How to be Confident When Hiking Alone

Hi, I’m Maria. I’m 48 and began bushwalking about 5 years ago to help lose weight and take control of my recent diagnosis of clinical depression.  I divide my time between Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the Blue Mountains. 

When I decided to start bushwalking I knew I wanted to walk alone, I wasn’t very fit and I hadn’t been out in the bush since I was a kid.  I was not afraid of animals or hurting myself, however, I was afraid of other people. I think this is probably a feeling that many women have. For me to overcome this, it was a matter of experiencing being in the bush on my own and in time realising that the majority of people I’ve come across have been very friendly.  At first whenever I passed someone on the track especially a man, I kept looking back to make sure they had kept going.  Now, I can’t remember the last time I was scared.  It’s a good feeling to beat one of my demons.

So, how did I deal with this fear?

I began by using well known tracks where I knew I would have phone reception.  A great website is wildwalks.com, where you can print off a map and track notes to take with you.

I bought a whistle.

Most importantly, I always wrote down and told someone where I’ll be, what track and when I’ll be back.  And I always told them when I was back.

Next thing to address was what do I need and want to take with me.

I already had a small pack of 7 litres which was fine to start out.  I have since upgraded 3 times to a pack which is perfect for day hikes.  I highly recommend Osprey womens fit packs.  They are a premium brand, but very worthwhile.  A well-fitting pack is like not carrying any weight at all. I found that my needs changed over time.  Start small, talk to other people and see what they use and why.  Read forums, take in information.  It can save a lot of money in the long run.

On my first walk I wore shorts, t-shirt, hat and sandals.  I quickly realised this was not adequate for the Australian bush.  I now usually wear cotton pants and a long sleeve cotton shirt in summer and synthetic pants and merino top in winter.  This is what I prefer.  Again, don’t go spending a lot of money on the latest and greatest hiking clothing.  I wasted a lot of money buying what shops told me was the best, but it just wasn’t for me.  I changed from sandals to my sandshoes, then to hiking boots in winter and hiking shoes in summer.  Cotton socks in summer and merino in winter.  A good hat is very important. 

The one item that deserves more money spent on it is good hiking boots or shoes.  I probably tried on about 30 different pairs of boots till I found the right ones for me.  Think about buying half a size bigger than you would normally wear.  Your feet will swell and you want to make sure your toes never touch the front of your boot.  This can result in pain and damage to your toes.

Additional clothing to suit the weather and environment, for example a jumper and raincoat.

Plenty of water is essential.  I always take more than I think I’ll need, just in case.

I will normally take a sandwich and fruit, or a sachet of tuna, crackers and fruit and stash a muesli bar in my hip belt pocket to eat while I’m walking.

Going to the toilet can be a challenge for women if you’ve never peed in the bush before.  All I use is a small quick dry towel to wipe myself, then hang from my pack to dry.  This is adequate for a half-day or day walk.  If you’re not comfortable with this, you can use zip lock bags and toilet paper.  It works fine, but just means a bit more preparation before-hand and carrying around used toilet paper.  Of course, this is just for peeing. Anything more than that, you will need to be more prepared.

An individual first aid kit is very important, again you don’t need to go and buy something expensive.  My first one was in a Tupperware container with stuff I already had at home including individual medication, antihistamines, Panadol, band aids, elastic bandage for sprains, sachets of glucose/electrolytes.

Checklist

  • Comfortable shoes and clothing
  • Hat
  • Pack
  • First aid including snake bite kit
  • Whistle. (I use a Fox 40, 115 decibel whistle and hang it from my pack strap with a carabiner.
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Water
  • Map and track notes
  • Tell someone!
  • Always take a snake bite kit! 

I always take a notebook and pen with me. I feel I solve a lot of problems when I’m out there by myself.  With just my own mind to process things.

Once you have the essentials taken care of.  Go out, enjoy yourself.  Breathe the fresh air, listen to the animals, and observe the insects.  Come home tired, recharged and refreshed