Worried About Your First Solo Overnighter?
A solo overnight camp in the woods is fun, but also daunting. Here's what to expect and how to get out there and have fun.
If you're into bushcraft or wild camping, then at some point you'll want to do a solo overnighter. But if you feel a little intimidated by the idea of a night in the woods alone, don't worry - you're not the only one with that feeling.
Historically, in the UK, the chances of being eaten by a vampire in the woods at night is fairly slim.
Some fears are real
If you have an overactive imagination, you might be filling your mind with visions of vampires or rabid foxes or a wild axe murderer. The good news is, if you're wild camping in the UK, those frightful visions exist only in your head. The trick to getting over those fanciful fears, is to focus on understanding and preparing yourself for the more realistic ones you might face. Because truth be told, wild camping does have some real dangers, some of which are:
- Injury - Interacting with sharp blades, fire, timber, etc. can cause harm in countless ways. Everything from a stray branch in the eye, to a deep skin laceration, is on the table. Not to mention serious conditions associated with extreme elements, like hypothermia.
- Equipment Failure - Necessary supplies and materials can malfunction or become useless if they get wet or cold. This can be debilitating.
- Getting Lost - Finding yourself off-track in a town or on a rural path is one thing. Chances are before long, someone will show up and you can ask for help. But getting lost in the wilderness can be worrisome, because you have to be your own saviour.
How to mitigate your risk
You can't totally eliminate all chance of injury in the woods, but you can minimise the risk. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Learn to use your tools safely
Practice a lot before heading out alone. That may sound strange - 'how do you practice camping?' - but whatever bushcraft techniques, tools or methods you intend to use in the woods, should be perfected at home. Even the seemingly straightforward ones, like using a fire steel to start a fire. Hone your skills.
Stay alert. Be mindful of how tired and/or hungry you are, because that'll make you more likely to cut corners. These are the times when you need to be most aware.
Carry a first aid kit with you at all times. That's an obvious one. Less obvious is distinguishing between a good first aid kit and subpar one...
Carry a good first aid kit
Unfortunately, most first aid kits off the shelf are not up to snuff. When you purchase yours, make sure to open it up and go through it before venturing off alone. Then customise your kit so that it's as useful as possible to you. Think carefully about what you might need and add the necessary items accordingly. I can't give you a definitive list, but here are some of the things I carry in mine:
- Pain killers - paracetamol and ibuprofen.
- Simple plasters
- Large absorbent wound dressings sufficient for handling cuts from blades or axes
- Saline for cleaning wounds and eyes
- Alcohols wipes for cleaning small wounds
- Scissors capable of cutting clothing
- Butterfly stitches
- Antiseptic cream or spray
- Blister kits
- Strong zinc oxide tape
Make sure you have a mobile signal!
As far as it's practical, check that you have a good enough signal from your proposed location. It's not always possible to scout it out beforehand, but well worth it if you get a chance.
Tell someone where you are
Most will do this out of habit, but for those of you who have been known to wander off without a word: make sure someone knows where you're going to be and when they should expect you back. If anything should happen to you that delays your return, they'll know where to find you.
Overcome the fear and tackle the wilderness!
Leaving the familiar comforts of home and setting off into the woods alone for the first time can be scary. Not only is that fear natural, but it's actually good to have! It'll ensure that you don't overlook the risks involved.
Whether your fears of solo wild camping are imagined and/or real, they should in no way keep you from the adventure. As long as you're aware of the dangers and fully prepared, a solo overnight bushcamp is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience!
*Side note* for those of you who groaned when reading "fully prepared", I'll let you in on a little secret - preparing, practicing and honing your bushcraft skills in the backyard is half the fun...
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