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.

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 camping on public lands 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 handgun

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 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 as a 'just in case'.

It wasn't for me. It felt dangerous to have 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.

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

I sold my 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 Personal Defense?

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 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 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 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. 

Other Articles You Should Read

  • Sane, sensible evaluation on the ‘need’ (or not) to pack a firearm. Back in mid 80’s I camped (tented) throughout the West for 2 months. It never occurred to me to have a gun. Wasn’t even on my radar. What’s the worse that could happen – someone would steal my camp stove?
    Anyway, in the meanwhile I have acquired a number of firearms (none that I could easily carry in a small holster though). And this year I bought an R-Pod and the thought did occur to me to bring something because, hey, you never know, that boogeyman might be out there in the middle of nowhere looking to pilfer my $1000 lithium battery, or my laptop and bath towels, while I was out on a hike. But the firearm would be in the trailer, so a lot of good that would do (the idea of hiking with a sidearm strikes me as ludicrous, at best).
    Really glad you put this notion of needing a firearm in the boonies to rest. I live in a state with virtually zero restrictions on owning firearms, but as far as I can tell, the only reason to carry is if you’re paranoid. In which case, you might just stay home and watch tv.

    • Lucius, I couldn’t have said it better. I carried my firearm ONCE on a walk from camp (I was a brand-new boondocker and was all by myself and was still in that ‘unsure about this’ head space) and once in bear country. Both times felt SO dangerous and weird and paranoid.

      Never again. I now know it’s unnecessary. And I simply don’t go walking in any area (or spend any time) where it does feel necessary.

      But again- to those who feel better carrying one- fine! We just have to hope they are VERY level-headed citizens. : o

  • This is probably, actually, it is the best article I have read about safety while boondocking. I am a wannabe and most like I will get my first RV this year. I am interested in going to National Parks and Public lands, therefore I will modify the RV Electrical capabilities to support my needs.
    Great article!!!!

    • Hi Luis,

      Thank you for that! We are adamant in educating people to understand that camping is very similar to being anywhere else in the USA while NOT camping. Use your common sense, street smarts, and guts to judge a campground or boondocking spot.

      Leave if it doesn’t feel right. That’s it! Simple.

      Good luck with your solar setup! Sounds like you are going to dive into that. You may also need a generator. I’ll tell ya, I’ve seen an inverter generator at Costco for under $300!!!!!! Incredible.

      Thank you for the kind comment and have fun camping!

      • Thanks for the suggestion on the generator but in my case I’ll go 100% lithium as much total Wh on batteries I can install. Underhood generator and much solar as well.

  • It only takes once an you will change your mind, if you live long enough. Something that your not takeing into account is your a solo female, an it has happened to solo females when boondocking more than once. Meth heads are moving to the sticks away from prying eyes, I can’t believe you would put out a statement like this, an try an convince people that its totally safe in the boonies, its not ever. I travel all over the country in an RV. Cops are 15 min away or more, you are your only protection.

    • Hi Bill,

      You’re right. There is nowhere that is totally safe. But do I feel safer out on a lone road away from a town or city? You bet your a** I do. Not that I stress while I am in town. I’m fine. If something happens to me, it happens. But staying safe is mostly about being aware of your surroundings, using street smarts, and listening to your gut. I simply don’t park where things don’t feel safe. (And I have only moved ONE time ’cause I didn’t like the area).

      In almost 6 years of full-time RV living, most of it done boondocking, I only ever felt like there was a possible threat once. It was a day-drunk jerk in a mostly deserted campground. Cops were called. They came. He was arrested cause he had an outstanding warrant. Drama over.

      People can carry weapons if they want to. It’s perfectly legal if done right. I choose not to. And I don’t promote that people should live in fear. It’s all about what I said earlier- gut, common sense, etc. 95-99% of people who follow this rule will live until heart disease or some other age-related illness gets them!

