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10 Ways to Get Over the Fear of Camping Alone

How to Get Over the Fear of Camping Alone

Getting over the fear of camping alone is a major rite of passage for many backpackers. I think we all get a little pensive about the noises we hear around our campsites at night. Here are 10 easy ways to put that fear behind you if you find you need or want to camp alone.

1. Camp in a Hammock

Animals have no idea what a hammock is and won’t go near one, especially with you snoring inside.

2. Spread Mountain Lion Scat Around Your Campsite

You can buy Mountain Lion Scat at Home Depot. It’s designed to scare away deer and nuisance animals like raccoons and other small mammals. Just don’t use it in an area that actually has a mountain lion population. Otherwise, you might encounter a territorial mountain lion looking for a fight or a she mountain lion looking for a mate.

3. Bring Rex The Guard Dog

Rex The Guard Dog is a motion-sensitive barking dog alarm that you can set up at your campsite. If an animal,  creature of the night, or a zombie approaches your tent, Rex will start barking loudly and scare them off. Although, this might not be such a great idea in Grizzly country where the bears bark back.

4. Use a Liquid Fence

Certain smells repel animals. For example, bears don’t like the smell of bleach so you could spray it all around your campsite if you’re afraid of them (We don’t recommend doing that – it will harm the soil). You can also buy general-purpose liquid or dry animal repellents for deer and other mammals are are a little less toxic.

5. Tell All Your Friends How Easy It’s Going to Be

Are you one of those people that brag to their friends about how easy something is going to be, only to discover that you’re scared shitless when you try? Suck it up. You have a reputation to maintain. You’ll never live it down unless you spend the entire night alone in your tent.

6. Watch All of Jerry Lewis’s Movies on Your Smartphone

Before you go camping, download all of Jerry Lewis’s comedy movies to your smartphone. Watch them all when you’re camping and afraid to go to sleep. You’ll be so flabbergasted by what passed for humor in the 1960’s and 1970’s that you’ll forget you were ever afraid to camp alone. Don’t know who Jerry Lewis is? That’s no great loss.

7. Camp In Your Backyard

When you told your friends that you were going to camp alone, you might have neglected to tell them that you planned to do it in your backyard.

8. Bring Your Dog

Your dog will be so freaked out that you’re freaked out, that you’ll spend all night comforting him until you fall asleep because you’re so tired. By then, your concern will be for your dog’s welfare, not your own.

9. Make it Cozy

If you’re going to camp out, you might as well make it really cozy. Wear your favorite PJ’s and bring all your stuffed animals to “camp” with you. Stock up on comfort food and hard liquor for roughing it. By the time you pass out from the drink, you won’t be afraid.

10. Bring Your Car Key Fob

Don’t know what that strange sound is beyond your tent walls. Is it animals or someone creeping around? If you want to scare them off, hit the panic button on your car’s keyfob. The loud alarm and flashing lights should scare them off.

How Did you Get over Your Fear of Camping Alone?

Comment below.

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62 comments

  1. Great article, though I’d rather watch the Three Stooges. Their shorts made in the 40’s and 50’s are good for a laugh anytime.

  2. I was camping solo on the AT in the Berkshires when I heard claws on the tent platform. After making some noise, I looked out the tent, but saw nothing. The clawing returned, I made noise and, again, saw nothing. This went on till daybreak, when I finally saw the intruder: a porcupine that was gnawing the wood for the salt left by sweaty hikers sitting on the platform. That said, I’m still not much for camping alone.

  3. I became used to camping alone while section hiking the AT years ago. I started at Springer in the spring and had tons of company of people my age – 63, at that time. By 200 miles, all that was left were people that were thru-hiking and primarily concerned with hiking big miles. Only being interested in a 9 -13 mile day on the average, left me by myself at the end of the day. I also began stopping just anywhere on the trail. As long as I had water and two trees, it was all I needed. Apprehensive at first, I soon got used to the quiet, occasional noises and the freedom to stop where I wanted. Since that time I have gone back to section hike on the AT many times, each time by myself and becoming more comfortable with being solo. While I enjoy running into other hikers during the day, I find that I like the solitude at night. In addition, finding people my age that actually want/can backpack is not easy (I just turned 70), so almost all of my trips throughout the year closer to home and on the AT, are now solo. I realize it is not for everyone, but I enjoy not only the hiking but the camping and simple routine backpacking offers. If I had to wait to find someone else to go with, I probably would never go.

