Mar 21, 2014 at 10:43 am #1314685
I have been wanting to do more solo backpacking but every time I start planning a trip I get really nervous and come up with some reason to not go. I'm wondering if there are any articles out there on solo backpacking or literature about te spirit of the pursuit.Mar 21, 2014 at 11:02 am #2084961
There are a number of thread s on here ans elsewhere on the web that I think would be more useful to you than any article or book I've seen on the subject, simply because they present a wide variety of experiences from numbers of people.
You say "more" solo trips, suggesting that you've done some but have reservations about it. What has been your experience and what do you see as the things that make you want more and what makes you hesitate?Mar 21, 2014 at 11:30 am #2084970
What are the thoughts that come when you cancel? Are you concerned about getting lost? getting injured?
I am in a similar boat in that I want to do more solo backpacking, I just think when doing solo trips you have to be more diligent to leave very specific trip details with someone you trust, maybe invest in a beacon if you really plan to do a lot of solo trips and it gives you a psychological comfort to know it's there if you need it.
I think beacons like the ACR ResQ Link and McMurdo Fast Find make a lot of sense for those that do a lot of solo trips. It's basic insurance for your life. That said I think taking courses on navigation and basic wilderness first aid etc.. can go a long way to giving you the confidence to pursue solo backpacking without hesitation.Mar 21, 2014 at 11:35 am #2084973
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I prefer solo backpacking. I go at my own pace and find real peace in the solitude. If you've never been truly alone, you may find it very empowering.
There are bits about solitude in Thereau's and John Muir's writings and it has been a staple of religious experience across many cultures.Mar 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm #2085044
I don't think I am realistically concerned about being lost or injured. I don't know what it is. I try to pick routes that are pretty straight forward so I don't have to do a lot of thinking and figuring out. I can't really figure out what it is. I think I don't feel completely comfortable with my backocuntry skills yet, I can do all the basics, but I don't really know that much about weather and what to do in the case of extreme weather conditions.Mar 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm #2085046
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Maybe try a close in overnighter, just to break the psychological barrier? Then gradually move up in terms of duration and remoteness.Mar 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm #2085059
Like you, I've done some solo overnighters, and still don't trust my own skills. I worry about getting lost, getting hurt or bitten by a rattlesnake, and I'm afraid of bears and mountain lions. Not that I've ever had bad experiences! Having some gadgets along (a GPS–separate, not your cell phone–, or the personal locator beacon that Randy suggested) puts me more at ease. And the best antidote to nervousness: Take your dog with you.
Maybe it dilutes the solitude of solo hiking, but my dog's a good hiking companion, and she's nighttime security. As far as I know, the most dangerous animal that's ever been in my camp was a deer, but my dog barked at it.Mar 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm #2085074
@hereMar 21, 2014 at 9:13 pm #2085110
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
I'm with Dale. Try it you'll probably love it. I have done about %85 of my trips solo. For some reason most of my immediate friends at this moment in time are the type that look at me like I am insane when I describe how fun it is to be out there. When going in some more potentially dicey and remote territory I did a few organized Sierra club trips. I think never again. I like it best with one or two simpatico friends, but no more.
I get the part about worrying you will injure yourself and not have a buddy to go for help. But there are ton of places and times of years when you can do nice long solo trips, but are guaranteed to run into people. Try doing a few trips like that first. There are even some places like the JMT where going solo can be quite the social experience. This type of thing can relieve you of some of the bigger "what if" worries initially, while still giving you a taste of real solitude. It is a truism that you can experience much more solitude going solo in a well traveled area than you ever could with one or two companions with you, even in say, "the maze" in Utah.
Then if it isn't for you stop going solo.
As far as the "weirded-out" feeling some people have when being alone without the comforts and security blankets we have in society and constant interaction with other people, I think analyzing and potentially overcoming that fear is one of the reason for going solo in the first place. I still occasionally feel it flicker briefly across my consciousness, but it doesn't bother me any more. I have my own interpretation of what this "is about". It is the intuitive realization that while we can love Nature/the universe or whatever – it does not and cannot love us back.
Or maybe it was just that strange noise you just heard. LOL
Anyway, probably experiencing that as part of your solo adventures, if only briefly, is something as good for the soul occasionally as good times with friends. Both scary, and at the same time freeing.
