Go it Alone: Plan a Safe Solo Hike
Solo travel is becoming increasingly popular, especially among millennial women who are seeking adventure in nature. Gale Staub, a seasoned adventurer and founder of She-Explores.com, captures the stories and breathtaking photographs of 40 women in the book She Explores. These women share inspiring stories of living in vans and trucks and vintage trailers, exploring wild landscapes, cooking meals over campfires, and sleeping under the stars.
Thinking about embarking on your own solo travel? Read the following tips to stay safe while hiking alone.
Tips for Solo Hiking
Hitting the trail by yourself exposes you to many of the same inherent risks you take on when you travel with a partner or group, including injury, dehydration, hypothermia, wildlife, strangers, and getting lost. But there are also built-in benefits: a clear head, undisturbed time to be yourself, and the pride you’ll take in finding your own way.
The decision to hike alone is very personal. Some may never venture to hike by themselves: for them, the risks outweigh the benefits. But for those looking to stretch their legs solo, here are some reminders to tuck in your pocket before you head out:
1. Plan your route ahead of time and let someone else know where you’re headed—a friend, family member, significant other, or local park ranger. Give them your route and timeline so they know if/when to come looking.
2. Get comfortable with the terrain, pay attention to your physical experience, and figure out a pace that works for you.
3. Trust your instincts. If an incline feels above your skill level, wait to tackle it with a partner on a future trip.
4. Choose a “turnaround” time before you set out. This is the time of day that you will turn around and head back to the trailhead, whether or not you reach your goal for the day. Keep an eye on your watch and the setting sun.
5. Bring a map and compass. Take note of landmarks as you pass them—a digital camera or cell phone can be a great way to time-stamp these bread crumbs
6. Stay on the trail; it will keep you oriented and protect the natural landscape.
7. Always practice Leave No Trace (for more details on the Leave No Trace philosophy, visit lnt.org.)
8. Pack a basic first aid kit, emergency blanket, knife (or multi-tool), and headlamp. Also, take a lighter and fire-starting tinder so you can build a fire for warmth and to signal for help if necessary. Make sure to brief yourself on responsible backcountry fire practices.
9. Wear bright colors and bring extra layers, including a raincoat. Always assume it’s going to rain.
10. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. At least a liter for every two hours on the trail is a good standard. Bring a small water filter or iodine tablets in case you need to fill up on the trail.
11. Bring lots of snacks!
12. Keep yourself company. Resist the urge to tune into a podcast or listen to music. Whistle a tune. Breathe in the smell of the trees. Marvel at the distance you covered. Bring a notebook to record your thoughts and ideas—you might want to return to this headspace when you get home.
13. And above all, trust in the voice in your head that powers you up the trail.
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Gale Straub is the founder of She Explores, a media platform for curious, creative women who love travel and outdoor adventure. Gale’s book, She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild, can be found here. She lives in New Hampshire.
Images in order of appearance: © 2107 Karen K. Wang, © 2107 Gale Staub, © 2107 Victoria Reeder, © 2107 Mary Ellen Hackett, © 2107 Karen K. Wang, © 2107 Abreen Tariq.
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