Do you want to go out on a solo hike? Congratulations! You are awesome!
Do you still feel unsure and uncomfortable about hiking all by yourself? Well, let’s get over that! I will show you how to become a strong and confident solo hiker!
Having hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016 and traveled alone on this planet for over a decade now I never had too many doubts about being a solo female hiker or traveler. Nothing bad ever happened. But how did I get to this level of self-confidence? What is the key to successful solo hiking for women?
This article is just for you, Ladies!
Why are some of us scared to be out in the wild?
These days, the media does a great job reporting mostly the bad things that happen in this world! Whatever you are looking into, someone got killed, kidnapped, robbed or raped. If you go out and do things very soon you will realize that there is much more good than bad things in this world.
Historically, women are not supposed to be out in the wild alone. Right from the very beginning the traditional role of us women was to stay at home and raise the kids while our men were out in wilderness, hunting and gathering. As a result, maybe there’s still something deep inside of us that holds us back at times.
Another reason might be individual personal fears. The fear of the unknown, the fear of something happening that we cannot control. Family and friends always have a story handy about how dangerous it would be to hike alone. In regards to what others think about us it would often be much easier to just stay at home. But what would we miss?
Solo Hiking for Women – The rewards of hiking solo
Don’t let your fears win. Going solo on a hike can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have! Wheather you go on a day-hike nearby or you attempt one of many awesome long-distance hiking trails on this planet you will for sure enjoy all the rewards of solo hiking:
- Enjoy your me-time! There’s noone chatting? Great! Now you have the time to think about everything that is important for you without being distracted by others. Hiking by myself I can always clear my head and have the best ideas. Just let your thoughts flow!
- Hike at your own pace! Being alone means there’s no need to wait for someone or even run behind others. There’s a nice place around the corner, just behind that big tree and you want to have a little rest? Go for it!
- Have the best wildlife encounters! There’s noone stumbling in front of you and scaring away all the deers early in the morning. Or maybe you are even lucky and see a bear!
- Do whatever you like on trail! Do you like taking photos, just like me? Hiking with others it’s sometimes just not possible to stop all the time. Do you like singing when you are all by yourself? Did you ever dance in the middle of a hiking trail?
- Win lots of self-confidence! When you go solo hiking you will get to know yourself. Your strengths and weaknesses, your hopes and dreams, your doubts and your fears. You will get more and more self-confident!
Solo Hiking for Women – The importance of preparation
Good preparation is mendatory for me at all times when I hit the trail or travel to a new country. Good preparation will give you the confidence to go. Are you afraid of anything special? Get to know your fear. Let’s say you are afraid of a bear encounter while hiking. Get to know everything about bears. Did you know that you should fight back if a black bear attacks you? Did you know that most of them will be more scared of you than you of them? Maybe bears are not that scary at all once you know the details.
Now let’s get into the details of preparations. What is essential for a successful solo hike?
Get to know the trail you want to hike on by answering the following questions:
- What trail do you want to hike?
- How long is the trail?
- Are there any alternate routes and what route will you take?
- What kind of regions are covered by your trail? (Does it run through desert, jungle, high mountains?)
- How does the elevation profile of your trail look like?
- How many other hikers will be on the trail? (Is it a popular trail or is it more likely that you will be alone?)
- Are there any resupply options, e.g. villages, mountain huts, on the trail?
- Are there any special challenges waiting for you? For example a very steep climb or descent or any area that gets tricky in rainy weather?
By answering all these questions you will not only get to know your hiking trail but also get essential information for your next steps of preparing. For example the different regions covered by your trail will tell you what kind of gear you should bring. The length of the trail together with the elevation profile will give you information about the level of fitness you will need for successful hiking the entire trail.
How will the weather be when you are goint to hike? Is it a day hike tomorrow and the weather will be great? Sunshine and 25 degrees Celsius? Or are you going for a week and it looks like rain after a couple of days?
You should definitely check the weather report multiple times before you head out on the trail. Furthermore you should familiarize youself with the “wheather specialties” of the regions your trail will cover.
The most important advice I can give you is that you should be prepared for any weather conditions that could occur while you are on trail. If you go into the mountains the weather can change all of a sudden and a sunny day can turn into a roaring thunderstorm within minutes! It is important to carry some good and lightweight raingear.
Did you know that when hiking under the desert sun a hiking umbrella comes very handy?
I didn’t bring a man – How do I navigate?
Navigation on trail is actually not as scary as you think and you will be able to fight that well-known prejudice very easily. There are countless navigation apps for the smartphone that you could use to find your way through the bushes. I can recommend the Pocket Earth Pro Maps for navigation but there are many others. For popular long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail or the Continental Divide Trail I can highly recommend using Guthooks Hiking Guides.
