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#176815 - 05/01/13 10:00 AM Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Having grown up in the Scouts, I always went on trips with at least several comrades, but as full-time work and full-time college have kind of drawn all my old hiking buddies apart into their separate lives, it's hard to get even a single wingman out on the trail with me.
To date, I've gone on two trips solo, but these were at Point Reyes, which is basically "Backpackerland! The New Disney Theme Park!".
Personally, I yearn to return to the national and state wildernesses, but therein lies my problem: a wee anxiety about going into untraveled terrain alone.

I've been out seeking advice, and have found these blogs:
1. http://bwca.cc/activities/hiking/articles/solobackpacking.html
2.
http://hikingdude.com/hiking-alone.php
3.
http://solofriendly.com/10-tips-for-hiking-alone-safely/

There is also a wealth of additional information on the subject to be found, but I thought I'd pick a few brains here for personal advice on what anyone's done or would do to get into the swing of the solo backpacking trip.
If I can name one thing that is personally holding me back, I think it's just a deep-seated (14 years) to the BSA's buddy system: two heads are better than one.
The idea of having a Clouseau moment in the wilderness without a wingman around is a threshold worth overtaking.

So, what say ye, Backpacking.net board o' messages?
Any advice for an old dog looking to become a lone wolf?


Edited by Robotmoose (05/01/13 10:07 AM)
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#176816 - 05/01/13 10:02 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Leave an itinerary with someone you trust and STICK TO IT. I don't care if you have people telling you "random is fun" and making it up on the fly is something they do ALL the time. Eventually this comes back to bite them. Suicide by wilderness is a popular method. Along with the itinerary, it helps to leave an accurate description of yourself and your gear, and have the person you leave it with be trustworthy enough to call the appropriate jurisdiction when you designate they should. And to do it with an ACCURATE description of your car, where you left it, and any alternate routes you might have done in the event the one you planned wasn't feasible due to weather.

Don't be a drunken idiot in the backcountry.

Stay hydrated, warm and know how to navigate yourself around with a map.

Brought to you by the Search and Rescue Volunteers of California.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176817 - 05/01/13 10:53 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
Glenn Roberts Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1911
Loc: Southwest Ohio
I couldn't agree with Lori more. A detailed itinerary with a trail map ("trail 101 to trail 203; take 203 to 187, then 187 back to 101...") is part of the key to safe soloing. The other part is leaving it with someone who is absolutely reliable, and will call authorities a minute or two after your "drop-dead" return time passes. And, be sure to include the emergency numbers (local sheriff, park or agency management, SAR, etc.) on the written itinerary. Sometimes, in addition to the person at home, I've sent a copy of the itinerary to the management agency and also left a copy on the seat of my car.

Along with the itinerary, establish a time by which you will call the person you leave it with to tell them you're off the trail and heading home. When you establish that time, be sure to allow for a late start the last day, some extra time to hike out (there's always the chance you'll find some view to linger over), and the drive time to get back into cell phone coverage.

For example, I know I'll be up by 6 and on the trail by 7, which will put me at the trailhead by 9. Let's call that 11, in case I oversleep or have a second cup of tea. Another hour back into cell phone range means noon - and let's add another 3 hours, just because. "OK, Karol, if you haven't heard from me by 3pm, call the emergency numbers on the itinerary and have them start looking for me."

I used to hike solo a lot. For those trips, I never did any off-trail; if I became injured, I wanted to be very easy to find ("Hey, here's a guy lying here in the middle of the trail - is he the one we're looking for?") I also specified my most likely campsites in the itinerary.

I now rarely travel alone. I'm not afraid to do so, I just find that nowadays, I enjoy company. But, maybe once a year, a night or two all on my own is a nice way to recharge the batteries.

For more insight on hiking alone, read the first couple of chapters of Colin Fletcher's Complete Walker IV - there's a lot of good info in there on leaving a plan. (He did often leave an itineray that consisted of "thataway" or "mucking about" as his projected route of travel, but always made sure he contacted someone by the time he said he would. At least, that's his story.)


