I have always loved being alone in nature. Unlike most people I have not had much fear when it comes to being alone on a hike. My husband likes to tell me that I have an unnatural "overconfidence" when it comes to being alone.
But I like to call it being prepared.
The reason I have never really had a fear is because ever since I was a child I have been prepared on how to protect myself. But I also know that not everyone has had that same training and that has unfortunately kept them from the liberating experience of hiking alone. Of being able to go at your own pace, experience the hike in your own way.
It's honestly an experience that all should take in at least once.
So I wanted to create a post that helps other wandering spirits break through that glass ceiling and move into the next level of your hike.
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You're not going to want to start your hiking journey on a 15 mile trail that you've never been on and is in the next state over. Instead, when you are first starting out on your solo hiking journey it's really best to start with a local trail and something small that you know well. If you start out on a trail that you are already familiar with this is going to release some of the anxiety that you might have from being solo so at the very least would recommend a trail you know.
Pick a popular trail
If you find yourself getting nervous about going out on a solo hike then pick a trail near you that is popular and family friendly. It is also a good idea to pick a trail that you already know.
By picking a familiar trail that is relatively easy and well marked, you know what to expect and you can be less anxious. As much as I hate crowds while hiking, it can help someone solo hiking mentally to get over that fear of being alone.
Do this a couple of times on your own until you get into a groove and hiking alone becomes more comfortable to you. Even if it takes you 100 times before you finally get comfortable, it doesn't matter as long as you take the time to get comfortable in your hiking abilities. Just know that you can do this!
Make sure your pack is prepared
Whenever you hike, whether or not it's a solo hike or a hike with a group; you want to make sure that you have the ten essentials in your pack. These will help you in an emergency:
Navigation (i.e. map and compass)
First Aid kit
Protection (knife/bear spray)
Let Someone know where you are
It's always a good idea to let someone know where you will be hiking (whether or not you're solo hiking or not). Whenever I do a solo hike I like to send my coordinates and then I might periodically send them throughout my hike if I have service. Although I haven't been able to personally invest in one, it is a really good idea to invest in a PLB (Personal Location Beacon).
My friend on the other hand has this one that she uses every time we hike and it is great and works really well. This little guy will allow you to exchange text messages as well as send out an SOS message with your location. Overall it brings her and me peace of mind when we are on the trail.
Get out of your own head
A lot of your fear of solo hiking is going to be mental. Even more of that comes from something being new and not knowing enough about it. The best way that I get myself prepared for anything in life whether it's standing up in front of the Judge in a courtroom or going on a hike with my kids, is I study or as my husband likes to call it, I "nerd out".
Read articles about hiking and backpacking so that you feel more prepared. Make a plan and learn as much as you can. Before I hit a new trail I like to go on my AllTrails app and read different reviews about the trail as well as looking at the different pictures that have been posted that way I know what to expect. Reading books about solo female hikers can also be a big help because you will get into the mindset and see how these women overcame their fears and were able to persevere.
Here are some of my favorites:
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey On the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Thirst: 2600 Miles To Home by Heather Anderson
I would say that this goes without saying; however when I first started hiking solo, I will admit I was not safe. I had my headphones in, I would go out on the trail without letting anyone know where I was going. The only safe thing I probably did was take my dog with me. I was incredibly lucky that nothing happened.
Instead of doing this, I would really recommend being vigilant while out hiking. Pay attention to your surroundings and who is on the trail with you. In all honesty you should never hike with earbuds inn because not only is this going to make it more difficult for your to pay attention to your surroundings, it also lets people believe that you are an easy mark. Not only that, you want to be able to hear sounds of an animal near by!
Overall, you do not need to be afraid to go hiking solo. Solo hiking can be so freeing.
You don't have to wait on someone to go with you.
You get to go where you want to go and when you want to go there.
You can take the trail at your own pace. There are times when I like absolutely booking it to the top of the summit, whereas there are other times I like taking my time and taking pictures/gathering content ideas and I feel like I can't do that when I am worried that another person is annoyed with me.
Solo hiking is definitely going to give you a confidence boost as well as help you with preparing and feeling much more confident on the trail.
There is just something about being alone in nature. It's a feeling you cannot beat.
At the end of the day, you don't want to do something that makes you beyond uncomfortable. That's not the point of this article. If you are just not comfortable with it then maybe join some hiking groups on Facebook like the Wandering Queens.
Hike smart, and if you feel uncomfortable on the trail it is always okay to turn around. My last peace of advice I'd like to leave you with is my favorite saying from CrimeJunkie Podcast: "Be rude, Be weird, Stay alive." If someone is making you uncomfortable call them out on it, if they are staring at you stare right back and let them know you see them. And be aware of your surroundings.
Solo hiking can be so liberating, so go out there and have some fun!