Hiking with others can be a beautiful way to enrich your friendships and create shared memories in the outdoors. However, there are also many benefits to hiking alone. Solo hiking affords opportunities for: 

  • Growing your sense of self-sufficiency and personal agency
  • Finding moments of peace and quiet in a busy world
  • Allowing time to process your thoughts and heal life’s aches
  • Seeing wildlife, plants, views, and others things you might otherwise miss

Solo hiking can be a wonderful experience for those interested in trying it out. But it can also be daunting if you’re new to it. Below, we’ll share some tips and tricks for solo hiking to enjoy all it has to offer.

1. Do all of the safety prep you would in any hiking situation.

When it comes to preparing for solo hiking, a main aspect is doing all of the safety precautions you would regardless of whether you're going alone or with others. These include tasks like:

  • Telling someone where you’re going, the route you intend to take, when you expect to get back, and who they should contact if they haven’t heard from you by your planned return time
  • Carrying the “ten essentials” while on trail to prepare for the unexpected, including an unplanned night in the woods
  • Taking time to plan your route, such as learning about any potential hazards along the trail, what the elevation gain and loss looks like, and where you can find water sources
  • Checking the weather forecast for the day you’re heading out, as well as the day after, and carrying appropriate gear for the conditions or rescheduling if needed
  • Knowing what to do if you encounter wildlife, thunderstorms, or other challenges along the trail
  • Bringing along a map and knowing how to read it since technology doesn’t always work in the backcountry

While you should do this type of prep regardless of whether you’re hiking alone or with others, it’s especially important to do it when hiking solo since you won’t be able to fall back on your trail companion’s prep if you miss a step.

Gossamer Gear brand ambassador Nancy East is a search and rescue team member in Haywood County, North Carolina. She has written a series of blogs that dig into the details of this preparation wonderfully, including the ten essentials. If you want to up your trail safety game, make sure to check out her articles here.

2. If you’re new to solo hiking, start small and do what feels comfortable.

Even if you’ve hiked far, remote distances with fellow backpackers before, you don’t have to plan for the same intensity on your first solo hike. Do what feels comfortable for you and what allows you to get used to being in the wilderness alone. We all learn while doing, so a short first solo hike could bring to light some ways you’d like to prepare for future solo trips that you didn’t think of before.

Choosing a more popular trail, hiking only a mile or two, or returning to a place you’ve already been before can all be great ways to dip your toes into the solo hiking experience.

3. Ask people who regularly hike solo about their experiences and what trails they suggest.

It can help soothe your nerves to talk to others who have already done what you’re hoping to do. If you know some people who regularly hike solo, chat them up! You can ask about how they prepare, how they calm any nerves, what trails they think are good for solo hiking, and anything else that comes to mind for you. Good hikers support and lift up others hikers—reach out to your community.

If you don’t personally know anyone who hikes solo, there are many online hiker forums where people can offer tips. Facebook groups, Reddit threads, and Meetup groups are just a few examples of places where you can connect with other hikers.

4. Avoid unnecessary risks.

Hiking with others provides a little more wiggle room for choosing to scramble rocks to that great view or take on that longer river crossing. However, when you’re solo hiking, especially if you’re not on a more popular trail, you’re farther away from help should one of those risks take a bad turn.

When hiking solo, be extra cautious about how you hike your hike. Watch your footing. Pass on that technical spur trail. Listen to your body to make sure you’re staying well-hydrated and have good nutrition. Take breaks to rest when you need to and also keep an eye on the time to ensure you exit the woods around your planned time.

5. Consider carrying some extra safety gear.

When hiking with groups, you may not need to carry certain items because either others in your group have them or they’re just not as necessary when multiple people are around. Consider whether there is extra gear you might want to bring along for safety. 

For example, bear spray isn’t always necessary depending on where you’re hiking and whether you’re in a group that can make sufficient noise to scare off nearby bears. However, if you’re hiking solo, you’re likely to be a lot quieter, which can increase your risk of startling a bear. In this case, you may want to carry bear spray if you’re hiking alone. 

Carrying a satellite communicator is also a useful tool to have when hiking solo in case you need to reach out for help where there isn’t cell reception.

6. Use solo hiking time as a walking meditation.

Take full advantage of the sheer loveliness of solo hiking by incorporating a mindfulness practice. Being in nature is a great time to quiet your mind and ground yourself in the moment. If you’d like some tips for quieting your mind while on the trail, make sure to check out our blog on the topic here!

7. Hike solo—with someone else!

Not quite ready to be out there all alone? Try being alone with someone else! If you have another friend who is interested in solo hiking, consider planning routes within the same wilderness area or trail system. This way, you know someone else you trust is also out there and that you’ll both be making sure the other gets off the trail safely. 

You can plan routes where your paths will cross at certain points, each hike the same trail but in different directions, start a trail together and then split at a fork, or any other number of route options. But at the end of the day, you’ll meet each other off the trail and be able to share your solo tales together.

8. Trust your instincts.

That feeling you get in your gut sometimes about a particular situation is a powerful tool. Listen to it. If a person, place, or situation feels off to you, trust that feeling and do what you need to do to best protect yourself.

Enjoy the Benefits of Solo Hiking Through Thoughtful Preparation

Solo hiking can be a peaceful, enriching experience. If it’s something you’ve been wanting to try, use these tips and tricks to prepare for your first solo hiking trip.

And, as always, we’d love to share in the adventures you go on once you’re safely off the trail! Share them with us by tagging us on social media (@gossamergear) and using the hashtag #takelessdomore.
July 20, 2022 — Korrin Bishop