Edited by Glenn Roberts (05/01/13 03:26 PM)
Edit Reason: add "with a trail map"

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#176818 - 05/01/13 11:19 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I solo a lot, and mainly for the same reasons, but also because I like being out there solo.

I was apprehensive too at first, but after the first time out I got comfortable with it. I think the fear of something going wrong is overblown. We certainly hear of solo hikers getting into trouble now and then, but we seldom hear about those that don't, which certainly out number those that do by a lot.

Lori's advice about navigating is probably the most pertinent. If you're not lost and you're not injured you're good. Not getting lost is pretty easy if you've got experience hiking and using maps and keeping track of where you are. Not getting injured is pretty easy too if you don't push yourself too hard or do inherently dangerous things while out there.

I solo almost exclusively off trail, and I tend to wander and not follow a specific route. So, when I leave a map of where I'm going I draw a route on it to show where I will likely be, and a line around the area I will be in, and I stay within those boundaries. This gives me the flexibility to wander and the SAR team a pretty good idea of where to look if I don't return on time.

I have a few things I bring to make it easier to be found. I bring an emergency blanket that is made from the foil like material and I keep it with me. Those are pretty easy to spot from the air. I also bring a piece of bubble foil insulation which has a foil like side to it. The two of these together make a pretty good emergency shelter that's light, warm, and visible.

I bring my cell phone. It's doesn't always get a signal in the deep and steep valleys we have here, but almost always gets one on the ridges, and in many cases it will send a text message even when it won't make a voice connection.

I always bring some extra food, at least enough for a couple days. Not 3 full meals, but enough to survive on without starving and to keep my energy up.

I bring enough LED lights and batteries to hike out at night if the need arises. I always bring a compass and a map and a GPS. If I do have to make a call or send a text for help I want to know my lat/long so I can include it. The goal is to make it as easy on the SAR folks as possible.

In short, I do all the same things I do when I backpack with others.

I'll suggest you do a short trip with the intention of spending a night or two at a particular spot that is well known just to get the feel of being out there alone. The first night you'll shake off a lot the uneasiness you feel now. The second night you'll sleep better and shake off most the rest of it. After that you can plan a trip like you would if you had friends with you and be comfortable with it, and from then on you'll probably really start enjoying going solo. If you find you don't enjoy it, well, start haranguing your friends to get out there with you again, and if that doesn't work then look for some new friends that will smile

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176819 - 05/01/13 12:29 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: billstephenson]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By billstephenson

I was apprehensive too at first, but after the first time out I got comfortable with it. I think the fear of something going wrong is overblown. We certainly hear of solo hikers getting into trouble now and then, but we seldom hear about those that don't, which certainly out number those that do by a lot.





Let's think about that a minute....

How are you going to hear about those who vanish alone into the wilderness? If they don't leave an itinerary, don't tell anyone they are going, and no one knows where they are, is anyone going to assume they didn't just move to Mexico, get murdered somewhere in town, or.....

It has happened that while on a search for one subject we have found the remains of some unrelated missing person in an area where no one was reported to be missing. We do not know how many people are out there dead in the wilderness, unknown, unheard of and unaccounted for. Therefore it is impossible to speculate on how many there are who've gone out solo and gotten hurt.

I will not, for example, go anywhere off trail while solo. Nor would I go bouldering and climbing alone. Things that increase risk of injury in isolated places where hardly anyone goes are better done with others.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176820 - 05/01/13 01:04 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2912
Loc: NorCal
Plenty has been said already, so I'll just add a couple thoughts.

Hike in established, well-traveled areas while you get your solo legs under you. Better to be in an area frequented by others to not only calm the inevitable jitters but get ready assistance should you need it (including simple trail instructions).