    • I do a lot of solo hiking because I hate the back and forth of scheduling backpacking trips with other people and then the shuttles. It’s easier to just go by myself. If you want company on the AT, there’s plenty of it on the trail.

      • Okay, good attempt. Other options may include get proper training and carry a firearm. Every animal can smell your confidence an will gladly avoid you. Second, don’t smoke pot, and eat plenty of red meat…not fish before bed. Thirdly, purchase or borrow either IR night vision or a thermal image device and look at everything that goes bump in the night. (After realizing the nocturnal rodents are jacking with you, you’ll sleep soundly).

    • I am turning 67 April 15 2023 and I live in Oregon, I love hiking and go by myself as well. Would be nice to hike with someone sometimes. Not sure what the AT is, but in the west we have the Pacific Crest Trail, over 2000 miles from Canada to Mexico,

    • The #1 hammock is wrong. Smokies Mtn. Hazel Creek a backpacker was pulled from his hammock by a black bear. His father was able to run bear off. Hiker survived with injuries to the head area

      • This particular incident occurred in 2015. And it only happened in the Smokies, which are overrun by AT hikers, which “train” the bears to seek human food by their presence. It wouldn’t stop me from sleeping in a hammock anywhere else.

        • Not saying a hammock is the cause. Just don’t think because you are in a hammock a bear won’t bother you. Also Hazel Creek is well off the AT.

      • I have always wondered if that kid washed their hair in strawberry shampoo?

    • Hi Tom
      Great to hear of someone close to my age and keen on backpacking and solo hiking. Like you none of my friends are interested so I have no choice but to go alone. I like the solitude though.
      As I live in the UK I have no worries about dangerous wild animals.

      • Hi Gill,

        While it would be nice to find someone to backpack with, it has been kind of liberating choosing to go solo, rather than sit home. The only time I have witnessed problems with animals, is where people gather in large numbers (at shelters) or just have careless habits that attract them. I am not saying there could never be an issue (probably minimal chance anyway in eastern US), but I have never been bothered since starting to camp alone.

  4. I’ve found that singing helps for some reason. I also remind myself of the odds. Tens of thousands of people spend nights in the woods each year and live to tell about it. I’ll probably be fine.

  5. I enjoyed solo trips (with my Siberian/Malamute mix) in the Ozark Mountains for many years when I lived in St. Louis – but I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable soloing in the Whites. Right now, my 15 year old is into it, and we’re using Philip’s guide to get the New Hampshire 4,000s in. I do remember all the experienced New England campers I met during a summer in West Virginia. They would casually wear their Tevas for overnighters in the Monongahela National Forest. I didn’t understand until I’d done a few hikes in the Whites.

  6. I’m not really worried about animals. Possibly because the only dangerous animal in Pennsylvania is a tick. I’m worried that I’ll go away from my tent at night to take a leak and not find my way back. So I’ve always had two lights with me, one to leave as a beacon. I’m also worried about drunk people spotlighting or shooting cans in the dark. So I do my best to be away from roads when I camp and I leave my orange hat outside the tent.

  7. I prefer to camp alone. I vaguely remember being apprehensive… I still hear noises at night but I know they’re made by animals that are not interested in disturbing me. Unless I’m near people, then there’s plenty to worry about. Once I accepted that thin tent fabric offers only psychological security, it seemed silly to worry.

  8. But… I did take care to camp with people that were slower than me and deeper sleepers. There was definitely comfort in that.

  9. Oh PLEASE!

    People are sleeping on our streets. The only time I have been uncomfortable sleeping alone in the woods was the day I met two guys hiking on the AT carrying their tent in a box, each had a K-bar knife strapped to their leg and Glock side arms. I did an extra 2 miles that day, and stealth camped. Someone had to protect the bears.

    • Donald you made me laugh — guns and knives on trail
      carried by other hikers .!! — extra food and water may have been more helpful.
      if you have been going all day it good to set up shelter before it gets to dark
      its when you seen a hikers box and thee useless things people carry with them which has been discarded it makes you wonder how much people fear — walking alone.

