5 DOWNSIDES OF SOLO-HIKING

5 DOWNSIDES OF SOLO-HIKING

I think solo-hiking is an incredible way to experience nature and journey into your mind and soul, but it also comes with a few extra demands and difficulties.

A little background on my experience with solo-hiking

In 2019 I thru-hiked the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the US; a long-distance hiking trail connecting the Mexican border in the south to the Canadian border in the North over a course of 4270 km / 2570 miles. I had a section of total 800 kilometers where I was solo-hiking in the woods and snow-clad mountains of Northern California. It was the one of the most challenging - and most memorable - experiences of my entire hike. 

The Pacific Crest Trail is a longer story - and this is not what this article is about.

Since the PCT, solo-hiking has grown on me - and even though I am by far not an expert on the subject - I have a fair share of experience with solo-hiking.

Solo-hiking is not a cake walk. There will be times where you have to get a hold of yourself, be strong-willed and turn the situation for the better.

1. It is less safe to hike on your own

You can’t get around the fact, that if you’re alone, you are more vulnerable. If you get hurt, get lost, your equipment breaks, or other unexpected events occur, it is up to yourself to fix it.

Here it can be a good idea to inform your friends and loved ones on your planned itinerary, expected route, timeplan, and making a safety/emergency plan if something bad should happen. 

It is also a really good idea to invest in a GPS, so you can call for help via satellite, if you get hurt and find yourself isolated in the wilderness.

Here I just tumbled in the river and got all of my stuff soaked. Bummer. Luckily I had picked a safe place to cross the river, but it did also take a lot longer to find because I was own my own. Safety first!

2. It can be boring to hike on your own

When you don’t have anybody to talk to, long hiking days can become a little bit boring and lonely. It varies from person to person how much of a need for social interaction you have, but after all - we humans are social creatures.

I do fine in my own company, but I have to admit that I impulsively started seeking out to other people in trail towns and conversate way more than I used to, when I was on my 800 km solo-section on the PCT.

While by myself on trail, it helped to write diaries about my experiences, to listen to audiobooks and my favorite podcasts, as it gave me a feeling of company, whenever I felt the need for it.

I rarely stumbled into people on my 800 km. solo-section on the PCT. Most of the time, podcasts, music and nature was my only companions, but sometimes, I ran into other hikers, like Sebastian here!

3. You are responsible for everything

This point pretty much speaks for itself, and (naturally) is a continuous topic in solo-hiking. You are your own planner and executor, and that can both be an upside and a downside.

Most of the time, I find it to be a plus, because it challenges me both mentally, physically and skill-wise, and pushes my personal limits and builds character. 

The flipside is that you got to save your own bum all by yourself when you’re knee deep in trouble.

Solo-hiking demands that you are more alert to yourself and your surroundings. You are more vulnerable and there is nobody else but you to ‘see how the snow sits’. Here I was descending the notoriously steep Mather Pass in the Sierra Nevada on my own. Scary, but a good lesson in caution and patience.

4. You have to carry everything by yourself

On group hikes it is often seen that people share the load between each other to even out the weight of gear that can be shared, e.g. a tent, cooking gear, rope, etc.

When you are alone, you are carrying everything by yourself - and simultaneously, you are also responsible for checking you haven’t left anything behind at camp, to buy enough food when resupplying, and to take care of your stuff.

It sets some demands to your planning skills, and it may also be beneficial to invest in new (and more lighter and compact) gear that is better suited for solo-trips.

You are responsible for getting the best out of the situation. It is of no use to grumble about things aren’t fair (even though I mastered the art of that on the PCT). You need to handle the situation! With time and practice, you get more confident in your own skills.

5. Solo-hiking can be more expensive than group-hikes

Transportation, accommodation, resupplies, bar and restaurant bills, and the likes, are all costs that can normally be split, but when you’re solo, your wallet is solo as well. In this way, it can be a more expensive way to hike than if you’re with somebody.

I’m writing can here because it can also be cheaper to hike solo than in a group, if your group or partner has different priorities than you. 

The group-compromise might be a more expensive option than what you would have done on your own, and in this way, solo-hiking can also be cheaper than group-hiking.

Solo-hiking can be a more cost-effective way of hiking. Here I am stealth-camping outside of town instead of splurging on a room in town.

 


Thanks for reading the article.

I wish you the best of luck with your own solo-hiking adventures.

If you want to talk about hiking or just want to tag along my hiking adventures, feel free to check out my

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Happy Trails,
Mikkel


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