On planning a solo tent camping challenge with plenty of safety nets

One of my friends was setting this tent up by herself.Are you a fan of sleeping in tents? Do you camp outside on a regular basis? Have you ever done it alone? Because I haven't, but have decided it's something I want to know how to do, I want to go ahead and make it happen.

Here are some steps related to checking this particular goal off my (really close to being ready to share) Life List!

Since I've only ever slept in a tent a grand total of FOUR nights, jumping from that to "going camping all by myself, alone, without anyone else in my party" is definitely a personal challenge. I'm being hit with thoughts such as "What if something unexpected happens?"

Guess what, babies? Something unexpected almost always happens. And that will be a topic for an upcoming post. But for now we'll just say there are lots and lots of things that might stand in my way of intentionally planning to go camping by myself. Because life is full of "fear," right? Still? I'm going to do it anyway. But I'm not jumping in without a safety net. Oh no, not my first time.

Let's look at some of the parts to putting this plan together, shall we? In case you ever want to do something similar:

Consider Your Required Ameneties

I should tell you that I haven't yet advanced beyond the level of car camping. This is no big wilderness challenge in which I have to carry everything I need in my backpack, and wander far from places that have advanced plumbing. Glad we got that out of the way: I chose a park that has bath houses. This trip will include the luxury of hot, running water, and flushing toilets. Thank you.

But we're going far beyond the ability to flush and wash. Perhaps you know that I'm a self-employed freelancer. No? Yea, well I am. And I'm working on some writing projects, too. So I have clients to whom I am responsible and I have writing deadlines. November is filled to the brim with them. Sometimes I plan for time away that lets me put these matters aside for a while. On the heels of 6 weeks away, though, November is not going to be one of those times. Which is to say I found a park that has not only electrical hookups, but it also boasts Wi-Fi. Shut up. This trip isn't about complete isolation from life luxuries. It's about sleeping alone under the stars all night long, more than one night in a row. And about being able to build my own fire. We'll get to the other stuff another time.

I'm spinning this trip as a little writer's retreat for myself. I'll plan for some enjoyment of nature and I'll also plan for some fabulous writing time that happens to occur in solitude, under some trees! AND at least for emergencies, my clients will be able to reach me. I'm not scheduling long stretches of design work then, but I want to be available to answer important questions or help with unexpected concerns needing attention.

You are the boss of you. And that means when you set up a personal challenge for yourself, you get to make all the rules! All Of Them. - says me

Choose a Location

As with all personal challenges, I should point out that we get to make our own rules. My challenges, my rules. So in this particular step, I decided the location of my first solo overnight camping trip needed to be somewhere I've never been before. Completely arbitrary and based on inexplicable reasoning so I won't say any more about that.

Also? I wanted this first trip to be not that far from home. Since a feeling of safety is important to me as I set this up, choosing a place not that far from home helps me feel less daunted by the idea. The campground I've located couldn't be more than 25 miles from home. That's perfect. This park has a lovely reputation, and the photos on their website reflect beautiful surroundings. Check.

And? Not only is this park close to home, I got doubly lucky when I discovered it's actually less than 6 miles from the home of some of my good friends. They live "outside of town," but it never occurred to me that they were so close to such a resource. Yay me! Before I go, they'll know the dates. Therefore IF anything urgent should happen, we could reach each other in a very short time.

Round Up Some Gear

As a newbie to this whole camping business, I neither own a tent, nor a cook stove, nor a sleeping bag. Much less all that other fancy stuff my girfriend hauled to Oregon when we took our trip from Seattle. But I have lots of friends, oh yes I do! And so I called one of them. One who has a lot of camping gear. Although her husband has a completely-understandable "no loaning my gear" policy, it's POSSIBLE there's some gear in their considerable stash that came from her side of the union, before they hooked up. If that's the case, she'll lend me a tent. Note: this is a very, very close friend. I think it's a good idea to be aware that lots of people don't feel comfortable lending their gear. And that's their perfect right. In fact, I'll go so far as to say I don't know whether or not I would loan out my own (future, currently-nonexistent) gear to most people, either. Which is why I'm working on a Plan B, too.

Which is to say, I also went online to see what kind of used camping gear may be easily had on eBay or Craigslist. I'd heard, and completely suspected it was true, that lots of people get all excited about camping, buy a pile of gear, only to discover they never use it, then have to unload it for whatever costs they can recoup. So you can often get good stuff for a discount. I'm going to look into this a bit further, when the time is right.

Maybe this would be a good time to tell you, too, that I've never actually even erected a tent on my own. That picture up there? I was taking that picture while one of my girlfriends was doing the work of getting that tent ready for her own good night's sleep. Right beside it, another tent was being erected, and my other camping buddy was teaching me how to do it. So I did help with one of them, and I did pay attention to her tutelege. But no. I've never done it alone. Which means I may look into a trial run when I locate the gear I'll be using.

The Steps I Haven't Taken Yet

  • Choose a date. As mentioned, my November is already pretty full. Still, because I work on a schedule I set for myself, I'm lucky on that front. I'll have the luxury of considering weeknights when I plan my dates. This level of flexibility makes things a lot easier.

  • Make a list of what to pack. Regardless of the fact that I'm not backpacking and have very few limitations to what I can carry, the more little adventures I plan for myself, the more I learn about the benefits of "less is more." Less to pack, less to keep up with, less to deal with when you come home and want to move on to the next thing.

Little bonus? I probably shouldn't even tell you this. I told my friend who lives near this campground that if she wants to, she can drive over and share a glass of wine or cup of hot chocolate with me, on my second night. I'm pretty sure that's not cheating, since a) I've already mentioned it's my plan and I make the rules, and b) the goal is to sleep in a tent, overnight, alone. You can be sure I don't run the risk of this particular friend hanging around, begging to sleep under the stars with me. Not a chance.

And that's it! My first time, this challenge has lots and lots of safety nets. But it's also stretching my comfort zone. Which is the whole point. Stay tuned; I'll likely post a follow-up as the date gets closer.

Here's to planning your own personal challenges!