With the first half of the summer in the books, you might find yourself looking to branch out from your usual slate of activities to spice up your weekends and vacation days. Sure, you could take up new hobbies or start binge-watching a new show on Netflix (Rick and Morty season 3 comes out July 30!), but living in the Fox Cities means that we only get three months when the temperature is regularly above 70 degrees. The window for going outdoors and enjoying the weather is closing. Whether you’ve written it off entirely or kept it on the back burner for months, camping is a great way to enjoy some of the phenomenal natural areas around the Fox Cities. Camping for introverts doesn’t necessarily mean going camping alone, but it doesn’t exclude that possibility either. Because there are a few different options, I’ll break this up into two sections: camping alone and camping with a few friends.
Side Note: If you’re planning on camping for the first time ever (or just the first time in a while) in July, I wouldn’t recommend watching Killing Ground. The Australian film hits theatres in the U.S. on July 21 and the plot revolves around people getting murdered while camping. It’s not exactly a movie that will put your mind at ease. Anyway, back to the camping tips!
Part One: Camping Alone
Camping alone is a great way to get in touch with nature, but there are a lot of pitfalls to the practice. This probably isn’t the best option for first-time campers, as you won’t have anyone to help you out if you can’t get your tent set up or start a fire. Rather than giving you basic camping tips, I’ll focus on the introvert-specific problems you might encounter. (There are a lot of great books/websites on camping for more general instruction; I recommend Dave Canterbury’s Bushcraft 101 or TrailSherpa’s 89 Camping Tips.)
Look, I get it. You’ll be carrying a lot of gear and travelling alone. You might be a little dirty from various camping activities. But if you’re camping around other people, you’re going to need to work a little harder to shed the serial killer look than you would if you were camping with friends. This means you’ll have to lay off the camouflage, bandanas, and visible camping tools. If your firewood hatchet is dangling off the end of your backpack, you’re going to freak people out.
Solo camping trips can be intimidating, and even the most cloistered introvert might find themselves missing personal interaction after a few days in the wilderness. It’s hard to gauge how you’ll fare on a solo trip, so give yourself options for ending the trip if you decide you’d rather not adopt the hermit lifestyle. Don’t commit to a long, grueling trip unless you’ve worked your way up to it with a series of shorter trips. Solo camping trips pass much more slowly than camping trips with companions, so you don’t need to go into the woods for a week to get some R&R.
Finally, you’re going to need to accept that your solo camping trips are not going to be devoid of people entirely. There will almost always be other campers and their presence isn’t an affront to your camping experience. (For some introverts, the presence of other campers can be nice because you can talk to others without much social pressure.) A few run-ins with other people aren’t going to ruin your solo trip and they might give you some phenomenal stories.
Part Two: Camping with Friends
Camping with friends is a fundamentally different experience from camping alone, but both practices can be fantastic if they’re done right. Camping with friends is usually much easier; there’s less pressure on you to do everything, you don’t have to carry all the supplies, and there are more of you to fight off things that go bump in the night.
Before you do anything else, make sure you know the people you’re camping with. I don’t mean this in a “don’t camp with strangers” way; know the habits and personalities of the people you’re camping with. If you like nature and enjoy hearing bird calls and wind whipping through the trees, it might not be a good decision to camp with loud people who hate camping. Camping with people who have fundamentally different attitudes toward nature could make a trip go south fast.
After you know who you’re going to be camping with, try to make a plan for downtime. If you’re camping for more than a night, you’ll probably have some downtime when you can relax and just enjoy being away from the city for a while. If this downtime is important to you, you should probably mention it to your fellow campers. If you suggest chilling out for a while, your fellow campers will respect that inclination and enjoy some midday relaxation.
As a general rule, you’ll also need to accept that you can’t live in your usual bubble when you’re camping. Personal boundaries still exist, but you can’t try to preserve the same level of comfort that you had back in the city. Camping isn’t just sleeping outdoors and partying. It’s a full-fledged escape that functions on a different level from day-to-day living. If you can accept this, it’ll make the entire trip much less stressful.
Camping can be good for the soul and Wisconsin is one of the best states in the Midwest for enjoying the outdoors. (Sorry, Nebraska. Your endless plains just aren’t cutting it.) High Cliff, Point Beach, and Hartman Creek are the closest state parks to the Fox Cities, but there are many fantastic camping options within the state. Aside from the aforementioned parks, there are some great parks in Door County, the northernmost parts of the state, and to the southwest near Baraboo. The DNR has the state’s parks and trails listed here. (My personal favorites are the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Park and some of the southern, dispersed campsites in Nicolet National Forest.) With more than a month left in the summer, a great camping trip is just a short drive away.