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Tips for staying safe when camping in Baja

Caution recommended following the senseless murder of three young men

Safe remote camping, for me, is about keeping it minimalistic and far from populated areas, as is at this very secluded spot south of Bahia Asuncion.
Safe remote camping, for me, is about keeping it minimalistic and far from populated areas, as is at this very secluded spot south of Bahia Asuncion.

Given the recent tragic event south of Ensenada at a popular surf spot near Puerto Santo Tomas, there has been quite a bit of rhetoric flying in the press and on social media about camping in Baja. First, I am not writing this to defend criminal elements. This was the senseless murder of three young men. And it was not a one-off; there have been many incidents of violent crime against U.S. citizens throughout Mexico. As Ron Gomez Hoff, the founder of the Talk Baja Facebook page and corresponding website, noted in his very Open Letter, safety for tourists in Mexico has been on the decline. Mr. Hoff, the victim of a horrific attack along with his wife, Cristine, near their home in San Quintin in 2011, also hosts other Baja -related pages, including the recently added Safe Camping in Baja Mexico.

I have lived and traveled in Baja California and Baja California Sur for most of the last two and a half decades. Most of that time has been spent camping remotely and renting long-term in modest “normal” local communities. I avoid crowded, touristy spots and seek more natural, out-of-the-way environs.

I love Baja. It is in my blood. My parents and grands on both sides spent time here, especially my father, who began flying down when he achieved his pilot’s license in the 1950s. In the ‘70s, he would take my brother and me down to Gonzaga Bay for vacations in our Landcruiser, sometimes pulling an old Glaspar Gold Cup, from which we would catch fish after fish. Our usual camping spot was on the beach behind Papa Fernandez’s settlement on the north side of the back bay channel. Baja was so much a part of my father’s life that his deathbed request was to have his ashes spread off Punta Willard near Papa’s, which my brother and I did by kayak in 2005.

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It was a different Baja back then. When the boat trailer axle broke, we left it behind, still loaded with gear, until our next trip down with a replacement axle. When we returned, nothing had been touched. And to say camping in Baja is perfectly safe today would be wholly irresponsible. It is not. And, as always, safety depends in part on how one presents and carries oneself.

Within Baja’s many camping meccas, there is safety in numbers. But if you are boondocking in solitude, I recommend: getting as far from any populated city or known drug routes as possible; obscuring the campsite from view of the road; having a reliable connection to the world, such as a GPS locator or better, Starlink; traveling with a dog or two (the new CDC dog policy comes into play here); and mostly, keeping a low profile concerning the value of your rig and gear. My normal MO is tent camping with my big dog out of my stock, mid-‘90s, 4x4 Jeep Cherokee.

To me, the safest area for remote camping now is along the southern stretch of the Vizcaino Peninsula below Guerrero Negro on the Pacific side. (The Gulf side is all considered a drug trade route — and very touristy, which is attractive to petty thieves.) The small co-op towns are successful, do not generally harbor criminal elements, are off the beaten path of the drug routes, and offer beautiful solitude in a mostly unblemished environment just outside of the sparsely populated areas.

For those seeking camp spots where they can hang with others and find needed supplies nearby, that, too, is available, closer to or in the fishing co-op towns from Bahia Asunción to La Bocana. Roads in are well-maintained in general, and usually well-graded, as is the coastal route toward La Bocana from Bahia Asunción.

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Safe remote camping, for me, is about keeping it minimalistic and far from populated areas, as is at this very secluded spot south of Bahia Asuncion.
Safe remote camping, for me, is about keeping it minimalistic and far from populated areas, as is at this very secluded spot south of Bahia Asuncion.

Given the recent tragic event south of Ensenada at a popular surf spot near Puerto Santo Tomas, there has been quite a bit of rhetoric flying in the press and on social media about camping in Baja. First, I am not writing this to defend criminal elements. This was the senseless murder of three young men. And it was not a one-off; there have been many incidents of violent crime against U.S. citizens throughout Mexico. As Ron Gomez Hoff, the founder of the Talk Baja Facebook page and corresponding website, noted in his very Open Letter, safety for tourists in Mexico has been on the decline. Mr. Hoff, the victim of a horrific attack along with his wife, Cristine, near their home in San Quintin in 2011, also hosts other Baja -related pages, including the recently added Safe Camping in Baja Mexico.

I have lived and traveled in Baja California and Baja California Sur for most of the last two and a half decades. Most of that time has been spent camping remotely and renting long-term in modest “normal” local communities. I avoid crowded, touristy spots and seek more natural, out-of-the-way environs.

I love Baja. It is in my blood. My parents and grands on both sides spent time here, especially my father, who began flying down when he achieved his pilot’s license in the 1950s. In the ‘70s, he would take my brother and me down to Gonzaga Bay for vacations in our Landcruiser, sometimes pulling an old Glaspar Gold Cup, from which we would catch fish after fish. Our usual camping spot was on the beach behind Papa Fernandez’s settlement on the north side of the back bay channel. Baja was so much a part of my father’s life that his deathbed request was to have his ashes spread off Punta Willard near Papa’s, which my brother and I did by kayak in 2005.

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It was a different Baja back then. When the boat trailer axle broke, we left it behind, still loaded with gear, until our next trip down with a replacement axle. When we returned, nothing had been touched. And to say camping in Baja is perfectly safe today would be wholly irresponsible. It is not. And, as always, safety depends in part on how one presents and carries oneself.

Within Baja’s many camping meccas, there is safety in numbers. But if you are boondocking in solitude, I recommend: getting as far from any populated city or known drug routes as possible; obscuring the campsite from view of the road; having a reliable connection to the world, such as a GPS locator or better, Starlink; traveling with a dog or two (the new CDC dog policy comes into play here); and mostly, keeping a low profile concerning the value of your rig and gear. My normal MO is tent camping with my big dog out of my stock, mid-‘90s, 4x4 Jeep Cherokee.

To me, the safest area for remote camping now is along the southern stretch of the Vizcaino Peninsula below Guerrero Negro on the Pacific side. (The Gulf side is all considered a drug trade route — and very touristy, which is attractive to petty thieves.) The small co-op towns are successful, do not generally harbor criminal elements, are off the beaten path of the drug routes, and offer beautiful solitude in a mostly unblemished environment just outside of the sparsely populated areas.

For those seeking camp spots where they can hang with others and find needed supplies nearby, that, too, is available, closer to or in the fishing co-op towns from Bahia Asunción to La Bocana. Roads in are well-maintained in general, and usually well-graded, as is the coastal route toward La Bocana from Bahia Asunción.

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