Perhaps you want true solitude, or maybe you don’t have any reliable hiking partners. Either way, solo hiking is a great thing, and it’s much more enjoyable than most people realize. I have a few locations that I like to hike out to when I get the chance. It clears my mind, invigorates the senses, and offers a great chance for me to get a strenuous hike in at my own pace. I absolutely love it, and highly recommend you try it.
Now, before you run off into the woods, let’s talk about the ups, the downs, and how you should proceed, both for safety and your own enjoyment.
- Solo hiking gives you freedom. It’s a freedom to hike where you want, when you want, a the pace you want. Have somewhere that you would like to explore and photograph? Solo hiking is a great way to do this. When you’re out there alone, there is no one pressuring you to move on. You get to take your time, and explore for those unique angles and shots that you may not find otherwise. Want to spend twenty minutes lining up the shot, adjusting the camera, or waiting on the clouds and the sun to line up just right? Go for it. No one is waiting. Ever wanted to see a sunrise over your favorite local mountain? No more waiting on your friends to crawl out of bed. You’re already there.
- Hiking alone nets you more wildlife encounters. This is great for those who want to see more wildlife. Hiking in a group is loud. We talk, we play, we crush the woods under our feet. Hiking alone, tends to be much quieter. You’ll have a much better chance of sneaking up on some wildlife in a silent stride.
- Relaxation. Sometimes you just want to get away from everything, and everyone. Hiking solo, and having lunch atop a beautiful peak can be the most relaxing, peaceful experience you’ll ever experience.
- You’ll get out more. Waiting on other’s schedules to open up can be like winning the lottery. It may never happen. Being at the will of others dramatically reduces your chances to get out. Going solo will offer you the chance to get out when no one else is available, and often at times when others would never consider it.
- Safety. Obviously, hiking in a group is always going to be safer. When you’re on your own, it’s up to you and you alone to be safe. If you get lost, you are the one who has to keep your head, keep your cool, and get yourself home. A sprained ankle in a a group is an inconvenience. A sprained ankle on your own is a big problem. Keep this in mind when choosing a destination, and a route. You should always choose a well traveled route during good hiking conditions. Also an up, you’ll encounter more wildlife when hiking solo, which can in some situations be dangerous.
- Mind games. For many, hiking solo is freaky. You quietly work your way down the trails, and you’ll hear every twig break, every leaf blow, and every squirrel scurry. You’ll think every sound is something coming to get you, at first. For many, this is a bit too much. Hang in there, you will adapt over time. Eventually you’ll feel quite comfortable on your own and actually feel at peace with the sounds of the woods. Your first few solo hikes however could be a bit panic inducing if you’re not used to it, especially if you’re the fearful type. Hang in there, it gets better.
How to safely hike solo, and enjoy it.
When you’re going it alone, you need to be more prepared, and more vigilant than normal. Never go on, even a short hike, unprepared.
- Prepare. It’s all up to you on this one. If you forget something, you’ll go without it. Prepare for the worst. When hiking solo, you’ll always need the basics. Consult my cool weather dayhike pack list for a good starting on what to pack. Extra food and water should be carried also. Essentials are cellphone, map, compass, rain gear, fire starters, emergency blanket, first aid, and extra warm layers.
- Plan. Pick a location you know well. Find somewhere that you know there will be other hikers on the trail, just in case something goes sideways. This location should be easily accessible, within cellphone range, and safe to hike alone. Avoid places with dangerous weather changes, flood areas, and unstable ground.
- Check the forecast. Be picky with your weather. If you can’t survive the night with what you have in your pack with the predicted weather conditions, don’t go. Pick days that are warm and precipitation free.
- Tell somewhere where you are going. Leave details plans and routes with someone who you can rely on. If you don’t report back by a certain time, they should notify the park rangers or local authorities. If you don’t have anyone, tell the local park ranger where you are going. You’ll need someone to come looking if you don’t show back up, so picking someone who will actually come through is very important.
I could talk about how to stay safe, and be prepared for days. These are just the most basic, simple, summarized tips that I can offer. Solo hiking can be scary, but it can also be amazing. Give it a try if you’re looking for what it offers, but most importantly, be safe.