Consider toting a SPOT or InReach device to communicate with somebody back home, and allow you to SOS should you truly get into trouble. (With some exceptions, cellphones generally don't connect in the backcountry.)

If I didn't solo I would seldom hike, so I've adjusted to the whole idea of being the only person around; in fact, I kind of like it that way. Having a family means having the responsibility to make it back home, so I do what I need to assure that will happen.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#176821 - 05/01/13 02:05 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Rick_D]
PerryMK Online   content
member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1230
Loc: Florida panhandle
Leaving an itinerary with someone is a great idea. If you don't have anyone to leave it with, then leave one in an easy to find place so that if someone walked into your home it would be readily noticed. Middle of table with nothing else on table, middle of made bed, taped to front of tv or computer screen. Even if you do leave a copy with someone, a backup in in your home probably won't hurt.

I have a whistle attached to my shoulder strap. My thought is if I fall and hurt myself so I can't move, I can probably reach it. It's better than having to dig through a pack with a broken wrist (common fall injury). Three long blasts is a universal SOS signal, and one can last much longer blowing a whistle than yelling for help.

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#176824 - 05/01/13 05:58 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Lori, you can leave an accurate route of where you want to go off trail.

As far as not hearing about those who vanish, I don't think many do. I've heard of reports of hikers who were never found, but generally speaking it's not because they were off trail. It's because no one knew where to look, trail or no trail.

Either way, this is like every other decision you make while backpacking, you have to know your limits and skills and be careful and cautious.

Bushwhacking, like every other skill, is best learned with experience. For me, I started out not going very far off trail, and learning to read and remember the lay of the land and its unique features, and how to get back to where I started. I explored defined areas in detail and practiced and learned how to go further, and back. I focused on learning that skill, and I did it solo.

With experience you learn how to never be lost. I don't think this is some difficult to obtain skill, or gift. I think it's a matter of practice and experience.

We're talking about backpacking here. I can understand why some, even many, backpackers feel safer on a trail. I don't. I don't see how it makes me one bit safer. It doesn't protect me in any real way I can imagine. If you know where you are on a trail that makes you feel safe. I know where I am off trail, so I feel just as safe as you, and there's no real statistical evidence that I know of that proves me wrong.

It's not necessarily safer to be with another person. That depends on their skills. Even on a trail that other person could be endangered if you were injured, and in that case we might say it would have been safer to be solo.

Aside from that, there are too many great spots out there that no trail leads to. Why would I want to dismiss those just because of that? Some are only a few hundred feet off trail, even less, and almost no one ever visits them just because of that. It's not because they are dangerous in any way, it's just because there is no trail that goes there.

The only reason I started backpacking is because I wanted to go further and stay longer on my bushwhacks. If a trail gets me closer to some place I want to go I might take it, but otherwise I'm out there in the middle of it all.

If someone wants to learn and hone and take advantage of those skills I see no reason to discourage them. That's exactly the kind of person I'd be thrilled to go hiking with.

W_D did 140 miles of solo bushwhacking last Summer. It's not unsafe. You need to learn, practice, and gain experience to do what she did, but that's true for anything worth doing.

I understand your concern though. I suspect you tend see every newbie and most other backpackers as potential SAR missions, and with good reason. We all are.

If no one ever went, there would be no SAR missions, but that's not what we're seeking here. We're seeking how to do it right.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176825 - 05/01/13 05:59 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
goldenteardr Offline
newbie

Registered: 04/18/13
Posts: 8
Loc: az and nm
Going Solo has some very interesting psychology attachments to it. For example: you cannot get lost if you feel at home where you are. People get lost when they are not at home in the wilderness. I suggest that you first think about taking some survival classes. Like Cody Lundin or Tony Nester or some other persons that know what they are doing. If you need a GPS or the safety of a cell phone you are not ready to be solo. There is a list of requirements to be at ease in the wilderness. You need an open mind and desire to be alone. It is liberating to be sure. As some may find the list uncomforable and I do not wish to offend anyone you can PM.

