Solo Hiking: How To Travel Alone

December 7, 2016 by
Alex hiking in Connemara
POSTED BY December 7, 2016

In a previous blog, we outlined the health benefits of hiking for mental health. Perhaps this spiked your interest in hiking but you haven’t managed to find someone with a similar desire. Luckily, there is one option: solo hiking.

The naysayers will say that it’s too dangerous. Your map might blow away. Your leg might break and there’ll be no one to help you. There is a general rule when it comes to outdoor activities – “Less than three, there should never be”.

However, there is one simple answer to all of this negativity: preparedness is the key to successful solo hiking.

Be Prepared To Go Solo Hiking

#1 – Take baby steps

Hiking alone doesn’t mean undertaking the 3,500km long Appalchian Trail straight away. This might be your end goal but you need to build up to that level of both physical and mental fitness. The first step could simply be a stroll in a local wooded area. The next steps from there could look something like this:

  1. A day-long hike
  2. An overnighter – either camping or staying in accommodation
  3. A weekend-long hiking/camping trip
  4. A multi-day hike
  5. THE APPALCHIAN TRAIL

The last step might be a bit of a jump, but you get the idea.

#2 – Know the area

Familarising yourself with the terrain that you’ll be hiking on is always a good idea. This can be done by simply Googling the area or even checking out a map.

You can tell a lot just by looking at a map: the height increases and decreases, whether it’s mountainous or woodland, if there are rivers, and how long the trail is.

All of this information can be gained through using the map key and the scale of the map.

#3 – Check-in every now and again

You may want to use this solo hike as a chance to switch off from technology but it’s important to tell at least one person of your plans.

A quick text when you start or finish a hike can be the difference between a peaceful night’s sleep and a full-scale search and rescue operation.

#4 – Read weather reports

Before undertaking a hike, particularly a multi-day one, it’s important to take a look at the weather forecast.

Of course, these forecasts can often be wrong so you may want to check out weather patterns for the area.

You can then half-expect a sudden storm and not get caught completely by surprise.

#5 – Choose a busy trail

A busy trail is great for a variety of reasons:

  1. Even though you are hiking solo, you might just be able to strike up a conversation or two along the way.
  2. In the event of an injury, it probably won’t be long before someone else comes along to give you a hand.

#6 – Know your own limits

This ties in with #1 as well.

If you try to hike the Pacific Crest Trail but your limit is a moderate Dingle Way hike (shameless plug), then you’re probably going to struggle.

It’s all about building up your strength and endurance and furthering your limits.

#7 – Stick to the path

Going cross-country can be very appealing but it’s best left alone when hiking alone.

Thoughts stray to Alexander Supertramp in Into The Wild but it’s easy to get disorientated and lost when you don’t have a trail to follow.

Enhance your map-reading skills before you think about going cross-country.

#8 – Bring ample supplies

Supplies can mean everything from blister plasters to extra layers to enough food to last the duration of your hike.

You won’t have someone with you to share the load, therefore you’ll have to really priortise the supplies that you take with you.

The Benefits Of Solo Hiking

#1 – Test your own skills

In the wild, you have no one to rely on but yourself.

Camping trips may call for the construction of safe firepits.

Your navigational skills will be put to the test as you have no one to rely on for back-up.

The success of this, however, makes solo hiking all the more rewarding.

#2 – Go at your own pace

Hiking alone means that you can hike at your own pace. There’s no need to worry about going to slow or too fast for your hiking buddy.

You can decide if you want to run a marathon or crawl at a snail’s pace.

#3 – Flexibility

It’s always important to have a plan of where you’re going and what you’re doing but when you’re solo hiking, there’s a certain flexibility that comes with that.]

You can choose to deviate from your original path if you wish, or take breaks as often or as little as you want.

#4 – Push yourself

Pushing yourself harder than your own pace is a good way to increase your physical limits.

Hiking alone is the perfect opportunity to test these limits.

#5 – Enjoy the moment

Hiking solo lets you enjoy the moment more than hiking with someone would.

Sure it’s nice to experience the beautiful countryside with someone, but hiking alone lets you experience how you want to experience it.

Dangers Of Solo Hiking

#1 – You might get injured

There’s always the risk of an injury when hiking, but the added risk whilst alone is that no one will be there to help you out.

Tell someone your plans in advance so that they can take action if you don’t show up where you’re supposed to show up.

#2 – You might get lost

Getting lost is a possibility – although if you stick to the trails then that shouldn’t happen.

If you’re on your own and you get lost, it could lead to panic. It’s important to keep a calm head and think clearly.

#3 – Having insufficient equipment

You may often rely on someone else’s backpack when yours is bursting at the seams.

Solo hiking doesn’t give you this opportunity so only bring what you need – but make sure that it’s enough.

#4 – Not being prepared

The main risk is not being prepared – but follow the guidelines above and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

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