Hiking is a great way to explore the wilderness with friends or family members, but sometimes your schedules don’t line up, and you find yourself exploring alone. If you’re heading into the wilds on your own, what do you need to stay safe?
1. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
This rule of thumb should hold even if you’re hiking with other people, but it’s essential if you’re alone. Make sure you let someone you trust know where you’re going, when you’re leaving and when you expect to be back. Make sure they also know what trails you’re planning to take, and any GPS coordinates you have.
Don’t post your plans on social media, especially if you’re traveling by yourself and your social media accounts are public. Wait until you’re home safe to post pictures of your adventures, so if anyone does have less-than-honorable intentions, they won’t be able to find you.
2. Know Your Fitness Level
The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail is a goal for many hikers, but don’t treat long hiking trips like that lightly. Be aware of your fitness level and how difficult your chosen trail is before you head out into the wilderness. Pushing yourself can help you break through plateaus, but don’t try a new or extra-hard trail when you’re exploring by yourself until you know how your body is going to respond to a new or more challenging locale.
3. Have Plenty of Nonperishable Food
If you’re hiking on your own, you can’t split your supplies with anyone else, so you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of food. Choose food that won’t spoil and that won’t weigh you down too much. You’ll need to pack enough supplies for the entire trip, unless you plan to forage for your dinner. Jerky and other dehydrated foods are a fantastic option because they weigh very little and you can eat them as-is. As long as you have a safe water source on hand, you can rehydrate them for a more filling meal.
4. Learn to Use a Map/Compass
When you’re heading out into the wilderness, your phone’s GPS won’t always help you find your way home. If you’re hiking at all — on your own or with other people — you should learn how to read a map and compass. Before you head out by yourself, take time to learn how to use an old-school compass and map to navigate your way through the wilderness.
5. Be Prepared for Anything
The most important thing to remember when you’re hiking on your own is to be ready for anything and be prepared to carry everything on your back. Bring food, water or water-purifying tools, extra clothes, a first-aid kit and anything else you might need to survive while you’re away from civilization. Hiking on your own can help you become more self-reliant, but you’ll need to be able to handle whatever challenges Mother Nature might throw at you.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Hiking is a fantastic way to connect with nature and get an excellent workout at the same time. If you’re hiking solo, make sure you’re more careful, and that you prepare for any scenario. Most of all, take your time to appreciate all the beauty your hiking trails have to offer.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington