Solo Backpacking: Reasons To & Tips How

Sometimes you just need to disconnect and enjoy your own company. Of course, most backpacking tips begin with the instruction of never going alone, but once you’ve successfully completed your first solo trip, the feeling of accomplishment is inevitable!

I try to plan a solo backpacking trip once a year and if i’m being completely honest- it never gets easier, but it does get better. I find that it’s important for me to break away on these solo trips once in awhile to not only enjoy my own company, but brush up on my backcountry skills, learn more about myself & my weaknesses and all while building self-confidence.

The rewards for solo hiking are well worth the challenges that come along with hiking alone and when fully prepared, one night alone in the backcountry can change your life forever.


Reasons to Try Solo Backpacking

  • Improves self-confidence. When you hike solo, YOU are your own cheerleader. With no one else to give you motivation and encouragement, you have to rely on your own skills and positivity to push through.
  • Learn about yourself. Alone on the trail with your thoughts can be intriguing. You start to talk to yourself and really pay attention to the person you are when no one else is around.  You’ll learn to make your own decisions and hopefully learn to trust your good judgement.
  • Test backcountry skills. Hopefully this isn’t your first backcountry adventure and you’ve gotten some backcountry experience under your belt. Now that you’ve gone solo, it’s time to test those backcountry skills, from navigating the trail, to building a fire and setting up camp. If you usually rely on your partner to do these things, it’s best to learn for yourself!
  • Freedom & empowerment. Imagine this: planning a trip around your own hiking pace and schedule; & being able to come and go as you please without having to wait on anyone- that’s the freedom of solo hiking.


Tips for your First Solo Backpacking Trip

  • Have a solid plan & do your research. Having knowledge about your surroundings and the trail you are attempting is important. From distance to elevation, weather and camping options, one can never be too prepared for the backcountry.
  • Stay positive. No matter how much planning you do, some things just don’t always go according to plan and it’s best to start your adventure knowing that. Staying positive can make or break a trip!
  • Be realistic. Plan an easy route that your familiar with. It’s important to know your limits. If you’re just starting out hiking solo, stick to a familiar trail and know when to give up if needed. Understanding your skills and limits allows for easy planning.
  • Checklists. Make a checklist and check it twice! I even sometimes make multiple checklists. These checklists are good for gear, food, clothing, things-to-do & places-to-go! If you usually rely on your hiking partner to distribute the weight, then having a checklist is crucial for your solo adventure, you wouldn’t want to forget anything!
  • Emergency contact card. Something so simple as to leave behind a piece of paper with vital information might save your life in case of an emergency. I always try to leave an emergency contact card in my car whenever I solo hike. Information on this card includes: my name, DOB, 2 emergency contacts & my itinerary.
  • Have fun! Your out there doing something you’ve wanted to do, so why not make the most of it. Have Fun and Enjoy!


How to Prepare for Your First Solo Backpacking Trip

  • Solo day hike. Get familiar with the trail you want to solo backpack. Head out for a solo day hike and get use to being alone on the trail. Take note of possible campsites, creek crossings, or anything of importance that will help you when solo backpacking.
  • Test Gear. The last thing you want is to not be able to eat a warm dinner because you don’t know how to start your stove. Learn how to use all of your gear and make sure to test it out before hitting the trails. Always replace old batteries!
  • Exercise. Your pack may end up weighing anywhere from 15-30 lbs. so you’ll want to make sure you’re in good shape! Besides my everyday workout routine, I sometimes pack my backpack and do chores around the house as a way to get comfortable with a heavy pack.
  • Offline Maps/Tracking. I recently started downloading offline maps and GPX files for all backcountry hikes I do. Not only is it important to have this information available, but it’s pretty fun tracking your hike too.

If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you feel a little more confident about hitting the trail solo. These wild places that we explore have the ability to teach us so much if we just take the time to listen.β™‘

My first solo backpacking trip on Catalina Island. August 2014.

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