DO NOT Go Camping Alone Before Reading This!

PublishedSeptember 17, 2020

'Could've Died' Camping Safety Scene:

Where: Valley of the Gods, Utah

When: 4/2019

What: Rural boondocking spot with friends.

Why: What happened on this day changed the way we camp forever. Learn from this camping experience and it may save your life.

The incident is something I never want to experience again. (Neither does Marshall!) It's the kind of thing that, while it's happening, you don't really believe it's happening.

Marshall could have died. He only lived because of one important safety factor.

Valley of the Gods Campsite

Actual photo of our camping spot where the 'incident' happened. 

What was his one life-saving safety tip?

He's alive ONLY because he was camping with other people.

Though WE don't do so often, there are many safety tips you need to consider when boondocking or tent camping all alone. Well, that is, if you want to stay alive.

Here's the quick version of the story.

Below the story we share our camping safety tips.  They just might keep you alive while you're camping 'out there' or all alone.

Just An Ordinary Day Camping

It began like any other moving day while camping on public lands.

Marshall and I were packing up and getting our travel trailers hitched up to our vehicles. We were about to adventure to Moab for an RV gathering. 

Inside my RV, I heard Marshall call me. It sounded aggressive. Urgent. I wasn't sure about that but I started heading outside right away.

Then he yelled again. This time it was unmistakable that something was very wrong.

Something's Definitely Wrong

I rushed out to find Marshall squatting beside his RV trailer tires.

I quickly found that his finger was caught between his levelers. The weight of the travel trailer was crushing his pointer finger.

I tried to move levelers. Nope. I couldn't dig him out, couldn't get him out.

I didn't know how to help. In his rising pain and panic, neither did he.

Then, "GO GET IN THE TRUCK AND MOVE IT FORWARD!!" he shouted, which is very much unlike him. Normal reaction. 

But, well, his finger was LITERALLY GETTING CRUSHED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF HIS TRAILER.

(Attempt at funny 're-enactment' photos below for your amusement. Though he was kneeling when stuck.)

Marshall reenacting finger stuck

"Hey, let's re-enact your finger getting stuck".  Haha. (I almost peed my pants taking these.)

How Do We Fix This?

Freaked out, I asked "How much should I pull forward??"

His answer?

"JUST A LITTLE!"

Well, crap. That's specific.

I understood that if I moved it too far forward (or back) I would likely do more damage.

I ended up moving his setup THREE separate times.

After try number three, he was no less stuck.

Then some friends in our group finally realized something was wrong and came to help. (And thank god they did.)

Long story short, our friends had to JACK UP the trailer to free Marshall. His finger was horrifyingly flat when released. But it survived.

His injuries were minimal and his only reminder now is occasional numbness in the finger.

The Ominous Camping Safety Realization

Right after we freed Marshall, something huge quickly dawned on ALL of us.

"OMG, what if we hadn't been here?"

What if Marshall had been camping and boondocking all alone? He couldn't have freed himself. He might have frikin' died, trapped under his RV!

Again, He COULD HAVE DIED From  Simply Going Camping!

It was a sobering thought. Literally, Marshall needed our help to get free.

Or, we shudder to think what his fate might have been.

Marshall's squished finger

It doesn't look as bad from the top as it did from the side. We didn't get a side shot, grrrr! (His finger was so skinny it looked like a GONER.)

Gross. And horrifying.

Death by dehydration, and/or being eaten by coyotes? No thanks.

This camping revelation opened our eyes to a few things about (and we are now hyper-aware about) camping remotely and solo.

He, or you, can easily die in the 'wild' all alone, with no other people around.

We aren't saying to never do it. There are just extra risks and safety steps/tips you should take if you do go camping (or hiking) alone.

Here are ten camping safety tips to help you to stay alive out there when planning your adventures anywhere outside of campgrounds.

10 Solo/Remote Camping Safety Tips

Safety when camping should be part of your planning. Here's our advice for your next camping trip to lower your chance of serious issues or death. 

1. Tell one or multiple people exactly where you're going and when you will be back from your camping trip

Not much else to add here. Best to have someone expecting you back from camping on a certain date and even better, at a certain time. This way if you don't show up, they know something is amiss. This is camping safety 101. 

2. Get a satellite locator

If your camping lifestyle takes you off in the wilderness alone, this is a good safety investment. Make sure to have it with you at all times such as a Garmin InReach or a SPOT. There is often a monthly fee for this, but what is your life worth? Image being lost on a trail, on day two. Won't you wish you had just gone ahead and paid for and gotten one? My guess? Absolutely!

3. Park where others will be periodically passing by

Needless to say, if you park or tent camp (OR hike) in locations and campsites where NOBODY is ever going to pass nearby, if you have problems and scream, they won't hear you. You can do this, but it will up your danger factor.

