You don’t always need a buddy to go on a hiking trip. Sure, it can be more fun to explore the outdoors with a friend but don’t let that stop you from going at it alone. I was little bit reluctant to go hiking by myself for the first time, but being bored at home and nobody available to join me left me no other choice. I truly enjoyed my first solo hike, but there are certainly more things to keep in mind when you know you’ll be alone in the middle of nowhere. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your first solo hike so you can ace it like a pro:
- Bring the essentials
Here are some items I suggest packing in your backpack. Try to pack as much as you can the night before so you are not scrambling last minute in the morning:
- Water: this depends on how long you’ll be hiking and the weather, but I never start a hike without at least a couple of bottles of water
- Food: my favorite is the trusty PB& J sandwich, but a turkey and cheese sandwich will do
- Snacks: trail mix, banana, apple
- Toilet paper. There are some bathrooms out there that look like a scene from The American Horror Story. Always go prepared and bring your own TP.
- Sunscreen, hat & sunglasses
- Trash bag: always bring out what you bring in
- I usually bring extra socks because many trails run through rivers
- A couple bucks for parking pass or toll roads. Research if any special passes are required
- Water filter: this is only needed if you’re going on a longer hike, but make sure there’s a good water source along the hike before you bet your life on it
- Dress in layers
Depending on where you go, the climate can change pretty quickly or can even have a microsystem of its own. Make sure you wear warming layers that you can easily take off or add on as the weather changes.
Once you get out in the wild, your phone’s GPS will most likely stop working. I usually screenshot the map on my phone so I always have a map on hand. If the hike is on federal or state lands, head to the ranger station for detailed paper maps (yup, those still exist!). Before you head out make sure to memorize the driving directions and the hiking route, including where it starts, ends, and how long it is. If you take the wrong turn or can’t find the trail, you can’t blame your hiking partner!
- Charge your phone
Make sure your phone is fully charged before your hike. Avoid using Snapchat, Instagram or other apps that might drain your phone’s battery and save your phone for emergencies. You don’t want your snapchat to be the last thing your friends see, no matter how awesome that snap is.
- Inform somebody
Before you head out on your adventure, pick an “emergency buddy” and tell him or her about your hike location, place, and expected return time in case of emergencies. Keep this person updated as much as possible before and during the hike, and you should always have a time deadline when he or she should expect to hear from you or start making calls.
- Stick to the plan.
When you’re on your hike, don’t go wandering on a different trail or change your trail last minute. This seems like a no brainer, but once you’re out on the trail there are always things that distract you and make you want to go exploring. If you already have planned the hike and mapped the route, eliminate any more surprises that could be just around the corner. Changing your hike last minute will also affect your “emergency buddy” system.
- Start early
Starting early is important for two reasons:
- You don’t want to be hiking in the middle of the day when sun is the hottest. It will dehydrate you FAST
- You don’t want to be stuck out in the wild when the sun goes down. If anything unexpected happens, you want to have enough time to figure it out and get out before it gets dark
- Plan for the worst.
Always plan for the worst scenario and bring a small survival kit. There are many survival hiking kits being sold, but you can make your own by packing the following items:
- First aid kit
- Duct tape
- Small knife
Going on a hike by yourself can be a scary thought at first, but if you follow the tips above, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your first solo hike worry free.
Give it a try and let us know about your first solo hike experience in the comment section below.
Written by Laura Sausina