Hiking and Backpacking

Tips for the Solo Backpacker

By Wendi Garcia

You'll hardly ever read about anything that promotes solo backpacking. This is because group backpacking has always been seen as the safer choice. However, there are still backpackers who prefer to go solo and enjoy the surroundings alone. You can't blame them.

Preparation is the best way to be safe on a solo backpacking excursion. Having the right gear can insure your safe return home. Being physically fit can be a great benefit while hiking alone as well. Joining a crossfit class can take your workout to the next level and make your solo hiking adventures safer.

Sometimes, there's just that feeling that you want to immerse yourself on the beauty of the environment, to enjoy the breathtaking scenery with peace and quiet. And that's often hard to do when you're with a group of people chatting, taking photos, or asking for a break every few minutes.

And because we all recognize that a solo backpacker faces more danger than those who go in group trips, it's doubly important to practice proper safety precautions to make sure that the whole trip is safe and enjoyable. If you want to try solo backpacking, here are some important tips for you to keep in mind:

1. Inform people about your backpacking plans, your whereabouts and the time they should expect you to return. If possible, leave a copy of the map with the route you're intending to go to.

2. Bring a map, compass and the knowledge on how to use these. A GPS is wonderful but there's nothing like the old reliable map and compass to show your way around.

3. Use hiking sticks . Hiking sticks have a vast variety of purposes. Since you don't have any hiking buddies to hold on to in case of a steep path, a hiking stick can come in handy. It offers balance and support, and can be used for other things too which you'll only find out when you encounter problems or obstacles along the way.

3. Carry a cell phone. You may say that this will defeat the purpose of your going solo if only to be disturbed by a phone that rings every five minutes. The trick here is to turn off your phone and forget about it except when there's an emergency. In case of a mishap, you can use your phone to call for help.

4. Don't forget to pack all the necessary backpacking gear. Going solo means you don't have anybody to rely on but yourself and if you forget something there's no one you can borrow from so it's important that you make sure you have all the essentials with you like your first aid kit, backpacking cookware, food and water, clothing and sleeping items.

5. Stick to a familiar route and one that is well-traveled.

6. Learn some wilderness survival skills. Know what berries and plants in your geographic area are edible (and which ones are poisonous) so that in case you get lost or run out of food, you won't starve. It won't be pleasant, but it may save your life.

7. Carry a whistle. A whistle despite its small size can greatly help to signal your location if ever you get lost.

8. Lighten up your load. A heavy load makes it more difficult to respond immediately to emergency situations.

Because you can't turn the woods into a completely safe place, the least you can do is to keep yourself safe. But of course, even with these tips, it's still much more advisable to go group backpacking than go solo.

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