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#176827 - 05/01/13 06:46 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: billstephenson]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
You've misinterpreted here... I stay on trail solo not because I am afraid of getting lost, but because if I get HURT there is a higher probability of someone coming along and finding me!

You can't predict what will happen, and it's entirely possible that people will never find you five feet from a trail, if you are unconscious.

Survival training is NOT necessary for leisure backpackers. Leave an itinerary and do your best to mitigate the risks that exist. Have reasonable expectations for yourself and your abilities. Developing a level of comfort in the wilderness somewhat decreases the chances that you will panic and fall into that state of shock from which comes many dumb decisions that double and triple the danger you are in.

I'm plenty comfortable with cross country navigation, enough that I tend to let people rely on me too much in groups. I try to encourage everyone to develop their own skills so that if I am out with a group and incapacitated someone is able to start navigating the group out of the wilderness. This is also why I recommend that EVERYONE in the group take their own filter, map, and be ready to be self sufficient in the event a group split somehow happens. Groups don't make you impervious to risk - they merely diminish it. Just like everything else we do is intended to do.

If you want to label what I share discouraging, fine. It hasn't discouraged anyone I hike with. Facts are facts. There are plenty of risks, and letting them scare us off makes no sense - we're at more risk on a freeway, after all - but it would be negligent to ignore them because we want to feel safe.

Fact is, an experienced backpacker's remains have been out there all winter, and a forum full of other backpackers are still searching for him. And he was solo, cross country, and within a day of his being reported missing, search teams armed with his itinerary covered a lot of ground. And he remains missing. No one knows why. It wasn't that he didn't prepare. Then there are veteran backcountry folk like Randy Morgensen, and the gent with decades of backpacking experience we were looking for in my first season in SAR, found dead sitting on a rock not far off the Whitney trail. Solo hiking increases risk in many ways. Wanting to play it down in the name of being helpful isn't going to be my habit.

I get flack from people because I do go out by myself, too. I don't take umbrage because I know that they are also concerned because I am female, I "know better," and sometimes, people get a little bothered because I'm a "bad example" or not practicing what I preach. The bottom line is that we do what we do out of some need to do it - I won't deny that's there. But it's pretty irresponsible to not acknowledge the truth of the matter. One misstep, one rock zipping out from my boot in the wrong place, one trip and fall and blow to the head, and I win the "booby prize" from my team for being a SAR subject complete with a ride in a stokes litter. Because of course, my itineraries are going straight to a SAR team member....
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176829 - 05/01/13 07:32 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: goldenteardr]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3141
Loc: Portland, OR
you cannot get lost if you feel at home where you are

I don't think that this is a matter that can be defined by one's feelings. If you are unable to locate yourself in relation to the nearby landscape, you will not be able to reliably find a return route and thus are lost until you can locate yourself again or you have discovered a return route.

Whether you freak out about this is quite important to your eventual safety, but just "feeling at home" doesn't mean you are home free.

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#176830 - 05/01/13 07:33 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Because many of the topics are the same for group or solo, here is my short list for you to peruse;

It is generally safer to go in a group (although some groups...). On your own, YOU are the one who needs to recognize when you need to stop and take care of yourself for whatever ails you at the time. No one else will stop you and say "Dude, your lips are turning blue. We need to stop and get you warmed up." You need to develop a system to recognize these things in yourself before you push it too far whatever the cause is. Understand what health problems can occur and why. Understand your limitations.

Navigation. Don't be a part timer on this. Know how to stay found where ever you are.

Get a personal locator beacon for your families sake. Except for this, the rest of your gear is likely going to be the same as usual.

Each journey starts with a single step. Don't try to skip steps on your journey and only you will know what these are. Don't be in too much of a rush in this.

