Going solo: how to hike alone safely

Posted on 02/05/2017

If you’re the kind of person who prefers solitude, you might have considered heading out on a solo hike. However, the wilderness can be a scary place when you’re on your own. Although hiking by yourself does have specific risks, if you’re well-prepared for your adventure, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try hiking alone.

Here are the six things you need to do to hike alone safely.

Hiking alone safely

Plan Your Hike

If you’re embarking on a solo hike, your trip should be well planned. You can use an app such as ViewRanger to check out the topography of the area you’re thinking of hiking, as well as the stats on specific trails.

Since you’ll be on your own, it’s important to have a good understanding of the trail you’ll be hiking and the various conditions you could potentially experience on your hike.


Check Your Gear

Ensuring all of your gear is in great condition is essential, especially on a solo hike. Something as simple as a broken shoelace in your hiking boot can cause a serious problem when you’re hiking alone.

Other gear problems, such as a leaky water bottle or a broken compass, can be even more dangerous. Be sure you’re packing quality gear in good condition for your trip.

Hiking alone safely

Be Prepared

As you get ready for your hike, it’s important to strike a balance between being well-prepared for your chosen trail and not overloading your pack. Here’s a short list of the essentials and some things to keep in mind when packing them:

  • Water: Water is generally the first and heaviest consideration when packing for any hike. You need to pack enough to stay well-hydrated throughout the hike, but not so much that you exhaust yourself from the weight.
  • Map: Regardless of whether you are bringing your phone or a portable GPS along on the hike, you should still bring a regular map and compass.
  • Food: If you’re planning a hike longer than a few hours, you’ll probably want to bring along some food. Try to choose healthy foods high in calories, such as protein bars or mixed nuts.


Check In

When you go out alone, you should always check in with a friend or family member and let them know all the details of your hike. That person should also know when you plan to be back, and they should be made aware of who to contact if you don’t check in by a certain time.

If you’re hiking in a state or national park with a ranger station, you should also check in there when you arrive for your hike. The staff will record information, such as your name, the hike you plan to take, the length of your trip and your car information. Having that information on hand makes it much easier to send someone out looking for you, should you require help on the trail.

Hiking alone safely

Know Your Limits

When hiking alone, it’s more important than ever to understand your limits and to respect them. If you push yourself way past your limits by attempting a hike that is much too difficult, you could end up injured and alone on the trail.

Since you’ll only have yourself to rely on when solo hiking, it’s important to listen to your body’s cues on the trail. If you feel yourself getting tired, weak or overheated, take a break and give yourself a chance to rest before continuing with your hike.

If you overexert yourself, there won’t be anyone to send for help. Depending on the popularity of your chosen trail, it could be hours or days before another hiker passes by your location to offer assistance. That’s why it is critical for you to be vigilant about monitoring your internal cues regarding your pace and exertion levels.


Use the Right Tech

While not everyone enjoys hiking with technology, certain devices can add an extra layer of safety for people hiking alone. For example, the ViewRanger smartphone app has a BuddyBeacon feature which allows you to share your real-time location with anyone you choose. It’s a great way for folks at home to follow along with your trip and see where you are along the trail.

You can also choose a standalone device, such as the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger. This small tracker allows you to request emergency assistance and send check-in messages to predetermined contacts while you’re on the trail. Weighing in at just over five ounces, the SPOT tracker is a very small item to put in your pack, and it provides a lot of peace of mind to solo hikers and their loved ones.


Solo hiking can be a great way to recharge yourself. As long as you plan ahead and prepare yourself for the experience, there’s no reason you can’t be safe while on a solo hike.

Have you ever hiked by yourself? Tell us in the comments how you prepared for your first solo hike.


About the Author: Caroline is a freelance writer and hiking fanatic. She feels lucky to be able to combine her two passions as a health and fitness writer specializing in outdoor activities. You can find more of her work on eHealth Informer.

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