but necessary, and not burying your poop is way grosser. So, bring a shovel.

Book, notepad, and pen

Solo camping is a time to unwind and relax. Even if you aren’t a writer, it can be fun to journal about your solo experience. Or you can simply doodle. And if you had to leave notes for someone, a notepad and pen would be helpful.

Camping is a great time to start a new book, with no distractions to get in the way. Maybe there is that book you have always wanted to read, now is a perfect time. 

Map of the surrounding area

Please bring along a detailed map of the surrounding area, get as familiar with it as possible. Then, ask questions to others in the area and get their advice and tips. 

Go over this with your friends and family, so they have a clear understanding of your whereabouts. Then, leave them another map with exactly where you plan to go or have them take pictures of your destination. 

Know before you go

Benefits of solo camping

Do you ever want to get away from all the commotion and stress of your daily grind? What sane person wouldn’t want to do that. 

Solo camping is probably the best way to recharge and unwind. It is like taking the most enormous deep cleansing breath ever. 

It can also be a little scary and force you to take mental and physical risks. But this is how we learn to understand ourselves and figure some shit out. 

Imagine relying only on yourself and not having to consider anyone else’s needs. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Plus, solo camping earns you bragging rights; you can spin it any way you want.

Tell your friends you fought off a bear with your multi-purpose tool. 

Research your campsite location

Do your homework on where you plan on camping. Know what the landscape is; are there rivers, lakes, waterfalls, steep areas, or cliffs where you will be going? 

Call the ranger station to ask if you need a permit or reservations, also ask them the rules and regulations for camping in this area. Also, have them send you a map and any other helpful information. 

Let the forest ranger know about your solo plans. They will probably have some advice for you and ask you some questions.

Learn about the climate you plan on camping in and any potential weather concerns you may encounter. Then, pack accordingly and plan for any extreme weather.

Be sure you won’t stumble across any private property. Instead, be aware of the surrounding areas. 

Challenges to be aware of

When you are solo camping, you only have yourself to rely on. This means you are setting up all your gear by yourself. So, before you go on your adventure, do a test run in your yard.

Be very aware that you are alone in the woods. Sing a little tune as you hike, so the animals aren’t surprised by you. Remember, you are in their home, so be respectful.

Hazards, risks, and how to be prepared

Sickness and injury can be severe when you are out in a secluded area by yourself. You probably won’t have cell phone service, and it may take a while to get help.

If you have an allergy or ongoing illness, be sure to bring all the emergency medication you may need. Simple things like a sprain or a cut can take a turn for the worse very quickly.

In addition, it is challenging to keep things clean while camping, so have your first aid kit ready with plenty of alcohol and bandaids. 

There are lots of creepy-crawly critters out in the forest too. And these things bite. Most of the time, you won’t know you got bit until it is too late, so bring along good bug spray and some antihistamine. 

Solo camping will test your will and survival skills, but don’t be too proud to know when to get help. Unfortunately, you don’t win any trophies for the most injuries. 

Whatever challenges you face solo camping, you will learn from them and be more prepared the next time.

Final thoughts

Solo camping will be both a fantastic experience and a challenging adventure. It will be a time of independence that you can only have out in nature, all alone. 

It may be scary at times and also the most relaxing. You will experience several different emotions in one trip. And you will learn more about yourself than you thought possible. 

Take solo camping seriously, though, and be prepared. Plan like crazy and be open to new experiences that may be uncomfortable at first. 

Don’t be too discouraged the first time you go solo camping. Whatever challenges you face, you will learn from them and be more prepared the next time. 

Be a brave but smart little scout, and as always, camp s’more worry less. 

Steve and Kris
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Steve and Kris are avid campers, outdoor lovers, and founders of Camp S'more Worry Less. When they are not camping, they enjoy other outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, and hiking with their family. Read more.

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