Hiking Solo

Posted by: smiknab

Hiking Solo - 03/27/08 11:31 PM

I have done some long distance hiking previsouly, but I have never gone solo. I want to keep hiking but it's hard to get someone to take a month off and go hiking. I always heard to never hike alone, but obvisouly many people do. What extra precautions should I take if I want to go on a couple month hike solo? What are the pros and cons of hiking solo for months?
Posted by: BarryP

Re: Hiking Solo - 03/28/08 10:44 AM

Do a search going back 5 years. Use quotes, “hiking solo”
Several hits pop up.

Posted by: aimless

Re: Hiking Solo - 03/28/08 11:02 AM

The particular hazards you'll encounter will vary according to where you hike and what time of year. The basic precaution is usually the same: know as much as you can about your surroundings, the local weather, your own limits, the limits of your gear and your escape hatches. Then stay alert.
Posted by: Roocketman

Re: Hiking Solo - 03/31/08 06:48 PM

You might consider reading some of the OLD Colin Fletcher hiking books, or something like the book on his 1,000 mile summer or the Grand Canyon Hike.

In general, you are more or less conscious of being alone, and therefore decide to do less aggressive rock hopping and things like that. If you do something stupid, you have to pay for it all by yourself.

Posted by: JAK

Re: Hiking Solo - 04/01/08 07:08 AM

You want to get some experience getting lost solo. It's different. Pick some favourite area that is familiar enough and bounded enough that the risks are limited, but complex enough to get yourself lost. Carry a watch and incorporate it into your map and compass work, as it is useful to have a good sense of time when your mind starts playing tricks on itself. The objective here is not soo much just to practice your map and compass work, and dead reckoning work, but also to get to know how your mind works. Cheers.

p.s. Getting yourself safely lost is a bit of an art. A little bushwacking off trail is usually sufficient for me. Just make sure you are bounded on all sides some reasonable distance by roads or water or clear cuts or something like that. Keep your playpen small especially in winter and thick brush. Small enough to hike from once corner to another in 4 hours say. Don't play too late in the day, but if you do manage to get yourself really good and lost stop well before dark and camp for the night. Another good reason for the watch.
Posted by: kev452

Re: Hiking Solo - 04/03/08 08:06 AM

You have two great pieces of advice alread:
stay alert
also to get to know how your mind works
It is amazing what your mind can do (and do to you). It can flat out mess with you.
It is a bit funny but I often take out a group of high school students, or hike solo. With the group or by my self I have never really done anything stupid, but with my girl friend in the Zion Narrows, I was more at ease and stupidity was soon to follow.
Posted by: RobA

Re: Hiking Solo - 04/04/08 01:40 PM

I started the PCT solo, it wasn't long before I latched onto new friends. I wouldn't "stick" with them, but sort of run into them from day to day.

The last month of my hike I found myself very alone. I was behind the pack and had several 3 to 5 day sections where I didnt see another human. It was great. Spookey stuff is reading Mountain Lion warning signs about recently spotted lions. "Don't hike alone" advice on them. Heh, makes you think.

Of course I was never lucky enough to spot one, nor did I have any trouble. As I knew the season was ending I was very careful crossing streams and glaciers. Knowing a bad fall could keep me there for days if no one wandered by.

Hiking solo might add more risk, but also adds more reward. Of course you have to be a "solo" kind of person.

I spent several nights alone sailing through the carribean and can't think of a better place to be.

Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Hiking Solo - 04/14/08 04:24 PM


Hiking solo might add more risk, but also adds more reward. Of course you have to be a "solo" kind of person.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/08/08 01:31 AM

Nearly all my hikes are solo, with only my dog for companionship. I like it that way because I prefer being alone. When I'm with a group, I'm always "tail-end-Charlie" and slow the rest of the group down. I've always tried to stay on trails where I can be sure of someone's coming along within the next 24-48 hours should something happen to me. However, I finally bought a PLB (Personal Locater Beacon) because I'm planning some off-trail trips this summer. I don't plan to take any extra risks (I have lots of off-trail navigation experience), but at least having the PLB keeps family and friends off my back! Should I break a leg or get pinned by a boulder while off-trail, I have a button to push. Having the PLB actually makes me more reluctant to take additional risks which might result in pushing said button. The fines and "vacations" in Federal prison for pushing the button in non-life-threatening situations are considerable!
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/08/08 12:45 PM

Like you, I prefer hiking at my own pace and it happens to be a slower pace than most of my [younger] hiking companions. It stresses me out to have people wait for me to catch up. It gives them a break, but, as soon as I catch up, we're off and running again! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> But, also like you, I really prefer hiking alone most of the time.

The PLB is a great idea and I've been toying with getting one, although I'm reluctant to add the extra weight. How much does yours weigh?
Posted by: johndavid

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/08/08 11:06 PM

This is an obvious statement but.... in lots of places, one can do extensive hiking on prime trails where, in season, plenty of people will be encountered every day.

Since one is never truly alone in those particular places, going "solo" is almost a non-issue if that's what you want to do. Obviously it can be however, lonesome despite the crowds.
Posted by: ringtail

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/12/08 06:42 AM

I prefer to hike solo, but camp with company.

I have noticed that a lot of people with dogs hike much less miles than their dogs. It is possible to have the same arrangement with other hikers. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> I hike with some young fast guys and they do all the side trips then meet me for camp.
Posted by: HumanBN

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/15/08 09:53 PM

I've been backpacking for years. The first year I did it I had a friend with me every time. After that, until last year, I was almost always alone. The oddest part is being in a strange place after the sun goes down and not knowing what the sounds are. Often I would sit by my fire knowing that most of the sounds were a frog of some sort or some raccoon in the leaves but it would still cause me to pay more attention to what was happening around me. I would compare some of those experiences to that of almost being in a care accident. You end up ok because nothing happened but you still feel that there was a possibility. It makes me feel alive.
Posted by: RobA

Re: Hiking Solo - 11/05/08 06:31 AM

I've done 2 thru hikes and started both solo.

Along the AT it seemed I was never very much alone. And often hiked with someone.

The PCT however, as I got toward the rear of the "pack" I got very much alone. Even most the trip in general, I very rarely walked with in site of anyone.

Northern OR and southern Wash. I would go days without seeing another person. It was fabulous. Never more then about 3 days, but several of them. So between resupply I was only running into 2 to 4 hikers. I'd chat for 10 mins and never see them again. It's a great experience. The only other life adventure I have similar would be drifting alone on a sailboat, equally as rewarding.

Things that worried me? Stupid wild cat warnings. Posters around crater lake saying " Cat spoted! Don't hike alone, don't hike at dusk" Well I didnt have much choice, but it sure gives you the willies.

At the very end of my PCT hike, i ran into a few hikers and saw them on and off at least once a day. The weather was closing in and it was nice to know someone knew you were out there.

I look forward to a CDT hike, and have yet to decide if I will go it alone or with company. I am torn.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/08/12 07:01 PM

This is a great read; I have been contemplating this topic to some degree as someone preparing for a thru hike and consideration to what experience has taught versus the limitations I may have in attempting something like the CDT or PCT.
It is with strong respect for the need to be both prepared and comfortable with being out there potentially solo that I am slowly trying to be in a confident way, able to approach the CDT if I have the opportunity. I read this with some trepidation but am convinced that as the time comes i will be as ready as I was in other hikes, ex. AT, and really thrived on the experience whether someone was hiking with me or in camp, etc.