Oh, and don't be worried if you start talking to yourself on these solo's. You will stop this as soon as you get back to civilization. Of course if you bring a dog like I do, you will have someone to talk to after all. wink



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#176834 - 05/01/13 09:34 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: skcreidc]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 751
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Ok once again I'll be the black sheep, I hike solo all the time, probably twice a month solo, cross country, far from any trails, roads, or help. I always prepare for the worst and try to give as accurate iternerary as possible. Most places have little to no cell phone reception, I don't carry a spot or sat phone. SAR would have a tough time finding me if TSHTF. And I really don't care, if I end up in a bad situation so be it. If I die doing what I love, ok. I hold nobody accountable except me. Years and years of this have me reasonably comfortable with most outdoor situations. I actually relish the time I spend on the fringe. I spend a large amount of time reading maps to find the most secluded spot, far from roads, trails, or even good water sources. I say if it's in your heart go, just be ready to deal with anything and everything on your own.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#176835 - 05/02/13 01:37 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
I've not read any of the (many) replies to the original question, so forgive me if this is redundant, but other than the Nike slogan ("just do it"), I suggest picking a section of trail and a time of week and year where you expect a good few other hikers coming by. This will both increase your actual safety by some unknown margin as well perhaps as help your psyche. I.e., if you don't stray far off trail, you know that someone is likely coming along in the not too distant future who can perhaps help out if you get into some situation you can't handle alone.

If loneliness is a concern, an MP3 player packed with music and/or audiobooks can help, though I think that unless you're on quite a long trip it's very nice to just have some extended "alone time". It can be difficult in normal life to have that, to touch base with yourself and see how well you and yourself get along so to speak. Hopefully the results aren't alarming.

I find that when I'm with a group I miss hiking solo sometimes, and when I'm solo I on occasion miss hiking with a group. For one thing, you don't tend to get any photos with you in them when hiking alone! :-)

And I don't think that hiking alone is inherently dangerous. Sometimes group dynamics are such that the group is collectively smarter than any individual in it. And sometimes it's the reverse, the group as a whole is dumber than the average IQ of the group as a whole. In the latter case, hiking solo can be safer than hiking with the group.

In any event, it sure is nice to take breaks exactly when you want them, for exactly as long as you want, to make camp whenever you feel like it, to walk the pace that you want to walk, all without consulting or compromising.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#176838 - 05/02/13 06:18 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: BrianLe]
PerryMK Online   content
member

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1230
Loc: Florida panhandle
Originally Posted By BrianLe
For one thing, you don't tend to get any photos with you in them when hiking alone! :-)

I discovered the magic of the self-timer. Most cameras have one and the aren't too difficult to use. There are all sorts of mounting options ( mini-tripod , camera clamps , hiking pole camera attachment , handheld mono-pod , etc.). I have the handheld mono-pod option and have taken it on vacations but for hiking I usually just wait for an available stump or something.



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#176839 - 05/02/13 07:26 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: PerryMK]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Self-timer not so easy when your smartphone is your camera. Still do-able, but not-so-easy. And in general, harder to get the "shot that you want", i.e., some notable and recognizeable feature in the background for example.

In any event, while indeed do-able, I just find that what actually happens is that on a long trip I'll end up with at least a few photos with me in them in stretches where I'm hiking with others, and close to none in extended periods when I'm hiking solo.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#176840 - 05/02/13 09:11 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: rockchucker22]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By rockchucker22
If I die doing what I love, ok. I hold nobody accountable except me.


I'm only bringing it up because people don't think about it... do you know your life insurance won't pay out if no one ever finds your remains?

Part of SAR is sometimes picking finger bones out of dense manzanita for the family back home.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176841 - 05/02/13 09:12 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: BrianLe]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
A Stick Pic or a Joby Gorillapod do the job nicely.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176842 - 05/02/13 09:29 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 751
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Originally Posted By lori
Originally Posted By rockchucker22
If I die doing what I love, ok. I hold nobody accountable except me.


