Every hiker has the idea of traveling alone at least once or twice in their hiking career. It can be such an appealing thought and very tempting because it’s just you and nature. Having alone time can be good; you have that much-needed time to refresh and actually, you get a sense of what you’re really made of. However, it isn’t without its risks and you have to understand that when you’re alone, you are totally alone.
Yes, there will be moments when you pass other hikers but in reality you spend the majority of the hike very much alone. Thousands of hikers would see this as a tempting prospect but there will always be an element of risk and concern for any hiker, experienced or otherwise when they go off alone. So, should you consider hiking alone?
Hiking Alone Can Be Safe When the Proper Precautions Are Taken
In all honesty, most wouldn’t dream of hiking alone; isolation is emotionally straining and at times, frightening. However, it can actually be safe to hike alone as long as you take the proper safety precautions and steps. In most cases, hiking alone comes down to the safety factor and what will happen if you’re alone.
When you hike with a group of people there will always be someone there to help. A group may even help to scare off wildlife and sources can be pooled together. For any newcomer who doesn’t have a great deal of experience, it’s a must to travel with a group. It should be law because when you’re new, you don’t know anything. There are so many things to be wary of and of course, you learn skills as you hike. You will always need to fall back on others and you can’t do that while alone.
Of course, experienced hikers sometimes love to get away from everything and everyone and make it home in one piece. It really depends on individuality and how confident and capable a person is to hike alone. Whether you plan to travel alone or with a group, here are 10 hiking tips to keep you safe today.
1. Recognize and Assess the Risks
First of all, when you choose a hiking trail you want to get to know a little more about the trail and the area. You must take note of the weather conditions, what the current weather is like, what is predicted and what previous conditions have been. Usually, you can get a fair idea of what the weather is going to be like from taking note of previous year conditions at the same time you plan to go.
Next, you need to know what the trail has to offer; is it a busy trail or a fairly quiet trail with sparse visitors. If the trail doesn’t receive a great number of visitors per year, it may be because of some danger on the trail and you should do some digging about this. If the trail is in your local area, you can ask residents who have been around for decades about the trail and see what they know. Also, research the region and what the area is like – is there dangers likely to occur from trouble hotspots or weather condition – these will be important to help determine what potential risks there may be and mitigate them.
2. Devise a Trip Plan
You have probably heard about planning and leaving note with a friend but it is the one rule drummed into every hiker. It’s absolutely crucial to have a plan set out with the dates you plan to leave, which mode of transportation you’re using to get there and what the return dates are. There should also be a small window left before friends or family call the authorities in case of delays; for safety sake, no more than twenty four hours.
However, once your plan has been set out, stick to it because if something should go wrong and are alone, no one will be able to find you. If you stick to your plan like glue, you can be easily found.
3. Stop In a Ranger Station
Most hiking trails have some form of Ranger Stations that home a few rangers who are in charge of the area surrounding the trail. It can be an excellent idea to stop in at least one Ranger Station and let them know you are heading out. Talk to the Rangers and let them know your name and where you’re heading to; let them know you’re going out alone also. Don’t forget to tell the Rangers you plan to be out on the trail for so many days and you’ll stop by again when you’re heading back.
In fact, it might actually be a good idea to ask the Rangers about your chosen route and find out if it’s still a safe option to take. Usually, Rangers know what dangers are around and they’ll certainly let you know if they think your route isn’t a good or safe one. You’ll probably get advice from them too especially if hiking alone so take it to heart – they are there to help.
4. Check Up On the Weather Report
It doesn’t matter which trail you are going to be using to hike, before you set off, listen out for the weather report. Weather can change so rapidly and even though it might appear to be a clear day, it might turn quickly. Also, if you set out and see others making a hasty retreat, there may be a problem up ahead. Ask fellow hikers if there is any problems due to weather or something with the trail and keep yourself safe. Sometimes, it’s best to go back when the weather starts to change.
5. Opt For a Busy Trail
Choosing trails that are heavy trafficked can be much better for those traveling alone. The reason why is simply because there will be more people around should something go wrong and usually they are safer since they are heavily used. You may not think they are best if you’re seeking alone time but there won’t be many who will stop and chat if they don’t have to.
6. Avoid Dangerous Paths/Routes
Hiking trails are used often and it means they sustain a lot of damage throughout the year. There are going to be routes on trails that are extremely dangerous and when you run into them, you must make the right decision and turn back. For a start, you don’t have the proper safety equipment and secondly, it’s just too dangerous! Do not risk continuing through a route or path that has been badly damaged or is unsafe to travel on.
7. Set Your Own Limitations
Just because you are planning a hiking trip, it doesn’t mean you have to finish in record timing or even complete the trail. This might seem like such a waste but it isn’t really because if your limitations don’t reach as far as a ten mile hike, you shouldn’t push yourself. If you can barely make it up a flight of stairs without feeling dizzy, you aren’t going to complete a ten mile trail. Instead of going big, stick to smaller trails until you’re ready to move onto the bigger ones. There is no race, take your time and you will eventually make it to the trails you want to get to.
8. Don’t Stray
We have all seen the movies when hikers get lost or decide to take a wrong turning just for laughs and end up in serious trouble. That’s just the movies though; you really don’t want to end up starring in your own horror movie because the ending isn’t going to be happy. You aren’t just going to potentially damage forestation, you may run into wild animals and it won’t end well for you. You’ll get lost and it’s just plain stupid because you never know what danger is waiting for unsuspecting hikers!
9. Stock Up Supplies
As most hikers will know, supplies will be what keeps you going and what saves your life. You must pack enough, and just a little extra for the journey ahead. Take plenty of food, water and warm clothing as well as shelter such as a tent and sleeping bag. You should also consider taking maps of the local area and hiking trails, a GPS locator and a compass; and a pocket knife wouldn’t hurt too.
Remember, you are the one responsible for what you do out on the hiking trails and you need to be aware of your surroundings. Stay hydrated even when you don’t feel thirsty and take breaks when you feel tired; and if you are traveling alone, you want to ensure you rest sufficiently to continue.
10. Feeling Scared or Unsure – Listen To Your Head
There is nothing worse than facing a difficult decision whilst hiking alone. Being caught in two minds can always be a bit frightening because you don’t have someone else to fall back on. However, when you suddenly stop and feel something isn’t right, it’s time to listen to your sixth sense. You don’t like the look of a climb, avoid it. You don’t like the trail ahead, turn back. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t and it’s not worth taking the risk.
Still Want To Hike Alone?
Of course, hiking alone won’t appeal to everyone but thousands will love the idea. It can actually be good fun and rewarding and when you take the proper safety precautions you can protect yourself fully. The tips listed above are all very simple and basic steps yet so many don’t know them and that is crazy. Now you know some hiking safety tips, will you be heading out with a group or solo?