Hiking is one of the best ways to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of a destination, and for many travelers, it brings the sense of adventure they are looking for in their travel experiences. Whether it is a quick day hike or a multi-day hiking adventure, one rule of thumb is to never hike alone. But, if you don’t have any travel companions or none of your friends want to hike with you, don’t worry, you can still hike to the summit yourself.
Here I’ll share with you five tips that will help you make that solo hiking experience a safe and enjoyable experience.
As a solo hiker myself, I know how daunting it feels to take on this kind of adventure on your own. What if something happens to me? What if it’s harder or worse than I expect? Those and more questions come to mind, but the best way to answer them is by informing yourself about the hike before leaving.
Do your proper research online to try to answer at least the following questions:
For popular hikes in most countries, this information can be easily obtained online. If you don’t find information online, ask in your hotel or around local camping shops, as they might have some information about the trail.
Having the right equipment is crucial for a safe experience. The following are some of the most essential things you should have for any hike: map of the area or trail, water, food (or high energy snacks if a short hike), compass, wet weather gear, flashlight, and sunscreen.
Should you be hiking for more than a day, it will be essential to also carry: tent, cooking utensils, fire starter, knife, first aid kit, water treatment/purifier kit, extra socks, mosquito repellent, and duct tape, among others.
As a general rule of thumb, you should always stay on the marked trail, but if the trail is known to not be an easy one, it is recommended to carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB or tracking transmitter) to help the emergency rescue in case you get lost.
These days, it’s also good to upload the Google maps of the trail area on your phone (app) because even when there’s no phone signal or you’re on airplane mode, the phone still updates your location via GPS.
That hiking experience might look beautiful and amazing on paper, but are you sure you can handle it? Can you hike 75 kilometers in 5 days or can you only hike 5 kilometers on moderate terrain? Can you climb up that mountain half way the trail?
These are realistic questions you must ask yourself. Be realistic. If you’re fit and tend to exercise, then you have more chances of completing a three week hike versus someone who doesn’t exercise or is out of shape. If you’re not sure if you’re capable of the hike, do some training before (in similar, safe terrain) to see how you perform and to acclimatize your muscles.
Additionally, test the shoes or hiking boots you’ll use on the hike to get used to them and break them in.
Never, and I mean NEVER, go hiking solo without telling anyone where you’re going. Tell your close family and/or friends about your rough plans: which trail will you take, how long it should take, any key stops on the way, and your intended return date.
Should something happen on the trail, and you don’t return on the expected date, this will alert your family/friend and probably send help your way faster.
Should you decide to change your plans along the way (hike for an extra day or take another route), only do this if you have a way to communicate your plans to your family/friends. Keep them up to date with changes, otherwise, stick to the original plan as that’s what they’ll be paying attention to.
Even seasoned travelers can get lost or suffer an accident on the trail. For this reason, make sure you are covered with travel insurance. If you suffer an injury, you could claim its medical costs. However, should you get lost and need rescuing, this would fall under a different category – Emergency Rescue. Make sure you’re covered for emergency rescue and that the coverage is significant as these rescues tend to be quite expensive – especially if it requires the use of helicopter or a search in a remote area.
No worries, there are options to still do the hike. The safest one would be to hire a guide or tour company to take you along the trail. Alternatively, before you start the hike, ask at your hotel/hostel or local camping store if there’s anyone else doing this hike. Could you join forces and hike together?
Should you feel ready to hike solo, take your time to hike at your own pace, enjoy the solitude, quiet and beautiful surroundings, but most of all, always stay safe.
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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