Campground for One, Banff National Park

Campground for One, Banff National Park

Trav­el doesn’t have to be a group activ­i­ty. There are times when you have to choose to trav­el alone or not trav­el at all. For the adven­tur­ous souls, trav­el always wins. Oth­ers might choose soli­tary trav­el above group trav­el. Maybe, they have some demons to work through or just need some solo time. Regard­less of your sit­u­a­tion, if you find your­self camp­ing for one, below are six hacks to trav­el smarter and safer.

Deceiv­ing Campsite

Make your camp­site appear as if there are mul­ti­ple campers there. Set out two camp­ing chairs and hang a ham­mock. A sim­ple $5 camp­ing chair may be enough to deter any would be prob­lem makers.

Alarm Lantern

If you’d sleep bet­ter know­ing there was some­thing out there keep­ing an “eye” on things while you rest then con­sid­er pick­ing up a camp­ing lantern that is equipped with a motion sen­sor alarm. Any object that is larg­er than a rac­coon will set off the para­me­ter alarm which trig­gers the LED light and a loud alarm. This should scare off ani­mals like bear and big cats as well as poten­tial­ly harm­ful humans. The down­side would be the years of life you’d lose by any false alarms.

Lock Your Tent From the Inside When You Go to Sleep

Yes, a tent is still pen­e­tra­ble, how­ev­er, it is nice to have a heads up if some­one is try­ing to break into your tent while you’re in it. Sim­ply pur­chase trav­el locks that have the steel wire that can slip through each small hole in your tent’s zip­per from the inside after you’re all tucked in a cozy. Make sure to have a knife near­by and leave the key in the lock so you can quick­ly remove the lock in an emer­gency or cut your­self free if need be.

Add a Bear Bell to Your Tent

If you don’t feel com­fort­able lock­ing your­self in, tie a bear bell to the inside zip­per. That way, if there is an intrud­er you will wake up to the sound of the bell and can arm your­self with your near­by can of bear spray, knife, or machete.

Take Extra Bear Pre­cau­tions (Keep a Clean Camp, Hang Food Far Away)

Bears are not after you, they are after your food and fra­grant items. Unat­tend­ed tents have been ripped apart only to find that the bears ate deodor­ant, tooth­paste, and oth­er fra­grant items. Store all smell goods in a bear safe hung far from your tent, or at the very least (if car camp­ing with­out bear lock­ers) store them in your car.
Make cer­tain you clean your cook­ing gear and plates thor­ough­ly after meals. Oth­er­wise, they will hold enough “smell-goods” to attract a fam­i­ly of bears. You nev­er know what por­ridge will be just right.
If a bear enters your camp­ground and you can safe­ly escape to your vehi­cle with­out run­ning or attract­ing atten­tion, do so. It is always advised to be in a hard shell than a can­vas one when bears are present. Remem­ber, no eye con­tact and NEVER run.

Relaxing in a hammock

Camp in Estab­lished Campgrounds

Camp­ing in estab­lished camp­grounds usu­al­ly means you’ll be around oth­er campers. There is safe­ty in num­bers. Grant­ed, this is not a fool proof state­ment, but in gen­er­al terms, more peo­ple mean more folks look­ing after one anoth­er. Sure, there might be one creep in the bunch or a camper that doesn’t keep a clean camp­site there­by attract­ing bears, but if you are by your­self there is no one to come to your res­cue if you scream. If you see one weird stalk­er out­side of your tent (which unfor­tu­nate­ly has hap­pened) there is no one retreat to. If you opt to boon-dock, fol­low your gut. If you feel like your spot isn’t safe, or you have a bad feel­ing, don’t sec­ond guess your­self, move on.

For many peo­ple, camp­ing is a sacred retreat into nature, the uni­fi­er of all things. As our body changes in our 30s and onward, sleep­ing on the ground becomes less and less appeal­ing. Even if you’re hard as nails in your 50s, inclement weath­er and the short sea­son­al camp­ing win­dow is dras­ti­cal­ly lim­it­ing. That’s unless you find a way to cre­ate a warm dry place to find reprieve. Car camp­ing not only pro­vides this, but also deliv­ers a way to “unpack” once and trav­el to many camp­grounds and trail­heads unen­cum­bered by camp assem­bly and break­down. Here are some tips for turn­ing your once nor­mal SUV into the ulti­mate adventuremobile.

