Do you have an innate trust that the world is fundamentally a good place, where people are generally safe and kind to each other? Or are you of the mind that it’s mostly a dangerous, threatening world that we live in nowadays?
An interesting conversation began to take place after my recent cycling talk, ‘Lapland to Helsinki.’ The conversation, then developed into the somewhat popular subject, of how daunting the thoughts of solo wild/stealth camping appear to be for most people, particularly women.
Very occasionally whilst sleeping out, I have been petrified. As some of you who regularly follow this blog may have read, in the November 2017 post, ‘Scary Nights of Stealth Camping’
My very first night out camping absolutely alone has remained unpublished until now! That very first immersion into companionless wild camping was at the age of twenty-one. It was spent under a flimsy tarpaulin upon a tiny island, in the beautiful Malborough Sounds. I was visiting Anakiwa, the New Zealand Outward Bound School. One of their student courses, included a very tough solo bivvy. The young students plus provisions and shelter, were taken at dusk by boat and dropped individually onto tiny islands, dotted around the turquoise-blue Sounds. There they stayed totally alone, for three days and three nights. Albeit, checked on by sea-borne Instructors every twenty-four hours, to make sure they weren’t in any difficulties.
When asked if I wanted to try a short solo bivvy, I rather naively agreed. After one night and one day of being well outside my comfort zone, I was extremely relieved to see the boat speeding towards my rocky beach!
There was nothing on that little foreign island to do me any harm whatsoever… except my own mental/emotional thoughts and feelings. They ran crazily around my mind for hours, producing the most ridiculous, outlandish scenarios. The Outward Bound guys fed me a story about the Giant Moa. Which I took with a pinch of salt, but with each rustle and crackle in that strange bush undergrowth, I became more and more terrified of my own imagination. I was supposed to use the time there to write a diary of my thoughts…. but my only coherent thoughts were, ”I want to get off this island right now!!”
This example, provides an answer to many fears that can arise during wild camping….they are pretty much all in the mind and mostly fictional. It becomes surprisingly liberating, once this realisation is reached. Though I should add, to arrive at that point does take more than one night of solitary camping.
A strong conviction that most of the world is safe, is how I remind myself that no one is out to get me, find me, hunt me down. I’m almost one hundred percent likely to be out of harms way even close to civilisation, as long as my little tent is tucked away where it can’t be too easily discovered. Plus, the more lone camping nights I expose myself to, the more secure I feel and the more normal it becomes. It’s also occurred to me that any trust extended out into the world, can also be given to ones self. The ability to trust in ones own capabilities. To know that one can manage, cope, endure and recover from any challenges that may arise from a solo camp is liberating.
Perhaps camping expeditions over long periods create a connection within, back in time to when we humans were nomadic. For ninety-nine per cent of our human history we have been nomads…only in the last ten thousand years during the agricultural revolution have humans erected permanent homes. Could this history explain, why some people love the freedom of simply packing up home, placing it on a bike and pedaling away to the next camp…. wherever that may be!
Here are a few general simple tips for prospective wild camping women:
- Arrive late and leave early, especially if it’s a stealth camp close to a populated area.
- A bivvy bag is less conspicuous than a tent. If using a tent try to use green or brown so it will blend in.
- I never post my exact whereabouts on social media or use one of those tracker sites…. sadly that would be putting myself at risk.
- Go with a friend for a few trips before you branch out on your own.
- Make sure you have some self-help skills. Such as basic first aid knowledge.
- Always check the weather forecast.
- Let a close friend know where you are heading.
- Start at the beginning of your sliding scale….local and short, then when comfortable ….. extend your scale.
Solo wild camping is nearly always wonderful and marvelously freeing particularly for us women! There is nothing quite like waking up alone to a dawn chorus orchestra, opening the tent flap to see a pink dawn breaking and breathing in the fresh moist air. Knowing that the day ahead holds the promise of a carefree, happy one……