September 22, 2011 / Comments (2)

Solo Hiking

Whether you don’t have a companion to hike with or are looking for a little solitude, solo hiking can be rewarding and safe, but only if you are prepared.

I personally love solo hiking. It gives me time and space to escape the chaos of everyday life and be independent. When you hike alone, you can push yourself without worrying whether or not your hiking partner needs a break or if your pace is too slow. You are in charge and must be able to trust yourself to make good decisions on the trail. You are able to spend time building certain skills such as photography, trail navigation, bird identification, etc. when you are the only factor in your plans. 

*I am passionate about hiking, however I am not an expert. I am a young adult writing from my own experience and this is simply my personal advice to you. This is not intended to be a complete “how to hike solo guide” by any means. Please do not hike by yourself if you are just starting out, have little experience, or in areas you are not familiar with. This is also advice for hiking during the day. You will need much more equipment and experience when camping overnight on the trail. Before hiking on your own in a new area or new conditions (such as in the winter) please get experience going with others who have experience and learn from them.*

Before you hit the trail on your own, there are a few things you must do, equipment you should have, and things you must be aware of:

1)      The most important thing you MUST do for your safety is to tell someone (or a few people) your hiking plans! Be as specific as possible! The best thing to do is give them the location, a trail map or list of trails you will be hiking, the time you will be returning, and stick to it!
2)      Know your limits. Do not plan to hike the Pemi Traverse if you have only hiked Tecumseh. You should be very aware of your ability and don’t take on too much. You only have yourself to rely on. Make sure you have the right gear and that it’s reliable. If your boots begin to rub, you won’t be able to borrow any mole skin from your hiking buddy.
3)      Carry extra water. I use a camelbak that carries 3 liters. I fill it up more than half way even though I know I can never go through that much water. The extra weight is far better than the chance of being without water in the middle of July.
4)      Be smart. I don’t bushwhack so I will never take the advice of bushwhacking a section of a trail (especially on my own) to skip over .2 miles. I would rather not create a situation that I can easily avoid.
5)      Be prepared. You don’t want to be caught in a sudden storm or lost on the trail. Be prepared for all situations and bring the right gear. I always carry a rain jacket (or at least a poncho) even if there is no rain in the forcast. If you get injured and need to wait for help it is good to have waterproof matches and something to start a fire (I carry birch bark). Also keep some layers: at least a base layer and a fleece (no cotton!) in your pack.
6)      Bring the right gear. I have a few tools that I never leave home without:

My first aid kit that includes the basics and a roll of duct tape on a pencil.

I have a digital compass that also shows the temperature and the elevation gain. This is especially useful to calculate distance when your legs are giving in. It is similar to this model.

A multitool is essential on a hike. I love my Swiss Army knife. Prices range from around $20 to $100. Get one that at least has a knife, screwdriver, scissors, and a small saw.

Bring a headlamp, even on a day hike. If for some reason you are stranded, you will have a light and free hands. I have found Black Diamond to make quality headlamps.

Trekking poles will save your knees on a long hike. Look for poles that collapse and are shock absorbing.

A camelbak is the best investment if you are looking for a daypack. Get one large enough to hold all your gear. You’ll be hydrated your entire hike.

A topographical map is a lifesaver. Many stores sell maps for different regions of the white mountains.

If you plan on doing a lot of solo hiking, think about getting a gps tracker. I am looking into getting the Spot 2 GPS Locator

    Many people will tell you that solo hiking is very dangerous. They are right if you are not prepared. It is safer to have another person with you in case you injure yourself, but solo hiking can be safe if you take the right precautions and are honest about your skills and experience. A lot of this advice will sound obvious, but it is very important to do in order to stay safe! If you are interested in hiking, but aren’t experienced enough/don’t want to do it on your own, there are resources out there! I have joined a few hiking groups on meetup.com and will be doing my first hike with them October 1st! 

    Looking for more advice? Check out these books:

    The Complete Walker IV 

    Essential Wilderness Navigator 

    White Mountain Guide 

    Leave No Trace

    Mountaineering First Aid

    NOLS Wilderness Guide 

    Do you have experience hiking solo? Please leave a comment!

    Last modified: November 28, 2014

    2 Responses to :
    Solo Hiking

    1. Anonymous says:

      This is a great account of solo hiking; you give very sensible and helpful advice!

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