Backpacking Solo: Tips + Strategies

Have you ever felt called to go on a big adventure, or even to hit a local trail for a day hike, and then you ended up canceling on yourself because you couldn’t find a hiking partner and didn’t quite feel safe going alone?

I get it. The thought of taking off on a solo trek can be both alluring and frightening. And unfortunately, it keeps many otherwise avid adventurers from hitting the trail. Even for more experienced backcountry users, solo hiking can be intimidating and brings up fear. Undoubtedly, hiking with a partner is safer. That said, there are ways to make hiking solo more comfortable and safe so that you can get outside with more confidence.

Hiking solo can also be incredibly rewarding. It can help you increase your self confidence, your skill set, and your connection with yourself and the nature around you. I’ve hiked thousands of miles alone, and while it’s been unnerving at times, it’s also been one of the most satisfying parts of my times spent outdoors.

Here are some tips to get you started: 

  1. Trust your gut. This goes for life and on the trail. If someone seems creepy, get away as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid to lie. Don’t tell people where you’re camping if they ask. Just give a vague answer like “Whenever I get tired”.   We’re taught not to be rude to others, but you don’t owe anyone any thing and your safety is your top priority.
  1. Identify what exactly scares you about solo backpacking. Is it getting caught in bad weather? Is it wildlife? Is it interactions with other humans? Often when something scares us, it feels like this nebulous overarching fear. If we can narrow it down exactly what makes us uneasy, we can take steps to prepare for that risk and that helps reduce fear. Take a moment to get honest with yourself and get to the root of your fears so you can work through them.
  1. Educate yourself. As we just covered, a lot of fear stems from the unknown and by educating yourself on likely conditions, common wildlife, and learning best practices for how to confront these scenarios, you can increase confidence.  The Backcountry Safety Course goes into depth on how to create a backcountry preparation plan and walks you through the most common risks you’ll encounter on a backpacking trip.
  1. Be prepared. There are measures you can take to make solo hiking safer. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. Give them contact info and instructions for what to do if you don’t return as planned. Carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) such as a SPOT or Garmin inReach. Carry runner’s mace if that makes you more comfortable. Take the proper gear for the conditions you expect to encounter. Additionally, avoid posting a detailed itinerary of your trip anywhere public, such as social media.
  1. Work with your mindset. Some fears are rational and some aren’t. The mind can take over if you allow it. I think it’s helpful to read, watch, and learn about others who you can relate to who are doing what you want to do. For example, if you’re a mature female and you want to start solo backpacking, seek out others in your demographic doing what you wish to do and read their stories, watch their videos. Normalize it in your mind. 

Finally, remember that you’re capable of great things. Solo backpacking may feel out of reach or scary right now, but by using these strategies you can get more comfortable with it and reap the many rewards of going into the backcountry alone.

Solo hiking is just a fraction of what’s covered in the Backcountry Safety Course, which also covers Navigation, Weather, Wildlife Interactions, Human Interactions and more!

Find more free resources here.

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