When it comes to navigation you should always have a back-up system for your smartphone. Especially when you’re solo hiking. I definitely recommend to bring paper maps and a compass and you should also know how to use them. It took me a while to find a good explanation of how to navigate with maps and compass but I finally did. If you want to learn navigation properly get the book “Mountaineering – The Freedom of the Hills”. It contains the best explanations and additional to that you get information about many other outdoor skills. Click here to get to know more books about general hiking preparation and the Pacific Crest Trail.
But what if I get lost? With the right preparation, a good navigation app, paper maps and a compass and the right navigation skills it is very unlikely that you will get lost. If it happens anyway then stay calm and think about your options. Where was your last known position? Can you hike back to that point? Can you see any point of interest that could be on the map? Usually you will find back to the trail by yourself very quickly.
Do I need to bring special gear for solo hiking?
The gear you will take should be appropriate for the trail you want to hike on and the weather conditions. Be prepared for anything! I don’t want to write down a full gear list but stress the items that are most important in regards to solo hiking for women. If you want a full overview of hiking gear for a multi-day hike or long-distance hike check out my PCT gear list.
I already mentioned the importance of maps and compass as a backup navigation system for hiking alone.
My next point would be the first aid kit. As you are hiking solo you should be prepared for nearly every hiking injury possible. The hiking “injury” number one are blisters, so make sure you bring enough blister pads. Additional to that I take a huge amount of strong pain killers with me just in case I twist my ankle or anything and need to hike some extra miles to be safe. Take some strong pain killers with you, just in case!
Last but not least I want to mention personal locator beacons like DeLorme InReach or SPOT. They use the satellite network and beneath an emergency function that sends your GPS data you can use it to reassure friends and family that you are well. I personally never used one myself but I think if you want to spend the extra money it is a good option to add a bit of safety.
Getting in trail shape
Do you already include some kind of excercise into your daily life? No? Well, why not taking the stairs next time instead of the elevator? Your supermarket for shopping is in walking distance but you go by car? Why not change some things to get fit?
To increase safety and to prevent injuries you should be in top shape when you hit the trail. It generally depends on your daily lifestyle how much you need to do ahead of time to get fit. And of course it also depends on the trail you want to hike.
The best training for hiking and backbacking is hiking and backpacking itself. But you can also go to the gym or do some exercises at home. Cycling and swimming are very good to train your endurance. If it is your first solo hike and you are not too sure about your level of fitness then I recommend that you try short and easy hikes first. From there you can slowly increase your distances and pick more demanding elevation profiles.
How can I prepare mentally?
Most of the times it’s a mental blockade I already mentioned in the introduction that holds us women back from being out in the wild alone.
You are planning your first overnight hike alone and you don’t feel comfortable? There are many ways how to deal with the situation. Instead of just hopping into the cold water and just do it you could start preparing. If you have some time left before you actually want to go you can slowly get more confident with hiking alone. Hike a trail in your home region you are familiar with and take a friend with you for a start. You can hike one by one and catch up somewhere in between. Especially if you want to camp alone for the first time you can “practice” that very well with a friend by camping a bit further away from each other. Or why don’t you take your four-legged friend with you? You don’t have a dog? Just ask a friend and borrow one!
It’s all about getting more comfortable with the thought of hiking alone. Again doing some research can be very helpful. Read books, follow some blogs from other women who go on solo hikes and join a facebook group for women! Find people who encourage you to make your plans become reality!
A final advice I can give you would be that you don’t think of solo hiking for women as anything special. Why should it be more special than hiking for men? Whenever I go on a hike or travel by myself I always research the general risks and dangers I never think of things in a very women specific way. By doing that it never gets a big thing in my head and I never go crazy because it could be more dangerous for women.
Solo Hiking for Women – On the trail
Nevertheless there are many questions coming up in regards to actually being out there hiking on the trail. What happens if…? What about….?
When I prepared for my hike of the PCT in 2016 it was kind of hard to find the right information. This has changed dramatically. These days you can find thousands of articles about solo hiking for women and even more youtube videos. Unfortunately only a very small amount is really worth reading or watching. I was often surprised what comes up. Expecting some hiking advice or tips I clicked on poems, personal stories, articles about other women hiking and so on. But reading through all of that I found little answers to what in my opinion are the essential questions when you go solo hiking as a women.
In the following paragraphs I hope I can give you some answers from my experience as a solo PCT hiker and solo adventure traveler. I will cover what I think are the most relevant topics when it comes to solo hiking for women.
