How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip

When you first consider hiking by yourself, it can be daunting. However, the benefits greatly outweigh any initial hurdle. To help ease your mind and give you confidence on your first solo hike, this blog post will explain how to plan the perfect solo hiking trip.

Hiking solo in the wilderness can be a liberating experience. With nobody around to help you if something goes wrong, it tests your ability to think quickly and solve problems on the fly.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors by yourself.

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Benefits of hiking alone

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Hiking in B.C.

1. The alone time can help you clear your head and relieve stress. A solo hike is good for your mental health.

After all, it’s hard to feel stressed or overwhelmed when you’re gazing up at a majestic mountain peak or watching the sun set over the ocean horizon!

2. It gives you time to reflect and think about important things in your life.

Being surrounded by breathtaking scenery and listening to the sounds of birdsong and rustling leaves has a way of clearing your mind and putting things into perspective.

3. It helps you appreciate the little things in life that we often take for granted.

By stepping away from our busy lives and into nature, we can reset our priorities and realize what’s truly important.

4. It allows you to enjoy nature and move at your own pace. Plus, without chatting with a hiking partner you’ll have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Mushrooms along the trail

5. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence. Additionally, being out in nature on your own fosters feelings of self-reliance and encourages a sense of resilience.

Through solo hiking, we can explore our own strengths while connecting with the natural world around us.

Planning your solo hike

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Ask a fellow hiker to take a picture of you

Now, let’s move on to the more practical aspects of solo hiking. In short, choose your trail carefully and do your research so you know what to expect in terms of trail conditions. This will then help to guide you with the rest of your preparations.

1. Choose a safe destination: Make sure to pick a place that is not too remote or dangerous. Do some research on the area beforehand and be aware of any potential risks.

If you’re hesitant about hiking alone, start with a shorter hike in an area that you’re familiar with.

2. Tell someone where you’re going: Let a friend or family member know your hiking plans.

This way, they can call for help if you don’t return when expected.

3. Bring the essentials: Pack plenty of food and water, a first-aid kit, a map and compass, and appropriate clothing for the conditions.

4. Be prepared for the unexpected: Be aware of your surroundings and always have a plan in case you get lost or injured.

5. Have fun: Remember, the point of solo hiking is to enjoy yourself!

So relax, take your time, and savour the experience.

Solo hiking tips to build trail confidence

1. Choose a popular trail

By exploring popular hiking trails during your first solo hike, you can gain much-needed experience while also remaining within a safe and controlled environment.

These well-maintained trails are easily accessible and often equipped with signage and/or markers that will guide you along your journey.

Additionally, these popular trails are typically located in designated national parks, where there are rangers and fellow hikers available to help in the event of an emergency.

Furthermore, you should research whether you need a permit or if there are any national park fees.

Things such as parking and logistics are important to know about in advance, as well as park closure times.

The last thing you want is to return to your car after a long hike only to discover that the parking lot gate is locked.

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Popular hiking trail

2. Let others know your hiking plans

Before heading out on any solo hikes, it’s important to let somebody else know where you’re going and when you expect to return.

This way, if something does happen and you don’t come back when expected, someone will know to come looking for you.

3. Know your strengths and your limits

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Solo hiker on trail

When choosing to hike alone, make sure to pick a hiking trail that’s within your ability level.

A good rule of thumb is to only hike trails that you’ve done before and are familiar with until you feel confident to venture out further.

Learn about the hiking trail ahead of time, that way you’ll know what to expect in terms of elevation gain, distance, and difficulty. It will also help prevent you from getting lost.

4. Check the weather

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Check the weather prior to hiking

This might seem like common sense, but it’s important to always check the weather report before heading out on a hike.

You don’t want to be caught in a thunderstorm or blizzard, so knowing what the conditions will be like is crucial especially when hiking alone.

5. Bring plenty of food and water

When hiking alone, plan to bring more than enough snacks and water to keep yourself hydrated and energized.

To be on the safe side, bring water purification tablets with you so if you happen to run out of water, you can fill up from any source.

I also like to leave a bottle of water and an energy bar in my car for the ride home.

6. Bring first-aid supplies

My osprey backpack and medical kit
How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
My osprey backpack and medical kit

No matter how short or easy your day hikes are, always bring a first-aid kit.

So if you do injure yourself, you have the necessary supplies you need to treat your injury.

7. Bring a map and compass

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
My compass with mirror and map

If you’re hiking in an area that you’re not familiar with, make sure to bring a map and compass.

Learn how to read the map and compass before heading out. And while out on your hike, keep a mental note of any landmarks to help you keep your bearings.

8. Be aware of your surroundings

When hiking solo, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and the trail conditions.

This means keeping an eye out for potential hazards, such as steep drop-offs or wildlife.

By paying attention to your surroundings, you can avoid dangerous situations.

9. Don’t wear headphones

One of the most important solo hiking safety tips is to avoid wearing headphones. When you have headphones in, you can’t hear what’s going on around you.

This means you might not hear a bear coming. It’s important to be able to hear your surroundings so you can react quickly to any potential danger.