Did you ever attempt the CDT? When the opportunity arises I would like to find someone else attempting it to have some extra insight and skill and someone to kind of know what it was like while doing it. Even hiking alone but connecting at camp or having someone to push you a bit, can be a great help and seems like quite an experience to share....
Well, for me it is a ways off yet, but this helps gauge what level I should be attaining to be in terms of mental/physical prep.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/09/12 11:51 AM

You might connect with more people on cdt-l, perhaps the CDT forum on whiteblaze.net, and you might also consider the relevant year facebook page --- for example, a lot of current year CDT hikers communicate via https://www.facebook.com/groups/cdt2012/

Note that the CDT is a somewhat different animal from the PCT and AT. Unless you're certain that you want to do it as a single-year thru-hike, you might consider doing it in two big pieces, half or so one year and the rest the next. It's tough enough as it is without having to deal with lots of snow and dangerously high creek crossings; by splitting into two years you can really mitigate that aspect.

Going solo on the CDT: indeed, you can be more alone out there than on many other trails. I hiked a bit more than half of it alone, and I was fine with that, but every hiker is different on this sort of thing. It's another advantage of having hiked one or two long trails before the CDT: you build up a network of friends/acquaintances that you can hopefully start hiking with. I personally wouldn't want to start a long trail with someone that I hadn't hiked with, or at least hadn't been sort of vouched for by someone that I know.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/09/12 02:11 PM

Note that the CDT is a somewhat different animal from the PCT and AT. Unless you're certain that you want to do it as a single-year thru-hike, you might consider doing it in two big pieces, half or so one year and the rest the next. It's tough enough as it is without having to deal with lots of snow and dangerously high creek crossings; by splitting into two years you can really mitigate that aspect.

After reading this response I hopped over to the forum on white blaze.net and read a couple similar posts you have written. Suddenly, a lot of what you said and why you said it made a lot of sense; and I am both so grateful and appreciative of how your wisdom reflects in these posts/conversations. I have had just a bit of the snowfield experience when I was out exploring PCT trail but was not set up for a hike at that time, was just curious what it was like so drove out to near trailhead to check it out. Perhaps your assessment of a PCT hike first makes sense on a bunch of levels.... Something else you wrote really encouraged me as well

It's another advantage of having hiked one or two long trails before the CDT: you build up a network of friends/acquaintances that you can hopefully start hiking with. I personally wouldn't want to start a long trail with someone that I hadn't hiked with, or at least hadn't been sort of vouched for by someone that I know.

This may be the best reason as I agree wholeheartedly, even to the part about doing it alone. I really enjoyed my time out there like that and thus it is a good assessment to really have someone you feel or know is worth having along the trek.
So now it becomes a matter of patiently waiting to acquire time availability and perhaps some updated gear beforehand and the mental prep that I may do both of these trails as the opportunity comes and to just savor the time until then because once I read into the CDT....I was really really excited at the description and perhaps it would be something that could be split into a couple trips if timing makes a thru hike difficult. I just know it is something I would like to experience and complete.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/10/12 12:33 PM

It's just a tough thing to get right I think. If the CDT is the one trail that you really want to hike, there are people who start with it. If you go that route, I would definitely split it into two years, because otherwise you'll be having more "adventure" than most people care for.

The big catch with "doing the PCT first" is the question of whether life will let you then go on to the CDT. If it's the CDT that really has your focus, then ...

If you do opt to do the PCT first, I suggest that you get Yogi's guide (google it); it's excellent preparation in lots of ways. Also look at various resources on postholer.com, and perhaps peruse the pct-l archives.

Of the three trails I like the PCT best. I have friends re-hiking the PCT this year, and I'll be doing 330 miles of it again soon, hiking southern Oregon with section hiking friends.
Posted by: aimless

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/10/12 12:54 PM

I have heard that yogi was also working on a handbook for the CDT, similar to her PCT handbook. I do not know if it is available or not.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/10/12 03:44 PM

Well, there are certainly options for either approach;
Sound advice for sure....
I would like to be able to share my interest and enthusiasm with those like minded folks who understand, relate and or connect to the same wonder and awe as the hikes have given me and so I stand on a precipice of trying to get out there and meet them on such a trek as the PCT and see if i happen to find that aspect. And then as you say, see if that provides a path to the CDT with more of an "in" group connection or relatedness...