4. Don't be dumb

If you are hiking in an area with bears, make noise, wear a bell, and have your bear spray immediately accessible for animals. Be aware of your surroundings and environment. If you're going rafting or kayaking, wear a life jacket. Check the weather forecast and watch for rain. Watch the temperatures.  Wear sunscreen so you don't get a sunburn. You get the jist. Don't invite trouble. Be on the defensive. You're a vulnerable little peon in the great outdoors.

5. Camp where you have cellular signal

And try to keep your phone on you at all times. Had we not been there, and if Marshall had had his phone on him (he didn't), he could have saved himself because we had signal. And thanks to Bob's suggestion in the comments, having a watch with cell service/ability to make calls would be another great idea and easier to keep it on your body.

6. Tools for your camping trip

Keep essential tools in your RV that can help you get out of a situation. Example- MAXTRAX to help get vehicle unstuck, a tow strap, a jack, the proper tire-changing tools, a battery jumper, etc, in addition to the must have RV accessories.

7. First Aid

Keep a hefty camping aid kit with you for camping safety, even in your backpack if you go on a hike. Learn some first aid skills before you go.

8. Emergency Whistle

Have this on hand as well. Both at your camp and if you go on a hike. Save your voice and make it easier for others to find you in a forest.

9. Compass/Maps

This is not a bad idea in the event you lost phone power or get lost in the woods without signal.

10. Vehicle Stocking

Keep a good supply of water and high-calorie foods inside your vehicle. In cold climates, have warm clothing/blankets and fire-making supplies in case you get into a wreck in the middle of nowhere. Keep a first aid kit in your camper, too. 

Conclusion

Kelly at Muley Point Utah

Nothing like a near-death experience to bring to light how fragile we humans really are. Especially while outside of the safety bubble of man-made society and hanging with the risk of wildlife hanging around.

Had Marshall been on a camping trip out all alone with nobody around, he may have died.

The incident led us to REALLY understand how dangerous camping is when you are alone and outside of a campground.

Please be careful, have fun, and follow these camping safety tips when you do venture out on your own, campers! DON'T FORGET your first aid kit!

And don't forget to always follow the Escapees Boondocking Policy when camping on public lands!

Kelly Headshot

He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona. 

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  • My God. What a story. Lol. Very eye-opening and painfully funny and suspense-filled. I couldn’t take my eyes off until I read everything. I think you’re right. We should always try to camp in places where help can easily get to us when we need it.

    Sometimes, however a man just got to be alone with nature and in this case these little safety tips will come in real handy. Also communication gadgets and flashlights are really important to always keep in our possession. Just my thoughts though.

    By the way, I hope Marshall won’t go sticking his hands under the trailer carelessly next time. Good thing he’s fine.

    • Hey Adventure,

      Thank you for your comment!!! Glad you agree and that you may be more aware of safety out there now. And yes, any time I see Marshall level his trailer, I get a little nervous, LOL! I do, actually.

      Stay safe out there and enjoy yourself!

  • Wow! Marshall is really lucky he didn’t lose that finger – crush injuries are no joke (Google how journalist Miles O’Brien lost his arm.)

    I’d also add: when your dog tells you something’s wrong, listen to them! Years ago my elderly father was hiking alone with our dog, and my mother was out of town. No cell phones back then. All of a sudden our dog, Annie, stopped in front of him and would not let him continue down the trail. (This was in the woods on their own land.) He couldn’t see or hear anything wrong but she was adamant about not letting him go any further. So he grabbed a stick and started poking in front of them on the trail, and SNAP! An old, rust bear trap slammed shut on the stick. If he had stepped in it, which he would have if not for Annie, he would have died there.

    Thankfully we’ve never had as close a call as that, but our dogs have saved us from multiple sudden storms (by insisting that we go home right. damn. now.) and also from walking up on mountain lions. Dogs are smart. But we have to listen to them.

    • Hi Mary!

      Yeah, we’ve totally done that ‘math’… the what ifs… what if no-one else was there when he got stuck? What if he was in a place where nobody could see or hear him at all? Yikes. The arm story- how can anyone forget that one?? SICK! I don’t think I could have done it.

      And yep, dogs are WAY smarter than we are in regards to having that sort of intuition. It’s definitely best to HEAR them when they are freaked out. Two nights here, at night, Gizmo tucked her tail and grumbled/growled and took off the other direction. I would LOVE to know what it was she saw or heard or even felt. But you better bet I scooped her up and went inside!

      Thanks for the tip. Dogs are the greatest!

    • WOW…Incredible story! I’m 70, single female, and going to venture out next year, but wouldn’t go without my Audrey, a burn victim Manchester Terrier. She’s smart as a whip and very intuitive. I’m also going to get a watch with a GPS. Thank you for your story and I wish you many safe travels ahead!

      • Hi Carolyn,

        It’s VERY good to hear you will have a watch with GPS! It’s always on you, so you cannot forget it. (Long as you don’t take your watch off, of course) You will greatly lessen the chance that you are stuck without any help. It’s really a horrifying thought!

