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Tips for Hiking Alone/Solo

Woman standing in the water with the mountains behind her 2
Woman standing in the water with the mountains behind her 2

I started hiking solo because I got tired of waiting for someone to be able to go with me. Yolo, right?!

 

At first, it was scary, I would freak myself out at the slightest sound. But I started with short local hikes with my roommate’s dog. Just having a dog there with me brought some comfort. If for nothing else but to have someone to talk to!

 

Then I learned about the SoCal 6 Pack of Peaks and I really needed elevation training since I was preparing for Mt. Whitney. So then I pushed further out of my comfort zone and hiked to Mt. Baldy and San Bernardino Peak.

 

Then July came around and I got a last-minute permit to Mt. Whitney. Again, my friend couldn’t go. So I drove up the 395 solo on Friday after work. I’ve been on this drive many times before, but this was my first time solo. I picked up my permit and drove up to Portal to camp at 11pm. I was scared but so excited. I was here and tomorrow I was hiking Whitney. I slept in my car but barely got any sleep, I was so nervous. Then after a few hours of tossing and turning, around 1am I saw a lot of headlamps at the parking lot, so I decided to get up. I started hiking solo at 2:30am, right after I saw a bear in the parking lot.

 

Honestly, I have no idea how I talked myself into that one. And surprisingly I was very calm when I got up, got dressed, saw the bear and started hiking. Up to that point, that was the earliest I had ever started hiking, I had never seen a bear either. But I just did it. I got up and started hiking.

 

Along the way, I ended up meeting other hikers and tagging along for a bit here and there. Everyone was extremely kind and supportive.

 

I didn’t make it because I got altitude sickness. Lesson learned, don’t drive up from sea level, sleep for two hours and start hiking to 14,505 feet. Bad idea. But even though I didn’t make it, this was a huge turning point for me with hiking. I got up, drove solo, camped alone, started at 2:30am solo, and saw a bear!

 

Now sometimes I hike solo and other times I hike with others. I’m a very social person and I really enjoy the company, but sometimes I just want to do me and clear my head.

 

Learning to be comfortable hiking solo has been an extremely empowering experience.

 

Here are my tips for getting out there and hiking solo. It’s a process and your comfort for it won’t happen overnight.

HIKE THE POPULAR TRAILS

It’s a huge comfort to know there are others on the trail, especially when you’re just getting started and your mind is taking you through everything that could possibly go wrong.

 

Popular trails are usually easier to navigate, you can ask people questions or for help along the way. Even local trails that you’ve done before are a great place to start. You just want to pick places that will ease your mind and ease you into being comfortable being solo.

YOU WILL MAKE FRIENDS ON THE TRAIL

Almost every solo trip, I’ve made friends on the trail. I just chat with people along the way and it’s the best way to make friends with people who are interested in the same thing as you.

BE PREPARED

Don’t completely disregard your fears. Things can go wrong and you need to be prepared if they do. Carry enough food and water, bring sunscreen, headlamp, a map, and jacket in case the weather changes.

 

I also like to carry an In-Reach device especially if I’m going somewhere with no cell reception. I carry the Garmin In-Reach Explorer + so I can send texts, have a digital map, and have SOS. I also always carry a knife, solo or not. It comes in handy for everything!

TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU’RE GOING

Again, better safe than sorry! Let someone know so if you’re not home by a certain time, they can call for help. Keep doing this even after you’ve been hiking solo for a while. And do this even when you’re going with someone.

KNOW IT’S MENTALLY CHALLENGING

You will be scared, your mind will run you through the worst case scenario, and just know that hiking solo is almost 100% a mental challenge.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

Yes, your mind will run through the worst case scenario, but your instincts are telling you that something is off, trust them. If you feel it’s getting late and you should turn around, do it. If you’re running low on water and need to turn around, do it. If you saw a creep on the trail who made you feel uncomfortable, get on the defensive. If the camp spot feels creepy, don’t camp there, keep walking until you find something better. Keep yourself safe.

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Comments:

  • Sheena

    March 26, 2019

    Thanks for sharing the story and tips, very encouraging. I have been trapped with not hiking alone for years, its time for going solo to avoid dramas, or being a drama.

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  • Mark Camou

    March 27, 2019

    I hike alone too. It is really nice just walking and getting into the sights, sounds and smells of nature. I have friends that say they want to go with me but it usually never happens so I usually go it alone. I live in Corona, Ca. and hike Baldy, Claremont Wilderness and The Cleveland Nat’l Forest. Just got back from the Cleveland tonight. I like your pic with the dog. Looks like he is wearing socks. I want to go to the San Gorgon Wilderness sometime. Just haven’t made it that far East yet. By the way, what is the Garmin gadget that you mentioned. I think about having a problem on the trail and there is no cell service. Maybe that is what I need. How does it differ from a cell phone? If this is an instagram post, I won’t see your response as I don’t do instagram but you can look me up on Facebook. Mark Camou. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Jenny Kotlyar

      March 27, 2019

      Hi Mark,

      The Garmin InReach Explorer + is a satellite communication device. Cell phones work off cell signal, this works off of satellite, so you don’t need to have cell reception to communicate. You can send text messages through it, topo maps, SOS, weather forecasting, navigate and more. The In Reach does require a subscription with purchase of device in order to work. But they have monthly options so if you won’t be hiking in a certain month, you can cancel the plan for that month. Monthly plans start as low as $15/month.

      It’s different than a satellite phone in that you can’t call on it, and if you need SOS, it sends your exact coordinates to the help center who then can walk you through text of what to do until SAR arrives. You also have an interactive map so you can see exactly where you are and where the trail is.

      I also just wanted to clarify that it’s on my blog and not on Instagram. Also the pup isn’t wearing socks, she just has white paws. She’s part Aussie.

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  • Lilace

    May 2, 2019

    Well said. I hate that people are still giving solo women grief when they see them on the trail. Not all of course, but the fact that any are irritates me. The trail away from the parking lot is statistically safer than a woman’s home. And all the women who hike with a guy they don’t know real well–because it’s drilled into us that we’re safer with a guy–are just putting themselves at risk of sexual assault.

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  • Dawn

    June 2, 2019

    I usually hike alone because i enjoy the time to clear my head and go at my own pace. But i stopped hiking 6 mths ago because of everything i see on the news. It has scared me. I miss hiking so much !!

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