Do You Absolutely Need A Gun When Camping Alone?

PublishedSeptember 26, 2020

This information is mostly intended for the worried camping ladies out there. But solo camping safety applies to ANYONE thinking about a camping gun or other protection.

I am a single full-time female RVer. I'm not claiming to be an expert on this subject. I simply have 5 years of experience camping (boondocking 99.9%) as a solo female.

I'm sharing with you what I have learned as an experienced woman who has been legally public lands camping for the last 5 years.

Kelly at Timber Lake Rocky Mountain National Park

That's me posing at Timber Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Before I hit the road, I figured I'd boondock a lot. (Nailed it!)

Naturally, I searched the internet (as you are) looking for information regarding camping/boondocking safety.

Like you may be, I was leery of being alone. I wanted to know if it was safe 'out there'. I wondered 'do I need a gun for boondocking or hiking?'

The 'Wonderful' Advice I Remember Reading

Oh, there was plenty of 'great' advice out there:

1. Put two pairs of shoes outside the RV

2. Put out two chairs

3. Get a camping gun

4. Or get a big noisy dog, or wasp spray, or a taser, or mace, or all of the above

(Today, my experienced boondocking self laughs at all of it.)

I did have two chairs for a while. Never got the boots. I did get a handgun and my concealed carry permit (which MAJORLY felt like overkill).

But pretty quickly, after camping on public lands (dispersed RV camping) alone, I discovered the real truth:

NOBODY IS OUT TO GET ME (OR YOU!)

You: "Wait, what? How can that be? The news shows people getting murdered and raped and stolen from all of the time. I'll be all alone. I'll be VULNERABLE!"

Ok, stop watching the news. Seriously. They NEVER SHOW anything good, so you see every bad little thing ever. You're being brainwashed.


The Big Question: Why aren't there dangerous people on public lands?

The Real Answer: Because like you, the people out there are there to recreate. They're hanging with friends and/or family. They are only there to have fun.


In fact, if you need help, like with a flat tire or whatever, they are very likely to help you. Why? Because most people are genuinely good.

Also, they understand that help is not readily available 'out there'. And they know if they needed help, someone else would help them out.

It's like a secret society. An understanding. It's back scratching.

People help each other. No strings attached. That's just how it is.

One Girl's Personal Gun Journey

Right before I was going to boondock, I bought a Glock 19 for my camping gun as a 'just in case'.

Turns out, it wasn't for me. It felt dangerous to have a camping gun around. I couldn't remember if I kept it loaded or not. Couldn't remember how to set it up to shoot. 

I know, it's pretty simple. But in a time of panic, no way I'd have remembered how to use it, if it was loaded, how to load it, etc.

Yes, I practiced shooting it with experienced friends. But not nearly enough.

I sold my camping gun after about 2 years. I was more uncomfortable having it in my RV than I was not having one.

Kelly target shooting

Practicing shooting it with friends who helped teach me.

If you don't need one daily where you live in society, then you definitely don't need one out on public lands.

Some people like having guns. That's fine, too. I'm simply here to tell you you don't NEED a boondocking gun.

Still Want To Believe You Need A Camping gun?

I understand it may still be scary for you to break your boondocking 'seal', especially if you'll be ALL alone, no-one else in sight. Any type of unknown is usually scary.

Your first time solo camping in a remote area is especially scary if you're a solo female. I totes get it. And you SHOULD be leery.

It's new. It's spooky. (I was more scared of 'the boogey man' when I first boondocked all by myself.)

Kelly first night boondocking

This was my first solo boondocking experience! I was spooked. Not of humans. Of the boogeyman'. I was over it after one night.

But once you've done it, you'll be on the 'other side' and then you will realize that it's safer than ANY city.

(There ARE exceptions! If you park in an iffy/meth-y area all alone with shady people wandering around for no good reason, bad move. You're putting yourself in a bad position. Don't do that. Use your intuition.)

If you still insist it's dangerous, either:

1. You are paranoid. You like the drama of thinking this way.

2. You are in the wrong area (A.k.a. in a bad area. If so, LEAVE!).

3. You've never done it before and you really have no idea. If so, please stop crying to others that it's dangerous.


Be done with thinking you need self-defense tools out on public land.

I have NEVER needed to defend myself on public lands. Nor have any of my friends (many being solo women) I've talked to about it.

I've only feared for my life because of other people twice in my life. Neither time was on public land/camping remotely.

It's just SO much safer than being in a campground in town. Which is also usually a totally safe place to camp.

If it makes you feel better, go ahead and have a something on hand. A gun, or pepper spray or your bear spray. (And boy, there's a lot of debate about using bear or wasp spray as self-defense from a human.)

Just pointing out that none of these are NECESSARY 'out there'.

