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These solo hiking tips will give you the information you need to achieve the joy of solo hiking and backpacking.
Hiking alone is a great opportunity for personal growth and introspection during your alone time on a trail.
Going at your own pace, planning your own schedule, gives you two gifts in short supply these days:
SPACE (both mental and physical).
But let's be realistic.
There are good and and less good aspects to solo hiking and/or backpacking.
Let's look at them together, so you can go solo with confidence.
The benefits of hiking alone (in my humble opinion) include
* quietness on the trail to maximize wildlife encounters,
* control over the daily pace and destination,
* decompression time to dump stress,
* opportunity for mental challenges (conquering a fear of the dark, for instance),
* and dedicated time to test and build outdoor skills.
And you don't have to pay a lot of attention to personal hygiene while backpacking - unless you want to!
But please - don't just take my word on the wonders of solo hiking. Here are words of wisdom from a woman who completed her first solo trip - any take-home lessons (especially about feet) for you?
To balance things out, the down side of hiking by yourself revolves around factors like:
It's normal to have doubts about going solo!
Personally, I wonder about cougar attacks (typically, they target solitary hikers).
I'm not overly fond of being by myself in thunder storms.
And every once in awhile I meet a male hiker who makes me feel uneasy, sometimes for no real reason I can put my finger on.
You probably have your own list of things which bring up the fear factor: solo hiking risks.
Do we agree that going solo goes somewhat against the grain of what females are expected to do?So if you're thinking of day hiking alone, you might need some great solo hiking tips.
Here's my approach as a woman solo hiker:
First, I reassure myself that wanting to hike by myself is not weird or anti-social.
Then I remind myself that going solo calls for a strong dose of personal responsibility:
Next, I get out my checklists. That's not just a solo hiking tip - it's for any hiking you do, ever.
Checklists are a tried and true way to make your trip worry-free - for you, and for loved ones who may not support the idea of going off on your own into the unknown wilds.
Checklists stack the odds in your favor.
But they require some thought and preparation BEFORE you hit the trail.
If you find yourself reluctant to put in the preparation time and embrace this thoughtful approach, maybe you shouldn't be hiking solo right now.
Examples of checklists:
Beyond checklists, I work on my trail confidence - how to size up the situation in a hurry, and take charge or avoid trouble.
I have also learned when/if to rely upon technology: cell phone, personal locator beacon, or something as simple as a portable lighter.
The solo hiking tips on this website are designed to get you thinking about what you can do to enhance your own trail confidence and skill sets.
Feel free to contact me if you want to kick around the topic of solo hiking - I am always willing to learn and add to my skill sets by talking things through with another hiker.
I am sincere when I say that I really enjoy sharing what I have learned in my ongoing quest to become a strong, capable female hiker.
So willing to share, in fact, that I've created some courses on solo hiking. I learn from my students as they are learning my solo hiking tips!
Question from Diane: “What were your worst fears about going solo, and did any of them materialize?”
Tidy Cat: “Foremost was my fear of getting lost. I have virtually no sense of direction. I need maps and a navigation system to drive places I’ve been a dozen times.
My second fear was of facing a large animal or dangerous human.
Neither of these scenarios came close to materializing.
Before leaving home, I folded my map into daily segments and added lots of notes to each segment regarding landmarks and water sources.
When I picked up my permit, the Ranger added important information about a detour and dried up water sources.
I kept my map in my front pocket and checked it frequently, like every 10 minutes the first day!
As the days and miles went by my confidence grew and I checked the map each morning before starting out, whenever I reached a fork in the trail, and when determining breaks and water filtering.
As far as beastly encounters went, I was thrilled to see elk, mountain goats, marmots and a red fox.
For a couple of miles the trail lead through fruiting berry bushes and was littered with fresh bear scat. I tapped my hiking poles together every few feet. By the time the hike was over, I was disappointed at not seeing a bear!
I saw other people every couple of hours. Only one person made me a little uncomfortable. He looked homeless and was playing in the frigid glacier water in a river bed. I made eye contact and greeted him, and looked over my shoulder until I was certain he wasn’t following me.
My husband’s greatest fear was that my modified and very much pared down equipment would leave me wanting or unsafe.
I had tested everything at home and it all worked perfectly on the trail.
The only thing I found myself wanting was more time in the woods! And perhaps a few more peanut M&Ms…”
Question from Diane: “At what point in the trip did you realize that solo hiking rocks? Was it a gradual dawning, or a "click" moment?”
Tidy Cat: “Solo hiking began to rock for me right from the start.
For the first time, I wasn’t looking at someone else’s backside, the view was all mine.
I set my own pace, rested when I was tired, ate when I was hungry and listened to nothing but my own thoughts and the sound of the wilderness around me.
As the days progressed my hike became a spiritual experience.
I had decided that instead of this being one 16-day hike, it would be 16 one-day hikes. Each day was progressively more meditative and I learned what it really means to live in the moment.
For once, my vacation did not fly by at warp speed.
I experienced each and every minute to the fullest.
I have hours of vivid memories to re-experience whenever I want to be calm or happy.”
Thanks, Tidy Cat!
Here's a quick self-test for those contemplating solo hiking.
Look at this photo of me, in my favorite long sleeved white shirt,
sitting beside my pack after a long, steady hike to the summit.
Do you think I look "lonely", or "peaceful"?
That can give you a clue about how you REALLY feel about hiking solo.
And to get a good grasp on your comfort zone with the topic of solo hiking, try a few quizzes I created, just for you!
Solo hiking tips - we've barely scratched the surface!!
Going solo is a commitment, but a huge adventure that will open doors you didn't even know you had within you.
What's holding YOU back?
If you decide you'd rather hike with a trail buddy, find one here.
Please stop by my Facebook page.
And please share your solo hiking tips with us below. It's easy to do, and creates such a wonderful resource of hiking wisdom for other women hikers.
Are you a solo hiker? What do you LOVE about it? HATE about it? What do you want to share with hikers who are considering a solo hike of any length?
Click below to see contributions from other solo hikers.
Weather, Maps, SPOT, recon, GPS, Nikon, LCR, Sunbrella, hammock, stick to your plan, Sweetwater, Mtn House, spiritual, unforgettable. Enjoy!
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