When hiking alone, there is no room for external distractions. It’s just you and nature. It can be hard to find a hiking companion – someone who shares your goals, pace, and interests, so most of the time you might have to go hiking or backpacking alone.
Hiking alone – solo adventures on the trail
Hiking for you could be a quick walk in the woods, or a steep, mutli-day mountainous climb with a full pack, and everything between. Deciding to hike alone or not is your choice.
A solo hiking adventure gives you the chance to have an honest opinion about yourself away from the impression of others, pressures of conformity and even away from social media.
It’s difficult to form your own ideas when dipped in an artificial world you did not create. So getting away from influence provides the opportunity to be yourself while solo hiking.
It’s also not possible to enjoy what nature has to offer when you’re concerned about work, family, or whatever issues that might distract you from being fully present. And, such discussions usually come up when you are hiking in a group especially with people you know.
When hiking solo, there is no room for external distractions, just you and nature. By the way, it’s even hard to find a hiking companion; someone who shares your goals, pace, and interests, so most of the time you might have to go out yourself.
When hiking solo is the plan, there are a few things you have to keep in mind, from preparation to staying safe on the road.
Here are eight things to keep in mind for hiking alone…
1. Trail fitness
Are you physically fit to take on any trail? Hiking is a serious undertaking and your body needs to be prepared for it, physically and mentally.
Physical fitness will give you strength to walk on rugged terrains and mountainous areas for long hours. Mental health will provide the motivation needed to stay focused on nothing than getting to the finish line. You also need to test your gear – shoes, clothes, pack, and supplies.
Preparing for this some months before your hike and practising with small hikes can help you stay in shape on the actual journey. You can learn some physical training and preparation here.
2. The load is all yours
You’re totally responsible for all the hiking gear you carry on your trip; no one will be around to carry anything for you. So while you prepare for your hike, be sure to pack only what you can manage, whether you are going for a short day hike or extended multi-day hike.
Of course, all the essentials are important, for instance, your shelter, first aid kit, kitchen, water treatment, and navigation items. They all have some significant weight and you must carry them all – there’s no load sharing when hiking solo.
The best thing you can do is to shop for lightweight hiking gear just to keep the weight as minimal as possible. Carry heavy and you risk getting fatigued quickly and you’ll probably never complete the course. Or worst, get frustrated during your journey and leave some items behind.
3. A heavy heart
With a companion around, they can support and encourage you when you are feeling down or fatigued. But when it’s just you, a bad case of the blues might be enough to send you off course and back home.
To endure the tough conditions on the trail including rugged terrain and elements like rain and wind, you need the heart of a lion especially for thru-hiking.
We humans are naturally social creatures. We usually prefer having others around and enjoy sharing experiences with other people. But, when going solo, you have a purpose and usually don’t miss the social experience of group hiking.
As a solo hiker, you’ll likely get such question as ‘Are you not feeling lonely?’ Yet,
Yet, most lone hikers are not lonely, they just choose to hike alone.
Loneliness might be inevitable for long-distance hiking. Most long-distance trail hikers fail to complete the course due to poor planning, injury, and often because of loneliness. The endless days of no one to talk to usually become long and boring.
Assessing how such this scenario will affect you and how you will deal with it is an important part of planning to hike alone. Some people enjoy being alone while others may carry a book or electronic music player to keep them entertained.
Keep in mind that being alone on the trail is different from staying alone in an apartment. On the trail, there is no background traffic, city noise or any other sounds that let you know you are in civilisation. Maintaining your solitude is, therefore, the most difficult part of hiking solo.
5. Let someone know your trip plan
There are many cases of hikers getting lost in the jungle and nobody knows where to start looking for them. Leave your trip plan with someone back home just in case. This is a very important thing to do if you’re going for a solo trip.
If you come by a land manager or ranger station along the trail, check in with them and tell them your plans. Sign in and out at every shelter register to make things easy if people are looking for you.
Use a tracking device such as Spot Messenger which tells people back home where you are and allows you to send check-in or help messages.
6. Staying safe
Learn to be vigilant to potential dangers on the trail and to respect your surrounds. Don’t go touch or pick up any fruits, flowers, or eat any plants and unfamiliar animals.
Study up on safety precautions when hiking in a zone known for dangerous animals or poisonous snakes.
If hiking in a bug infested area, protect yourself against bugs or insects. Wear long pants tucked into socks, long sleeved tops and hats. Check for ticks at the end of every hike.
When lighting fire, make sure you clear away dry, flammable leaves before striking a match to prevent bushfires. And when moving out, make sure the fire is fully out and the fire pit is cool to the touch. If you come across a campsite, use only designated fire pits.
These are simple safety tips to keep in mind and avoid potential disaster.
7. Survival skills
Yes, you have learned how to stay safe, but what if you were jumping over a stream and on landing, you twist your ankle? What if you stumble over a rock and get a cut on your leg?
No matter how well prepared and careful you can be, an injury is a potential possibility in the wild.
Obviously, a first aid kit in an essential component of any hiking pack but the knowledge of how to use it and maybe improvise other aid is even more crucial.
Take a hiking first aid training before going solo. You will be totally on your own and you must know what to do and how to do it.
8. Respect the environment
In simple words, remember your manners. Take out what you carried in, including food, bottles, used toilet paper (yep!), and any other rubbish. Leave no trace behind. The next solo hiker should find the place as natural as no one has been there before.
Learn to stick to the trail even when there is a puddle in your way. Stay out of the animals’ turf and maintain the integrity of the path. Leave flora and fauna alone, leave trail signs and markers alone, and leave only your footsteps behind.
Solo hiking can be very rewarding in a number of ways. It starts from the freedom that you have when going solo; you control your own pace, when to take a break, and choose where to camp and eat.
Hiking solo can help you improve your outdoor skills including survival skills. It’s easy to rely on someone else’s skill when in a group but when alone, you’re responsible for every decision; where to sleep, eat, which route to take, and more.
Being alone also allows you to contemplate, relax, and meditate. It might be just what you need to get away from the city grind and come back refreshed. And with no one to talk to, you’ll have every opportunity to tune into nature’s soundtrack.
So while some may say solo hiking is scary, lonely or even dangerous, that sense of ‘I did it myself’ is so fulfilling. Just remember these eight tips for hiking alone and things we recommend you keep in mind to have a successful solo hiking adventrue.
Is there anything that you feel we left out? Are you planning to hike alone any time soon? Share with us in our comments section below.