OK, probably should have posted this in the Existentialist Ramblings sub-forum. :-)
Anyway, just do it!Mar 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm #2085114
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
First sometimes I just don't want to be alone. I'm a single guy and don't have a lot of close friends at work. So I may have a great weekend when I could go hiking but I know deep down hanging out with a few friends will be more rewarding. Pick a time when you aren't lonely etc. for the first trip.
Second safety is a concern for some people. If you stay on an established trail and don't do anything dumb you are actually quiet safe but the idea of dying in a lonely place stirs something in the gut. So the goal is not just to be safe but to feel safe so you can break the physiological barriers and enjoy the wilderness.
Depending on what makes you nervous I'd suggest a SPOT, bear spray or both. Sure people will say "Your chance of a bear attack or fall is 0.00000001%" I know about the statistics. I also know that virtually 100% of first time solo hikers are worried about animals or getting hurt and some of them never get over it enough to enjoy solo hiking. So bring what you need to feel safe. Your pack may be a bit heavier but at least your out there.
Finally part of the problem with solo trips is you get bored. I know some people say its their "time to contemplate" etc. Well if it is good for them but we aren't all wired that way. So if you think you'll get bored or lonely and come home early then bring a book to read.Mar 21, 2014 at 10:02 pm #2085118
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
" So if you think you'll get bored or lonely and come home early then bring a book to read."
Just maybe not a Cormac McCarthy novel. :-)Mar 22, 2014 at 3:48 am #2085133
For me the big danger to backpacking solo was unexpected: now I hate to come back to civilization again, and spend too many of my work hours planning my next trip. When I finally did start getting out for extended alone time in the wilderness (or whatever passes for wilderness in Indiana) I realized just how little the daily clamor of my life was important to me.
There's probably something about being an extreme introvert wrapped up here as well. The idea that I'd miss spending time with my buddies would make more sense to me if I really had a group of buddies…Mar 22, 2014 at 4:37 am #2085135
"If you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you
should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don't
take short hikes either – or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And
avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love
or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs…
Insure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable
contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half-cripple
the present. Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when
you can see that all roads are clear for miles… In your wisdom you
will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before
you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time." -Colin Fletcher in the Complete Backpacker
The consider this irony … Fletcher, at age 79, was severely injured when stuck by a motor vehicle near where he lived. His death six years later was attributed to lingering complications from those injuries.Mar 22, 2014 at 5:43 am #2085138
@glenn64Locale: Snowhere, MN
Saying things like:
"I don't know what it is."
"I can't really figure out what it is."
Are the problem IMO. Maybe stop trying to figure out why you don't want to go, and start pinning down the reasons you do.
Maybe long hikes through the wilderness alone just sounds romantic, but what you really want is a nice campsite under the stars with a fire. Just an example, but the idea is to do something you enjoy. If you have to battle with yourself over the idea, then obviously that's not too enjoyable, unless you're an adrenaline junkie and fear is what you seek.Mar 22, 2014 at 5:57 am #2085141
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I am in the same boat at the moment. I would be more likely to do a solo trip
In Ireland as no snakes, bears or other wild animals to worry about, and no poisonous plants, also no guns.
Just rain to worry about.
I do plan to do a US solo trip this summer to see if I like it.Mar 22, 2014 at 8:17 am #2085168
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
I prefer solo but it's not so much preference as it is avoiding conflicting schedules and general hassle. I can also hike according to my own schedule. There's additional risk but I mitigate it by taking relatively popular trails when solo. Now for off-trail bushwhacking, one would want a party if only to switch leads cutting through overgrown vegetation. At night, there's sleep but also journaling, editing pictures, etc.. One thing I will do solo is a thorough daylight inspection of my intended campsite to ensure no other campers have left trash, used t.p., etc.. if critters are a concern. Put down my camp, day hike a little, come back and make a (hopefully) delicious dinner. I try to get up early and leave, whereas with a group packing up is rather awkward (break camp or enjoy one more cup of coffee with conversation?). Never had to worry about a criminal element or guns in North America in true wilderness. That stuff is close to civilization and the highways (now solo sleeping at a trailhead near a city or major highway … or highway rest stop, I'd get concerned).Mar 22, 2014 at 9:26 am #2085187
I'd recommend reading the Colin Fletcher quote that Jim posted above at least three times and then sitting down and thinking hard about what you really want to do.
