Joys of Hiking Alone
Cover image: Hiking alone is fun and recharging, whether you're an introvert or not. All images: Lisa Verwys
I’m a textbook introvert. I love to be around others but there comes a point that I need to be alone to recharge. Enter: hiking solo. Solo hiking combines one of my favorite activities (hiking) with one of my necessary forms of self-care (solo time). Even if you’re not an introvert, there are lots of benefits to heading outdoors by yourself.
When you hike by yourself, you can go where you want when you want.
Why go it alone?
1) You’ll embrace the concept of self-reliance. When you’re solo, you are in charge. You’ll learn to trust your gut, to get yourself out of dicey situations, to keep yourself safe, and to make your own decisions.
2) You’ll recognize your independence. There is no rule that says “thou shalt not hike solo” and yet so many of us think that we “can’t” go do something if we don’t have a partner. You just have to break that barrier once to realize that you can not only adventure solo, but it can be fun!
3) You will discover your unique strengths and your improve-able weaknesses. The greater the variety of situations that you put yourself in, the more you will discover about your strengths and weakness. The more I adventured alone, the better I got at making well-thought out decisions, reading maps, and assessing risks. This also translates into group scenarios, as I feel more confident in being part of the process instead of just letting others make decisions for me.
Nothing like setting up camp alone to feel strong and independent.
Ready to give solo hiking a try? Here are a few tips to make you (and your friends or family) feel more secure. There is no one-size-fits-all set of rules for safety, so adapt these suggestions to fit your personal risk tolerance and comfort level.
1) Have an emergency contact. Let them know where you’re going and what your planned route is. Give them a “freak out” time that they should hear by you from. I generally make this time several hours later than my slowest estimated pace just to give myself plenty of padding, especially if I’m driving far out of cell service.
2) Practice conservative decision making skills. This is especially important when you’re in an area with little traffic. When you’re out alone, you are your safety net. Your emergency contact could call Search & Rescue for you, but let’s not let it get to that point! I like to joke that my priorities outdoors are, in order, to have fun, look good, and be safe. In reality being safe and coming home alive are my #1 goals every day. We all have a different tolerance for risk, but whenever you make a risk assessment be sure that you’re considering the following: availability of help, consequence level, and preparedness for the worst case scenario (do you have extra layers? Food? Water? First aid supplies?).
3) Pick busy trails to start out on. Being by yourself can feel less intimidating and scary if you know that you’re on a popular trail.