For Mamie Konarski, it was a desire for solitude that led her to become a solo nomad.
“Since the death of my partner Richard in 2016, my life has been pretty chaotic, moving five times in five years,” Mamie said. “I was due for some solitude, and I remembered how sitting by a campfire used to give me that peaceful feeling.”
Retired from her career as a professional photographer specializing in children’s portraiture, she had the time to explore life on the road. Although strictly speaking, when she started her solo camping adventure in 2021 at age 69, she wasn’t completely on her own. Her companion was her seven-year-old cat, Zippy, who had accompanied her on previous road trips.
Choosing the right camper
Her first decision was selecting the right camper for her travels.
“In the beginning, I researched small motor homes but realized that I would have to break camp each time I wanted to visit surrounding areas of a campsite,” she mused. “Since I grew up with trailers, a towable seemed the likely choice.”
Her choice of the nuCamp brand was the result of online research. She watched several Youtube videos of the 2021 TAB 320S, which then led her to drive 250 miles to a dealership that had four in stock, including a gray one with red trim.
“The quality of the craftsmanship is what sold me, plus the fact that I knew I could make some modifications for Zippy’s comfort as well. I bought my 2021 TAB 320 S that day and have not regretted the choice,” she said, adding, “I named her ‘Piccola Rosa,’ which means ‘Little Red’ in Italian.”
Joining the nuCamp community
Next came learning from other campers by joining every nuCamp, TAB, and camping Facebook groups she could find, taking advantage of the myriad of information and experiences they willingly shared.
Mamie also had to upgrade her towing skills, especially since she hadn’t used them for more than two decades.
“As a truck driver’s daughter, it was required in my family to be able to maintain a vehicle and tow something behind it,” she said. “I had pulled everything from a boat to a fifth-wheel to 30-foot snowmobile trailers. But the biggest learning curve this time was backing up a short-axle trailer.”
Mamie opted to restrict her travels to within the state of Michigan, where she does as much camping as possible. “Michigan has some of the most beautiful state and national parks, waterfalls and forests, lots of inland lakes, and of course, we are surrounded by water.”
Making connections at uCamp
But she did break her routine in 2022, when she attended uCamp in Sugarcreek, Ohio.
“When I read about uCamp on the Facebook groups, I decided that it was time to leave the comfort of my state,” said Mamie. “I had gotten to know quite a few members online and looked forward to meeting them in person. Plus, it was a great opportunity to visit the factory and attend seminars. I booked my reservation at Timbercrest Campground before I even registered for uCamp.”
She also arranged to leave Zippy behind, which was a good decision in retrospect. Temperatures during the day were in the 90s, and there was no power for air conditioning due to a derecho storm with 85 mph winds that hit the area during the week-long event, taking out power and water at the campground.
“My site was next to four other solo women,” she recalled. “At 12:15 AM on the third morning of the event, my phone went off signaling a tornado had been seen on radar four miles from Timbercrest. Within minutes the phone alarm went off again, and then the city sirens.
Mamie grabbed her “go-to” bag—“I always have one packed”—and headed out. “Most people were already out of their trailers and knocking on doors of others and calling out,” she recalled. “There were probably 40 to 50 people and their pets waiting it out in the restroom.”
Fortunately, the damage was confined to many tents and awnings, and the campers were spared. More challenging was the lack of utility service, which lasted almost two days.
“I quickly learned what it was like to boondock with no air or power. I was fortunate to have neighbors who were more experienced,” said Mamie. “uCamp kept in touch with us through mass texts, and the owners at Timbercrest provided us with free lunches and brought in generators for the showers and porta-potties. We had several musicians in our group, so we gathered in the evenings for music, food, and camaraderie.”
But despite the problematic weather issue, Mamie still enjoyed her uCamp time. She attended several of the seminars, including one for the 320 TAB S as well as a solo camper discussion, and took a tour of the nuCamp factory. As for socializing, with more than 400 campers and nearly 300 nuCamp trailers in attendance, Mamie had plenty of opportunities to make new friends.
“I am definitely going back next year,” she said enthusiastically. “I have already reserved the same site at Timbercrest.”
Advice for solo campers
Now in her second year, Mamie’s advice for other women thinking about solo camping is to take baby steps.
“With camping, and especially towing a trailer, there is a lot of work and responsibility for your own safety that goes along with it. Maybe start by renting a camper and stay close to home to get a feel for it,” she suggested.
As for the safety angle, she adds, “Sometimes my friends and family don’t get that I just want to be alone. I suppose it’s because of my age that there are concerns about health and safety. I always let someone know where I am at all times. I have learned not to make myself seem vulnerable to other campers or put myself in dangerous situations.”
Her time on the road has afforded Mamie the chance to meet new people and make new friends. But right now, she has no desire to have any other traveling companion besides Zippy.
“The best part of being a solo camper is not just the solitude, but the opportunity to just pack up and go without having to worry about anyone else’s schedule but your own,” she said.
Mamie’s go-to bag
Here’s what Mamie packs — just in case. Adapt the list to your needs and be ready for emergencies.
- Car keys and TAB keys
- Small flashlight (rather than risking running down the battery on your phone)
- Phone and charger (consider a power bank in case of no electricity)
- Copies of registrations and insurance for car and camper
- Extra pair glasses/contact lens solution
- Travel-size toiletries
- Two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, and two t-shirts (all rolled up)
- Keep your wallet nearby, ready to be quickly grabbed
Note: When Zippy is with me, I include his medication, vet papers, harness, and a small blanket to wrap him in.