Solo female truck camping is how my summer went, but it’s not exactly as we hoped it would go. Steve planned to finish hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. He had about 650 miles left and I honestly believed I could hike it with him. In 2019, I went 400 miles so I thought for sure I could keep up this time, especially when the daily miles could be lower. Turns out I went 40 miles and pulled the plug this year. I started hiking with a sinus infection and between it, the heat and being out of shape, I simply couldn’t cut it.
I’m a good backpacker, but I’m not a good thru hiker. And I’m okay with that. So instead of continuing to hike with Steve, I got our truck and camper out of storage and headed back towards him.
In 2019, I followed Steve north on the Pacific Crest Trail, so I had a pretty good idea what was in store. But there are some big differences in my camper van and our Arctic Fox 990 truck camper setups. Some differences gave me an added sense of safety, while the main big difference gave me a bit of pause.
The van is compact and I could literally hop into the front seat to drive away, if I felt insecure in a situation. That never actually occurred, but I still had the ability to easily leave if needed. In the truck camper, that possibility is gone. I can’t get from the camper to the truck without going outside into the potentially dangerous situation. That scared me some at the beginning of the summer. As it turns out, it was an unnecessary worry because I feel more safe in general in our truck camper than I ever did in the van.
There’s something about being in the cabover at night that gives me a safe feeling. I’m high enough to look out the windows and see all that’s around me. No one can climb into the windows as they don’t open enough to get in. I literally just feel snug and secure in there. But I still take some safety precautions!
Solo female truck camping means sharing my location
Here’s the biggest thing I do to feel safe. I share my location with Steve and with our oldest daughter. Steve’s on a trail if he’s not with me, so there’s not a lot he can do to help, but I still let him know where I am. Our oldest daughter is in Washington and I generally send her a phone or Garmin text to let her know my whereabouts. Having someone else know where I am is huge for me. Danielle can send help right away if I need her to, plus if I go missing, someone knows where to start looking.
By the same token, I never share where I am on any social platform while I’m still there. I wait to post photos on Facebook or Instagram till right as I’m leaving. I also only give camping reviews (mainly on Campendium and iOverlander) as I’m heading out.
So let a friend or family member know where I am, but don’t post on social media. That’s my biggest safety tip.
Have a Garmin or other GPS locator/emergency device
Since I don’t always have cell service when traveling to remote trailheads and mountain passes, I carry a Garmin InReach. Garmin makes several sizes of devices, so you can find something that meets your individual needs. The InReach works well for us as Steve and I both have one. A subscription including unlimited texts costs $49.95 + tax. It’s not an option for us, but a necessity.
We can text each other as much as we want. Granted, sometimes the relay is slow, especially if we’re both in the mountains with tree cover. But it’s still an easy way to stay in communication. Our friends and family can also text us. Garmin’s Earthmate app is super easy to use and makes texting a breeze.
Steve and I have discussed what I would do if someone actually broke into the truck while I’m in the camper and started driving away. First I’d call 911, if I have service. Second I’d hit the emergency beacon on my Garmin so that my location is known to emergency responders. This is a highly unlikely scenario, but the important thing is having a plan before one is needed.
Garmin has the ability to track a path, so if I’m hiking alone during the day, I turn on tracking. It’s comforting to know that even if I get separated from the trail, I’m never fully lost, because I can simply retrace my own steps and get back to the truck camper. It’s better than bread crumbs, that’s for sure!
Switch location every couple-three days
Another thing I do as a solo female truck camper is that I switch my location at least every third day. Just like at home, changing up my schedule is important. I don’t want someone to notice me and to be waiting for me when I return from a hike or approach my camper after dark. So I move around.
When my truck battery died near Sierra City, a brother and sister stopped to help me. He said he wasn’t super surprised that I needed a jump start because he’d seen me camping there for a few days. That tiny comment from a very nice person gave me pause. The trailhead there crosses the main road going to town and I literally was just parked off to the side. It wasn’t a place I’d camp as a first choice, but there weren’t many other options. Him noticing me there meant someone untrustworthy could also notice me there. It was a good reminder to move around more.
Parking so I can easily leave again
When I first get to a new camping location, I assess the area to choose the best place to park. My criteria is selecting a location where I have multiple ways to leave. Backing in is always preferable to pulling in. However, I don’t back down an area with only one exit, instead I choose spots where I can either come out straight or drive off to the right and/or to the left. I prefer spots that are wide enough for me to pull through, so that I can back up, go straight, or turn and head out.
Basically what I’m saying is that I park where I can’t be blocked in. Allowing myself lots of options is the safest bet.
Check out the trees/rocks overhead when choosing a spot
For me, I check for dense tree covering, because I want an open space for my solar panels to charge. That’s the main reason. However, I also check for dead or leaning trees, because a hiker was killed by a falling tree along the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019. Even though I never met him that summer, I think of him as I park and as I hike, trying to stay aware of potential falling hazards.
By the same reasoning, I don’t park right next to a hillside where rocks can fall. Who wants to wake up to a boulder hitting the side of their camper. I guess this is a tip for any camper or boondocker, not necessarily only for solo female truck camping.
Solo Female truck camping includes neighbors
I really like parking near other campers and boondockers. Not in their space, because that’s just rude. But I like being with shouting distance of other humans. This summer I discovered that I’m not keen on campgrounds in National Parks as a solo camper. I stayed in Yosemite at Tuoloumne Meadows Campground. It’s a great location for tons of hiking and sight-seeing, but it’s weird when you’re alone. Like I was some sort of creeper or something.
However, I really enjoyed my time near Mammoth Lakes at Reds Meadow Campground. The campsites are further apart and even alone I felt comfortable and not like an outsider. I spent a good amount of time in the hot spring there; it was pretty heavenly! Also got to see a bear in camp too, so that was fun. I also enjoy just sitting outside to read a book, that’s a good afternoon for me! I like being in campgrounds mid-week and in boondocking spots over weekends. That just seems like a good mix for me.
I parked at Echo Lake Sno-park near South Lake Tahoe for one night. Sno-parks are generally a good option, but this one was too close to town. I woke at 3:00am to the sound of someone trying each of the truck doors for an easy car smash and run. Just as I sat up and got my glasses on, I saw them reach up and try to open the camper door. Instinctively I yelled as loud as I could, “Who’s out there? Get away!” They did run away and I saw lights come on in camper vans around me. I believe it was literally someone looking for an easy place to steal and I don’t think they meant any physical harm. However I still didn’t go back to sleep until the sun started coming up.
While that incident scared me, having boondocking neighbors around me insured help was just a van away. So even in remote areas, I like parking near places where other campers will be. Trailheads are good because they’re away from town and backpackers are generally good people. I’ll often have tents around my camper and great company to share the evening with.
Be aware but also relax and have fun
In general, I’ve had great experiences with solo female truck camping. There are definitely nights where I don’t sleep as well, but the daytimes when I get to hike or sit and read a book or simply enjoy nature make it all worthwhile. I stay aware of my surroundings, just like at home. I move around so my schedule isn’t predictable, just like at home. And I have a great time. I love the flexibility of camping alone. I eat, hike, read, sleep, all whenever the mood strikes me. It’s awesome for me also getting to meet up with Steve every few days to couple weeks. I like that too! It was a nice mix of alone time and sharing experiences.
I’d highly recommend striking out on one’s own as a solo female. I’ve gained confidence in my abilities to tackle truck or camper issues. I’m less nervous about boondocking alone and more excited about seeing new places and having new experiences. Life’s a big adventure, so I say head on out and have some fun!