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How To Hike Alone And Not Be Terrified

Wonderful view at Pancake rock in Colorado

If you plan to hike alone, always tell someone where you are going and your estimated hike time. Check the weather, bring a fully-charged phone, bring water and snacks, choose the right trail, bring protection, and know the route, the area, and the animals before you head out.

Let’s face it, it’s intimidating to hike alone! Below, we’ll go over all the tips and tricks to hike alone confidently.

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Should You Hike Alone?

Hiking alone in the rocky mountains of Colorado. Hike alone

Before we get into how to hike alone safely, let’s answer a big question: should you hike alone? Is hiking alone safe? The answer may surprise you but, uh, heck yea!

There’s nothing wrong with hiking alone, as long as you’re smart about it. The more competent and better prepared you are about solo hiking, the safer you will be.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: our fears. What about hiking alone in the woods or through the mountains makes us afraid to do it?

  • Fear of getting attacked: This fear is on everyone’s mind, but it’s especially scary for small, petite individuals who cannot fight off potential strangers.
  • Fear of an accident: Solo hikers often fear falling down a hillside, into a river, or tripping on a rock and landing the wrong way, spraining an ankle. If you’re 8 miles into a hike and sprain an ankle, it will be a rough hike back out.
  • Fear of getting lost: Getting lost in the woods isn’t fun. This fear is understandable, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place!
  • Fear of wild animals: Depending on what area of the country you hike, you may have some hefty contenders to share the forest with. On your hike, there’s no shame in fear of wild animals encounters. You can read more about what to do if you encounter a moose, black bear, grizzly bear, mountain lion, wolves, bobcat, alligator, snakes, wild boars or coyote on our blog!
  • Fear of the theft of your vehicle: If you’re planning a long solo hike, you may be fearful that your car will be broken into and your valuables will be taken. Or you may be afraid that someone will steal the vehicle itself.

Now that we know why solo hiking is scary, let’s discuss how to remedy those fears. Let’s turn those fears into little confidence boosters that will get you out on the trails whether you have a hiking partner or not!

How To Hike Alone Without Being Afraid

If you’ve ever had some time to yourself on a hike, you’ll realize that it’s not just another walk in the woods. There’s a personal, even spiritual experience when there’s nothing but you and the beautiful nature around you.

Learning to manage your fears and adequately prepare for solo hiking will open up a world of wonder that reduces stress, improves mood, and is a healthy form of exercise!

Let’s dive into everything you can do to hike alone confidently.

Choose The Right Hike

Overlooking the valley while hiking outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

If you decide to go solo hiking, the first thing you want to do is find the proper hike! This means knowing your limits. Whatever your limits are, choose a hike that is well within your range.

In addition to knowing your limits, if it’s your first solo hike, you should choose a trail that is:

  • Well maintained
  • Well marked
  • Popular
  • Has a map

The better you know the trail, the easier it will be to hike alone. Well-maintained trails are easier to traverse than those you have to bushwack through. Well-marked trails will be easier to follow and decrease the chances of you getting lost.

Popular trails mean there will be plenty of other hikers with you. You may not know them, but at least you’re not on a lonely path where there’s no help in sight.

Lastly, suppose the trail has a map that can be printed or copied onto your phone. In that case, it will give you a much better idea of the overall picture of your hike and can help you avoid getting lost.

Pack Your Bag Correctly

When hiking solo, you must pack everything you need into your own pack instead of relying on a hiking buddy or partner to carry some of the load.

When packing your bag for a solo hike, keep these things in mind:

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It’s an excellent first-aid kit for you on every solo hike!

Pack your bag according to the hike. If you’re going on a long walk, pack more food and water. Even if it’s a short hike, you should at least back the five basic necessities listed above.

Learn more about the different things you can pack in your hiking bag!

Gear up for your next hiking adventure with the ultimate guide on How to pack a first-aid kit, ensuring you’re prepared for any bumps, scrapes, or unexpected mishaps along the trail!

Use A Tracking Device

Everyone has some tracking device nowadays, whether a watch or a phone. There are TONS of apps out there that will track your progress on a hike, such as AllTrails or Strava.

Use these to your advantage!

Track your hike with these apps. If it is an app where other people can follow you, it will help direct them to what trail you’re on, where you started, what time you ended the activity, and where you currently are. You can complete the activity in an emergency, which will transfer from your watch or phone into the app, where your followers can see it.

Please note that this will only work if you are hiking somewhere with service.

Tell A Friend

So, you have your bag all packed, you’re wearing the right clothes and shoes, and you’ve got plenty of snacks. Now it’s time to actually go to the trail!

