I did my first unplanned camping while on the Bhrigu lake trek during the month of June, 2017. I was scared of camping alone and spending a whole night in the mountain so I tried to finish the trek in a single day without carrying a tent.
I failed to complete it on the same day and ended up sleeping in a food storage shack which belonged to the porters at the campsite. There were plenty of people at the campsite that night so there was nothing to worry about.
Planning a solo trek is like a roller coaster ride for me, sometimes I feel confident about sleeping alone in the mountains but other times I ask myself, what the fuck am I doing? Needless to say, I am still afraid of camping alone in the mountains because I have not done enough of it.
For me, forests are scarier than the high altitude regions because above the tree line there’s less oxygen, which means fewer trees and animals, more visibility and probably zero chances of an encounter with a psychopath who would trek above the treeline to kill humans.
I wanted this fear out of my head on my solo camping trip to Beas kund, It was the month of September, nearly offseason. The plan was to camp at 12500 feet of altitude in the Beas Kund valley, after a few tiring hours of trekking I was in the valley, there were only three tents in the entire valley that day.
One belonged to the Shepherds and the other two belonged to two vain dudes from Delhi, It was raining the whole day so I waited inside the Shepherd’s tent for it to stop and pitch my tent, they offered me some tea and we had some good conversation after that where they told me about their cattle business and all.
After the valley was engulfed in darkness, I was inside my tent struggling to sleep, I couldn’t sleep for around 3 hours because of some weird sounds around my tent, my head started playing tricks on me and I was thinking of the worst case scenarios… animals, paranormal beings, thanks to my hyperactive imagination and late night scary Youtube videos and research into sinister stuff. I was fearful of the unknown.
That night I even doubted the Shepherds and those two guys, I pitched my tents at around 100 meters away from theirs and then I suddenly realized that I was completely isolated from civilization and if something went wrong, I’d have to look after for myself but I didn’t even have a knife on me. Nearest civilization was a day’s hike away from there.
Earlier that evening, when I was waiting inside the Shepherd’s tent, they invited me for dinner that night and told me that they don’t cook anything fancy, just basic stuff… I agreed to join them thinking that they were just doing a formality by asking, they even asked me how much I paid for my point and shoot camera and I lied to them that it’s a cheap one which I bought for only Rs 5000.
I know they were nice people, they offered me tea and even invited me to drink some liquor with them, but after dark, I forgot everything because I was in panic mode and was just trying to sleep, when after a few hours I heard someone shouting.
My mind started playing tricks again and I thought this was it, they might have killed one of the guys from Delhi, seeing it, the other one might have shouted before they kill him too and now they are coming towards my tent, it was raining the whole night and I was making every possible meaning of the sounds which I heard apart from the raindrops that were hitting my tent’s tarp.
These negative thoughts made me feel anxious and REALLY uneasy. I suddenly felt out of place, anxious/isolated from family and the whole civilization. I felt helpless without a weapon.
Then I saw one side of my tent glowing up by a beam of a torch from the outside and thought fuck! it’s happening, they are coming for me now, they will attack me from outside the tent and then they will take me for the sacrifice.
I heard another shout and the light beam was still there, I finally said fuck it and I just opened the zip of my tent and went outside. It was scary dark and one of the shepherds was waving at me from his tent with his torch in one hand, beamed towards my tent, it was still raining. I immediately remembered their dinner invitation, what have I been thinking? those guys were just calling me for dinner.
As I was still scared and tired, I decided to not go and I just light up my torch on me and signaled them that I was not coming for dinner and just hoped that they understood.
It took me a long time to get to sleep, I even got out of my tent after that, but the next day, as soon as I woke up, I was out of that mental state – instantly.
Early the next morning I washed my hair with the freezing glacier water and ran inside the shepherd’s tent to dry my head in their fireplace, they told me that they were waiting for me to have dinner together and I told them that I was sorry, that I was feeling uneasy so couldn’t come, they made me some tea after that.
I hated myself to be so judgemental towards them.
Point is… Pahadi people are nice and generous, they will only help you if you get into any trouble. I took some photos of them and told them I was going to put it on the internet :), after that we shook hands and I thanked them for the tea and left the place.
Prepare yourself for solo camping
The only thing you can do to get over your fear of camping alone is to just do it, the more you do it the more comfortable you will be out there.
Your mind is guaranteed to play tricks on you when you’re alone, it offers an entirely different feel, you will get scared for your life if you hear a noise, from which direction the attack would come. If you peek out… what if you see something you should not?
Having a weapon will make you feel more comfortable, as you have at least SOMETHING to protect yourself with. In India carrying a gun is not possible because of the laws. Always carry a knife with you, by the law, its illegal to carry a knife with more than 4 inches of blade.
I now carry two knives with me, one with a 4-inch blade and another small one with a 2.2-inch blade. I also carry an animal spray with me and I keep them next to me while I am asleep. When I am trekking on snow, I carry an ice axe which is also a dangerous weapon, take a good quality flashlight and a headlamp with extra batteries, and remember to keep these things handy while you sleep.
Always leave an itinerary with someone back home or with friends, that’s the most important part. Keep updating your friends and family about your location until you are under network coverage.
The more you expose yourself to the miraculous environments that mother nature offers, the more confident you’ll become while you are in it.
To make you more comfortable, think of it in this way – The scariest thing out there is you, just think about it, you are camping alone, who the hell does that?… you are a badass already! Speculate on that for a while, because at the end of the day, it is so true!
A man and his wife walking past you are more likely to be alarmed by you if they see you out there camping alone. everyone thinks of the same things 🙂
Animals don’t enjoy human contact either, so they’ll try to avoid you as much as possible.
Furthermore, you can be loud and scary just like anyone else you come across in the wild.
you can be the ultra-scary human that can make anyone run in the opposite direction, but don’t do it unnecessarily, just be ready to defend yourself. Learn some boxing or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, learn to defend yourself.
After you get used to those tough environments, you will feel strong, powerful, amazed at your body’s ability to persevere, when you are alone, surrounded by nature, you will feel the peace you would never have felt in civilization.