Are you one of those people who always wanted to go hiking but hesitated because you didn’t have anybody to accompany you? Have you been thinking about hiking alone for a long time now but letting the fear of the same keep you indoors? Or, you have the courage to take on the outdoors on your own but just need some tips to start with the same?
Whether it is your inner fear of tackling the many obstacles the great outdoors has to offer, the hesitation that you do not have sufficient knowledge required to venture out alone, or the constant “Never hike alone” lecture from your loved ones that is stopping you, one thing that should get you going is the fact that solo hiking is a one-of-a-kind experience which should be attempted by every outdoor enthusiast at least once in his life.
Why Hike Solo?
Exploring the trail all by yourself can be rewarding in a lot of different ways:
One of the biggest benefits of solo hiking is the level of flexibility you get to enjoy. Lack of flexibility is often the most common concern with hiking in a group, because of the apparent fact that you will be required to limit your choices to accommodate the group. Right from choosing your camping location and camping route to changing your pace and deciding the time of your rest breaks, solo hiking gives you great flexibility in every way possible.
The last time you went group hiking, how many decisions did you make on your own? When hiking as a group, it goes without saying that you would depend on the most experienced hiker in your group when it comes to decision making. But, when you hike solo, you have the opportunity to develop self-reliance. Making your own choices and taking responsibility as an individual will eventually improve your confidence to the next level.
By hiking alone, you get the chance to push yourself to hike longer hours and also farther and faster. You can gradually move up to conquering more difficult hiking trails, rough outdoor conditions, and harsh weather. Hitting more complex hiking goals will give you a sense of accomplishment that you are unlikely to feel so strongly when hiking with a group.
Improved Outdoor Skills
Similar to helping you build your confidence, solo hiking also helps improve your outdoor skills. When hiking with a group, you would obviously tend to rely on the skills of others for almost every aspect of the activity, like cooking, navigation, safety, and more. As a solo hiker, you will rely on your own knowledge and skills, and this you can gain by taking the experience, knowledge, and advice of hiking in groups. Ultimately, you will come to understand that owning your knowledge, skills and experience is highly gratifying.
Craft a Plan
The first step to successful solo hiking is planning. When you plan for your solo hiking trip, there are a lot of aspects you need to keep in mind. Here’s a simple plan to execute your solo hike:
- The first step to crafting a plan for your solo hike is knowing your budget. Planning on how much you can spend is important to determine your hiking destination and the activities you can engage in.
- Once you have a budget, you can move on to deciding where and when you want to go and the duration of your trip. In addition to your budget, your flexibility with time is another factor that affects this decision. One tip to remember is that, if you wish to save some money, going on a hike during the off-season would be the best choice.
- The next step in planning is to prepare an itinerary for your solo hiking trip. This will be influenced by the length of time you have for the trip. While going on multi-day hikes would give you the best outdoor experience, if you are just starting as a solo hiker, you can choose to go on single day hikes or shorter ones until you feel comfortable, and you can prepare your itinerary accordingly. Once you gain confidence and become an experienced solo hiker, you can leave lots of room in your itinerary to be spontaneous.
- How to get to your destination and where to stay are the factors you should plan next.
- If your hiking destination requires you to take a flight, plan ahead and set up price alerts on different websites in order to get notified on price drops. On the other hand, if you plan on going local, decide on your mode of transportation and plan accordingly.
- Equally important is your accommodation. Though accommodation wouldn’t be a problem during off-season, it is still recommended that you book at least for your first night before you reach your destination. Whether you choose to go with hostels, B&Bs, guesthouses, or campgrounds, booking ahead is the best way to go.
Be Ready for Weather
When planning for a solo hiking trip, regardless of your location or destination, you can never be sure of the kind of weather you may encounter, even if it is just a single day’s hike. As a matter of fact, the weather can actually be unforgiving if you leave for your hike unprepared. Therefore, being ready for the weather can make your hikes much easier and a lot more enjoyable. Before going on your hike, always check the weather forecast. However, weather forecasts are not always accurate; therefore, do some research and learn about the weather patterns in your hiking destination and then plan accordingly.
When it is just you on the trail, being aware and staying safe is crucial. To make sure that you stay safe throughout your hike, learn about your trail, most importantly about the wildlife you are likely to encounter in the area. While hiking, always stay focused on your route and be wary of uneven terrains. When it comes to wildlife, it is important that you research beforehand about the type of animals you can expect to come across along the trail, and learn about ways to avoid them or things to do in the event of an encounter.
Know Your Limits
For your first solo hike, it is wise to choose a short trail that is both popular and easy to cruise. This eliminates the concern of getting stranded or lost along the trail in case something unexpected happens. A better option would be to choose a trail you’ve already hiked and explored before. The more you hike on your own, the more efficient and confident you will become.
Let Other People Know
Another most important point to remember when it comes to solo hiking is to let someone reliable, a family member or friend, know the accurate details of your hiking adventure. Some of the details to include in your description are: exact location of your hike, your mode of transport and details of the same, accommodation details, your planned return date, and emergency contact (ex: the local sheriff’s department, etc.).