While many people don’t even consider hiking alone, some adventurers prefer to hike solo. There are several perks that come with lone hiking. First and foremost, you don’t have to compromise plans to make other people happy. There is an overall greater sense of freedom when hiking alone. Still, those unfamiliar with this idea are quick to assume it is dangerous or too lonely. However, this should not deter anyone who desires to experience the trail on their own. With the proper preparation, any willing individual can have what it takes to take the call to adventure. Here are nine essential tips for lone hikers.
Carry a Map or GPS
No matter how well-marked a trail may be, there is always a chance of getting lost. In fact, this is one of the main causes of people going missing when hiking. Even the most successful and experienced hikers can easily be defeated when lost from the trail. Solo hikers are encouraged to carry detailed maps or even a GPS system to help maintain direction and location. For most well-defined and marked trails, a standard map will suffice. Navigation points along the trail will help hikers to determine an exact or approximate location. A GPS system may be more appropriate for trails that are not well-marked or mapped.
Take All The Essential Gear
One of the massive perks of hiking in groups is sharing or borrowing equipment. Overall, larger groups have to carry less baggage as items can be used between multiple people. Lone hikers must forego this perk by virtue of lacking hiking partners. This also poses a greater burden on lone hikers as equipment or food can’t be borrowed in a pinch. Instead, lone hikers must be absolutely positive that they are carrying all essential items. This means that food, camping equipment, water and necessary clothing must all be accounted for. If one of these essential items is forgotten, there won’t be any hiking partners to borrow from. Don’t forget to pack a warm sleeping bag to make sure you don’t get cold when sleeping.
Hike During the Busy Season
Many lone hikers may be tempted to hike solo during the offseason when the trails are empty. However beautiful this scenario may appear, it also comes with extra risk. Even when technically hiking alone, there will still be other groups and individuals hiking on the same trail. This means that in a true emergency, help can be just a few screams or whistles away. During the offseason, there will be fewer people hiking and the chances of finding help will also diminish. Furthermore, there are good reasons why a particular part of the year is considered offseason. This is usually due to bad weather or other natural conditions that make hiking the particular trail dangerous. You can still lone hike during the busy season.
Check-in with Rangers or Outposts
A majority of hiking trails around the world will have rangers or checkpoints scattered along the trail. In fact, some countries require long distance hikers to check-in at certain points along the trail. While this can be a headache at times, it can be a great way to ensure your safety if something bad were to happen. Even if it is not required by the park, it is advisable for lone hikers to let a park ranger or official your intended route or next location. Although rare and unlikely, emergency situations do occur when hiking. Hiking alone raises the severity of these situations as nobody can know where you are. Checking-in with park officials can be a great way to improve security.
Familiarize Yourself Before Departure
Another essential tip for those hiking alone is to become familiar with the trail before departure. There are several factors that should be studied and understood before attempting the hike alone. First and foremost, having a rough understanding of the hiking terrain can help properly prepare a lone hiker and prevent unexpected surprises and injuries. Lone hikers would also be smart to research common animals in the area to know what to expect in terms of wildlife.
Weather is one of the most important factors to consider when lone hiking. Weather will determine how long to hike, how fast to hike and which route to take. Of course, weather will be different depending on where the hike is taking place. Regardless of location, trail weather is important to be familiar with on a daily basis. Lone hikers are advised to keep daily tabs on weather changes and climate fronts to determine how to adjust accordingly. This information can be gained prior to departure or via cell phones if reception is available. Many parks will also provide weather projections that can be obtained on the trail or prior to departure.
Stay in Contact with Family or Friends
Lone hikers are in a precarious situation as no other individual knows where exactly they are at any given time. This can end up being particularly dangerous if anything were to happen. For this reason, it is important to stay in contact with family and friends along the trail. Although connection will be limited on more remote trails, most lone hikers should have internet connection every once in a while. Letting people know your rough location can be a great way to stay connected in case of emergency. For those hiking in incredibly remote areas may want to consider investing in a satellite phone. These devices don’t rely on cellphone towers to operate, but use satellites instead.
One of the most frustrating parts of lone hiking is not being able to share the experience with anybody. This especially becomes an issue upon returning to society. When wanting to reminisce over the adventure, it helps to talk with someone who experienced it as well. While this option is impossible for those who hike alone, pictures and videos can be a saving grace. These mementos are a great way to share your experiences with friends and family when returning back from the hike. Also, they can be used to remember the hike for years to come.
After deciding to go hiking alone, you will undoubtedly hear a lot of feedback from concerned or skeptical individuals. Some will claim that hiking alone is too dangerous and others will even question the desire behind the trip. Lone hikers need to be able to tune out this noise from the peanut gallery and pursue their hiking adventure with confidence and determination. At the end of the day, the most important and essential tip is to have fun. After all, the entire hike will be wasted if it is not enjoyable. Once all of the preparation and safety has been accounted for, you should focus primarily on having an enjoyable time. This requires a grounded presence and continual sense of awareness. Enjoy each step of the journey and make as many memories as possible.
Lone hiking can be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences. It will test your endurance, determination and willpower. Many people simply don’t understand the mentality behind the desire to hike solo. However, lone hikers know perfectly well the thirst for adventure and the desire for an open road that motivates them. Follow these nine essential tips and you should be on your way to having an amazing solo hike.
Guest Author – Carolynn Mims
*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay