10 Safety Tips to Keep in Mind for a Solo Hike
Guest Post by Ross Burgess
There is nothing more satisfying than setting off on your own to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. Solo hiking brings a unique kind of freedom that can leave you feeling confident and refreshed.
When hiking alone, you can
move at your own pace, take as much time as you like for photos and appreciate
the calm quietness of being on your own — a rare treat these days.
If you are considering a solo
hike, there are various safety tips to consider before you hit the trail alone
and some to keep in mind once you’ve set off. These are particularly important
when you are new to solo hiking, though even experienced hikers benefit from a
quick reminder now and then.
When you’re well-prepared,
you’ll quickly find that solo hiking is the perfect way to recharge your
batteries and boost of confidence.
- Check the Weather Beforehand
It is unwise to head out into
nature without first ensuring the weather conditions are on your side. This may
seem like a basic principle, but it is key to your safety and well-being on the
Check the forecast multiple
times leading up to your trip, all the way up until the moment you are set to
leave your house. If there is any chance of a thunderstorm approaching, be
sensible and stay home. When in doubt, it’s always best to save your hike for a
Pay attention to the sky once
you are on the trail, as well. If you are hiking in a busier spot, take notice
of other hikers who are turning back to their cars.
- Know your Fitness Level
Know what your body is capable
of and don’t put yourself in a tricky situation by taking on more than you can
tend to puff and wheeze by the time you get to the top of a flight of stairs,
start with a short trail and opt for flat terrain. By starting with shorter
walks, you’ll give yourself the chance to assess your fitness level and take
the most comfortable pace for you.
Remember: It’s not a race.
There is no hurry to complete the longest trails at the fastest pace — and
pushing yourself too hard is a surefire way to invite injury and nip your
new-found hobby in the bud.
- Tell Someone You Trust Where You Are Going
Let a good friend or family
member know where you are going to hike and what time you intend to be home. By
doing so, you ensure that in the unlikely event that something happens to you
on the trail, someone knows you are missing and where to look for you.
Injuries and accidents happen
to even the most experienced hikers, so it is always smart to ensure that
someone knows your whereabouts.
Don’t just provide information
on the general area that you are hiking — be precise about which route you are
taking and don’t change plans at the last minute.
- Be Familiar with the Area
Study the terrain and be
conscious of the timing of your hike to ensure you are leaving more than enough
time to complete the walk before it begins to get dark. Are there any special
navigational instructions, detours or closures on the trail? If so, take note,
and plan your hike accordingly.
Have all the facts on hand
before you set out, and pack a map and compass, just in case. You may have GPS
on your phone, but the old-fashioned method doesn’t require a charged battery.
- Stick to the Path
No matter how tempting the
view just off the trail might be, always stick to the marked paths. If you take
an unknown route, you put yourself at a much greater risk of getting lost — and
in the end, no view is worth taking that chance.
It is also worth noting that
in many national parks, it is illegal to hike off the trails. This is because
your off-piste adventures can seriously damage the delicate flora and fauna
- Plan Before You Pack
Before you head out, make sure you have everything you need
by doing a little research on how others approach packing for a day hike.
Double check that your backpack is comfortable to wear, and
also ensure the overall weight is something you can manage. Keep your survival
knife within easy reach in a pocket or attached to your belt.
Be mindful of the climate. In the summer, it’s important to
always have sunscreen and a hat while in the cooler months, an extra warm layer
can be invaluable. Packing a couple of extra snacks is a smart choice
- Have a Knife on Your Person
Knives have many uses when you
are out in the wilderness, and keeping a high quality, dependable everyday survival knife on your person can make
all the difference.
Aside from the obvious uses,
like opening plastic food packages and cutting up your lunch, a knife can be a
great help when it comes to fire preparation.
When you pack a survival
knife, you can make fire sticks or prepare kindling more easily, should you need
to warm yourself an emergency.
- Carry a First Aid Kit
Always carry a first aid kit
and familiarize yourself with using it before you hit the trail.
Accidents happen and being
prepared for emergencies is always wise. Minor scrapes and insect bites are commonplace.
Being able to treat these on the spot can immediately ease any discomfort.
There is a wide range of pre-prepared first aid kits available to suit all budgets, though it is always
advisable to buy the best you can afford.
- Take Plenty of Water
This one should go without
saying, really, but it is easy to underestimate how important it is to drink
sufficiently while exercising. Err on the side of caution and bring more water
than you think you might need.
If you are uncomfortable
carrying water in a bottle, consider a water reservoir that fits directly into
your backpack. These allow you to drink more easily while on the move.
- Wear Appropriate Gear
Sturdy, comfortable walking
boots or shoes are a must. If you need ankle support, opt for boots over shoes.
Don’t ever wear your brand-new
footwear for the first time on the trail. Anyone who has will tell you that it
leads to a day of nursing blisters.
In general, layers are the way
to go if you want to be consistently comfortable. Waterproofs are lightweight
and easy to stash in your backpack, and it is always worth packing a jacket and
pants for the inevitable moments when the weather doesn’t behave as expected.
Dress according to the current
temperature but ensure you have a spare warm layer, just in case. You’ll likely
find your temperature oscillating more than usual as you work up a sweat and
then cool down when you stop for a break.
Being prepared for your solo
hike can mean the difference between a day getting back to the great outdoors
and a miserable, potentially dangerous event. Take the time to prepare
adequately, and you will experience the empowering feeling of accomplishing a