Bed
No mat­ter how beau­ti­ful your nat­ur­al set­ting is, if you can’t sleep then you’ll be mis­er­able. Air mat­tress­es are noto­ri­ous for leak­ing and caus­ing back­ach­es, but also I found that I wake up freez­ing when I sleep on one. Think about it… the air inside becomes the ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture, so when the low is in the 40s the air below your body is as well. No won­der it’s hard to sleep. If you don’t have a place to store an extra twin mat­tress then con­sid­er either a 3–4’’ thick rol­lable mem­o­ry foam cush­ion or a small cot.

Two things to keep in mind is ceil­ing clear­ance and length of your car­go area with all of your seats fold­ed down. You can trim mem­o­ry foam, so if you need to make alter­ations to your twin mat­tress in order to achieve a good fit, that’s not a prob­lem. Sim­ply use a box cut­ter and cut a few inch­es deep at a time. Also, make sure your seats fold com­plete­ly flat. If they don’t, I’d rec­om­mend bol­ster­ing the low­er sec­tion to cre­ate a flat sleep­ing surface.

I pre­fer to make my bed the same way I do in my home, by using a fit­ted sheet, flat sheet, com­forter, and addi­tion­al blan­kets as need­ed. If you pre­fer a sleep­ing bag or antic­i­pate freez­ing con­di­tions make sure to bring a bag rat­ed for low temperatures.

Win­ter car camp­ing tip: Before bed, boil some water and pour it into 1–2 Nal­gene bot­tles and store inside your sleep­ing bag. This will warm your bag and will keep the water from freez­ing so you’ll have drink­ing water come morning.

Pri­va­cy
One com­mon com­plaint about car camp­ing is that if a weirdo want­ed to sit and stare at you sleep he/she could do so effort­less­ly. This sit­u­a­tion is eas­i­ly resolved at about $20 and 30 min­utes of your time. Sim­ply pur­chase a roll of Reach Bar­ri­er Air Reflec­tive Insu­la­tion Roll (or some­thing sim­i­lar). Roll out enough insu­la­tion to cov­er one win­dow, trim, and place against the win­dow. With your fin­gers, com­press the ends of the win­dow in order to make an out­line you will use to cut the insu­la­tion to shape. Err on the side of too big, that way you can push the pieces in place and they should hold with­out tape.

Once com­plet­ed for all win­dows (except the wind­shield) pop them all in and bask in your new­found pri­va­cy and black­out con­di­tions! This reflex tech­nol­o­gy not only pro­vides you with black­out pri­va­cy (no one can see if you’re in there with a light on) but it also pro­vides much-need­ed insu­la­tion from the ele­ments. For extra stealth, spray­paint the side fac­ing out black so it looks like a dark tint. For the wind­shield, you can use a sim­ple reflec­tive sun cov­er unless you’re real­ly wor­ried about insulation.

Elim­i­na­tion Plan
Where do you go when you need to go? This depends on a few things. How long are you going to be camp­ing for? What envi­ron­ment will you be in? Most peo­ple who are urban camp­ing opt to do their busi­ness while they’re still out and about in “civ­i­liza­tion” stop­ping at a gas sta­tion, Wal­mart, or anoth­er facil­i­ty before they tuck in for the night. How­ev­er, when nature calls it’s not always con­ve­nient. If you’re camp­ing in the wilder­ness you can relieve your­self in nature and dig a hole for your solids or you can pack in a camp­ing com­postable toi­let. Some folks even opt for a pop­up tent to cre­ate a mobile out­house for their elim­i­na­tion pleasure.

Cooking/Food
Urban campers may opt to eat out most meals but I believe there’s noth­ing bet­ter than a hot meal cooked over the fire after a long hike. Plus, the point of camp­ing for many is to get away from mod­ern con­ve­niences like restau­rants. A sim­ple back­pack­ing stove, cook set, and water jug or spig­ot is all you real­ly need. There are count­less camp­ing friend­ly recipes out there. You can also recon­sti­tute ready-made dehy­drat­ed meals.