There is nothing more satisfying than setting off on your own to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. Solo hiking brings a unique kind of freedom that can leave you feeling confident and refreshed.
When hiking alone, you can move at your own pace, take as much time as you like for photos and appreciate the calm quietness of being on your own — a rare treat these days.
If you are considering a solo hike, there are various safety tips to consider before you hit the trail alone and some to keep in mind once you’ve set off. These are particularly important when you are new to solo hiking, though even experienced hikers benefit from a quick reminder now and then.
When you’re well-prepared, you’ll quickly find that solo hiking is the perfect way to recharge your batteries and boost of confidence.
If your solo adventure does not include hiking, you might be interested in this article outlining 25 tips for traveling alone and loving it.
Check The Weather Beforehand
It is unwise to head out into nature without first ensuring the weather conditions are on your side. This may seem like a basic principle, but it is key to your safety and well-being on the trail.
Check the forecast multiple times leading up to your trip, all the way up until the moment you are set to leave your house. If there is any chance of a thunderstorm approaching, be sensible and stay home. When in doubt, it’s always best to save your hike for a clear day.
Pay attention to the sky once you are on the trail, as well. If you are hiking in a busier spot, take notice of other hikers who are turning back to their cars.
Know Your Fitness Level
Know what your body is capable of and don’t put yourself in a tricky situation by taking on more than you can handle.
If you tend to puff and wheeze by the time you get to the top of a flight of stairs, start with a short trail and opt for flat terrain. By starting with shorter walks, you’ll give yourself the chance to assess your fitness level and take the most comfortable pace for you.
Remember: It’s not a race. There is no hurry to complete the longest trails at the fastest pace — and pushing yourself too hard is a surefire way to invite injury and nip your new-found hobby in the bud.
Tell Someone You Trust Where You Are Going
Let a good friend or family member know where you are going to hike and what time you intend to be home. By doing so, you ensure that in the unlikely event that something happens to you on the trail, someone knows you are missing and where to look for you.
Injuries and accidents happen to even the most experienced hikers, so it is always smart to ensure that someone knows your whereabouts.
Don’t just provide information on the general area that you are hiking — be precise about which route you are taking and don’t change plans at the last minute.
Be Familiar With The Area
Study the terrain and be conscious of the timing of your hike to ensure you are leaving more than enough time to complete the walk before it begins to get dark. Are there any special navigational instructions, detours or closures on the trail? If so, take note, and plan your hike accordingly.
Have all the facts on hand before you set out, and pack a map and compass, just in case. You may have GPS on your phone, but the old-fashioned method doesn’t require a charged battery.
Stick To The Path
No matter how tempting the view just off the trail might be, always stick to the marked paths. If you take an unknown route, you put yourself at a much greater risk of getting lost — and in the end, no view is worth taking that chance.
It is also worth noting that in many national parks, it is illegal to hike off the trails. This is because your off-path adventures can seriously damage the delicate flora and fauna underfoot.
Plan Before You Pack
Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need by doing a little research on how others approach packing for a day hike.
Double check that your backpack is comfortable to wear, and also ensure the overall weight is something you can manage. Keep your survival knife within easy reach in a pocket or attached to your belt.
Be mindful of the climate. In the summer, it’s important to always have sunscreen and a hat while in the cooler months, an extra warm layer can be invaluable. Packing a couple of extra snacks is a smart choice year-round.
Have A Knife On Your Person
Knives have many uses when you are out in the wilderness, and keeping a high quality, dependable everyday survival knife on your person can make all the difference.
Aside from the obvious uses, like opening plastic food packages and cutting up your lunch, a knife can be a great help when it comes to fire preparation.
When you pack a survival knife, you can make fire sticks or prepare kindling more easily, should you need to warm yourself an emergency.
Carry A First Aid Kit
Always carry a first aid kit and familiarize yourself with using it before you hit the trail.
Accidents happen and being prepared for emergencies is always wise. Minor scrapes and insect bites are commonplace. Being able to treat these on the spot can immediately ease any discomfort.
There is a wide range of pre-prepared first aid kits available to suit all budgets, although it is always advisable to buy the best you can afford.
Take Plenty Of Water
This one should go without saying, really, but it is easy to underestimate how important it is to drink sufficiently while exercising. Err on the side of caution and bring more water than you think you might need.
If you are uncomfortable carrying water in a bottle, consider a water reservoir that fits directly into your backpack. These allow you to drink more easily while on the move.
Wear Appropriate Gear
Sturdy, comfortable walking boots or shoes are a must. If you need ankle support, opt for boots over shoes.
Don’t ever wear your brand-new footwear for the first time on the trail. Anyone who has will tell you that it leads to a day of nursing blisters.
In general, layers are the way to go if you want to be consistently comfortable. Waterproof layers are lightweight and easy to stash in your backpack, and it is always worth packing a jacket and pants for the inevitable moments when the weather doesn’t behave as expected.
Dress according to the current temperature but ensure you have a spare warm layer, just in case. You’ll likely find your temperature oscillating more than usual as you work up a sweat and then cool down when you stop for a break.
Being prepared for your solo hike can mean the difference between a day getting back to the great outdoors and a miserable, potentially dangerous event. Take the time to prepare adequately, and you will experience the empowering feeling of accomplishing a solo hike.
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