  10. About those scary noises. I sat with my best friend on a bluff overlooking Paddy creek in Mart Twain National Forest, in the silence we heard a beast slowly stalking up on us with the slow crunching of leave’s getting closer with each footstep. With safety in numbers we moved with stealth to identify the incoming intruder.
    Our fears grew when we realized the sound getting louder and the intruder managed to remain invisible. Then looking down we saw the beast as it made its appearance near our feet. Huh, box turtle…., terrifying
    I prefer camping alone go where you want, hike your hike stop when you want, set up where you want, snore all night on your crinkly potato chip bag sounding X-therm, sleep in or get up early, it’s all you….. no one else?

  11. Just do it a couple times. You’ll be fine and you won’t be afraid anymore.

  12. I worry way more about humans in the woods than animals, but I’ve never camped alone because even though in theory I’m not afraid of the animals I might encounter, I worry, while safely ensconced in my four walls, that I would be way too scared being alone in the dark. I found when I was solo backpacking that I do not like hiking alone at night but doing it with other people doesn’t bother me one bit. My other senses just get way too heightened when I can’t see beyond my headlamp, every little noise makes me jump.

    I’m sure that if I had to camp alone I would probably get used to it, but for now I’ll stick to staying at shelter sites and established campsites if I’m on a solo backpacking trip.

  13. That’s great! Love it!

    Love the comments too!

    LOL!!!!

  14. My first time…out on a mountain ridge and heard something moving outside in middle of the night…decided nylon wasn’t going to keep me safe , so stuck my head out and came face to face with a coyote. We looked at each other for a few seconds and then each went back to whatever we were doing. Sleep in my case. Best suggestion ; try camping with a friend maybe 100 yards or so away. Far enough away to be/feel alone, but helpful to know you can always yell. I rarely worry these days unless I’m close to a big city.

  15. Great post Jerry Lewis? Hilarious My first solo was in the whites. I was in a state of hyper awareness when I heard a large bear walking around my tent drooling and ready to rip it open It was a full moon and I could see its shadow on the fabric. Slowly I unzipped the door and flicked my trusty pink mallory flashlight on and spotted a ……..Mouse! Went back to bed and found that in the morning the mouse had chewed through the tent and got my gorp and had the last laugh. Years later in Alaska along the pacific I was the first out of the tent and found the tracks of a large brown bear coming up from the ocean and circling the tent stopping at one point probably sniffing us out then leaving on its way! Never even woke up or heard any thing. I love solo hiking and have completed many trips alone I am more afraid of people than animals and typically deeply connect with the natural world. I’ve become really good at picking sites and stealth camping. thanks for the great article and awesome comments

  16. Patrick McManus, the outdoor humorist, said something close to this about his first full night of kid camping: “We zipped ourselves into the tent, and I never knew time could pass so slowly. Glaciers formed and retreated. Species evolved and went extinct. And then it got dark!”

  17. Noted that all the above comments are from guys. It’s a very different experience camping alone for women – the same animal fears as for men, but the added “all the time” vigilance which very sadly is a fact of life for 50% of us. I’d love to see some thoughts from women.

    • I concur.

    • Older lady here. I was very afraid to try to it alone at first. The more I do it the easier it gets. I convinced myself I would probably never regret just going out there and camping alone. But what I will regret is that I never tried. I have about 2 dozen nights under me now and no intentions of stopping. I even had my first bear encounters last year. Two ran past my tent at night. I was camped right next to the trail and in there way, they ran past me and kept on going. The next morning two miles away I came face to face with one of them. We just stared at each other for about 10 seconds and then she/he ran off. I was so relieved to finally see a bear and get it over with. I have a great respect for them and I am slowly losing my fear of them.

    • My thoughts exactly, Julie! When backpacking I have always gone alone and have scrupulously avoided setting up camp on trail anywhere near other humans. The random critters don’t worry me and I always carry a BearVault. Most of my trips have been in the isolated wild areas of south Florida, so human encounters are rare. The alone time is priceless! It’s not in my nature to worry about things that I can’t control, so I rest peacefully in my tiny tent!