Before you leave for your solo hike, let a friend or family member know a few things about your trek. Let them know:

  • Where you’re going (the area)
  • The trail name
  • How long the trail is
  • How long you expect to be hiking
  • Your estimated start and end time
  • Where you’re parking
  • Whether there will be cell phone service or not

This is a great practice no matter where you’re going, but it’s perfect for trails with little to no cell phone service.

Bring A Fully-Charged Phone

Hiking overlooking the river at the New River Gorge on the Endless Wall Trail.

This one’s self-explanatory. Our phones are our lifelines – we can make phone calls, text a friend or family member, and take pictures with them. All of these things will help you while you’re hiking alone.

But you can’t do any of it if your phone’s battery is at zero!

Make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving for your solo hike. As mentioned before, bringing an external battery can ensure your phone won’t croak, even on a long walk.

Many online forums will have cell phone service information. You can check these out and see if cell phone service will be on the trail you plan to hike. This is another excellent tool to be as prepared as possible for your hike.

While hiking, consider taking photos of each turn, sign, and waypoint. You can reference these pictures if you can’t remember how to get back.

Bring Protection

wildcat, a joke saying you should bring your cat as protection.

In extreme situations, you may have to defend yourself from some wily animals or aggressive weirdos. In these circumstances, you’ll want the protection you need to keep the aggressor away, whether a person or an animal.

There’s nothing worse than getting in a situation and being unprepared. Some of the best types of protection out there include:

Make sure you know how to use your chosen mode of protection before you go on your solo hike. Always read the directions on mace or pepper spray.

Depending on where you hike, certain forms of protection may be more appropriate than others. For example, if you hike solo in grizzly country, bringing bear mace or a firearm is a good idea. While you only want to use it as a last resort, you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it and meet a hungry bear.

Bells are another great way to signal to any wild animals that you are there. There’s nothing worse than accidentally sneaking up on and startling a wild animal. They may lash out from fear.

For human attacks, trekking poles, a big stick, pepper spray, and even bear mace can be used to defend yourself.

On a side note, be aware that animal attacks on people are extremely rare. In almost every instance, yelling, waving your hands, and appearing big will be enough to scare animals off. That being said, having the proper protection can give you peace of mind as you trek on your own.

Avoid Headphones

Good music always sets the tone for activities. A good motivational song gets you ready to work out. Classical music pairs perfectly with making dinner. 

While it may be tempting to put some headphones on and listen to music, audiobooks, or a podcast while you hike, leaving the headphones at home is recommended.

Headphones will drown out any potential noises that can alert you to danger. You might miss hearing someone calling for help, hearing a stranger approaching, or hearing an animal behind you.

Leave A Note In Your Car

Once you arrive at the parking lot of your hike, there are a few things you can do to help ease your mind as you hike alone.

Leave a note in your car explaining where you’re going, what trail you’re taking, and when you started your hike. In emergencies, police or rangers can use this note to help locate you if your car is still in the lot at dusk when they close the park.

While you’re at it, checking in with a ranger before you start your hike is not a bad idea. Let them know you’ll be hiking alone and which trail you intend to take. 

Bring Your Dog

Robyn and her do Gatsby the furbag on top of Mt. Evans in Colorado.

It’s not a human, but a dog can easily become your best hiking partner! As an added bonus, your dog can help you feel less alone and more protected on your solo hike.

Here are some fantastic benefits of bringing your dog on your hike:

  • Protection from strangers
  • Exercise for your dog
  • Builds a stronger bond with your pooch
  • Dogs can hear noises that we can’t

If you decide to bring your dog, pack enough supplies for both you and your dog. Pack plenty of water and bring a collapsible bowl. If you plan to be out for hours, bring kibble or a snack for your dog so you can keep their energy level up. Check your pup for ticks and burs before letting them back in your car.

Being concerned about your four-legged friend on a hike is only natural. With the Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling, you can be sure that even if your pet becomes injured, you can safely and efficiently carry them out!

Don’t forget to equip your furry pal with an Adventure Medical Kit! Or, for even easier storage in that already tight space, get a Adventure Medical Kits ADS Me And My Dog First Aid Kit. Don’t deprive your adventure buddy of the safety measures they deserve.

Learn all about what to bring on a hike with your dog by people who have plenty of expierence hiking with furbags!

That’s A Wrap!

There’s no way to prevent every outcome while you’re hiking alone. However, there are plenty of ways to stay safe and prepare for whatever nature throws you on your solo trek.

Five basic fears drive us to avoid hiking alone, but we don’t have to let those fears rule our lives and keep us from the trails! To recap, the best ways to hike alone and not be afraid are to:

  • Choose a suitable hike – know your limits
  • Pack your bag correctly
  • Use a tracking device
  • Tell a friend or family member about your hike
  • Bring a fully-charged cell phone
  • Bring protection
  • Avoid headphones
  • Leave a note in your car
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