You will hike a trail and you will get dirty! If you’ve decided for a multi-day hike or long-distance hike you will get even more dirty! But here comes one of the advantages of solo hiking: noone will smell it! You will get your own “trail-style” and you will get used to it. I personally love it! My hairstyle looks crappy today? Who cares?! I have short hair and after one day out in the wild I usually hide the mess under my cap or beanie. It’s that easy.
Okay, now let’s talk about this one week out of four when we girls get really special. How do you deal with that out in the wild? I’ve read lots of articles recommending the diva cup or any other specialty that makes things more easy – or not. Honestly I recommend just do what works for you at home. And please – no matter what you do – carry out all of your trash. To do that I use a combination of a zip-loc bag together with these black bags you can buy for dog poo. Take the high quality ones! (Maybe someone can recommend a US brand in the comments – I only know German ones) You can’t see what’s inside and the plastic is very strong. The zip-loc bag will stop the smell.
Wet ones are also a good way to add some hygiene on the trail. They work well as toilet paper (definitely carry it out!) and double as a “quick shower” of your dirty legs before you get into your sleeping bag.
Do you have any other question regarding hygiene while hiking? Of course you should also bring some kind of trowel (I use an MSR snow stake) to bury your poo and some hand sanitizer to use afterwards – just like men!
My first night camping alone was a desaster. I was hiking in the nearby Black Forest in Germany. It was a test hike for the Pacific Crest Trail. When I reached my dedicated campsite it was alredy raining heavily. No chance of pitching my tent at all. Thankfully I found some shelter in a small wooden chapel. Instead of inside my cozy tent I was sleeping in the middle of three big black spiders (I hate spiders!) to avoid the rain. The wooden floor wasn’t very comfortable so I didn’t sleep much that night. I listened to the raindrops falling down and moved around a lot to stay warm – at least a little bit.
You will never forget your first night camping all alone! Maybe you will not sleep much because at that time you might not be used to the sounds of nature. And at night, when you’re lying in your tent, all the sounds from outside will turn louder in your ears. It might be a little bit scary first but you will get used to it after a while.
On the PCT I probably camped 5 to 10 nights alone without any other hikers around. Most of these nights I was way too tired to be scared at all. I went straight to sleep.
With some practising you will get more and more comfortable with camping alone, same as with hiking alone!
When I was backpacking in New Zealand I hitch-hiked around 5 times. On the PCT in 2016 I hitched so many times that I didn’t even count it. In both countries I heard many people say how dangerous it is and that people get murdered, raped or anything else very bad happens.
Well, it never happened to me so far. Am I lucky? I don’t think so. When you hitch-hike there’s generally only a small chance that you will get into the car of a bad person. You could also meet one at the supermarket, right?
I lately read an article about special things you should do when you hitch-hike like getting your money handy for escape and also about how to select a trust-worthy driver. A smile came to my face because I had to think of my hitch-hike out of Etna on the PCT. It was very hot and I was already waiting for a long time on the side of the road. The car that finally stopped was a pile of junk. Also the driver didn’t fit into any definition of trust-worthy. But it turned out that he was a nice guy and his car even made it up the mountain!
My recommendation in regards to hitch-hiking would be: if you have to do it then just do it and don’t be too scared about it!
Other hikers we meet
Finally you will meet other hikers while you are solo hiking as a women. One of the rewards of solo hiking is that you can choose who you want to spent some time with and who not. Especially on a long-distance hike you can choose your hiking partners. You want to hike alone again after a while? No problem!
Same as the people who stop in their cars to pick up a hitch hiker, the other hikers we meet are not necessarily more bad than the rest of the world. You might meet some people you don’t like or you don’t feel comfortable with but then you can just decide to hike on or take a break. It’s up to you!
As a female solo hiker you will also get in touch with other people more easily than if you’re hiking in a group or with a partner. I had lots of great conversations and met lots of awesome people just because I was hiking or traveling alone.
To sum things up solo hiking for women is not more dangerous than going on a solo shopping-tour or just driving around with your car and going solo has many advantages.
Go out into the world by yourself and discover the friendliness of people and the safety of nature! Isn’t it all worth it?
“The girl who goes alone says with her body
the world is worth the risk”
Elisabeth Austen: The Girl Who Goes Alone
Did I miss anything? I certainly did! If you have any questions, suggetions or recommendations for other women please share your thoughts in the comment section. I am happy to answer every question!
And now…? Let’s go hike! 🙂
Currently I am collecting first experiences as a newbie to bicycle touring. I am on the road from Mexico to Argentina. Not only cycling though – there are many great hikes along the the way! Subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page (or both 🙂 )to stay tuned!
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