We’ve all been there: the mountains are calling, but going in a group isn’t an option, or won’t scratch the itch for one reason or another. It can be frightening to head out on the trail alone for the first time, but an empowering experience is on the other side of the anxieties. We’ve rounded up a few tips to help you prepare to hit the trails safely, confidently, and solo!
Hiking solo provides numerous benefits to your physical and emotional wellbeing. It's a fantastic opportunity to explore new places, reconnect with your inner world, and feel empowered in your own capabilities. With few spaces in modern life that truly feel free, the solace of the trail can be incredibly healing.
Though the experience is unique to every adventurer, here are some of our favorite benefits of hiking solo:
Flexibility - When hiking alone, you can choose your own speed, route, and location. You are also free to stop for as many pics as you like!
Mental health - Spending time alone in nature and getting some fresh air is a natural antidepressant. It opens the door to being more self-sufficient, and gives you the opportunity to improve your problem-solving abilities..
Self growth - The trail has a way of allowing you to discover your own boundaries, and you may surprise yourself in your own strength and ability. Free from distraction of others, you are free to focus on your own mind and body without peer influence.
Self-confidence - Being solely in control of navigation, first-aid, cooking, route selection, and so on, you have the opportunity to build experience, skill, and confidence that translates on and off the trail
Avoidance of COVID - If there is one option to get some exercise where you will not come into contact with someone carrying COVID, it is solo hiking!
Whether alone or with others, the most important thing when hiking is to go prepared - both physically and with the knowledge of how to protect yourself in the area you are exploring.
Wildlife encounters - Snakes, bears, cougars, bees, mosquitos, biting flies, and poisonous plants are all common encounters on the trail.Taking several precautions can go a long way against common encounters, such as: be aware of your surroundings, carry bear spray, and use common sense to avoid or mitigate risk. For more tips on how to avoid wildlife encounters, visit our blog here.
Getting lost - If you are alone and get lost while hiking, you have a few options. First, don't panic. Take a deep breath, so you can slow your racing mind. Try to retrace your steps and gauge your distance. Climb up to higher places to better examine the area. You might be able to identify a landmark, a specific place, or anything else that can help you orient yourself. If there’s a river nearby, always follow the water downstream to reach the nearest town.
Injuries - This is probably the biggest danger when hiking alone in the wilderness. You must rely on yourself, a first-aid pack, a cell phone, and a GPS unit to get out of trouble. Of course, prevention is better than cure and the best prevention of such accidents is to try to remain vigilant and focused on the trail. If an accident does occur, use the resources you have with you, and ask for help from passing hikers on the trail. If you are completely alone on the trail, find the nearest location that is likely to have other people. Be sure you know the contents and uses of your first-aid kit, and be prepared to use it! If you plan to build your own first-aid kit, visit our blog here for tips.
Strangers - Human attacks are a possibility, particularly for single female hikers. The closer to populated areas you hike, the more probable you'll encounter an unfriendly stranger. When encountering strangers, be friendly but not outgoing and give the impression that your hiking partner should be along soon. It’s always a good idea to carry some form of self protection, such as pepper spray.
Weather - Wind, rain, snow, lightning, sun, flood, earthquake, falling rocks, falling trees, and wildfire are all conditions to be aware of. Understanding and preparing for the weather in your area can be a determining factor for any hiker, and particularly when hiking alone. General precautions to always take is look up the weather before hitting the trail, bring appropriate clothing, and plan to make camp in safe areas (not on high ground, in open spaces, near cliffs, under huge limbs, or near waterways).
Familiarize yourself with the area - Before you hit the road alone, you need to familiarize yourself with the place where you hike. You can Google the terrain or check a map to avoid getting lost and have a better idea of what to expect from your hike.
Check the weather forecast - Before going on a hike, check the weather forecast. It's also a good idea to look into the weather patterns in the area where you're going. So, even if the forecast is wrong, heavy rain or a snowstorm doesn’t catch you completely off guard.
Find a busy trail and stick to it - Choose a trail where there are other hikers. This will ensure your safety while hiking. You don’t have to strike up conversations with people around you.
Inform someone of your plans, where you will be, and, if you change your mind, inform them of the new plan. Also, let this person know when you will be returning.
Be physically healthy enough for everything you've planned - Preparing for your hike will be a game changer.
Know your limits - Be self-aware and pay attention to the trail and surroundings. Know your abilities and skills well enough to know when it’s time to stop for the day, regardless of what you have planned.
Pack the necessities - Prepare for your hike by packing the 10 essentials. Having enough food, clothing to stay warm and dry, and continual access to water are all critical.
Consider taking a self-defense class - Taking a self-defense class is excellent preparation for encounters with a potentially dangerous person. They can teach you a variety of verbal and physical attacks, and self defense skills. Being aware of your surroundings and listening to your instincts are the foundations of self-defense, and they will help you avoid many potentially harmful situations.
Solo hiking can be a thrilling adventure. However, you must plan it extremely carefully. Don’t hesitate to contact an expert if the place where you plan to hike alone is unfamiliar to you. Use your resources to make your solo hiking experience as enjoyable and safe as possible!
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