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.