There’s something magical about hiking solo. Relying on your own two feet, choosing your own itinerary and your own pace, and the satisfaction you have from achieving your goal, are just few of the reasons why it is so appealing.
However, for both females and males, solo hiking does come with risks. Unwanted attention or harassment, medical emergencies, changes in the weather, losing your way… it can all turn a pleasant day’s hike into a survival situation.
While it is healthy to respect the dangers, you don’t want the fear to take over!
Top Tips for Staying Safe as a Solo Hiker
Pick a good route – when hiking alone, choose a route that is well within your physical capabilities. Save the remote mountain summits for when you hike with others. If you are new to solo hiking, choose a route that is well-trodden, and where you are likely to meet other people along the way.
Pack properly – when you are relying on yourself, you need to make sure you have the right hiking gear with you. Snacks, water and ways of filtering it from natural sources such as a lifestraw, layers including waterproof… it’s an obvious one but overlooking something important could leave you in trouble.
Tell people where you are going – tell friends and family the route you are taking, and how long you expect to be. If going on a multi-day hike, check in with friends at various points. That way, should anything go wrong they will know your approximate whereabouts.
Personal locator beacon – if you are worried about being alone on the trail, are exploring a new route or going somewhere a little more remote than you are sues to, carrying a personal locator beacon will give you peace of mind.
These are small gadgets that are easily put in a pocket, and will send out a signal so you can be found in an emergency. They may be a bit on the expensive side, but if you are traveling along in the wilderness, you can’t put a price on peace of mind.
Body language – how you present yourself can be important if you meet another hiker who makes you feel uncomfortable, or encounter a predatory animal when hiking abroad. If it is a person, don’t avoid eye contact as this may be seen as a sign of weakness. Use assertive body language, such as walking confidently with your head up, look around and don’t hunch.
As for animals, each predator reacts differently. Often it is best to stand your ground, as in most cases a wild animal will want to chase you if you run. Make noise along the trail if in a country where there are predators, and this may scare them off. It is also a good idea to carry bear spray, which repels other animals too, as an emergency option if hiking in a country where there are large predators.
Don’t Take Risks – it might be quicker to slide down those wet rocks, or perhaps try a shortcut through boggy land, but are you opening yourself up to injuries? Breaking a leg is not a smart option when hiking alone, so minimise the dangers by using common sense. That’s not to say you can’t make your own way, but you must make sure you are not at risk of getting hurt.
The Benefits of hiking alone…
It is always healthy to have a little fear, but don’t let it put you off. Solo hiking is usually a wonderful experience.
Reflection – having quiet solitude is something that most of us lack in our everyday lives, but out on the trail solo gives us time to think.
Closer to Nature – the quietness of hiking solo means you have a better chance for getting close to wildlife.
Spiritual – hiking alone in the great outdoors fills you with a sense of wonder. You use all your senses to take in your surroundings.
Develops Self-Reliance – being on the trail helps you learn how to take care of yourself. From navigating and map reading, to making sure you have good nourishment and rest along the way, when you only have yourself to rely on, it is amazing how much you grow.
Choose your own Path – you can go where you want, at the pace you choose, stopping as little or often along the way as you like. Want to make a detour? Stay in one place for a couple of days? The world is your oyster!
Solo hiking is a wonderful experience, and as long as you take sensible precautions there is nothing stopping you from experiencing the great outdoors alone.
If you have any tips to share about solo hiking, please add to the comments.