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California Solo camping / overlanding trip to Baja

connor grimes

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Oct 24, 2018
Los Angeles
Want to head south to Baja from SoCal , I’d be going solo with my dog but have heard it’s a little sketchy without a group . Has anyone gone solo before ? Can’t bring the pistol over the border so hard to safe guard me, my dog, and my rig


TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Dec 25, 2020
SoCal/North Dakota/ N Az
Put a secondary shut off device on your rig to prevent theft. Many migrants looking for an easy ride to the border. Have a bug out bag ready in case you are on foot after a break down. We have picked up solo people down there who have walked for days after they broke down before we found them. Make copies of you Id and spread them and your cash around in case you run into bad guys. Weather down there this time of year is good . Temps drop in Oct so the heat isn’t oppressive. It gets desolate once you are 200 KM south of the border. The best way to be safe is not to be stupid. You will not be in Kansas any more. Last time I was down there I saw many military check points.

Mr. Bills

Raconteur Emeritus
Supporting Member
Nov 24, 2017
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Estarás seguro si eres inteligente.

Get Mexican insurance. I recommend or AAA if you are a member.

Don't forget to obtain your FMM at the border. In years past the authorities never asked to see them but that situation has changed. The recent stories of authorities taking undocumented U.S. and Canadian citizens into custody and deporting them are true, although in Baja California and Baja California Sur the practice seems to be limited to the area around La Paz. It has become relatively common in central Mexico as a means to control undocumented expats who try to work in Mexico without the proper visa.

Carry agua purificada y papel higiénico. Food too.

Stay on established roads. As is the case for offroading in general, don't offroad alone. The consequences for ignoring this caveat in Baja can be and frequently are deadly.

Don't drive at night. Never drive under the influence of anything.

Mex Hwy 1 is narrow - 9 foot wide lanes with no shoulder. You will be passed in blind curves by faster Mexican drivers, most of whom I am convinced are graduates of the Machismo School of Driving. Learn the meaning of a left turn signal by the car or truck ahead of you. Sometimes it means it is safe to pass, but sometimes it really means the driver is turning left.

If you are driving on Hwy 1, be sure to fill up at El Rosarito southbound and Guerrero Negro or Villa Jesús María northbound. There is no gas in between except for the guys selling gas from 50 gal. drums in Cataviña. They are not always there.

If you are driving Hwy 5, get gas in San Felipe southbound and you should have plenty to reach Guerrero Negro. If not, you can take a side trip to Bahía de los Ángeles where there are two Pemex stations. Use the one on the left as you head into town. The Pemex station on the right will short pour and short change you.

Mex Hwy 5 has been complete since December 2019. Unless there has been a recent washout it will be in good shape. The lanes are wider than Hwy 1.

Have good tires and a good spare. Baja roads are very hard on tires.

Be sure your vehicle is in good repair. Any latent problems and issues from deferred maintenance will manifest at the worst possible time. If you do break down, rest assured that Mexican mechanics are some of the best at improvising repairs even if the "proper" part is not available.

Watch out for topes (speed bumps) as you approach towns and villages, also as you leave. Hit one of those too fast and you will wish you hadn't.

Don't carry contraband of any kind.

Obey the traffic laws even though it will seem as if they are universally ignored by Mexicans. You license plate signals that you are a tourist and an easy mark. Wear your seatbelt - an expensive ticket. Also watch out for hidden stop signs.

As for mordida, that is up to you. I refuse to pay and insist that I see a magistrate even when the cop tells me it will cost more. They really don't want to take you to the station and waste their entire shift dealing with you. Trying to talk your way out of a ticket works more often than it doesn't.

Have a dash cam - not so much for recording an accident, but as a deterrent to a shake down at the multiple military and national guard checkpoints. As for the checkpoints, don't be afraid of them - they are there to protect you. The only exception is the checkpoint at San Ignacio which has a well earned bad reputation. They will ask you the where you are going and where you are coming from, sometimes the purpose of your trip. Learn those questions in español so that you recognize them, also the answers.

Keep most of your money safely locked up in a secure spot and not in your wallet. Have copies of your important papers, including passport, drivers license, vehicle registration, insurance, etc.

Try to learn some basic Spanish phrases. That and a friendly demeanor works wonders.

Take your time and enjoy the experience. Most of all, have fun.

Eso es todo lo que puedo pensar por ahora.


PS - If you make it as far south as Vizcaino, take the side trip to Bahía Asunción and spend a night or three at La Bufadora Inn. Shari Bondy, the owner, is a Canadian expat now with dual Mexican citizenship and an expert on the whale watching in the area each spring. She can also turn you on to the best fishing guides.
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