Most people advise not to hike alone, which I agree, especially if you’re hiking in places with very little foot traffic and in areas you aren’t familiar with. But sometimes going alone is a must. Maybe you couldn’t find a traveling buddy or simply wish to have the silence of a solo trip in nature.
After living in Montana for two years and trekking throughout the mountains, I saw many types of hikers. There are the pros to the rookies and everyone in-between. I’ve witness stores try and sell hiking tools and tips to those who have more money than common sense. If hiking stores and the horror stories of solo hikers paralyze you, don’t fear. I’ll give you my tips that’ll make you feel more comfortable hitting the trails on your own.
Pack Snacks and Supplies
When you’re packing your backpack for a hike, be sure to pack plenty of food. If you know you’re going on a long hike, pack a sandwich for lunch. Nuts and fruit are always a good idea (especially if you’re like me and get grouchy if you don’t eat every two hours). Make sure to bring a full water bottle. Even if you’re only hiking for an hour, make sure to have at least one extra bottle of water and at least a granola bar. If you decide to go a little further, or if the weather turns on you, it’s better to be prepared. Packing a first aid with some band aids, a small knife or scissors, needle and thread, and a small flashlight can be very handy if you hit any trouble. An extra pair of socks are also a good idea. Anything is bound to get wet and socks take the longest to dry.
Don’t Waste Your Money on Useless Supplies
Stores will try to sell you so much useless gear such as walking sticks, bear spray, and bear bells. If you feel safer with any of these tools, then buy them. Hiking alone is all about feeling comfortable and safe. If you feel uncertain at the start you just invite trouble. I find though that those who buy unnecessary gear are usually large families who are going on populated trails and are already loud and don’t need bells. Bear/animal tools such as sprays are for those who are going on isolated trails and are so quiet, they sneak up on the predator animals. You shouldn’t be those people, so you won’t need the tools. Animals are just as scared of you. If you’re in the mountains or a place like Montana any sprays will be moved by the wind and be useless. They also have a good chance of coming back on you. What to buy if anything:
- Trail map: usually these are free, but if they aren’t and if you’re going on a complex trail, make sure to have one.
- Food: always.
- Hand warmers: If you’re hiking when it’s colder out. It can also be handy to have these in your car if you’re driving around a national park during a snowy time.
But really anything can be bought before going to the trail site. Any store near hiking trails or national parks will have their supplies marked up from regular stores.
Wear Layers and Colors
Layers are your friend. Even if it’s the middle of summer, having a sweater and wearing pants are ideal. Especially in the mountains, where weather can be unpredictable. If it rains, it’s better to be prepared. Paths can also be overgrown sometimes. If you ever slip and fall, you’ll also be less likely to severely hurt yourself if you’re wearing jeans than shorts. Don’t wear dark colors if you’re hiking alone, too. Bright colors will allow for other hikers to see you if you get in trouble. It will also allow animals to spot you and not have you sneak up on them.
Know the Trail
Know your limits as a hiker. If you’re not used to hiking in the area that you’re going to, start with a short hour long hike. Make sure you’re on a populated trail if you’re soloing. This doesn’t mean you need to be surrounded by people, but that about every twenty minutes you pass another hiker. Usually waterfall trails are fairly populated. They are uphill hikes and can be long treks, but the trails are safe if anything happens. Trails will often with a little research tell you if they’ll be filled with animals. If you know that animals could be around and no one is around you and you feel nervous, feel free to sing or whistle every so often. No one will make fun of you and this will do the same thing as annoying bells. If bears hear you coming, they’ll stay away from you. Bringing a dog on trails that allows them can also allow you to stay safe and think about yourself and your limits while thinking of another living thing’s limits.
Use Common Sense
- Don’t go petting or feeding wildlife.
- Stay on the path for you don’t know what’s off it. Or at least stay within sight of the path.
- Don’ t hike at night.
- Populated trails are your friend.
- Pushing yourself to achieve a goal is great, but if you’re pushing yourself down a trail, know that you’ll have to make the same trek back.
Hiking can be the best way to get in tune with nature and yourself. I find that if I ever feel stressed hiking can calm my mind. Thankfully hiking by yourself doesn’t have to be scary, so go out there and take in the fresh air while staying safe.