      I also hear SO many drawbacks to pulling a gun on someone, even if they are threatening you. They get control of it, or you shoot and they sue you and win (so insane), things of that nature. For ME, the risk is not worth even having one.

      And guess what? Mind won’t be changed- I was held up at gunpoint once in my 20’s. (And I wasn’t using my street smarts/head- that’s why it happened) And I still have the same stance.

      It’s all good. You keep carrying a gun, and I will continue not to. All is well in the world! Cheers!

    • I’ve never camped where any cop is 15 minutes away. That would be like camping at the mall just out of town.
      As for roaming ‘meth heads’ looking to steal your laptop or whatnot, well, meth labs are not out in the middle of Canyonlands, or in the national forests of Wyoming, and your ‘meth heads’ are not buying homes in Cook City, Montana so they can prey on unsuspecting RVers in Gallatin National Forest. Sounds to me like this info is from a tv show…https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a28269606/yellowstone-season-2-episode-3-recap-jimmy-meth/
      I’ve never carried a sidearm while hiking. The notion is ridiculously paranoid. But hey, if it’s the untamed ‘Wild West’ you’re looking for, have at it.

      • I agree with all of this. Actually, there are a lot of folks trying to hide from the law in Montana. Still, I’ve had zero fear or incidents the times I spent up there. I guess Breaking Bad may have impacted some people’s perception of where meth gets made, maybe?

        I don’t know. But yeah, I’m guessing I have parked not TOO far from some people who were possibly using meth once or twice. (or maybe not) Maybe many of us have lived in a neighborhood with a not-too-far away house no-one knew meth was being cooked in, too.

        Doesn’t mean you were in danger or needed a gun.

        I have never found myself in a situation where I needed to defend myself. Not even when I was held up at gunpoint in Atlanta. I just let them have whatever they wanted and they took off. Had I had a gun and tried to use it, I might be dead right now.

        Oh, and the hiking thing- I replied about that to your other post. Totally agree there, too.

        My hope, again, is that people who DO feel the need to carry all the time and even camping are level-headed and sane individuals. Probably many are, but I am guessing just as often that’s not the case. Which is the scariest part of all.

  • I don’t own a gun but if I get one it will be a shotgun. I grew up with guns and know how to safely use them. Some say you don’t need a gun until you really need it and don’t have one. Calling 911 is absolutely useless, by the time help gets there it will be too late.

    • Hi Tim,

      I once took a concealed carry course. The teacher basically promoted to NOT have or carry a gun for home protection. He instead said you could have a shotgun. Just the SOUND of cocking it is pretty much enough to run any criminal off!

  • I have seen extensive Combat in the Military and have Legally Carried a Handgun for Decades. I know Gun Safety and my Firearm is always in my possession or within reach. I have defused some iffy situations just by showing that I was armed, but I have not shot at anyone since the Military. To me carrying a Firearm is just like having Life Insurance, Health Insurance, House Insurance, Auto Insurance, I hope to never have to use any but it is there if I need it. However don’t carry a Firearm without Learning and Practicing Firearm Safety and Learning how to Use it…

    • Hi PH,

      Yes, it’s definitely one thing to carry and KNOW how to use it. It’s another to be so casual about it it becomes a danger to self. That was me. I wasn’t comfortable having it in my RV, not to mention carrying it. And I didn’t practice enough for it to get any more comfortable in my hands.

      And felt zero need for it so I sold mine.

      Since you carry, glad you are well trained and versed in possessing a firearm.

      Camp on!

