You shouldn’t be afraid to hike alone, just because your friends are too busy. Hiking solo can sound intimidating at first, but there are many things you can do to prepare yourself ahead of time.
There are so many benefits to hiking – it doesn’t matter if you’re alone or with a group of people. Below I’ve listed a bunch of helpful information you can use to have a safe and fun solo hike!
Tips for Hiking Alone
When hiking with a group of people you can be a little more spontaneous. It’s okay if you forget something or don’t know the area very well – because you have other people to count on. But you need to be more careful when hiking alone. What do I mean by this? Keep reading for five easy tips you can try on your next solo hike.
Pick a Popular Trail
When hiking solo, make sure to choose a well populated trail before you leave. Hiking in super remote areas can be fun, but if you’re alone the more people the better. Safety in numbers is very important when hiking alone for many reasons. If you trip and fall, you need people in close proximity just in case it’s a serious injury
Picking a well-traveled trail also decreases the chance of getting lost. Popular hiking areas will be very worn down, which makes the trail clearly visible and impossible to get lost on. To make navigation even more simple, you’ll also see people either traveling in one direction or the other.
Check Your Gear
When hiking with a group of people, there’s more room for human error. What do I mean by this? If you forget to bring a lighter, your buddy might have an extra. This is not the case for solo hiking and you need to be more careful of what items to bring.
Make a detailed list of everything you plan on bringing – then lay all your gear out in an open area to provide a better visual. Double check and triple check your list, just to make sure you didn’t forget anything important. You also need to make sure your gear is in good condition. You won’t have the benefit of asking someone for gear if it breaks.
You definitely want to plan your solo hike well in advance before leaving. This tip somewhat relates to picking a popular trail. You’re going to need to do enough research to find out everything there is about the hiking area. Are there any dangerous obstacles you should watch out for?
Planning ahead will not only give you a better peace of mind, but you can also learn some cool things about the hiking trail. There might be an amazing waterfall or view to see, that you might not have known about. I recommend checking out online hiking forums to learn the specifics of your hike. Learn from the people who have actually hiked the trail.
Don’t Push It
This is a classic hiking safety tip and it’s extremely important when hiking solo. Sometimes we can forget just how dangerous hiking can be, so you never want to push yourself too hard. It’s critical to always listen to your body with the possibility of getting lost and the chance for injury.
To avoid getting lost, always make sure to start hiking early. This will give you plenty of time in case things don’t go as planned. Things can get dangerous when the sun goes down and you’re trying to rush. Always listen to your body – getting enough rest is just as important when hiking alone.
Tell Friends and Family
Before leaving for a solo hike, you must make friends and family members aware of your plan. This might be the most important step before hiking alone. Tell them where you’re going, how long it will take and when you’ll be back. If available, print out a trail map ahead of time so they can know your exact route.
These days technology makes it so much easier to find lost hikers. You can even pick up a satellite GPS messaging system like this one here. There are many other brands out there, but this one is perfect because it provides satellite coverage with 2-way text messaging from anywhere.
Hiking At Night Alone
Day hikes are easy, because you have the ability to see (unless something goes wrong and you stay out later than anticipated). However, night hiking alone is a whole different story. On a longer hike you need to be extra careful when the sun goes down.
Know the Area
This may seem obvious, but you should really know the area before hiking at night. I don’t want to hear that you’ve been here once a few years ago – that doesn’t cut it. You should be so comfortable with this trail that you can hike it with your eyes closed. Because that’s how dark it will be when walking alone at night.
Some may think this tip is a little on the extreme side – and I totally get it. But when you’re hiking alone safety is very critical. If something goes wrong in the middle of the night, you need to get help as soon as possible. By really knowing the area, you will feel comfortable getting back to your car in complete darkness.
Use Familiar Gear
It’s also a good idea to save those unfamiliar gear items for another time. Look I get it, new toys can be fun! But when you’re hiking solo, you never want to try something out for the first time. If something does go wrong, it won’t be able to work and you certainly won’t have a back-up ready to use.
This experience will only be intensified when hiking at night alone. Avoid the panic by using items you’re familiar with and know how to access in the dark. Follow smart packing methods by knowing where all your gear items are in your backpack. Then test out your skills before you leave by trying to reach for items in your pack, with the lights off in your home.
Bring Extra Lights
In a perfect world nothing will ever break, however this is far from the truth. Whenever hiking alone at night, you should always bring extra light sources. There are so many ways for flashlights to fail – batteries can die, they can get wet and stop working, or they can fall out of your bag and you lose it!
I always recommend keeping a smaller flashlight in your bag as a back-up plan. Something around this size is perfect – as it will still provide plenty of light in the dark, but won’t weigh you down. For your primary source of light, a headlamp like this is the best option. You will always see where you are going and free up your hands in the process.
Always Stay Calm
You’ll notice that your mind will start to play tricks on you in the dark, especially when hiking solo. This is completely normal, as it’s easy to freak yourself out whenever you isolate yourself from the rest of the world. Darkness can sometimes enhance this paranoia, but you should try to stay clam and keep yourself in check.
When not using a flashlight or headlamp, it will take your eyes around 20-30 minutes to become acclimated with the darkness. Because there are no sources of light pollution in the wilderness, you won’t even be able to see your hand in front of your face. Once your vision adjusts to the darkness, you will feel more comfortable in night hiking scenarios.
Pack More Clothes
It’s no secret that the temperature drops at night when the sun goes down. When this happens while you’re hiking solo, it’s always a good idea to bring more clothes. So what does hiking alone have to do with warmth? There are actually two reasons why hiking by yourself can leave you feeling colder.
The first reason has to do with sleeping. If you’re sleeping in a two-person tent, you have double the amount of body heat keeping you and your partner warm. You also need to remember you won’t have the ability to ask a friend for an extra piece of clothing when you’re alone. Keep these two things in mind before hiking at night.
By now I hope you have learned that hiking solo isn’t as bad as it may seem. It really boils down to how you approach it – just like everything else when it comes to hiking. Prepare for the worst and keep your mind sharp.
Do your research ahead of time and only travel to areas you are comfortable with. Remember to triple check your gear, to make sure you have everything you need. And always listen to your body and never push yourself past your limits.
I wouldn’t recommend going on a multi-day hike alone, unless you have a few years of experience under your belt first. Start off with something small – hiking solo on a day hike is a good way to get some experience, while still staying safe in the process.