I'm only bringing it up because people don't think about it... do you know your life insurance won't pay out if no one ever finds your remains?

Part of SAR is sometimes picking finger bones out of dense manzanita for the family back home.
I guess its good I have no insurance. Self employed and I've never had health or life insurance!


Edited by rockchucker22 (05/02/13 09:36 AM)
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#176843 - 05/02/13 10:01 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: rockchucker22]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By rockchucker22
Originally Posted By lori
Originally Posted By rockchucker22
If I die doing what I love, ok. I hold nobody accountable except me.


I'm only bringing it up because people don't think about it... do you know your life insurance won't pay out if no one ever finds your remains?

Part of SAR is sometimes picking finger bones out of dense manzanita for the family back home.
I guess its good I have no insurance. Self employed and I've never had health or life insurance!


Do you know that when you go missing, people risk their lives to find you even if you don't care if you're ever found?

Which is not to be discouraging, but merely informative and food for thought. It was in fact very startling to me to discover that the mandate for SAR volunteer work is to search for the lost, for free, and that we could stomp through the wilderness for a hundred miles and find the person, then be turned away by them... But, you can't pre-emptively waive it.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#176844 - 05/02/13 11:48 AM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
But it's pretty irresponsible to not acknowledge the truth of the matter.


I don't see how I'm not acknowledging the truth here.

Quote:
Survival training is NOT necessary for leisure backpackers.


Well, it doesn't hurt to bone up on it wink

Quote:
Fact is, an experienced backpacker's remains have been out there all winter,
...
Then there are veteran backcountry folk like Randy Morgensen, and the gent with decades of backpacking experience
...
Solo hiking increases risk in many ways. Wanting to play it down in the name of being helpful isn't going to be my habit.


Geez Lori, I feeling kind of hammered here.

I discussed some of the risks and some ways to decrease those risks, and in no way down played them. I concede that you're better qualified to articulate those risks than I am, but I think if you read my comments again you'll see I was not being dismissive of the risks.

I don't think it's near fair to put solo bushwhacking up there with rock climbing. It's not near that level of risk, at least not the way I do it. And I am not offering my comments here as a complete course on solo bushwhacking. I am offering some general observations and tips on going solo and solo bushwhacking.

And I am not professing to be some kind of expert on bushwhacking, nor am I extolling the virtues of the pastime or recommending it. But I cannot, in all honesty, warn those who ask about going solo that it's anymore dangerous than driving your car to the corner store. I have no evidence or experience that leads me to that conclusion.

I honestly don't think solo hiking, or solo bushwhacking, actually increases your risk of death or injury by any significant amount. If I saw statistical evidence that indicated it does, I would acknowledge it. I live in Missouri, our State motto is "Show me". If you have proof that it does increase the risk of injury or death significantly, or even at all, show me.

If you do not, tell us.

--

I suspect this maybe another sort of regional thing, like having campfires. I recall getting blowback about bushwhacking and going solo when I lived in Ca, and I was always the only one perturbed with the "Stay on the trail" rules they love so much out there. Life is different here...

Here, in the Ozarks, you don't hear that "Stay on the trail" mantra. Not even from the Forest Service. In fact, the last time I looked, the NFS encourages hikers not to use trails in the wilderness areas. The Leatherwood Wilderness, for example, doesn't really even have any trails. None that are maintained by the NFS, though there are some that are maintained by Horsemen and the NFS does not prohibit them from doing that.

The popular outdoor guidebooks written by Tim Ernst lists dozens of "Bushwhacks" to scenic spots. Hillbillies go into the forests and trails don't matter much to most of those that backpack. Tourists Hikers use trails here, and attracting tourist is the main reason they were made. Hillbillies bushwhack.