    • I was always afraid until I tried it. It is very peaceful. Love hiking my own pace and finding a small secluded area instead of large open areas for a group. I worry more about critters then predators but always keep my senses on alert. However Julie R you are correct about the vigilance. I am naturally chatty and usually stop for a quick sentence or two to just about everyone I pass. Anytime I hear the “Wow, your brave to go alone” I quickly correct them that I got it late/started early and am meeting friends.

  18. I developed such a love for backpacking in high school that if none of my buddies could go, I would hitch hike from Louisville KY to the Smokies. I don’t recommend hitch hiking these days, even back then in the 70’s some of the rides were scarier than any of my hiking trips! I once had an older couple pick me up somewhere in Tennessee and noticed the man kept looking back at me in his rear view mirror. Apparently, he didn’t like my long hair and commenced to tell me that the only reason he picked me up was because he thought I was a girl. After several minutes of hearing his tirade about how hippies are ruining America I politely asked him to let me out at the next light. Now I’m 65 and almost always go solo, although I occasionally do go with friends. On my last solo trip to the Smokies I was lying in my hammock, and being the only one at the backcountry campsite, I definitely had my ears tuned in to the sounds around me and was trying to go to sleep. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I began hearing an owl hoot which was very comforting, but then suddenly I heard the loudest screeching sound I have ever heard. I figured it was either a bobcat or a screech owl, but I didn’t get much sleep that night. Another time, I layer in my tent with my heart pounding out of my chest, because I kept hearing a scratching sound on the side of my tent. In the morning, after a sleepless night I realized it was the tree above me dropping leaves on top of my tent and slowly descending down the sides of the rain fly. I had a good laugh at myself that morning. I love backpacking solo for many reasons…you hike at your own pace, usually see more wildlife, and as a musician I am fascinated with the songs that pop into my head, usually at the tempo of my footsteps. It’s very soul enriching and I always come home with a renewed perspective on my life and definite appreciation of hot showers and creature comforts!

    • Hah! So true about hitchhiking back them. I had several sketchy rides during my 1979 thru hike attempt. Most of them in the south. But the worst was the old man, chewing tobacco. He’d spit out the window, and I’d watch it fly back and narrowly miss my backpack in the pickup truck bed ??. He was actually a pretty cool guy, and we talked for about an hour.

  19. I got through newbie solo nights by yelling “Git!” at every noise, having bear spray handy, and by naming and commemorating truly awful nights in theme songs.

    Camp-Sucks-A-Lot featured a recurring animal noise that sounded like a sad cow, plus me falling asleep holding a bear bell, Camp Sucks-So-More had an animal snort near my head in my hammock, and Camp Hideaway was dug into a hillside after encountering scary humans. My tent chose 6 am to roll over. Type 2 fun for sure.

    Now I prefer solo nights because I can pee without waking others up! It gets better, or different anyway.

  20. On my first solo backpack I was apprehensive but not scared. By morning I was feeling very relaxed and since then have “enjoyed my own company” and the beauty of natural solitude.
    I HIGHLY recommend “learning” to camp solo.

  21. I finally just went out and did it! I have section hiked for years on the AT but I was always with at least one other person. I had always wanted to go it alone but was terrified. I’ve been out 2 different times by myself and love it. It’s very freeing as well as being an enormous confidence booster.

  22. Article made me laugh! I camp alone all the time but usually have my dog. He’s 9lb of scarey. Lol! If I go on multi day backpacking trips he is not woth me. First time, I was more scared of not making it back to my car. I wasn’t prepared for all the blow downs. I was too stinkin tired to be scared the first night and the 2nd night I was too busy shivering. I still get unnerved by the sound of coyotes but it never seems to bother my dog so it’s not as scarey anymore.

    As a female I am always aware of my surroundings and don’t fear the human aspect so much. I feel I am in more danger at home doing everyday things than when camping on trail. Most criminals are to lazy to go out of their way.

  23. I love this article!

    All of my solo backpacking trips have been in Nova Scotia and on the AT in Maine. It never occurred to me to be apprehensive on my first solo, I was too excited. I do vividly remember the ground shaking that night, when star-gazing. (It was probably a mini-quake, but at the time I was convinced it was a Sasquatch.) I’ve seen a lot of bear and moose activity, but never encountered an actual bear or moose. I did once see a cougar, at a distance, but we just looked at each other for a moment and then she loped off.

