05 August 2021

3 Ways to Have Fun Solo Camping

Written by: Anna Lad

   Ally, Alicia, and I jumping up in our field gear vests.

   On June 17th, I had the opportunity to accompany two interns into the field to map Smith’s Blue Butterfly habitat. Fort Ord Dunes State Park, where we surveyed, is only a few miles from Monterey, and the scenery was gorgeous! However, because we started in the morning, I got to camp overnight in the Fort Ord Natural Reserve (FONR). Camping is a fun, exciting, dare I say – college budget friendly – way of getting outdoors. Getting to pitch my tent at the FONR was a blast. The reserve itself preserves rare maritime chaparral habitat. However, there was one glaring difference between my time at the reserve and every other time I camped before: I was alone. 

   Solo camping as a female can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be! I learned three things during my solo camping trip which reassured me and increased my camping confidence.

  1. Select a safe location.

I can’t stress this enough. Not all of us have black belts in Karate, so safety was a paramount concern for me. As a DFP intern, I was lucky enough to be given entrance into the Fort Ord Natural Reserve, which isn’t open to the public. The reserve is gated and visitors from surrounding colleges are logged, so I felt really secure.

   2. Test your gear out beforehand.

Imagine pitching a tent in the dark, only to discover you need to do the splits before the fly will hook across the tent itself! It is not fun to discover your tent takes two people to set up. I didn’t encounter many issues with my tent, but there was a lot I could have done to prepare for my night on the dunes. I arrived at the park right before dusk. For obvious reasons, it’s better to set up a tent in daylight. I was lucky enough to have a headlamp, but it could have ben much worse! My propane stove guttered badly in the wind. It took almost an hour to boil the water for my dinner. If I’d tested the stove before leaving, I might have spotted the problem and been able to fix it.  

   3. Always have spatial awareness.

It wasn’t until the morning that I discovered I had pitched my tent on an anthill! California’s black ants are much kinder than Texas’ invasive fire ants, so I think I dodged a bullet. Going forward, an extra sweep of the tent area with a flashlight will be on my list.

Solo camping can be very intimidating, especially for first timers. Now that I’ve taken the plunge, it’s a lot less scary and a lot more fun! There are so many ways to challenge yourself in the outdoors. Joining Ally and Alicia for a day in the field gave me the opportunity to take great pictures, learn about the importance of their work, and try new things.

 A Smith's Blue Butterfly adult perched upon a Seacliff Buckwheat Bloom

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office

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