Our children grow up bushwhacking here. It's what they do when their parents chase them out of the house. They have campouts with friends by the time they're 8-10 years old, and every parent and kid knows that they go way further than they're told they can, but they almost never go so far as to not figure out how to get back. That has not happened once since I've lived here. When they turn 16 they drive further into the boonies and have creek parties and hike and explore where there are no trails, and parents everywhere rejoice in the opportunity to get some alone time.

I cannot recall one solo bushwhacker dying here because they were not found in time (or any other reason) in the 20 years since I've lived here. During that time I know of one solo hiker that died on the Ozarks Highland Trail, and that's it. Most of the fatalities I can recall are people falling off of cliffs. Most of those are day hikers traveling in groups.

Trails are fine. I have no problem with trails or those that use them, but you can't make trails to all the good spots and they kind of screw up the scenery anyway. And not every place should have a trail going to it. You'd never find those special camp sites, or best hunting & fishing spots, or where the morels are growing, because a trail would change all that.

Ozarkers bushwhack solo all the time here, and we are not falling on our heads and dying out there. I swear this is true. Maybe in California they do. It wouldn't surprise any of the hillbillies I know if they heard that's the case wink

To put this in what I believe is a proper perspective, I do know of a lot of Ozarkers that have been injured or died while driving solo on our curvy mountain roads. That's something to really be worried about.



_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176845 - 05/02/13 12:01 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
"It was in fact very startling to me to discover that the mandate for SAR volunteer work is to search for the lost, for free, and that we could stomp through the wilderness for a hundred miles and find the person, then be turned away by them... But, you can't pre-emptively waive it."

That is interesting.

I suppose that if I wasn't lost, or needing help, and didn't call for it, I might have to politely decline being rescued. I'm sure I'd be startled by the attention though. shocked
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#176847 - 05/02/13 01:07 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Rick_D]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2912
Loc: NorCal
An item I forgot to mention earlier is leave your shoe model and size along with your initerary. Hugely helpful to trackers, I'm told.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#176849 - 05/02/13 01:34 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: Robotmoose]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
I do a lot of solo, off-trail, long trips (like 14days). I prefer to have company mainly for safety reasons, but if I were to always depend on a group I would do a lot less. Solo backpacking does carry more risk, albeit smaller than you may think. You need to accept this risk and be responsible - make it easier to find your body. All comments regarding leaving your trip plan, have bright stuff so you are easily found, become proficient at navigation before going off-trail, etc, are good points. Solo in backpack in environments that you are familiar with. This is no time to try off-trail if you have never done it. Start small and work up to longer and harder trips.

I really hike safer when solo, because I know there is no back-up. I tend to get hurt less, BUT, IF I get hurt, things are more serious.

A lot of us solo, but to say it is as safe, is denial. Statistics are in your favor, yet, statistics really mean little when YOU are the 0.01%!!

Aside from the safety issue, I am seldom "lonely" when I solo. I have been 8 days without seeing a single person and it really does not bother me at all. I think you have to evaluate your own personality and be realistic. Probably one reason I do not easily find backpack partners, is that I am a bit of a loner, and am more intimidated by asking someone to go with me than just going myself. Very out-going people do not seem to have any problem joining a group or going on the internet and finding a backpack partner.

By the way, I do not consider something like doing the PCT or JMT "solo" as really going solo. When you are on one of those "big name" trails you are really hiking by yourself in one big unorganized group. There are a lot of highly used trails that going alone is not a lot different than being in a group per se.

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#176851 - 05/02/13 02:15 PM Re: Advice for those getting into solo backpackpacking [Re: wandering_daisy]
squark Offline
member

Registered: 03/14/11
Posts: 66
Loc: SF bay area, CA
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
...Probably one reason I do not easily find backpack partners, is that I am a bit of a loner, and am more intimidated by asking someone to go with me than just going myself. Very out-going people do not seem to have any problem joining a group or going on the internet and finding a backpack partner. ...


Thanks for that. People often say "go with friends" and if you don't have any "make new ones" like that's an easy thing.

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