Many people lament the idea of being alone. But do you know that solace and satisfaction as well as rejuvenation can also be found in solitude? Hiking in your lonesome, for instance, can bring so much joy and introspection. Solo hiking is not just about being able to go at your own pace or having to plan out a schedule all for yourself, it is more of a journey to your personal growth, of self-realization and of rebooting your body and mind to strengthen its resolve for the challenges ahead. While it is healthy for the body and mind, it is also crucial to consider safety and security.
To get you started, here are some tips for hiking solo that will always make your journey a safer and happier one.
1. Start in an area familiar to you. It’s so exhilarating to imagine hiking along the Inca Trail in Peru or the Appalachian Trail. If you are wise, however, the safest place to start is somewhere near you and of which the terrain is familiar. Try a place you have gone with friends or family before– and you may just be surprised at the magnificence of the area without the usual distractions.
2. Always have a personal tracker with you. You don’t need a shiny new gadget to keep others updated on your whereabouts. There are various apps nowadays that can be downloaded to your smartphone which allows to track your location even when off-grid. Think Sygic GPS Navigation, Navmii, CoPilot Premium, or Navigon. These apps can be downloaded to your Android or iPhone.
3. Make sure to inform someone about your solo hiking escapade. Unless you don’t want to be found, it is crucial to inform someone of your whereabouts before you depart (and when you are back, too!) stating on the number of days that you will be out and your estimated day or time to be back. This point person or persons can help raise alarm signals when you’re not back on an intended date and can immediately inform authorities. Do remember to inform them about any changes to your itinerary. Lest you want to be subjected to a missing person operation even when you only decide to traverse a different trail.
4. Take time to visit the park’s ranger station and register. When hiking solo, always check your name into the logs and inform the authorities therein that you will be hiking alone. Park rangers also know the safest routes for solo hikers. Make sure to do a stopover or at the very least call for a check-out before you go home, too.
5. Be abreast with weekly weather conditions. Again, technology guarantees information is at your very fingertips. Have a weather bulletin lookout on your smartphone and check it each time you go for a hike. This is even more so when hiking in areas notorious for inclement weather conditions. As much as possible, bring a raincoat to protect you from getting wet when it suddenly rains on your hiking parade.
6. Keep a “bugout bag” handy. No matter how simple a trail, it is always wise to have the necessary supplies with you– water, rain cover, first aid kit, and energy bars. You’ll be sweating a lot thus, lowering your electrolyte level. So stay hydrated and warm. A map of the trail can also be handy if this is your first time.
7. Go for a busy trail. Just because you want to hike solo doesn’t mean, you no longer talk to people. Trails with high foot traffic means safety for you, too. Aside from being well-maintained, these trails allow you to easily shout for help whenever disaster strikes. Besides, you are not obliged to stop and talk to anyone you meet along the way. These people will also be panting for breath while hiking, you know.
8. Always stick to the path. It’s exciting to go on an adventure but when you’re alone, always be wary of wrong turns and the usual horror stories that go with them. Wandering off marked trail will only subject you to predators and unstable grounds. Aside from being illegal, it is dangerous and can turn deadly in a flash.
9. Always come prepared and to see your limits clearly. Do not just commit to a 10-mile hike when you can’t even go around the neighborhood block without panting for breath. Getting in shape prior to the hike is just as important as finding solitude in hiking on your own. So try to train for at least two months before going for it and to always know your limitations before you embark.
10. Listen to your inner voice. Be wary of the dangers in the wild and of predators with two feet. Yes, it’s okay to look risks in the eye but when the moment spells disaster, decide to look away. Life is precious and there are other hiking adventures to seize.
Take these tips for hiking solo to heart and you will definitely enjoy each moment of being alone but not lonely whenever, wherever. Tag a video-camera along to help recount precious memories along the way for everyone to see how hiking and independence can bring more introspection on oneself. Definitely, hiking solo is so much better than yoga or meditation in the journey towards finding solitude and yourself.