10. Learn about the local wildlife

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Black bear

Before heading out on a solo hike in bear country, it is important to do your research and learn about the local wildlife.

This will help you to be prepared for the potential dangers that you may encounter along the way, and will also allow you to spot any wild animals that you may come across.

Some key tools to keep on hand include bear spray and bear bells, which can help to alert bears of your presence and may ward them off.

You should also remember that there are other dangerous animals to watch out for as well, such as wolves, snakes or mountain lions.

Whether you are hiking in densely wooded areas or more open spaces, it is crucial to stay alert at all times and use common sense when navigating your surroundings.

11. Turn back if needed and trust your gut

If the weather takes a turn for the worse or you injure yourself, don’t be afraid to turn back. It’s better to cut your own hike short than to push on and put yourself in a dangerous situation.

Additionally, if you ever feel like something is wrong, trust your gut and know your own boundaries.

There is no shame in turning back if you feel unsafe.

12. Start small and build confidence

Being a solo hiker is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

But it’s important to start small and build up your outdoor skills before tackling longer hikes.

13. Park your car in a conspicuous spot

When you’re solo hiking, it’s important to leave your car in a conspicuous spot.

Just in case something happens and you don’t return when expected, someone will know to come looking for you.

Be sure to leave information about your hike inside your car, such as the trail name, intended destination, and expected return time.

14. Bring your cellphone

Although you may not always have service, it’s still a good idea to bring your cell phone.

You’ll be able to keep track of time and take pictures of any posted trail maps along the way.

And if you do get lost or injured, you can call for help (if you’re in service range).

15. Bring a portable charger

Make sure to bring a portable charger for your cellphone. This way, if you do need to use your phone, you’ll have enough battery power to do so.

16. Pack light

When you hike solo, it’s important to pack light. This way, you’re not weighed down by a lot of extra gear and you’ll be able move quickly if you need to.

Be sure to pack the ten essentials though, read our article Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike to help you prepare for your solo hike.

17. Bring your dog

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Solo female hiker with dogs

If you’ve got a four-legged hiking buddy, think about bringing them along on your next hike- as long as the trail is appropriate for dogs, of course.

Having a dog as a hiking partner has many benefits. Not only are they great company, but they can also help keep us safe when we are hiking alone.

Just keep in mind you’ll need a water source for your dog.

18. Navigation Equipment

A hiking GPS or satellite communicator can be a great investment if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking.

These devices can help you find your way back to the trail if you get lost and can also be used to call for help in an emergency.

19. Keep track of time

When hiking by yourself, it is crucial to keep an eye on the time and know when the sun goes down.

This way, you can stay on schedule and make sure you don’t have to walk back to your car in the dark.

A watch or cellphone can be used to keep track of time as well as your steps.

Tips for the female solo hiker

Although I believe that the risks associated with hiking alone are relatively genderless, solo female hikers may face some unique challenges.

So here are a few tips to help you stay safe on the trail:

First, gain some outdoor skills by backpacking with a more experienced hiker.

You’ll be able to pick up some good safety tips and gain valuable experience while getting comfortable with your surroundings.

Learn how to pack light and how much you can realistically carry without getting tired too quickly.

Next, it’s important to stick with a popular trail at first and trust your gut.

Don’t post your location on social media until you’re back home.

Also if you ever feel unsafe hiking, don’t hesitate to turn back or call for help.

Carry a whistle and bear spray to make some noise while out on the trail and keep yourself safe.

It’s a good idea to check in with the park ranger at the beginning and end of your hike, and sign the logbook!

All other tips on this page will still apply.

Trail etiquette 101: The basic rules of hiking

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Rocky mountains

Just like any activity, there are certain rules that should be followed when hiking.

These rules of etiquette will help you make the most of your hike and ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

1. Yield to uphill hikers

If you’re hiking on a trail that allows for two-way traffic, be sure to yield to uphill hikers.

This will help them maintain their momentum and make it easier for them to pass.

2. Control your dog

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone is delighted by an over-enthusiastic pooch! So if you’re hiking with a dog, be sure to keep it under control at all times.

This means keeping it on a leash and not letting it roam free. Always make sure your pup stays within control and does not approach anybody too quickly, especially children.

This will help to prevent your dog from disturbing other hikers or wildlife.

You don’t want to be the person responsible for disrupting everyone’s peaceful mountain experience!

3. Pack out what you pack in

Be sure to pack out all of your trash and any litter that you see on the trail.

This helps to keep the trails clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.

4. Leave rocks and plants untouched

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Discovered this fungus on a hike

Resist the urge to move rocks or plants when you’re hiking.

This can disturb the natural ecosystem and cause erosion.

5. Be considerate of other hikers

How To Plan The Perfect Solo Hiking Trip
Local trail on chilly fall day

Be sure to be considerate of other hikers when you’re on the trail.

This means not making too much noise, don’t block the trail, and not hiking more than two abreast.

By following these basic rules of etiquette, you can help to make the trails a safe and enjoyable place for everyone.

Final thoughts

There is something inherently peaceful about being immersed in nature.

And that’s why I believe that taking time out for yourself to go on a solo hike is a great opportunity to unwind and rejuvenate, You won’t regret it!

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