    My scariest encounters have definitely been with voracious field mice. I had one chew a hole through my tent and scamper across my face. I later discovered an empty energy bar wrapper in my hiking pants, which I had used as part of my pillow. Somehow I managed to smack it with my slipper and toss it out of my tent. Poor little thing. I convinced myself that it was only stunned and not actually dead. I didn’t sleep at all that night.

  24. Ease into it. To start, camp while there’s a full moon. Three or four days before or after a full moon is also good. Of course, it helps if it isn’t too cloudy. Even in a tent the moonlight can be pretty intense.
    You’ll soon be looking for those nights when there is a new moon: when it’s darkest and you can see the stars in all their glory, and forget all about the bears, sasquatch, and aliens looking for campers to abduct.

  25. A comment from a backcountry Yellowstone trip. We were in the heart of bear country. There was evidence of bears around camp.
    Nighttime arrived. I’m in my tent with my wife. Eventually I hear something near the tent. Imagination?
    Wife asleep. I’m wide awake. CRUNCH! Silence. Crunch! Very near. Silence… all night. Finally so tired I think, If he eats me he eats me…
    Mercifully morning arrived. I’m not going to be eaten by a grizzly.
    I look by my ear and a Twix bar (I know, I know) was chewed up like a corn on the cob. The mouse had been going around and around inside the Twix wrapper all night.
    Several lessons learned.

  26. The largest predators where I camp would be the Scottish wildcat, a fox or a badger so animals don’t scare me in the tent. I tend to sleep very well out on my own.

  27. I was less freaked out by Black Bears stomping by and letting out their roars than I was by the damn skunk that got under my tent fly and went face to face with me. It then turned it’s tail toward me! I didn’t get sprayed, but Stripey left a” tell tail” whiff of Eue De Skunk on some of my belongings. I’ve also been tormented by racoons. The small animal deterrent sounds like an idea.

  28. I have been camping alone nearly all my life from Arctic Sweden to the south island of New Zealand and that’s some 80 years now. In all that time I have only had one really bad experience when a bull moose took a dislike to my camping spot, the carnage was really spectacular and I beat a hasty retreat. I can verify that moose hooves are about the size of dinner plates as my aluminum cook set was flattened with a hoof print left behind. My only other animal experience was on the South Island of New Zealand; I was doing a fast UL trip with a tarp as shelter. I had found a nice sheltered spot close to a stream and settled down for the night when I woke with a rustling by my head, ah! I thought a mouse is in my food bag and switched on my headlight to find I was face to face with a baby rabbit that bolted. I settled back down but the rustling continued. Investigation found a hedgehog (miniature porcupine) trying to get into the food bag. Grumpy little bugger took quite some persuading to exit. That story allowed me to dine out for a month or so. Camping alone; is no problem, animals are more afraid of you than you are of them and your odor is quite strong giving out a fair warning to wildlife not to venture too close.

  29. I can’t even fall asleep in my own bed, how the heck would I be able to sleep outside?!?? The deer that I kept running into on my favorite trail won’t be bothering me anymore because somebody ran into it on the Ronald Reagan Expressway nearby. I was saddened and relieved at the same time. Yes, I recognized it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  30. I was solo camping once … in the back of my truck, but still solo! It was dark. There was a noise in the trees and my dog started growling and becoming very agitated. I listened as the beast came closer, breaking branches as it advanced, so I knew it was a large animal undaunted by obstacles. Suddenly it unleashed a terrifying roar! Moooo.

  31. This made me laugh. Almost British humor ;) I camp 90% on my own and have been doing so since I was 18. I’m 52 now and have 3 off-radar camps here in the UK (Wales) and a solo snow camp in a hammock and tarp in a remote valley on the French / Italian border. I had a wolf visit me at 4 am which did startle me a bit. It was just interesting and believe had been tracking me. Only this year, I was back at the same spot and had a whole pack of wolves howling all night. Checked the next day and saw all their prints in the snow 200ft away. I slept on the ground without a tarp that night. My fire kept them away no doubt.

    As much as I like taking fair weather campers (my gf and daughter) with me, I prefer the cold months. Much quieter. And as someone said, I’m more afraid of man than any other creature.

