Paula Casey of Gabor Shoes shares her brilliant guide and infographic if you are new to solo hiking and want to learn more about planning a hike safely. Following the article, look out for the infographic, How To Prepare For A Full-Day Hike.
Testing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone is so beneficial for your mind, spirit and body. There are infinite reasons for challenging your limits and circumstances while entering the discomfort zone. Yet, some activities can feel somewhat intimidating when taken on solo.
In particular, hiking has so many positives, including building cardiovascular endurance, and affordability also goes in its favour. However, solo hiking is also one that can, very understandably, feel daunting and could even be anxiety-inducing. In this article, we’re looking at how to embark on solo hikes safely, so you can spend more time in nature and embrace the road not taken at home and further afield.
1 Plan your route for minimising risk
First and foremost, have a clear idea of where you’re going before you head out. While this might seem like a simple and obvious thing to do, there is a chance you may misjudge the trail and terrain, you don’t understand the route signage, and you could even be hiking in the wrong season (trust us, this happens).
Doing your research and planning your route also makes sure it’s the right trail for you which is an unexpected upside to solo hiking: you are the only person you need to please when making destination decisions! So spend some time delving into apps, travel guides, national park websites, and even visitor’s centre resources to discover new hiking destinations and collating your wishlist.
2 Gauge nuanced concerns
Secondly, when it comes to erring on the side of risks that could be more gendered, some tactical precautions around when you hike could contribute to greater peace of mind and help your overall planning. If you have any concerns about your vulnerability or other nuanced risks, taking charge of what you can control is a crucial planning component that reassures you.
Read up on:
- how busy trails are,
- how remote they are, and
- whether you have access to a mobile signal while you’re out there.
Specifics like this can be empowering as you can prepare for key factors such as:
- people being around (which can minimise any fears about solo risks and being targeted),
- the likelihood of anyone being nearby should you encounter difficulties and need help, and,
- whether you would have the capacity to contact help via phone if needed.
As part of this, even if it’s a hike that’s popular for sunrise or sunset, you will need to reflect within your planning if you mind hiking in low or little light where it can be more challenging when you’re hiking solo and so on.
3 Assess the environmental dangers
A concern for absolutely everyone is injury from animals, insects, plants, uneven ground and unpredictable weather! As part of your safe solo hiking planning, you will need to research what you’re likely to encounter and organise gear protective gear, a first aid kit, and possibly even train for conditions or animals.
In general, be aware of what dangers you could be facing and take necessary safety precautions such as delaying a hike due to bad weather or using strong mosquito repellant in tropical regions.
4 Slowly work up to longer hikes
This might seem obvious, yet it’s also common and quite normal to overestimate your fitness resulting in you possibly becoming unwell on a hike with logical risks. If you’re very unfamiliar with a hiking region or aren’t regularly exercising, start small with a 1-2 hour trail, then work up to full-day trails, overnight trips and trekking adventures. This has the hidden win of accomplishing trails on your wishlist and working towards dream experiences like summiting mountains or through-hiking.
5 Pack a backpack with the right supplies
This post’s theme is how important it is for solo hikers to think about their safety in terms of preparation. However, we should note that this applies to everyone, no matter the context! Part of preparing for things to go wrong is taking adequate supplies, including:
- water and healthy food supplies,
- wearing the right clothes and shoes, including layers for varying temperatures,
- preparing for the elements with a hat and sunscreen as well as extremity items (e.g. gloves, beanie, sunglasses),
- a first-aid kit,
- navigation equipment, including a phone with downloaded maps,
- a power bank for emergency charging
- and a compass.
With all these items, research will also help with knowing what items are needed and managing an emergency situation should you need to.
6 Be careful about your social footprint
Without sounding cliched, an often unconsidered part of safety is your social footprint and how this can make you an easy target. Be considered about what you post online, such as posting that you’re solo on a highly accessible trail in real-time and if your posting shows a pattern of regularly being at the same place at the same time. If you are still okay with posting, as an extra precaution, always make sure someone knows where you are. This is a hugely important safety principle for any solo hike you take, just in case something happens. Let someone know exactly where you’re going.
7 Enjoy hiking solo & find ways to have independence within groups
Lastly, prioritise your solo hiking and being on the front foot about safety. This is an excellent habit for self-sufficiency, building confidence, being a leader, and developing strong travel and life skills.
You’ll also be an asset when hiking with a group, gain expert knowledge through regularly hitting the trails, and you’ll be able to comfortably separate from a group and then rejoin them if you’re not solo. Overall, the more solo hiking you do, the more you learn about yourself, and you’ll be realising dreams along the way.
A resource for planning a full-day hike
To build upon this further, Gabor Shoes developed this infographic, ‘How To Plan Your First Day Hike’, as a practical resource for anyone looking to spend more time outdoors. Whether you’re more experienced on the trails or just getting started, this guide covers more tips for safe hiking so you can enjoy solo adventures and look after anyone you’re out with at the same time!