How to Conquer a Solo Hike

Solo Hike

There are many rea­sons to do a solo hike. Some peo­ple choose to hike alone because they crave the silence and being away from the crazi­ness of every­day life. “Oth­ers like to be self-reliant,” accord­ing to Eliza Hatch, direc­tor of guest ser­vices for Adven­ture­Women. “You’re out there by your­self with no one else to talk to, and you are rely­ing on your own feet and what you can car­ry.”

Solo hik­ing also gives you qui­et time to reflect, which is some­thing that very few peo­ple take the time to do, accord­ing to Hatch. “Even when you sit at home alone, you’re dis­tract­ed by oth­er things – get­ting out into the woods leaves you alone with your thoughts,” Hatch says.

Plan For Every­thing
If you’ve nev­er been hik­ing, it’s prob­a­bly not a good idea to start with a solo hike. Instead, join a group so you can learn the basics, what to pack and how to deal with the unex­pect­ed. “Prac­tice being out­side before­hand in lots of dif­fer­ent weath­er so you can test out your lay­ers; for exam­ple, try out your rain gear in the show­er – you should be dry when you get out,” says Hatch. “And take a map and com­pass class so you can nav­i­gate with just these tools – GPS isn’t always reli­able.”

It’s also a good idea to pack an emer­gency med­ical kit that includes rehy­dra­tion salts, a brace, and ban­dages, says Kel­ly Lewis, founder of the Go! Girl Guides and of the annu­al Women’s Trav­el Fest. “If you’re a fre­quent hik­er, it’s also a good idea to cre­ate a back­up med­ical plan,” Lewis adds. “Using a ser­vice like Med­jet can help get you to the near­est hos­pi­tal if some­thing real­ly bad does hap­pen.” Emer­gency ser­vices like Med­jet offer med­ical trans­port and cri­sis response so you don’t end up stuck in a tiny clin­ic in the mid­dle of nowhere with­out access to bet­ter facil­i­ties or no way to get home.

“It all sounds like com­mon sense, but you’d be sur­prised at how many peo­ple you find in the woods who don’t know how far away they are from their cars with no warm lay­ers or rain gear,” Hatch says. “Be smart and over-pre­pared.”

Put Safe­ty First
One of the most impor­tant things you can do before you leave for a solo hike is to make sure some­one knows where you are. Always share your itin­er­ary with a friend and tell them when you’re expect­ed to be back.

In addi­tion, Lewis rec­om­mends basic things such as stick­ing to well-marked trails, not hik­ing in extreme weath­er, prepar­ing for the worst and expect­ing the best. “Hik­ing solo is an incred­i­ble way to recon­nect with nature and with your­self, but if you’re new to trails and hik­ing, start with an eas­i­er trail and then work your way to more advanced treks,” Lewis adds.

When in doubt, Hatch rec­om­mends always mak­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive deci­sion. “Hik­ing in the rain is fine as long as you have the right lay­ers, but if you hike in a light­ning storm, you need to know to ditch your pack and your poles and crouch in the trees,” Hatch says.

Deal­ing With Lone­li­ness
Hik­ing solo has many chal­lenges and per­haps one of the most dif­fi­cult ones to deal with is being by your­self. “On a longer hike, like a mul­ti­ple day or week trip, the first cou­ple of days are the hard­est,” Hatch says. “After a day or two, you get used to the silence, and you are thank­ful when that nice chat­ty per­son on the trail goes the oth­er way.”

“Bring­ing a dog is great on a one- or two-day hike, but more than that and you’re car­ry­ing your food as well as your dog’s,” says Hatch. No dog? Hatch sug­gests bring­ing a book that you’d be will­ing to read over and over (more than one book is too much extra weight for a long hike) or a jour­nal where you can write down your thoughts.