Anyone Can Solo Camp
Before I opened my eyes, I heard the subtle roll of thunder and the pitter-patter of rain. I rolled over and read a text from my partner: “Good morning. Hope you’re up and at it getting ready for your adventure today. Proud of you.”
I opened the weather app. It was going to rain all day. I went back to his text and fired off a response:
“Thanks. There’s a chance I reschedule because of the rain. I’ll keep you posted.”
I was quick to find any excuse to back out of my plans to camp alone on Brunni mountain in Engelberg, Switzerland that night. I lay in bed for an hour, past the time I had hoped to be on my way, contemplating options. I could wait. I could go on a different weekend. Yet I had chosen this particular weekend knowing it was one of the last weekends for a while that I’d have the flexibility to do this on my own.
Why did I want to do this? It didn’t feel as if I wanted to at all. I had been on only one camping trip in my life and while it was a momentous learning experience – I was with eight others and two highly experienced guides – it was over two years ago! How much did I retain of that experience? Enough. I survived. I’m writing this after all. And it was a solo trip that anyone could do. Yes, even the ones who had never heard of a tent fly.
Beginner’s Solo Camping Tips
Know Your Location
Familiarity with your camping spot will help alleviate some of your initial stress. I had been to Brunni the weekend before with a group of friends and knew where I wanted to set up my tent. I understood the rules and regulations and I was comfortable getting back to that spot on my own.
Get Your Gear
What you will need will depend on your whereabouts and potential weather, so some research on your end will be required. If you’re an inexperienced camper, it’s hardly expected that you will own all the necessary gear for your overnight. Perhaps you’re not ready for the investment, either. I wasn’t. So, I borrowed my equipment from a friend.
I walked out the door with the following camping gear:
- A Marmot Limelight 2P Tent with an extra tarp for the ground, a tent fly, and tent picks.
TIP! Practice setting up your tent before hitting the trail. This gave me the most stress because I had a few verbal instructions but didn’t practice beforehand. Everything turned out fine, but that’s a sticky situation you can avoid.
- A Pacific Outdoor Equipment Insul Mat (sleeping pad)
- A Stoic Somnus 15 Sleeping Bag
- A Low Alpine Skyline 75 Backpacking backpack
TIP! Bring a day pack. I forgot about this. That way, if you are close to a regulated station, you can leave your larger backpack and spend the day hiking and carry only what you need.
- Snacks and breakfast for the next morning
- Water bottle
- Rain jacket and rain pants and warmer layers
- Basic toiletries
- My cell phone set to airplane mode
- A book
- A light (I used my cell phone, but a headlamp or handsfree lamp is ideal).
Choose Your Site & A Perfect Place to Start Camping in Switzerland
A perfect choice to camp in Switzerland is in a Swiss Alpine Hut. Swiss Alpine Huts are scattered throughout the Swiss Alps and get increasingly rustic in higher elevations or remote locations (farther from chairlifts and gondola stations). They offer basic accommodation for mountaineers, climbers, walkers, families and nature enthusiasts.
The location I chose was far enough away to enjoy the serene quiet of the mountains and to feel as if I was alone. Yet I was close enough to take advantage of basic accommodations, including a warm meal before I went to bed and a bathroom. If I had brought a daypack, I could have left my big backpack there, too!
Cooking my food and carrying the necessary kitchen gear was something I was willing to put on the back burner (excuse the pun) until I had more experience under my belt.
Hike it Out
It’s always good to have an idea of your trekking plans before starting your trip. Are you going to hike up to your camping spot? Do you need to take a chairlift or gondola at any point? How much will that cost? How long will all of this take? These are things to consider, especially if you find yourself racing against the sun.
Tell Your Friends
An essential precaution before heading out on your solo adventure is making sure some of your close friends and family know where you’ll be. Furthermore, staying in cell reception range can help you feel a bit safer.
Remember when I said it was supposed to rain all day? Well, it rained during my hike up to Brunnihütte , and it drizzled as I set up my tent. But, within the hour, after the tent was up and my bags were unpacked, the sun opened its eyes and poked its head out of the clouds, and the whole place lit up. The mountains were clear as crystal with snow-capped, jagged edges. It was an exhilarating, yet peaceful moment. As if the hills were saying, “You made it. This is for you.”