Many people spend their lives worrying about things that will never happen.
Put a date on the calendar, just an overnight, and go.Mar 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm #2085297
…Mar 23, 2014 at 9:10 am #2085382
@bolsterLocale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Maybe I'm sick and twisted, but: I'm an older dude, and when you get past a certain age, you know that stroke/heart attack is a (remote) possibility–something medical is my most likely disaster while solo. If a serious event happens backcountry, it will have a down- and an up-side. Down is obvious. Up-side is that it won't be a long, drawn out process, lingering in a hospital for years. I'll get to go "old style" as pre-moderns did, and have it done with. Which, having watched a loved one die the modern way (over the course of years, with maximum stress and expense to others) a couple days max seems pretty good to me.Mar 23, 2014 at 10:05 am #2085386
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I have to assume that if you brought it up, you do want to give it a try.
You have our permission to go on a solo hike.
Take the 10 essentials, hike on an established trail, tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, double check the weather, and go.
If you have rain gear and a shelter, the weather would have to be extreme to be life threatening. I assume you know how to make a fire, read a map and use a compass.
From there you need to put one foot in front of the other until you are there, then get up the next morning and do it again until you are home.
Your anscestors have been doing that for a few hundred thousand years with far less and they had no idea what was over the next hill. They crossed every desert and mountain range on the planet. Certainly you can muster a overnighter with a pack full of good food and high tech gear.
Have fun!Mar 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm #2085436
I don't really feel much safer with another person along. The last two years I went to the Winds. The first time solo (with my dog) and the last year with a good friend. Both trips were very enjoyable. But if you're 25 miles from the trailhead and another couple hours of driving from civilization, and you get seriously hurt, I'd rather have an electronic means of summoning SAR than be with a partner. (Of course they aren't mutually exclusive.) But just having someone along isn't going to save your life. That's why when I bring a partner along, I only go with EMTs or emergency room doctors. :)Mar 23, 2014 at 7:14 pm #2085554
…Mar 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm #2085860
Just do it. You will gain confidence as you do it successfully.
KellyMar 24, 2014 at 8:31 pm #2085866
J Dos AntosParticipant
@damagerLocale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
I mostly hike solo these days because I split with a fiancee last year and moved to a new city. Also, I like to log serious miles and most people I know have no desire to hike similar mileage.
I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you become.
So to start, plan a basic overnighter on trails you are familiar with. My first overnighter here in Santa Cruz County was the Skyline to Sea trail, which is ~36 miles, though you can add several side trails for extra mileage. I know that trail backwards and forwards as it is my go-to dayhiking trail. Point is, I was comfortable with every twist and turn and know just about every good place to camp, both legal and not so much.
Initially, you will jump at every noise. That's a part of your body's response to sleeping in a new location and missing the protection of familiar walls. After you successfully complete a few basic overnighters, I bet you'll be stoked to try longer trips.
And, after a few trips, if you still feel uneasy when hiking solo, then it probably isn't for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. HYOH. No matter what, enjoy yourself. Happy trails.Mar 24, 2014 at 9:07 pm #2085879
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
"But just having someone along isn't going to save your life."
I think you are really wrong on this. A partner could save your life in most conceivable backcountry emergencies. In some of these emergencies you could die before SAR reached you.
here are some scenarios:
seriously injury yourself – partner can help move you, set up a shelter, get you inside a sleeping bag
unconscious – parter can get you sheltered and in a sleeping bag so you don't freeze
unconscious near water – a plb would do you no good here while a partner can watch out for you.
hypothermia – if bad enough you might not be in the right mind to set up a shelter and get warm. a partner can help you here. You could die before SAR reached you, especially if you fell into water (extra bad if sleeping bag/ extra clothing gets wet, in this situation your partner could get you into his gear)
Partner can build a fire, get a shelter up, and get warm food/liquid into you. This happened to me once, not really a life or death emergency, but I was slightly hypothermic and having a non-hypothermic partner to help was very important.
If I had to choose between going solo with a PLB or hiking with a partner without a PLB, I'll choose the hiking partner every time.
In stressful situations having a partner makes things so much easier. You can divide up tasks.
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