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By Wild Earth hiking ambassador Kate Donald.
I was desperate to find someone to come hiking with me, too afraid of the unknown to go out into the wilderness alone. It would hold me back from doing a hike, leaving me frustrated that an opportunity was missed to do what I love.
One day, I finally built up the courage to go out and do a short walk alone. I still remember this exact hike. No backpack, no first aid kit, I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, not even a map or a plan as to what walk I was doing. I just knew I needed to be outside. In hindsight so much could have gone wrong on this day. I remember seeing the biggest kangaroo I’d ever seen in my life and running the entire way back to the car. Since this moment and many more questionable decisions, I’ve learnt from my mistakes and now feel complete at home me in the wild alone.
I’ve put together a list of my top tips for starting out solo, so unlike me, you can make good decisions from the get-go!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: it's all on you. There’s no one to pass the blame when things go wrong, so be prepared for the worst. Pack your basics; food, navigation, shelter/wet weather gear, water, first aid on EVERY hike. This is your bread and butter, no matter how far you're going, they should always be on your back. Not only will you be prepared for anything, but it’s also great training for long-distance hikes and becoming accustomed to the feel of the weight of a pack.
2. Know Your Plan
Know Your Plan: where are your hiking, is there water, what’s the weather doing (wind, rain, cloud, sun), how far are you going, how much is the elevation gain? Researching every possible variable will help to anticipate the trail conditions.
3. Share Your Plan
Share Your Plan: now that you have this comprehensive plan, why not tell share it with pride? Choose reliable friends, who will always check-in with you. I always send a message to my parents and sister including where I'm going, when I plan to be back, and attach a little map.
4. Invest in a Personal Locator Beacon
Invest in a PLB: Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a locating device that sends off an SOS signal, in the case of an extreme emergency. Phone service can be hard to come by in most National Parks, so this item is an absolute must when hiking solo.
5. Meet Yourself
Meet Yourself; embrace the fact there is no one for miles; sing loudly, swim naked, yell into canyons, cry on mountain peaks, laugh when your shadow scares you. There is no pressure to impress anyone, no competition or insecurities in the wild. Solo hiking is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and enjoy your own company, an opportunity that is often lost in the modern world.
Slowly but surely, I became a solo hiker. Starting with morning or afternoon walks, extending into to full days, and finally, branching into overnight hikes. Now, I look forward to the solo hikes. I’m not telling you to walk into the wild never to return like Christopher McCandless (Alexander Supertramp) but next time everyone is busy and you desperately want to go for a hike, just do it! Don't let the fear of being alone hold you back from doing what you love.
Follow Kate on Instagram for more solo hiking adventures!