MY 5 TIPS FOR SOLO-HIKING

MY 5 TIPS FOR SOLO-HIKING

I want to make this article short and sweet, because solo-hiking is a very personal business, and motivation varies from person to person. What works for me, might not work for you.

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 an epic journey into nature and one's own mind. Here I am solo-hiking in Washington on my PCT thru-hike in 2019.

1. Give some thought to what you want to get out of your solo-trips

My experience with solo-hiking is that is a journey out into nature and into in your mind.

You have a lot of time to yourself on trail, and therefore it is a good idea to think about what you want out of your trip: 

  • Do you want to shoot a lot of pictures, film, and be creative? 
  • Do you want to think about your life situation and set new goals? 
  • Do you want to experiment with new gear? 
  • Do you want to push hard and set personal records in pace? 
  • Do you want to do a little bit of everything?

It is totally up to yourself, but having a few goals can help frame the experience a bit, if you nervous about boring yourself to death or getting lost in your own thoughts.

Photography, video-filming, and journaling are some of my favorite things to do when I'm hiking solo.

2. Make a list of your pack contents and make sure you bring everything

It is maybe a bit of blatant point, but it is just so important that you make sure to bring the proper equipment, clothes, and food, to get a good experience on solo-hikes, because chances are, you are not going to meet anyone who can supplement you. Being prepared can really be a deal breaker.

I make lists of everything that is in my pack on www.lighterpack.org. It helps me make sure I don’t forget anything, and also serves as a kind reminder to not put unneccessary extra gear (and thus, extra weight) in my pack in the last minute before hitting the trail.

Check out my gear list for (3-season) solo-hikes on my personal lighterpack.org here

Make sure to bring everything - no one else is going to! I make lists on LighterPack.org to help me prepare for a trip.

3. Plan a route and give notify others about it

Find a route with terrain, length, and difficulty, that suits your skills and comfort level.

I can be a good idea to start out in an area, you know in advance, but it can also be exciting to try something completely new. 

If it is your first time camping out in the wild on your own, it can be nice to have exit-plan, in case you become uncomfortable in the situation (see point 5 further down).

The most important factors are that you are in control of navigation, how long you expect to be out there (and in what conditions), as well as notifying other about your plan.

I invested in a GPS and notified my closed ones about my planned itinerary, when I was solo-hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It made it more safe for myself, and calmed my family and friends.

4. Make sure to bring entertainment

Some solo-hikers prefer their trips au naturel, entirely without podcasts, music or any other means of stimulation that natures own. It just might not be the case for you.

Personally, I like to bring entertainment on my solo-trips, e.g. having a nice audiobook for camp in the evening, and it is also nice to be able to switch between listening to nature, and my favorite podcasts and music, when I hike.

I would recommend to bring some entertainment on your first tips - be it music, shows on your phone, books, etc - just in case 

My tent was my safe haven. No matter how hard, exhausting and demanding the day had been, I knew that as soon as I had eaten, I could climb into my sleeping bag and listen to Rob Inglis tell the story of Frodo, Sam and The Ring. The good routines are important (and very personal)!

5. Have an exit-plan prepared

When you’re cold, wet, and hungry, there is not much fun about being out and about. Especially not, when you have to deal with everything by yourself.

During my thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, there were multiple occasions where I was hard-pressed about the situation, and had a hard time seeing the bright side, and that was the times were I reminded myself of the 3x3-rule one of my thru-hiking buddies, Jeppe aka. Nature Boy, learned me.

If Nature Boy felt like quitting his (long-distance) hikes, he may not do if except if he was:

1) dry
2) warm
3) full

And if he still felt like quitting, he had to wait 3 days before taking the final decision.

Your exit-plan does not have to be as extreme as Nature Boy’s, but it is a good idea to take some thinking to when enough is enough for you (and do it before you get out on trail). 

Also, having exit-points in terms of transportation, contacts. and emergency options (i.e. huts and shelters) are really useful, if you’re contemplating about quitting your hike.

Never quit on a bad day. Sometimes, the turning point is right around the corner! Here at John Muir Trail Ranch on the PCT, where I met several hikers for the first time in days, and got a ton of food and snacks!

Closing words

My best advice is “try it”. Solo-hiking can be an incredibly rewarding way to experience nature - and one self! It is healthy to get out of your comfortzone, even though it might not always be the best experience while you are in the situation, but then there is always the next day, the next trip, and the one after that.

With those words, I wish you best of luck with your own solo-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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