7 Stepping Stones to Hiking Alone
Thuc, our Marketing and Events Coordinator, is a long-term fan of solo travel…and solo hiking! She shares her stepping stones to building the necessary skills and confidence to heading out on the trail alone.
The thought of heading out into the bush or mountains alone is very uncomfortable for many but for me, there isn’t much else that makes me feel as ALIVE, as comfortable in my own skin and as resilient.
Of course, I didn’t get here overnight and I have so much further to go. For example, whilst I have camped alone, I have so far only done so in designated campgrounds meaning that the likelihood of there being other campers is high.
If solo hiking appeals to you, here are some steps that I have taken over the years:
Get your First Aid qualifications and dial in your navigation skills. I don’t think I need to explain the importance of both. In addition, acquiring some survival and bushcraft skills would also be wise.
Start off hiking with others. It’s especially valuable if you can find others who are more experienced than you and who are willing to take the time to share their knowledge.
Eventually, you should take the lead in terms of route planning, organisation (food etc) and navigation.
Go on “easy” hikes alone. I have redone hikes previously walked with friends on my own and it’s interesting how “new” they can feel. It is a simple confidence booster.
For new hikes, check out the official grading system and start at/near the beginning and work your way higher. Start with marked tracks with easy surfaces and move towards rougher, steeper, unmarked trails.
Become very confident with your gear and setup. It is surprising how much I depend on others without even knowing. Just think of when someone else is driving you somewhere new. The chances of you remembering the route are slimmer than if you’d driven it yourself.
In the outdoors, I aim to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Be 100% confident with tasks and think about how you can streamline your processes. In the outdoors but especially when you’re alone, time is precious and can be the line between safety and danger or just a real good time and suffering - so being accurate and efficient in tasks such as using your camp stove and setting up your tent is important.
But this also extends beyond the actual time in the outdoors. You should be almost on auto-pilot with packing to minimise the risk of forgetting anything crucial and you should also have some structure to how you clean and pack up your gear afterwards - this will make your planning and packing for future adventures easier!
Build your comfort levels with camping alone. I started off camping alone in drive-in campgrounds so that I had my car nearby. I then “graduated” to camping alone in official walk-in campgrounds where although I am technically in a remote place, I am likely to have some sort of human company around (though I often half-hope that no-one will turn up!) My next step would be to camp off-trail, totally in the bush or mountains. I almost did this on the Greenstone and Caples Tracks in New Zealand but when I arrived at Mid-Caples Hut, I couldn’t give up the warmth and ease!
With this comes the need to know how to choose a safe, suitable campsite.
Keep people informed. The saying, “better safe than sorry” is so applicable to the outdoors. So often, I feel slightly embarrassed about being over-cautious but then I imagine that something going wrong that could have easily been prevented…So always tell a couple of your close loved ones your movements: when and where you expect to be, where you are leaving your car, what you are wearing etc. Register your intentions at the relevant national park offices as well as log into any backcountry huts. All these are little pieces of the puzzle that will be invaluable should something happen to you and you need to be located.
An extra tip: in the age of social media and Instagram Stories, real-time updates are enticing and engaging but for safety reasons, I never share exactly when and where I am. It is a part of my job though so I will of course record the content but I will share in retrospect, once I am out of the wilderness!
Keep yourself physically fit. Each to their own but I truly see the payoffs of my strength and fitness when out in the mountains. I also really value my mental strength. Combined, they give me the confidence to know that if things go wrong, I am well-positioned to deal with them.
Heading out on solo adventures is a massive source of joy and empowerment for me. If you feel like it might be for you too, I hope this helps. If you are also a big advocate for solo travel and hiking and had a stepping stone to add, please feel free to leave a comment below!