  • Hi Kelley:
    I am glad I found this site and your article.
    To be upfront, I am a white male. Still, your article is relevant to people other than females. I have the same chances of being victimized as anyone. I too have been stalked and followed home.
    It’s refreshing to finally find an article that brings out the reality that one doesn’t ‘need’ to pack a gun all the time. There is so much marketing out there for the advocacy of gun need and ownership. Why not, it’s a multi-billion dollar business!
    I’m a traveling service technician(not a camping scenario). I work in the infamous city of ‘Chicago’ most days.
    People ask me all the time, “ What do you carry?”
    I don’t and never will- it’s not necessary. I never felt that I ever needed one. I even go into the projects at times. Pish-posh.
    Fear is not my MO. I talk to people and treat them as human beings, not suspicious characters.
    I believe if you want a gun- so be it. I do own guns and train my kids how to use them properly. It is a big responsibility to have to shoulder. One has to remember the consequences and legal ramifications if you use it and if something doesn’t go quiet as smoothly as it does in the movies. i.e. If you miss- that bullet winds up somewhere; could be a camper next to you.
    Then again, how much fun are you really having getting all your tactical gear together each trip to go out and roast a marshmallow over a campfire?
    Relax, be safe, be smart, and HAVE FUN out there.

    • Hey Billy,

      Thank you for your input!! Nice to hear a man saying that carrying a gun is not necessary. It REALLY isn’t. How does that even go well? I mean, if someone else has a gun, what, you pull YOURS out and then you have a standoff??? How is that going to end well for you? Probably in the worst way. (I know, gun holders/carriers are going to reply to this informing me how they know how to use one, practice all the time, etc etc etc.)

      But for most, the general population, it won’t end well. I had a gun for the first few years. It made me uncomfortable. I practiced every now and then with friends, but by the next time I got it out, I DID NOT remember how to use it. It wasn’t like riding a bike.

      So, that’s dangerous. I am guessing most people are the same way. If you don’t love having them and love shooting them and do it regularly, you aren’t going to do well with it if you’ve got crazy adrenaline shooting through your veins.

      And you’re completely right, this article applies to EVERYONE. Anyone can become a victim. Very true. Just women are so much more vulnerable and targeted, I decided to lean a little more to women for my tone.

      Also correct that being fearful is not a good way to be. It’s mostly media that teach us to fear. I choose not to follow that lame storyline. Nope! Chances of one needing a gun (especially when using gut instincts and common sense) EVER are slim to none.

      And yeah, getting tactical gear loaded up onto the body to go roast marshmallows sounds like stress to me, lol!

      Thanks again for commenting with common sense type tips!

  • Hi Kelley, thank you so much for this article (and your others!). This one is very helpful. Half my friends and family say I need a gun (I will be a solo female traveler) and the other half think a gun is crazy. Having lived alone for 14 years in an apartment I think I’m pretty good at being aware, I’ve been followed home, etc. (I live in a rich/entitled area where drivers get aggressive if you drive the speed limit) but have learned to just “keep driving” so they don’t know where I live. As for safety, I carry a very loud noise maker/alarm and pepper spray on my keychain. I just ordered a loud whistle. I carry a stun gun when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, like walking around anywhere at night. I also wear a necklace “panic button” (invisawear) and wear an apple watch (double click for 911). For my new lifestyle I will carry a Garmin InReach satellite phone, bear spray (for an actual bear), leatherman, flashlight and phone in addition to the pepper spray and stun gun. The stun gun I like has a strap that fits around your wrist and if someone pulls it away from you, it pulls out the pin and disables it.

    • WOW!! Well lordie, I don’t think you’re EVER going to be a victim with that kind of arsenal and awareness!! Yeah, seems half the ‘battle’ is just being aware of your surroundings. In my opinion, you’re plenty protected without having a gun. Stay out of bad areas, use your women’s intuition and general street smarts and you’ll likely never have to use any of your protections.

      Honestly, living in an RV or camping for a weekend is no different from living in a house. The world doesn’t suddenly change. It’s still the same. You are simply in a different area. And if you’re boondocking, remotely, that’s about the least hostile type of environment I have experienced!

      Have fun out there, and don’t worry about needing a gun. Sounds like you aren’t.

      Cheers!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >
    Scroll Up
    Send this to a friend