There are many benefits of hiking alone. Not only can you move at your own pace, solitude allows time for quiet contemplation, and can provide a better opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife. Compared to group hiking, a solo hike comes with greater risks. Outdoor adventure magazine, Backpacker, reports that over 1,000 hikers go missing in national parks every year. By acting on these tips, you can decrease the risk of unfortunate events, including injury or worse, while active in the great outdoors.
Choose a Traveled Trail
Trails that tend to get more foot traffic are maintained and safer than more secluded trails. If you do run into trouble, getting help will be much easier. Try the AllTrails app to discover well traveled trail destinations near your location.
First-aid kits are readily available at many drug and sporting goods stores, but you can easily put together your own. Just place some adhesive bandages, adhesive tape, gauze, antibiotic ointment, small scissors, and pain reliever into Ziploc bag and you’re good to go.
Map Out Your Hike
Before hitting the trail, study a map of the area that you’ll be venturing into and be sure you know how to find your location based on landmarks and trail junctions. Bring both the map and compass. Carrying your smartphone or GPS is a good idea, but they don’t always work in remote locations.
Prior to heading out, be sure to give at least one person a copy of your itinerary. They should know exactly where you’re going and approximately when you’ll return. Discuss what should happen if you don’t return, or call, by an agreed time. Once you’re on the road or hit the trail, don’t change your mind and go in a different direction.
Getting dehydrated will zap your energy and dehydration increases your risk of injury as your body won’t function as well. Two quarts of water per day is recommended. If you’ll be hiking near a stream, river or lake, bring a water filter as a precaution in the event that you run out drinking water.
Getting a sunburn out on the trail makes for a miserable experience. Not only should you lather on the sunscreen before you begin your hike, you should also wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. As lenses tend to break easily in rugged environments, bring a set of replacement lenses with you just in case.
Hiking can burn a lot of calories, so you’ll need plenty of fuels to keep you going. Bring healthy snacks with a good balance of protein, fat, and carbs.
Know your limits and don’t push yourself too far. If you get too fatigued, it slows awareness, increasing your risk of getting lost or injured.
Even if you plan to return well before dark, bring a light source such as a flashlight or headlamp along with extra batteries.
Trust Your Instincts
If a voice inside your head, or your gut, tells you that something is wrong, listen. If the path looks dangerous, turn around. If you run into someone on the trail that makes you feel uncomfortable, give the impression that your hiking partner should be along soon. Take extra precaution by packing a small container of pepper spray to ward off potential threats.