Last summer I began a journey to visit every State Park in Minnesota. Most of this journey was done alone while sleeping in a tent. Over the last year, I’ve had many inquiries from other women who are intrigued by camping solo but as a female have obvious safety concerns. So I created a list of 10 tips every female traveler should adhere to. While this is focused on women and camping, it’s great advice for anyone looking for more adventure in their lives.
First, let me fill you in on what I’m up to and why. I let fear hold me back from living a full life for 35+ years. I was a naturally anxious child and as a female, was trained to always be on high alert. As a result, I didn’t go after much of what I truly desired. Realizing how much I’ve missed out on by living in fear, I made courage my word of the year last year.
In the meantime, I had been missing out on an overdue epic adventure due to some unforeseen events in my husband’s family. My inner gypsy was getting antsy. Jeremiah, my wonderfully supportive and amazing husband, had been encouraging me to go alone. But I didn’t want to experience an epic adventure without him. Traveling with Jer is part of the joy.
I began thinking of other ways to soothe my gypsy soul. I had always dreamed of visiting every State Park in Minnesota but I had never camped alone and I was terrified for my safety. Then I figured that there was no better way to build up my courage than by doing something I love.
When I brought the idea up to Jer, he didn’t hesitate in encouraging me out the door. A couple of weeks later we did a test run and two weeks after that, I was off on my #hollygoeswild adventure. As of today I’ve finished 62 parks and have 7 left to go. Here’s what I learned thus far.
10 Safety Tips for Solo Female Campers
1 – Trust Your Gut
Let me be honest with you. I’m not always good at this. My intuition is spot on, but I don’t always listen. Like that time I booked that really expensive vacation home that turned out to be a dump. My intuition said, walk away but my brain said, you’ll love the view.
That said, I’m much more trusting of my intuition when I’m alone. I tend to venture off into some pretty secluded places so I make safety my number one priority. If you feel like something’s not right, it’s probably not. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you can.
2 – Don’t Advertise Your Location
I know it’s tempting to post that amazing sunrise at the moment but think twice about how you’re using social media during your solo travels. I only post my whereabouts if I’m on my way out or have already moved on. Your patience will be rewarded with an extra layer of safety.
3 – Trust that Most People are Good
I’ve found it helpful to trust that most people are good because they are. Most people are going to look out for you and help you out if something did go wrong. Be open to their concern and support.
4 – Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Always be aware of who and what is around you. Is there a campground host you can go to in case of an emergency? Who is in the surrounding campsites? Be aware of what’s going on and pay attention to how it changes each day.
Pay attention to suspicious activity as well. Is there someone who keeps wandering by your campsite? Do you see the same car as you travel from place to place? Take note of anything suspicious and don’t be afraid to call the police or share it with park staff or someone you trust. You don’t need anyone’s permission to put your safety first.
5 – Befriend the Rangers and Park Staff
Always make contact with the rangers and park staff. They are incredibly helpful and aware of what’s going on in their parks. Keeping their parks safe is their top priority. They’re used to solo female campers and they’ll be happy to help you out.
6 – Just Say No
If you feel uncomfortable with someone or a situation, know that you are not obligated to engage them. You have the right to simply walk away. No explanation needed.
I traveled alone for work for 15 years, which means that I ate thousands of dinners alone. It wasn’t uncommon for men to come up and ask if they could join me or buy me a drink. In the beginning, I’d make up some excuse, like I was working. Then one day, I blurted out, “no thank you.” The reaction was priceless and I’ve used it ever since. I’ve been using “no thank you,” for 11 years and not once has anyone had anything to say about it.
7 – Have a Plan
Chances are you have nothing to worry about. Statistically speaking, it’s safer for me to go on solo wilderness adventures than to the grocery store. But stuff happens everywhere, so have a plan just in case.
If you’re camping with a car, keep the key next to your sleeping bag so you can hit the panic button if needed. Pro tip: be careful not to sit on said key while getting dressed in the morning.
If you have a dog, I’m sure he’d love to join you on your adventure. iPhone users should learn how to use the emergency SOS feature for your specific model. It’s never a bad idea to learn basic self-defense or jiu-jitsu. I’m also a huge proponent of my personal locator beacon and wish I would have bought it sooner in life.
Last but not least, some women travelers don’t leave home without weapons. I’ve heard of many solo females who carry mace, tasers, daggers, or guns. If you consider a weapon, don’t leave home without proper training. Weapons can be used against you if you’re not careful. Until you’re confident with what you’re doing, consider a rape whistle.
8 – Share Your Plans
Let someone you trust in on your plans. Let them know when you’re leaving, where you’re going, and when you plan to return. Be sure to leave them any pertinent information such as your vehicle description, license plate number, height, weight, clothing, etc. Again, it’s unlikely you have anything to worry about, but just in case.
9 – Stay Bear Aware
Understand the potential dangers of wildlife in the areas you’ll be traveling. Brush up on etiquette and safety procedures. Prevention is key, but be sure you understand how to deal with a rogue bear or berserk wolf. Animal attacks are very, very rare, but have happened. Knowing what do can save a life.
10 – Go Light on the Sauce
In other words, if you drink, take it easy on the alcohol. A glass of wine before bed will help you sleep, especially at first when your mind is racing with all of the what-ifs. But too much has the potential to make any dangerous situation worse. So take care to not overindulge.
As I mentioned, the wilderness is a safe place. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy an amazing adventure, either solo or in a group. Now get out there and make those dreams a reality.