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Introduction to 5 Tips for Preparing a Solo Camping Trip
Image Gallery: National Parks
Image Gallery: National Parks

Camping alone affords you access to the great outdoors -- and your inner thoughts. (Assuming you can dodge pesky photographers.) See pictures of national parks.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The last remnants of daylight slowly sank in a golden band over the far side of Tennessee's Sequatchie Valley as I settled into a clearing atop the 1,800-foot-tall eastern ridge. The wind that had been blowing through the dry fall leaves tapered off with the sunset, and the silence had a presence of its own as I watched the sky fade to a deep midnight blue.

In that brief moment of dusk, before house lights began to wink on in the valley below, I could imagine I was the only person within a hundred miles. I was alone with only my thoughts and the soul-stirring landscape for company. A feeling of deep inner peace began to fill my mind, and it wasn't long before the tension of a hectic work week was replaced by a feeling of deep tranquility. I sat still until long after the sun had set, then made my way back to my tent by light from a sky so clear I thought I could reach up and touch the moon and stars.

There are a multitude of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, but few can move your spirit quite like a solo camping trip. The challenge of taking full responsibility for your safety in the woods focuses your mind. The peace and quiet make you keenly aware of the world around you. And the break from interaction with other people has a rejuvenating power that can make you more balanced, peaceful and secure when you return to the "real world."

But the freedom of camping solo comes at a price: In nature there is no safety net, and the freedom of getting away from it all means there's little room for error in trip planning and safety precautions. Proper planning can mean the difference between a fun, renewing trip and an uncomfortable -- or dangerous -- disaster. Read on to learn about five of the most valuable considerations you can make when preparing to hit the trail by yourself.

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