How To Plan and Feel Safe on a Solo Hike
Why Hike Solo?Have you let your fear of hiking alone keep you from a great adventure? Solo hiking can be intimidating, especially for people who don’t have a lot of experience in the outdoors. We love to hike with friends but the experience of being by yourself on the trail is unlike any other. To be alone with your thoughts, quietly soaking in everything around you, far from small talk or social dynamics, is something we think everyone should be able to experience. So, we’re here to help you get prepared! Use these 8 tips to ensure a safe and meaningful solo hiking experience.
8 Solo Hiking Tips
1. Start Small!Start from the bottom (or the parking lot). Consider hiking somewhere you’re familiar with so that the only aspect you’re adjusting to is hiking alone. Also think about choosing a place that will likely have at least a few other hikers. Yes, we know that a lot of the appeal of hiking alone is to get away from other people (and the dumpster fire of civilization in 2021) but it’s good to have some folks around as you gauge your endurance levels and break in your gear if needed.
2. Tell Someone Your Plan
Make a detailed itinerary (including estimated hiking times and distances) with someone you trust. This may seem tedious, especially for experienced hikers, but it is always better to be prepared. People love you. They want to know where you are. They do NOT want you to get lost in the wilderness never to be found again! Additionally, if you’re in an area with a ranger station, it is always a good idea to drop in and tell them your plan.
3. Check The Weather
Make sure you plan for sudden changes in temperature or precipitation, especially if you are planning a hike with significant elevation change. While it may look like a sunny, crisp fall day in the parking lot, the summit could feel more like the arctic circle. You won’t be able to ask your friends to lend you an extra layer. Also consider getting an earlier start because thunderstorms often develop in the late afternoons and early evenings.
4. Carry the 10 essentials
- Navigation: a good ‘ole fashioned paper map and compass… or just the apps on your phone and a portable charger. But make sure you download offline navigation because most apps, like AllTrails, won’t load without service.
- Headlamp or any form of light
- Sun protection
- First aid kit
- Fire (we usually carry a lighter but if you want to use a rock and flint, be our guest)
- Bonus: Bear Spray! But only if you’re in Bear country. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover this in another post)
5. Educate Yourself
Take the time to learn about the land you’re standing on before you set off. Solo hiking is an opportunity for deep thought, observation and resilience. Your experience will be more meaningful and empowering if you understand the history, people, wildlife, and vegetation around you, not to mention the satisfaction of identifying a peak or summit IRL that you studied on the map before you left home. Be your own ranger!
6. Stay Focused
Always be aware of your surroundings and the other people and wildlife you may encounter. This is especially important on multi-use trails where you may need to yield to a biker, horse or larger group. Also, the more focused you are, the less you risk sneaking up on or surprising a wild animal that might not be too pleased. Avoid using headphones or keep the volume low. Pay attention to where you’re setting your feet so you don’t turn an ankle on a tree root or loose rock. Above all, trust your instincts if a trail feels dangerous, the weather is looking bad or another hiker seems like someone to stay away from.
7. Honor Your Limits
Your body is incredible. It does so much for you every single day. So if it is telling you to slow down or turn back, listen to it! And if it is telling you to drink more water or eat a snack or take a 5 min break, honor those small things too! Try not to set unrealistic goals or compare yourself to others who seem to be going farther or faster (literally...but also metaphorically).
8. Leave No Trace!
Leave No Trace can sometimes feel intimidating. What if you leave a little trace by accident?? But it really isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem. Once you realize that it is more an ethos of forming good habits and trail etiquette, it becomes second nature (pun intended). Check out our most recent, and first ever, reel about how to leave no trace while going to the bathroom in the backcountry (and the frontcountry, too).