    If I’m walking off into the bush from a road, I always wait until no one is around. I do a lot of stealthy camping. I’m pretty social but I love that connection with nature you get on your own. Mind you, barking deer can scare the crap out of you if you’ve not heard them before.

  32. Lots of great comments. I’d like to offer a different scenario that perhaps some others experience.

    It is hard to explain. I tend to need alone time in my life. I’ve lived alone, and spent many years traveling alone for work. And I loved it. But I have a lot of trouble camping alone. It has nothing to do with fear of animals or humans. It has everything to do with being just a little too alone :-). I dislike camping for that reason. Despite several long distance hikes over the years, the majority of my many thousands of miles of hiking, has been solo day hiking.

    At 65, and after having wonderful kids and grandkids, I’ve come to realize that I like to be around people, but also keep to myself. It’s very introverted.

  33. Hah! In response to suggestion #1 – my very first night camped out in a hammock near Wolf Creek Pass in CO, a curious black bear came snooping around my hammock and woke me by actually hitting or bumping me very hard – it felt like a hard swat to my left thigh. I awoke very startled and in fumbling for my light I apparently scared it off – I never saw it, and managed to convince myself that I must’ve dreamed it all, allowing me to fall back asleep; but the dusty paw prints all over my stuff and tracks in the soil around the campsite told the tale in the light of the next morning. The camp steward told me it was a youngster just out on his own, a nightly nuisance visitor to the campground that summer. Strangely, that episode put me at ease about hammocking and I’ve since spent many a night sleeping soundly in my hammock.

  34. Don’t be hatin’ on Jerry Lewis. As far as camping alone, if you spend any amount of time outdoors you know that there is not much to be scared of (at least in the eastern half of the US) other than humans.

  35. This happened about 15 years ago in Washington’s Cascade Range, in early October. I had just settled down for the night when a bull elk wandered into a nearby meadow and started bugling. What a thrill! However, by the time he was still bugling at midnight, I was having serious thoughts of elk stew! He finally wandered off, and I finally got some sleep.

  36. I carry a bear canister and follow all the rules for no food or smellables in tent. I’ve been able to overcome my fear triggered by a bear encounter. Camped alone on Blood Mountain last year.

  37. My advice, Wade in slowly. Start by camping out in your backyard, followed by solo camping in a campground. Then try camping in the bed of your truck in some remote area (like a trailhead parking lot). Next, camp out at some trailside “tent sites” or inside a 3-sided shelter. Once you get comfortable “sleeping out”, start choosing sites further and further away established shelters and tent sites. Picking nights, well lit by a clear sky and a full moon are definitely a big help. Make sure to carry a 400 lumen or better flashlight. Keep it under your pillow. Store food stuffs high in a tree, well away from your tent. P.S. Your hiking pole is your sword. It’s unlikely you ever need it, but it will make brave.

  38. I’ve always enjoyed solo day hunting in the wilderness from home. However, I’m filled with anxiety when it comes to camping away from home trying to combine solo hunting and camping. I have no fear of the wilderness or critters. I grew up around them. I reckon I have separation anxiety when it comes to my loved ones’. The only way I have found to combat this problem is, equipped with the camping basics, begin with overnight camping trips and eventually expanding my time away from home. Eventually, I’ve learned my limits and can plan my hunting & camping trips accordingly. I’ve never completely overcome my camping anxiety, but at least I can now manage it for a 10 day hunt.

  39. I live in the UK, I’m 79, and still hiking and wild camping. The only animal that worries me here and when I hike in France is wild boar. I have no experience of them, and so I’m anxious about them. I had a problem with domesticated pigs in 2015. It was dark, raining and foggy, and I found a patch of flat grass, pitched my tent and fell asleep. I was awakened at dawn by loud grunting and five domesticated pigs tried to get in my tent with me. I inadvertently had camped for the night on an open range pig farm. When I looked around, I could see that there were pigs everywhere. It was still raining hard, and I jumped out and confronted them, but by the time they ran off everything I owned was demolished and wet! I then learned how hard it is to put on wet clothes on a wet body, like dressing with sticky tape. But apart from this one incident, wild camping in the UK is easy.

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