I recently read an opinion piece in Outside Online about camping alone and that everyone should try it at least once in their life. The author took a “Challenge and push your boundaries approach,” but I found the message far too whimiscal for our current realities.
I’m a white, cisgender female in her thirties who lives in a six-million-acre state park. I’ve spent hundreds of nights in the backcountry as an instructor and guide, I can start a fire in the pouring rain, and make a dry, bombproof shelter from branches and leaves. I’m extremely confident in my camping ability and leading others into the backcountry.
Yet, I’ve never camped alone.
Why? I don’t feel safe sleeping by myself. And bears are the least of it.
The woods and wilderness spaces have historically been places of violence against POC, women and the LGBTQIA community, and the outdoor industry is well behind in acknowledging the trauma that lies in those scenic visitas. Massacres against native peoples, lynching parties, rapes and murders. Truth filters down generation to generation and those stories become deep fears.
You might be shot. You might be sexually assulted. You might be murdered. Those are big consequences when weighed against You might have a nice time.
Here’s the thing. I could push myself to do it. And most likely I’d be fine. I’d probably have a wonderful experience and meet wonderful people. But, it’s that low percent, high danger fear that’s reinforced by interactions I’ve experienced that keeps me searching for camping partners.
Camping is a beautiful experience. And you can do it with the comfort and safety of a group. Don’t feel pressured to camp solo, because you think it “makes you a better camper.” Or that you have to do it to be a “real” camper.
Acknowledge history and organize camping experiences with friends who’d never go it solo. Let’s challenge the glorification of the “solo” wilderness experience, which has been promoted by well-known environmental writers, even though few feel comfortable to pursue it.
Go camping with your friends and family. In your living room, backyard, a highly trafficiked area or remotely. Support and protect each other while discussing the complexities of these wild spaces. With knowledge, empathy and understanding, more opinions will expand. Mine has.