by Diane Spicer
These solo hiking tips on safety, essentials and how to get started give you the information you need to achieve the joy of solo hiking and backpacking.
There are good and and less good aspects to solo day hiking and/or backpacking, and this Essential Guide to Solo Hiking covers it all for you.
These solo hiking tips will shorten your learning curve as a confident female solo hiker.
Let's get right to them.
Thinking of yourself hiking alone may conjure up feelings of serenity and confidence in your mind.
But there are many more reasons to hike alone on a trail.
Here's the short list of twelve reasons to hike alone:
2. Self exploration and discovery
3. Strength & stamina
4. Soul searching
5. Savor the serenity
6. Sweet taste of success
7. Shed unwanted stuff
8. Scrutinize your surroundings
10. Skill building
11. Spiritual quest
12. Simple satisfaction
And here's the longer version, including why doing a solo hike is a wonderful form of celebrating a milestone event in your life.
The benefits of hiking alone (in my humble opinion) include:
Plus, you don't have to pay a lot of attention to a hair style and 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 in 2011 - any take-home lessons (especially about feet) for you?
A solo hike provides an opportunity to befriend yourself.
Going at your own pace, planning your own schedule, gives you two gifts in short supply these days:
SPACE (both mental and physical)
So if you're craving a chance to hang out with yourself and not feel like a slacker, take a solo hike!
How dangerous is solo hiking really?
That question is impossible to answer.
A better question might be this one:
What can I as a female hiking alone do to manage and use my fears to be a better hiker?
Explore your fears, face them, and utilize their energy as a solo female hiker.
These solo hiking tips for dealing with fear will get you started.
Let's be realistic.
Hiking is a sport which involves risks. Solo hiking is no different than group hiking, except it requires a higher level of preparation to face your fears and concerns.
You might have the same questions other female solo hikers have asked:
Is it safe to hike by yourself?
Is it smart for a woman to go hiking alone?
Truth be told, there is no way to answer those questions.
Certain busy trailheads are magnets for car break ins and creepers who make you feel uncomfortable.
Seasonal conditions on trails can lead to unsafe conditions.
Animal encounters can get your heart pounding.
So rather than searching for a yes/no answer to solo hiking safety, why not think about the factors that go into being safe on a hike, and decide whether you need to work on those skills.
Here's a list to chip away at:
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?
And that you might encounter some pushback from friends and family when you announce that you're -gasp- hiking alone?
To balance all of this out, you might need some great solo hiking tips like the ones in this Solo Hiking Tips Guide. Good thing you're here!
If you have read everything you can find about solo hiking, including this entire Solo Hiking Tips Guide, and you still don't think it is smart for a woman to go hiking alone, honor that feeling.
Only you can decide when or if you are ready to go solo on a hike.
Don't let anyone push you into trying it.
Never allow someone to shame you for fears and doubts about solo hiking.
When you're ready to take a solo hike, you will know it.
And as you approach the threshold of being ready for solo hiking, build your confidence in your outdoor skill set to make your first solo hike a small step, rather than a giant leap.
To ease yourself into the solo hiking vibe, have a trail buddy with you at the trail head.
Being a safe hiker remains the same whether or not you are hiking solo.
So be sure to check out these safe hiking tips for a full run down of what to stay on top of on the trail.
But as a solo hiker, you've got to up your game even more.
For communication and navigation, you can carry a cell phone in the front country on established trails (and hope for the best).
Example: Carry water treatment tablets in case the stove doesn't work.
If you go solo, be smart about it.
1. Pick a well marked, popular trail for your first few hikes. You want to be alone but not isolated.
2. Leave an itinerary including start and return times with someone you trust.
3. Carry the Ten Essentials every time, no matter how short or easy the hike is labeled.
4. Use a paper or electronic map for navigation, and check your progress at frequent intervals to avoid navigational mistakes.
5. Carry a personal locator beacon or a satellite messenger device.
6. Avoid unnecessary risks like leaping off rocks or using slimy logs for a stream crossing.
7. Be cautious but confident at a trailhead to avoid giving the impression that you are a timid or fearful hiker.
8. Stay focused on the trail: no earbuds, pick the right pace for your route, and stick to a turn around time.
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.
Women struggle with this from so many angles!
This book can help you wrestle with the pull to be alone.
The author knows a little something about trying to balance solitude with social demands.
Then I remind myself that going solo calls for a strong dose of personal responsibility:
Next, I get out my checklists.
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.
Hope that doesn't offend, but I've got your well being in mind.
Makin' a list, checkin' it twice, gonna find out who's ... prepared!
Here are the lists that are going to put you firmly into the PREPARED HIKER camp.
The solo hiking tips, and everything else 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.
Now let's look at the mental side of being a solo hiking woman.
If you're craving "me" time and want to silence the judgmental voices from society, hiking by yourself is a good way to give yourself mental and physical space.
But have you had enough practice being confident doing things by yourself?
Do you trust your own judgment?
That's a major problem with the ways girls are raised: we are not given a lot of opportunity to develop confidence in decision making in our younger years.
But there's good news, dear solo hiker!
There are many ways to develop confidence in your solo hiking ability.
Now let's hear from a female hiker who challenged herself to do a multiday solo backpacking trip.
Her trail name: Tidy Cat
This Q & A with a first time female solo hiker asks and answers some questions you may have asked yourself if you are nervous about or scared of hiking alone.
Question from Hiking For Her:
“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 Hiking For Her:
“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!
To get a good grasp on your comfort zone with the topic of solo hiking, try a few quizzes I created, just for you!
Both of them help you sort out how you really feel about going it alone on the trail. That's more important than all of the solo hiking tips in the world!
Hiker, know thyself.
Hiking is an amazing sport because it keeps surprising you!
Every hike is brand new.
What you see on the trail is different from what your trail companions see.
And you never hike the same trail in the same way twice.
Stay inspired as a solo hiker with these tips.
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?
Dig into those fears and concerns, using all of these solo hiking tips.
And enjoy some hiking self care tips!
Solo Hiking Tips
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.
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