This post is intended to provide safety tips for the novice solo hiker.
Hiking solo can certainly be an intimidating thought. I get that! I have travelled solo for the past century and have only begun to take solo hikes within the last couple of years.
I love to hike but unfortunately my friends don’t, so that left me in a bit of a dilemma. Safety concerns while hiking solo was the only thing that held me back from hitting the trails. After much procrastinating, I finally drummed up the courage to take my first solo hike and I have been going it alone (mostly) ever since.
Hiking solo is not much different than travelling solo … start small…..take baby steps and take the same safety precautions on your hike as you would take when travelling on your own.
For your first solo hike I would recommend choosing a trail that you are slightly familiar with. This will make the thought of hiking alone much less intimidating and you will feel much safer being on the trails by yourself. I personally find that loop trails are easier to navigate than the in-out trails. By hiking a loop trail you are almost guaranteed to finish where you started which limits the chances of getting lost. It will also allow you to see different things along the way and and won’t pass the same way twice.
In order to keep you as safe as possible while taking that first solo hike, I have outlined what I consider to be the most important safety tips that you will need whenever hiking alone.
“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – John Muir
Determine the Tail and Route
When planning which trail you will be hiking, several factors should be taken into consideration. How experienced of a hiker are you? What are your physical capabilities? How much time do you have available to complete the hike? Why are you taking the hike? Do you want a relaxing hike? Or do you want a hike with more of a challenge? Once you have answered all of these questions, you will be in a better position to choose the right trail for your hike.
Pro Tip: I have downloaded the AllTrails app which lets me know the difficulty level and what the terrain is like. It also provides reviews by previous hikers, as well as a map of the trail.
Familiarize Yourself With the Trail
If you have chosen a trail unfamiliar to you, it is now the time to get familiar with it. Google is a wondrous thing! Scroll through pictures that have been posted by other hikers. Read the reviews to get tips from previous hikers. And most importantly, print the trail map. There will be times throughout your hike that your internet connection may be a little sketchy. Learn as much as you possibly can about the trail, especially if it will be your first time hiking it.
Keep a Friend Informed
I feel that this is the most important tip that I can give when hiking solo. Once you have determined where you will be hiking, advise a trusted friend or family member and let them know your expected time of completing the trail.
Pro Tip: If possible, I will send texts periodically throughout my hike just to let her know that I am safe and sound.
Stay Within Your Comfort Zone
I am usually a very strong proponent of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Hiking is one area that I strongly advise against it! Pick a trail that you think that you will feel comfortable and safe hiking alone and that is compatible with your fitness level.
Yes, you want it to be challenging but I would recommend achieving this by choosing a trail that is a longer distance, not a trail that exceeds your physical capabilities.
Don’t Be Quiet, Make Some Noise
Prior to the hike familiarize yourself with the animals that inhibit the trail/forest that you will be hiking. This will determine if you need to take additional precautions. If you are hiking in the mountains, especially during the summer months, you might want to take bear spray with you. At the very least, when hiking this kind of trail alone, make sure that you make plenty of noise. It is okay to sing or talk to yourself along the way.
Pay Attention to the Trail Markers
Many trails are very clearly marked, but not all of them are. Always pay attention to the trail markers along your route, especially if it is an in-out trail.
Take Note of How Busy the Trail Is
If the trail is highly travelled, you will likely feel a lot more safe and comfortable hiking solo. If you run encounter any problems along the trail there will always be somebody there to help you out.
Pro Tip: If you are new to solo hiking, I highly recommend choosing a trail that you know will be busy with other hikers.
Stay on the Trail
Trails are usually marked for a reason. It is important to stay on the trail for your own safety. Whenever venturing off of the trail, you risk getting lost or encountering danger.
Stay on Dry Land
There will be times that you may come across a river that will make the hike quicker if you cross it. It is not advisable to hike through any rivers or streams when you are hiking alone. It is always safest to stay on dry land if at all possible and to find an alternate way to cross. If other hikers are in the area and it is absolutely necessary to cross through the river or stream, ask if you can join them until you are safely across the river.
Don’t Hike After Dark
It is always important to determine the expected time of sunset and the length of time that it will take you to complete the trail. It is never safe to hike alone after dark and you want to make sure that your hike will be completed prior to sunset.
Whenever hiking, whether solo or with others, there is always the possibility of getting lost or encountering other problems. If you do happen to get lost or encounter difficulties during your hike, it is important to remember the following:
- don’t panic
- stay where you are, it will be easier to locate you if you stay in one spot
- sound an alarm (blow a whistle, scream, play music from your phone, etc.). Do whatever it takes to lead someone to your location.
I hope that I haven’t scared you off from hiking alone, as it really is one of the most peaceful experiences that you will have. Take your time, breathe in the air, and enjoy the forest! If you follow these safety tips while hiking alone, I know that you will have a safe and enjoyable hike.
I would love to hear any additional safety hiking tips that you might have to add to the list?
HAPPY HIKING 🙂
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