        Thank you for the kind comment/feedback! Also, I’m sure your cute little Audrey can’t wait to go out with you! 💕

      • Thanks! Yeah… this one was a doozy. But we learned from it, and Marshall got to keep his finger. 😎

        Camp on!

  • Just found your site and am really enjoying it. Thanks! I have an additional suggestion for #5. After my wife had fallen at our home outside in sub zero weather while brushing the snow off the car, she fractured her leg in many places and could not move. She had been exercising and was out in her workout shorts because it was “only going to take a second.” No one was home. She fell with her foot trapped between the tire and ice, breaking her lower leg and ankle in numerous places. In excruciating pain, it was 25 minutes before a neighbor looked out the window and saw her in the snow, obviously distressed. Although she was only 20 feet from the door, she could not get there. The neighbor helped and saved her from shock and hypothermia. Surgeries later she is doing well. She did not have her phone with her. Simple solution… we immediately went out and purchased a watch which also has GPS and phone service. Expensive solution but it could be a matter of life and death. Just a suggestion.

    • Wow Bob, very glad to hear that it turned out ok for your wife. Isn’t it amazing how susceptible we are to Mother Nature? Right outside your own home and it could have been deadly!

      That’s a very smart solution. I used to have phone service on my Apple Watch. But barely used it. I don’t know if it had some sort of GPS service on it as well.

      Care to share what watch/service you got? If it has GPS, that is a fantastic idea! Easier to keep on your person than a phone or a GPS locator. Thank you so much for your input.

  • I’m 65. Until recently, when I’d like to think that the risk awareness part of my male brain matured (what took so long?), I traveled into the back country, on foot, often bushwhacking, but always telling my wife where I’ll be. I always made it back in enough time to prevent her from calling mountain rescue. I look back now and can see that my survival for 40 years was 25% due to my excellent woodsman skills and 75% due to luck. Along the way there were quite a few “We won’t tell the wife about that” experiences.

    These days I don’t wander from the campsite without 1) my cellphone, and my family will tell you how much I detest those things. 2) My “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” pocket GPS thing connected to the satellite and people who will rescue me. But, I don’t wander anymore, not like I used to do. These days I like sitting in the shade and looking at things that come into view: birds, flowers, trees, clouds, and my lovely wife.

    • Hi Jeffery,

      Wow! That was a great story! And you lived to tell, LOL!

      Sounds like you have had your share of adventures. I’ll bet they were fun but yeah, you can look back now and see the ‘oh s***’ moments. We’ve all been there.

      And I do enjoy exploring, VERY much, but also very much love watching the wildlife on my property. So much so that I got cameras and am recording it and sharing it on social media.

      Quail, woodpeckers, sparrows, mourning doves, round-tail ground squirrels, snakes (1 so far), mice, rats (eek!), coyotes, and even one Gila Lizard!!! And the clouds make for great sunsets.

      Stay safe, no matter where you are. And thank you for the story! It was great. : D

  • I wear a Great Call life alert around my neck from the time I get up in the morning. I was building a house in Maine for 5 months alone and it could have saved my life in an accident. Available at Walmart for about $ 50 plus $ 18/month. Uses GPS, so you can be located anywhere, even in Penobscot Bay.

    • Hi Eric,

      That’s a great tip! Glad you kept safe while building that house. This would work just as well for campers. Thank you!

  • All great points to keep in mind while dispersed camping solo, thanks for spreading the word. When camping in remote areas without cell service, I always send my location and keep in touch with my family via Garmin Inreach. Whenever I leave my campsite to go exploring I keep it on my person in case of emergencies. During my career as a firefighter I’ve witnessed the outcome of having a satellite location device on many occasions, they’re definitely worth the cost if you enjoy backcountry/remote camping or exploring.
    Get outside and enjoy!

    • Hey Kirk,

      Man, you sure would have seen the benefits of people using GPS devices when hiking!!! So thanks for the extra proof that it’s a lifesaving gadget! And thank you for your past service- such a challenging job!

  • One thing not mentioned on either page of ‘invaluable’ things to bring or have on you: A VERY SHARP POCKET KNIFE (Remember reading of the poor man hiking by himself, while climbing in between boulders, and dislodged a boulder that trapped his forearm.. The only thing that saved his life was his pocket knife
    that he used to sever his arm in order to free himself. Once out of the boulder canyon he encountered two hikers who helped him to emergency care.

    Your buddy, with finger trapped, and all alone could have severed his finger to free himself if no other help was available. Terrible, but better to live another day than die of anguish and starvation/dehydration by a trapped finger.

    • Hi Frances,

      Very good point! Oh, also I’d be missing the other person who would do the cutting for me. 😂 😬 Man, not sure if I could do that!!!! But yes, a pocket knife is also a very good idea to keep on one’s person. Thank you for the tip!

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