Why It's Safer To Camp Remotely Than To Camp In 'Public'

Ok, think of it this way.

Criminals like low-lying fruit. They want as many opportunities as possible.  (Cities= more people= more chances and opportunities.)

So... they dwell in cities.

Criminals are very lazy. They aren't driving out of town to look for a victim.

They aren't going to drive miles and miles out of town to look for something to do.

Need more proof why they don't come out to public land?

Fine.

Why would they? Your average RV on public land probably has a family camping in it. With SUCH 'tempting' stuff to steal like clothing, games, and food.

I mean, come on. Be real about it! They aren't after you or your camping stuff.

So, stop worrying that you need a camping gun because someone is coming out to public land to get you or your worthless things. It's not happening.

The WORST That Could Happen

Ok, it's not like nobody has EVER been killed or robbed while camping remotely. (Or while doing anything you can name.)

And who can forget the movie Deliverance?  Scared the mess out of the entire country.

Sure, it has happened. (Albeit most camping or hiking crimes probably happened in a campground or in a public land spot very close to a city.)

woman hiker hugging redwood tree

But come on. If you stress and worry about every little thing that COULD happen, you aren't living.

Worrying is 100%  a waste of your time.

You could also get struck by lightning. Hit by a car. Or attacked by a bear.

Are your fears stopping you from going outside? Hope not.

 If you're boondocking, generally, other people will be around the camping area. Just watch for any weirdos and if you're uncomfortable, move.

You'll Stay Safe Without A Camping Gun By Doing These Things:

1. Use Your Head. Your street smarts. If you're a woman, your women's intuition. If it doesn't feel like a safe place for WHATEVER REASON, leave. You're on wheels.

2. Social Media. Don't post your exact current locations on social media. I hope that's pretty obvious, ladies.

3. Company. Camp with a friend if possible. I mean, solo is totally safe. But being with a friend will be even safer.

4.Use Your Head. Yes, read #1 again.

That's it! It's VERY safe 'out there'. Sorry if it's unexciting. There's just not much to it. The good news is IT'S GENERALLY SAFE!!

Conclusion

If you want to carry a gun when boondocking, go for it. But I'm here to tell you YOU DON'T NEED A CAMPING GUN or other protection.

Woman tourist taking selfie Mendenhall glacier Juneau Alaska

Use your women's intuition and you'll be just fine 'out there' on your own!

Nobody out on public lands is out to get you. If it makes you feel safer or better to have a gun, fine. Keep it in a safe place and stored properly.

Also, know your states laws about traveling with one. You also better know the gun laws in the states in which you plan to travel.

But hey, if you like to hang out in seedy or close-to-city spots or shady areas then yes, maybe you should keep some form of self-defense handy.

Otherwise, stop worrying. It's fun and wonderful to camp solo and in nature!

(And guess what? You are not usually more than maybe 20-30 minutes from some town. Boondocking is not as 'away from society' as you may think when camping out west on public lands.)

Shout out in the comments: If you camp alone, do you carry some form of self-protection?  Care to share what it is? And why do/don't you think you need it?

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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  • I travel and camp with a pistol. When I started back packing and day hikes I carried a pistol, a glock 19, not for people but wildlife. Too many experiences with coyotes, mountain lions and a bear or two. It’s for the just in case scenario only. I agree, that you would rarely need it for humans. I’ve camped in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and live in Utah and I have ran into the above animals as well as smaller critters, thankfully I never had to use it. I didn’t buy mine for camping but I do take it for my backcountry treks. All it takes is that once in a million % that can ruin your day. But I will admit it’s burdensome to pack the extra weight. A gun is definitely not for everyone, it’s what you feel comfortable with.

    • Hi Ron,

      Yeah, I have seen bears and plenty of coyotes while camping or hiking. They never want anything to do with humans. But sure, it has happened. (People getting attacked. By bears. Coyote and mountain lion attacks are almost unheard of)

      I carried my Glock on two short hikes when alone, right after getting it and right out of the gate. Felt SO uneasy with it. Ridiculously uneasy, and way over-armed. I didn’t know back then what I know now. I never feel unsafe with people on a trail. If I do, I leave, or I went to a bad area. I simply avoid areas that are more apt to have criminals. (areas close to town, typically)

      I hope you never have to use your pistol on an animal. But if you do, I sure hope it saves your life!

  • Hahhahahahaha. Kelly. You are just a funny writer. I always laugh hard when I read your articles. The RV lifestyle has really made you an interesting and passionate story teller. Nice article.

    • Hi Adventure,

      Well, thank you so much! Nice to hear some kudos, especially on this VERY touchy subject. : )

      I appreciate it and am happy to hear you have enjoyed my work!

      Cheers!

