7 UPSIDES OF SOLO-HIKING

7 UPSIDES OF SOLO-HIKING

Going on hiking trips entirely on your own has it upsides and downsides. In this article I'll talk about the positives, but I'll drop a link to my article about the downsides, further down below!

Personally, I like solo-hiking, because it challenges my psyche, forces me to adjust my routines, and throws me out of my comfort zone from time to time. At the same time, it pushes my limits to new heights, gives me an absolute immersion with nature, and contributes to an amazing feeling of being able to handle everything by myself. 

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 / 2653 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 been on some solo-hikes in my hiking life. 

Combined with my experience from the PCT, I will give my take on why solo-hiking is an incredible way to explore nature and one-self.

Me on the Pacific Crest Trail, somewhere between Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, in the summer of 2019. Here during my 800 km solo-section of the total 4270 km that makes the legendary footpath - the Pacific Crest Trail.

1. You learn how to plan your own project

Most hiking trips require planning.

You need to get a hold of a lot of practical stuff: about the route, how to get there, how long you’re going to be there, how (and where) you want to camp, and how to get home. Also, there’s a lot of preparation in picking and testing out gear and clothing systems, checking weather conditions, localizing water sources and resupply points - and the list continues!

Solo-hiking forces you to get all of these things done on your own, and it is both fun and you learn a lot of good planning or organizing skills, which can also be utilized in your everyday and work life.

Solo-hiking can teach you a lot. For example, it can teach you to work with the self-timer on your camera, so you can have pictures of yourself taken every once in a while.

2. You learn to take the initiative

This one is close to number 1.

If something needs to be fixed while you’re on trail, e.g. you getting lost, you get water in your tent, etc., it is up to you to fix it. Nobody else will!

Being able to take initiative is a nice skill to have - also when you’re on trail with other people again - because you can be a strong and reliable hiking partner, because you are accustomed to take care of yourself.

Solo-hiking forces you to take action and execute, and coming through with your plans, gives a very rewarding feeling of accomplishment.

3. You have all the flexibility in the world

You’re your own boss.

You control the tempo, when you have lunch, what camp you want to go for, whether you want to socialize with other people you meet, on so forth. Also, hiking on your own gives you total freedom in choosing when you want to stop and enjoy nature (in whatever way works for you!).

It is not everybody who cherishes a waterfall, a view, a butterfly or a tree, in the same way you may do. Likewise, it is not everybody who wants to stop and shoot pictures or film video - you may want to, and you can do that, when you’re solo.

See a cool spot for camp? Go for it! On solo-hikes, it is totally up to yourself to pick where, when, and how you camp - as long as it complies with the rules!

4. Time and space to immerse yourself

When you’re solo on trail, there’s a lot of time (physically and mentally) to reflect on and immerse yourself in your thoughts. 

I think it is healthy to get out and give yourself proper time to think a bit - on your own. It can give you the quiet and calm needed to maybe clear out some issues you may have outside your hiking life. 

Solo-hiking also teaches you to enjoy your own company, and that is also a healthy skill to have.

The (often) complete isolation of solo-hiking gives you a lot of time to immerse yourself in nature and your own thoughts.

5. You learn how to respond to your own mood

On solo-trips there are rarely somebody else to lift your spirits, except if you meet people along your way, of course. Yet, most of the time, it is up to yourself to get the best out of the situation and shake off the bad situation.

I walked long days on the PCT in scorching temperatures, where I cursed the sun and heat away, and then came the snow, which constantly challenged my patience (and balance…).

I had to work with the situation. As my favorite hiking icon, Darwin, says: “embrace the suck” and try to see the positive in things.

It is something we all do in different ways. Music, podcasts, and breaks with snacks and photographing of nature helps for me.

On the other hand, you also have total freedom to be as pissed off, sad or frustrated as you want, without having to adjust yourself to other people or social norms. That rocks.

It is not always easy to keep up your head. Especially not when you’re hiking on soft snow and postholing all the time. What counts here is thinking positive thoughts and remind yourself why you are out there - and that the situation always turns for the better at some point!

6. You are more approachable to other hikers

If you have ever travelled on your own, I bet you have experienced that other people are more willing to seek out to you (or the other way around) if you are alone, than in a group.

It was the same thing for me on trail. I was way more likely to go into conversations and immerse myself in others stories and experiences, when I meet them on my own, than when I was hiking with a buddy or in a group. I also experienced that more people sought out to me in trail towns and I was easily picked up when hitching rides to town.

As I talked about in nr. 2, being on your own teaches you to take the initiative, and that also goes for social situations. You get better at being the one to break the ice!

Solo-hiking is a personal journey. You may meet people along your way, but you are the captain on your own ship. Your accomplishments are your own, and coming through with your projects, gives you an incredibly rewarding feel.

I feel it is easier to connect with other people I meet along my way when I'm solo-hiking, than if I was already with a group.

7. Your accomplishments are your own

At the very top of the self-realization pyramid, we have this last point that I want to highlight.

No matter whether the trip you’re planning is a solo-overnight in your local forest or a 5-month-thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, your accomplishments are yours and yours alone.

Solo-hiking gives you a very valuable insight on one self, and knowing that you are capable of planning, executing and enjoying being on solo-trips in nature, it is big confidence booster.

You can pad yourself on the back for that.

Here at the norther terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. That feeling of accomplishment was just superb.

Thanks for reading the article.

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

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Happy Trails,
Mikkel


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