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October 28, 2016 3 min read

Socks for Your Next Adventure

Tips for Staying Safe on a Solo Hike

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

 

Hiking alone can be peaceful and the perfect way to spend some quality time with yourself. Hiking alone can also be terrifying. Is that a cougar stalking me? Is that bearded dude hiking towards me dangerous? And what about Bigfoot? Don't worry those fears are mostly just in your head (except for Bigfoot) and taking a solo hike has some major advantages. You won't need to worry about that friend that's never on time, or waiting at the top of every switch back for a slow hiking partner, and you get to be fully in charge of the adventure you have. While hiking alone isn't as safe as using the buddy system and hiking with a friend, there are a few simple things you can do to have an epic solo adventure.   

 

Take the Time to Plan

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

Planning is extra important when hiking alone. Check the weather report for the area you will be hiking, and adjust your gear and clothing accordingly. Research the trail you plan to hike online. Reading recent trail reports will let you know what to expect and provide important tips about finding the trailhead, trail conditions, warnings about bear activity and more. If being alone in the woods gives you anxiety, look for a trail that is well traveled. Hiking a popular trail will ensure you are usually within eyesight or earshot of other hikers. 

 

Tell Family and Friends Where You are Hiking

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

Do you want to end up cutting your arm off with a pocket knife or starving to death in the backcountry? Well, that is what can happen if you don't let someone know where you are going. Ok, that might be an unlikely scenario, but it happened to Aron Ralston and Chris McCandless. Letting someone know where you are going is as easy as calling your mom or texting a friend. Tell them where you are hiking with details about the trailhead and destination (especially if the trail branches off to different destinations), and when you hope to be home. Let them know you will call or text them when you are back safe and sound. 

 

Bring the 10 Essentials

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

You should have the 10 Essentials with you on every hike, but on a solo hike they become even more important. If something goes wrong you need to be prepared to build a fire, treat injuries, and survive the elements all on your own.

The 10 Essentials Are:

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun Protection
  3. Insulation
  4. Illumination
  5. First-Aid Supplies
  6. Fire
  7. Repair Kit and Tools
  8. Nutrition
  9. Hydration
  10. Emergency Shelter

Resources: If you aren't familiar with the details of each of the ten categories of the 10 Essentials, we recommend reading our Guide to the 10 Essentials.

 

 

Know Your Limits and Hike Accordingly

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

It's ok to challenge yourself on a solo hike, but know your limits and be conservative when selecting a trail and estimating how long you will need to complete a route. Pay attention to your instincts and trust your gut. If you're feeling fatigued it's ok to turn around. If the weather takes an unexpected turn it's ok to head back to the trailhead. It's always smart to play it safe when hiking alone. 

 

Consider Investing in an Emergency Device

If you want extra peace of mind consider purchasing an emergency beacon. These tiny devices can be set to periodically update friends and family of your exact location and in an emergency can send a distress signal that will alert search and rescue.

 

Most Importantly, Have Fun!

Going Solo: Tips for Safely Hiking Alone - CloudLine Apparel

Remember, the best part of hiking alone is being free to hike your own hike. So enjoy the trail and the freedom of being able to take breaks when you want or extending your hike to check out the view from that next ridge. And don't forget to take plenty of pictures so you can share with friends post-hike.

Austin Campbell
Austin Campbell

Austin lives in the Pacific Northwest where he enjoys hiking and backpacking in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.


12 Responses

Michael Ap
Michael Ap

October 08, 2019

Love climbing 14ers, I’m at 20 now. Must admit it’s wise to do a good job of scouting your trip before hand. Take enough water, ran out on two long hikes!
I now carry a stat. phone as well, it’s piece of mind. I use a bell also on most early morning hiking in hopes of keeping critters away. Maybe I’ve been luckly. I always worry for the solo ladies hiking, have a plan. Try to be friendly, I’m often surprised at the number of stoic people hiking, can’t even return a Hello. Hiking makes me happy, enjoy…

David
David

August 31, 2019

I believe in the 11 essentials. You left one out. A good handgun or rifle. I wouldn’t carry anything whose caliber did not at least begin with a 4 or had the word magnum in it.

Paul
Paul

July 21, 2019

Most hunting and survival articles would recommend a .357 or .44 magnum be added to the list. A large hunting/camping knife and a hatchet or wire saw should be on the list. Unfortunately they all add weight.

Lin
Lin

July 20, 2019

Anyone that requires these tips might look into a basic course before heading out alone. Realizing this isn’t for you while you are out alone really is not a good thing. One must be very experienced and use to being by yourself – just don’t rely on what you found on the internet. Hiking alone could very easily turn into a life or death situation. Experience is the best teacher – not just a class, a course, or information from the internet. The best defense is between your two shoulders – common sense. Have plenty of water, water tabs or filter, navigational skills, extra food, a knife, fire starters, first aid kit, warm clothes, an emergency shelter like a space blanket – do NOT rely on electronic devices.

TheHikingGuy
TheHikingGuy

July 11, 2019

Been Solo for 55 years, couple of points to re-iterate: 1) ALWAYS carry a GOOD First-Aid Kit, WITH Trauma SubKit. 2) Best navigation device: a Compass & a Map (carry them, know how to use them). 3) Because I seem to be favored by the Gods . . . I now carry a side arm AT ALL TIMES (I have had too many close calls with “Everything”). Mostly, use common sense, stay safe, be good to everyone you meet, leave no trace.

Gabe Stoecker
Gabe Stoecker

August 16, 2018

I have done some of these essential measures when doing a solo hike yet I don’t know it all. I think that navigation is one of those unknown territories for me. Can recommend a good navigation device?

Victoria Salti
Victoria Salti

August 11, 2018

Contemplate crossing rushing creeks alone. If possible wait for others in the event of an emergency.

Kayman
Kayman

October 03, 2017

I like your tips

Brad c
Brad c

August 20, 2017

Not carrying a knife and bear spray seems dumb. Always leave an itinerary and stick to it

J
J

July 20, 2017

I carry my 9MM!

Jackie Marshall
Jackie Marshall

March 29, 2017

Glaring omission in this. The most dangerous thing out there walks on two legs and wants to do bad things to women they find alone in the backcountry. Keep that bear spray handy and don’t hesitate to use it on a two legged assailant and follow up with disabling self defense “moves” (crush their groin and put distance between you and him). Better yet, take your dog with you so you’re not entirely alone.

Pat
Pat

March 12, 2017

Before heading out on your hike, take a phone pic of yourself at the trail head and text it to you main contact along with your ETA for trail exit. It’s not only a record of your hike, but your contact can send it to authorities to show them exactly who and where to look should you need rescue.

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