  • I do not travel with a gun. I do own a gun, use to own and shoot several. I’m a hunter. I’ve thought of getting some sort of protection especially with my currant hybrid camper, easy access, but like you said i have nothing they would want. Not even a sexy body lol. So is rather spend my money on something else. Just saying.

    • Hi Rhonda,

      Yep, your odds are WAY higher of being killed or attacked by someone YOU KNOW. And it is almost exclusively MEN who kill women. I mean, look at the Gabby Petito case. So, so sad. I highly doubt she ever thought he was capable of killing her. (No, we don’t know yet for sure, but I mean, come on.)

      I guess bringing a man you know for ‘protection’ while camping can sometimes backfire, as it did in Gabby’s case. ESPECIALLY if they have a gun. Maybe she was shot, maybe not. They haven’t told us yet.

      There is so much backward thinking in this country.

      I am with you, Rhonda. No gun is necessary when camping.

      Cheers!

  • I very much agree with you that most camping is very very safe but you made one BOLD STATEMENT IN BOLD LETTERING > YOU DON’T NEED A CAMPING GUN or other protectionBut in a time of panic, no way I’d have remembered how to use it, if it was loaded, how to load it, etc. . Whomever sold you the weapon should have versed you in the operation of a semi-auto v revolver and you should have went to a shooting range with both. You also said nothing about protection while parked at Wally World or a rest area which can be much less safe as a campsite. As a 72 year old man that is too old to fight and too fat to run I find your post as very misinforming of the RV gun debate. We are very fortunate to live in America, one of the last places on earth we have the right to defend ourselves with a firearm.

    • Hi Mike,

      I did go to several shooting ranges and practice. Also practiced a few times with friends in places where shooting was allowed. Even so, I would always forget how to use it and if I left it loaded or unloaded. That’s a prescription for trouble in the event I somehow felt the ‘need’ to use it.

      So I got rid of it. And yes, I have other things I can protect myself with if the need ever arose. But somehow, in my 48 years, I have not EVER needed to defend my life from another human being. I hope I never have to.

  • I appreciated your article. Well written and thought out.
    However; I did wish to convey a newbies first rv experience (two weeks ago) that had me wondering…

    First trip out at a State Park in Virginia two days after Memorial Day. (Todd Lake)

    We were the only folk there besides the camp host, until a pickup parked two sites away.
    The middle aged man emerged naked from the showers proclaiming he was the son of God and owned the campground. The host got him settled down, but could not reach the authorities.

    At three in the morning, the man was having a very loud phone conversation , threatening someone with killing them. (there is no cell service at this campground).
    We got up and drove away sans camper.

    As a retired couple; we felt utterly defenseless.
    ( i don’t own a handgun).
    Question to you and your readers. In this situation; would you want a gun or not?

    Just curious and thanks.
    David

    • Hi David, thank you for your story. Sorry you had to go through that. Some people suck!!!

      That said, we once had a similar experience. It was an unmanned campground in California. Drunk car camping idiot. Screaming at top of his lungs about my and my friends RVs being there. Then he mentioned a gun or shooting, and that was it. Police were called. It was tense and we were packing up to leave. Cops arrived and he was arrested for outstanding warrant. (Shocking)

      I did own a gun at the time. I don’t recall even thinking about bringing it out for ‘protection’. We were simply going to remove ourselves from the situation.

      When would I ever possibly have used one? If someone was about to kill me I suppose. It would have to be me or the other person. In my campground drama, would pulling out a gun have settled him down? Likely not. But who knows. And he wasn’t directing his anger at any of us directly. And as soon as the cops pulled in and confronted him, he turned into a teddy bear.

      I think you did the right thing, removing yourself from that situation. That’s what I would do, camping or not. Just leave. If having one around makes you feel safer, I say go for it.

      Ideally, nobody would own weapons that so easily kill others. Unfortunately, that’s not the world/country we live in.

      • Another David here.

        You are absolutely correct that the best defense is to first not get into a situation where you are in danger. Second, if you find yourself in a bad situation, leave as quickly as possible – don’t engage if possible.

        The very last resort is to meet force with force – whether personally engaging or with the aid of a weapon.

        We camp a little. We kayak, fish and drive in remote areas. We sometimes separate and meet back at a designated time/place. Only twice while kayaking have we really felt uncomfortable – once by a guy in a boat and once by an alligator. Calm heads and leaving the area was the solution both times.

        If someone can legally carry and wants to do so, by all means do so safely. Practice loading, unloading, cleaning, disassembly, etc. Firearms are serious tools. Take classes, practice and think through situations.

        If someone doesn’t wish to carry for whatever reason, don’t. This is one of the things that make the USA great and different, the freedom to choose.

        • Hi David,

          This is very well put. Very intelligently stated, David. I enjoyed your words regarding this subject. And I agree with everything you said.

          Thank you for chiming in!

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