Hacks for Hiking Solo
One of the best decisions I made to keep all my New Years’ resolutions in 2018 is to not wait on anyone else to help me reach my goals. Often, I found myself waiting around for others, searching for the perfect time to make my workouts fit everyone’s busy schedule. As much as I love a good motivational exercise sesh with my friends, I noticed that finding a time to do so meant losing the motivation that I had in the moment. Living in Arizona, I am surrounded by mountains, and I decided to take a leap of faith and explore hiking on my own.
Despite the slightly traumatizing and recurring reports of hikers lost deep within trails, never to be seen again, or being airlifted from mountains after exhaustion/dehydration, I carefully began venturing out onto different trails, and have since come to love hiking alone. Here are some tips to begin exploring the mountains by yourself:
Always bring the essentials
Even if you’re going on a small hike or nature walk, it is important to be prepared for anything that might come your way. The main dangers you will face are minor cuts and scrapes. To best prepare yourself, bring a small first-aid kit with you. You can either purchase one (Lifeline makes a kit that’s curated for hikers), or you can make your own. In my first-aid kit, I have bandages, alcohol pads, pain relievers, and a small roll of sports wrap- all of which I keep in a small Ziploc bag. I rarely find myself needing these items, but having them on me at all times is a great way to avoid panic when these things happen.
Familiarize yourself with your trail
To make sure that I know what I’m in for, I always research the trails I will be taking. My favorite way to do this is through the app AllTrails. The app displays the location, length of the trail, elevation gain, pictures, a rating of the trail, and reviews. There is also a downloadable map of the trail so that you have a map handy, whether or not you have cell signal. The rating of the trail is extremely helpful to determine which trails will be quick and easy, versus long and strenuous. This can aid you in preparing your backpack or fanny pack for your trip, depending on how long the trail is. Google Maps also provides some basic information and reviews of trailheads, but they can sometimes be difficult to find. Find a good app that works for you and fits your preferences so that you’re never surprised by the difficulty of a trail.
Communication is key!
Always tell at least one person when you are going hiking and where. I have found the easiest way is to “share your location” with someone who knows that you left to go hiking. I also make an effort to let them know what trail I am doing and the relative length of the hike. If you know that the hike you are going on is pretty long, you may want to think about having an external battery and charger in your backpack. NEVER leave your phone in your car or at home, even if you may not have cell signal. If you do happen to get lost, this will be the easiest way to find your last location, or to call for help. Remember, these events rarely happen, but it never hurts to be extra prepared! Plus, you never know when those around you may need help as well.
Prepare a bag specifically for hiking
I find that this is the easiest way to remember all of the essentials. While it may seem like a lot of things to consider each time you go out alone, leaving a designated backpack for hiking in your home or car will always ensure that you’re prepared. In my hiking backpack, I have:
- At least 2 liters of water
- A few protein bars/ granola bars
- A small flashlight
- My first-aid kit
- Extra socks
- Lip balm
- Insect repellent
Bring anything that you feel is necessary for yourself. This may be extra snacks, a light jacket, sunglasses, etc.
Determine the length of your hike, then plan for 3 hours longer
This will give you a buffer in case something happens and you do get lost. If you plan for this extra time, you will likely have enough resources to remain calm until you find your way again or get help. For me, this typically just means extra snacks, water, and depending on the time of day, a light jacket.
Don’t push your limits!
If you think a trail is too long or it is getting too dark, just turn around. After all, you are out hiking for yourself, and nobody knows you better than you! If you ever feel sick or faint, take a rest and re-evaluate your plan. Hiking is an activity devoted to self-exploration, connecting with nature, and self-care. Although hiking can be an intense workout, remember why you decided to go hiking and that hiking is a judgement-free zone.
Although hiking alone may seem intimidating, both physical and mental preparation are the key to a successful hike. If you’re thinking about going for a hike alone, try it out! I found hiking alone to be an extremely liberating experience that allows me to reconnect with nature and re-center my mentality. You might find that a solo-hike is the perfect activity for you!
Hannah is an aspiring pharmacist and a semi-professional car dancer. When she’s not cramming for chemistry in the University of Arizona library, she’s either teaching color guard or binge-watching YouTube videos in her pajamas. You can find her drinking a hazelnut iced coffee or perfecting her Sirsasana yoga stance.