Hiking Alone: Is It Foolish Or Perfectly Fine?
What Do You Think About Going Solo in the Backcountry?
Often when I read news stories about solo hikers who've gotten lost or gone missing, I see many reader comments strongly criticizing the hikers for going alone, saying it was irresponsible.
Some even go so far as to say they deserved what happened for hiking solo.
I've seen the question, "Why should we, the taxpayers, foot the bill to search for and rescue someone who was so foolish?"
Speaking for myself, I've only hiked alone a handful of times and always on trails that were well known to me and well-used. I've never gone on a multi-day backpacking trip by myself (although I had no specific hiking partner when I set out on the Appalachian Trail amongst a large number of other wanna-be thru-hikers).
But that's not because I think there's inherently something wrong with going alone. I'm just more comfortable having a buddy on the trail, even if we don't hike together most of the way. And I like the shared experience, which might mean just comparing notes at rest stops, at the top of a mountain, or at the end of the day if we've not walked together on the trail.
So, what do you think about hiking solo?
Do You Hike or Backpack Alone? - A quick visitor poll....
Do You Hike or Backpack Alone?
Her mother says she’s not an irresponsible hiker, yet she did the most irresponsible thing a hiker can do and that is go it alone. I admire her for wanting to see the real world and not the tourist version, but it’s simply not smart to go into the back country, no matter where you are, by yourself.— Comment on CNN news story
What Do I Think Of Hiking Alone?
My little opinion:
Well .... as long as someone is hiking a trail or route that is within their level of ability (ie. isn't ten miles long if they've only ever hiked three miles), goes prepared with the proper gear, has a map and knows how to read it or knows the trail well, and tells somewhere where they're going and when they expect to return, then I don't think it's irresponsible.
Many people thrive on alone time in the great outdoors, and I don't fault them for going out and getting some.
I don't think hiking solo is inherently dangerous; although, one could be more of a target in the very unlikely event the solo hiker or backpacker runs into someone who wants to do them harm. It happens, but it's statistically very uncommon ... even though those types of stories make the news headlines and make it seem like much more of a risk than it is, in my opinion.
Still, even when that happens, I don't blame the victim.
Books Dedicated to Going Solo: Stories, Suggestions, and Safety Tips for Hiking, Backpacking, and Traveling Alone
If you love it, it's fun to read about others who do, also. If you're anxious about it but giving it some thought, it's great to learn from people who've been there, done that. And if you know you never will, it's still great to live vicariously through the stories of those who do what we can't or won't.
Here are some books I recommend that can satisfy all of those situations....
About "Seven Reasons to Go Traveling Solo"
One reviewer writes:
"As explained in the book, the author himself was nervous and afraid the first time he set out on his solo expedition. However, he was able to overcome his fears and turn travel into his most rewarding experience ever....
Along with the reasons how solo traveling can be so remarkable, the book also covers priceless tips and ideas about how to get the most from your travels - like packing lists and budget money advice. He even thoroughly explains a few things that many of us would tend to overlook - things like vaccinations, insurance, and surviving in airports!
Seven Reasons To Go Travelling Solo is a wonderful inspiration, backed by genuine experience, to push us to get off our feet and travel the world!"
The Basic Essentials of Solo Hiking
This handy book shares tips and tricks for lightweight backpacking, avoiding hazards and selecting routes.
I still don’t get it why people do this kind of stuff… Hiking alone in an area that you don’t know at all? What if you fall and get injured? How do you get help? Some people just seem to be lacking the most basic common sense…— Comment on CNN news story
Tell Us What You Think
What's Your Opinion About Hiking or Backpacking Alone?
Do you think going solo is a foolish or reasonable thing to do?
Hiking Solo: Read another discussion about going it alone
- Hiking Alone? A Discussion on PeerTrainer.com
I told my sister today about plans I have to hike 10 miles for a day hike in NH. She flipped out and was telling me it was too dangerous and that I could be murdered or whatever! I laughed it off but was thinking about it later. Any women go....
Precautions To Take
Because it doesn't hurt to be careful
This advice certainly applies to hiking with a buddy or a group too, but I think it's even more crucial when going alone.
- Leave an itinerary -- a trail/route and expected return time -- with a friend or family member. Contact them when you return so they know you're back and don't call for help unnecessarily. (Don't have a friend or family member you can leave this information with? One alternative would be to go to a ranger station near where you will be hiking. Tell them where you intend to go and how long you plan to be gone. Ask where you can park or tell them if you already know. Give them your license plate number, the make and model pf your vehicle, and when you will check in with them on the way out.)
- Take a 24-hour pack with ten essential gear.
- Carry an emergency locater device, such as a PLB or (and know how and when to use it). SPOT Personal Tracker
- Check the weather forecast before you start hiking.
- If you've never hiked the trail or route before, know what type of terrain you'll encounter and any special skills or equipment you may need, then assess your ability. Be honest with yourself! Study the map before you start hiking and be sure to take it with you.
- Don't wear headphones. Listen to your surroundings. Music is great but it can be distracting and prevent you from hearing things like someone approaching from behind, thunder, or animals.
- Consider using trekking poles. I've found they've saved me from sprained or even broken ankles on numerous occasions, as well as prevented me from falling. Getting injured on the trail is never a good thing, of course, but it's even worse when hiking alone.
- Don't take unnecessary risks. Be conservative. For example, don't take that extra step towards the edge of a cliff just to see further down into the canyon.
- Stick to your plan. Don't change the itinerary, trail, or route you left with your friend or family member on a whim.
A "Just In Case" Device For Hikers, Solo Or Not
SPOT Satellite Messenger is a primary link for emergency life saving rescue services around the world, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SPOT offers the user additional features, 911 rescue assistance, check in or help sent alert message to friends and loved ones, location address via Google map website address, plus optional features of Google's tracking feature and roadside assistance.
Gadgets For Hikers CAN Potentially Be Lifesavers
If you know how AND when to use them ... and if they work.
For example, read....
Imagine someone calling 9-1-1 from a remote area of the Grand Canyon because the water they filtered tastes kind of salty, setting in motion a risky rescue operation. Or...
Or Try A Hiker Emergency Alert Web Application
HikerAlert will automatically notify your family and friends if you don't check-in after a hiking trip or other wilderness activity.
- Hiking Safety Alert App | Home | HikerAlert.com
HikerAlert.com is a Web-based emergency alert app for lost, injured or overdue hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, hunters and other wilderness enthusiasts. HikerAlert.com will automatically notify your emergency contacts if you don't check in by your
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.