The other approach builds on my previous attempts as an individual with enough inclination, interest, ability and wits to have a great trek but perhaps with the cautionary time split to prevent situational drama in challenging terrain/conditions.
I will certainly be read up on either/ both with maps and a keen awareness of where I would be....I have the time to get to that level of preparedness and understand its necessity.
Thanks for the additional online community connections and sources, I enjoy this phase of getting ideas and perspectives and getting a glimpse of what people are up to in their adventures.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: Hiking Solo - 07/10/12 03:48 PM

There are guide books for PCT, CDT, and Colorado trail and some grouping of related materials as well....
Great site and I look forward to the reading!
Posted by: Peter Sump

Re: Hiking Solo - 11/11/13 02:59 AM

Never did I made it hiking alone too, I mostly hang out with colleagues more safer and fun with little but vital things packed.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Hiking Solo - 11/11/13 01:01 PM

"Solo for months" can mean many things. The PCT,AT and CDT are long thru-hikes but you drop back into civilization quite often except for a few longer sections (mid-Sierras). So you are really not alone that much. And you are on well marked, well used trails. I solo for 1-2 months (12-13 day legs, with a few days off in between) off trail mostly, in quite remote areas. I have gone 8+ days and never see anyone. On many 12 day trips I may see 5-8 people max. This is a different animal. Not as physically hard as the PCT, but it perhaps requires much more self-sufficiency. Personality has a lot to do with it. I personally do not really like the "social" aspect when backpacking. I like to be alone a lot. Others feel the opposite and get most of their enjoyment out of the social aspect. I think you need to evaluate both your technical skill and experience as well as your personality and see what fits best.
Posted by: wildnfree

Re: Hiking Solo - 08/22/18 04:53 AM

You need to do some training first before hiking alone. It's very different from hiking with group. Choose a short trail near you and hike for about 2 or 3 days.
Taking a month off to hike solo is not the best option. You need to prepare everything from food, gear, and spirit to overcome the fear while in the wood.
Posted by: Matt Miller

Re: Hiking Solo - 11/15/18 01:38 AM

Solo hikes are great. Not only you can manage your own pace. But also, the sense of accomplishment a 'solo' hike gives is indescribable. But the responsibility falls only on your own shoulder and there can be a lot of risks and threats out there as well depending on the hike. So, my advice would be to be realistic about your skills, pain tolerance, endurance, and what you enjoy. Avoid taking unnecessary risks especially if its the first solo hike.
Posted by: MountainMinstrel

Re: Hiking Solo - 03/26/19 12:08 AM

I hike solo a lot, but it is usually less that 5 days. This year I'm hiking the JMT solo taking 21-22 days. The advantage to the JMT is that I do not have to be alone while having complete freedom to do whatever I feel like doing on any given day. I am sure there will be times when I will be lonely, but I am actually looking forward to those times as I am sure that they will be the times when God can have my undivided attention. plus, it's not like you are ever alone on the JMT.

Now, spending 5 days off trail in Emigrant and seeing only one person from a distance...that is alone... and I LOVED it!
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Hiking Solo - 05/26/19 02:33 PM

The remoteness of the route makes a difference. Even if I do not see people, if I am near a fairly popular area or if it only takes a day to get back to civilization, I feel less "alone". When I am several very difficult days (over many difficult passes) from the nearest trailhead or popular trail and do not see anyone for over a week, that feels a lot more "alone". Being quite introverted, I do not mind being alone; however the safety/fear factor goes up a bit. True solo backpacking in a very remote location is inherently more dangerous than with a partner or larger group. There is no immediate backup if something goes wrong.

What I miss most when totally alone is being able to have someone to help with decisions.