Solo hiking, masking

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    Bob Kerner
    BPL Member


    This is the only forum I can ask this without it turning into a quarrel. I’m asking out of legitimate inquisitiveness:

    Why are SOLO hikers still wearing masks while hiking, even when they are not crossing paths with other hikers?

    Yesterday I was hiking (I’m in NY) a solid 4-5 miles from any trail head and encountered (from a distance, then up-close) solo hikers who were masked. I don’t understand the motivation other than it’s pure habit to wear it and they forgot to take it off. It’s got to be exhausting to hike up rocky hills wearing a face covering. Why wear it if there’s no one near you?

    Help me understand, please. I’m not particularly anti-mask etc. I have to wear one at my work (healthcare) and then in NY it’s more or less discretionary in public places.

    George W
    BPL Member


    Maybe by wearing a mask they found they had fewer problems with pollen allergies.

    In other countries wearing masks outdoors was far more common for more than a decade before covid, so it doesn’t mean much.

    I don’t care what other people do, but I wear a mask far more often than most people because my wife has a severe autoimmune disorder. I’ll do everything I can to prevent bringing any bug home with me.

    I also worked in an industry for a couple of decades that required wearing a mask all day, every day, you get used to it, I forget I have one on.

    matthew k


    Pollen was my thought as well.

    MJ H
    BPL Member


    How cold was it? I’m one state to the south and it was pretty cold yesterday (for April). If I’m hiking in the winter, I usually wear a neck gaiter and put it over my face when I feel my face is cold.

    M. C
    BPL Member


    I have friends that mask due to seasonal allergies. On day hikes I find the mask is great if there is a trailhead port-a-potty, it really cuts down on the smells!

    Bob Kerner
    BPL Member


    It was nearly 55 yesterday. Nothing in that area was blooming. I hadn’t considered that, so I guess I learned something this morning by asking the question!

    And I definitely get the “don’t want to bring the bug home” concern. But you’re by yourself in the woods. I mean Really by yourself…..the trail I was on is not used that much and I encountered two other people, spread out, over 3 hours. I could better understand the mask on a popular trail where you’re crossing paths with others on a regular basis. This wasn’t that.

    No porta-potties either. If only!

    Jon Fong
    BPL Member


    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    It could also depend on there risk factors.  I myself have the following. Over 60, male, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, a bit overweight and so forth. With the ba2 variant, what is the downside to wearing a mask?  I agree that it is out doors.  When I am hiking, I only put it on when people are nearby.  My 2 cents.

    MJ H
    BPL Member


    I hoped some else was shivering yesterday.
    It hadn’t occurred to me that masks would work against pollen. I might try that as I really don’t like either allergies or the side effects of anti-allergy medications. I got a couple of nice masks from Mystery Ranch that are very easy to wear and that I don’t use indoors anymore because I switched to KN-94 for that.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    At one point in the pandemic it was advocated to wear them outdoors. They just haven’t been “updated”

    BPL Member


    Key word. Because you are in NY.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascadia

    I have to wear them when working outdoors for my job to keep dust out of my lungs.

    I found that after wearing them near-daily for long periods, my lung capacity and blood-oxygen capacity is greatly improved, being at sea-level. When walking around without a mask, I can easily hold m breath for several minutes, just normally walking around, not even realizing I am holding my breath. I can also swim under water from end to end in a full-size swimming pool on one breath to the other end.

    I was not able to do any of that, not even close, before I started wearing masks when being physically active.


    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    Sometimes questions are statements, aren’t they?

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    That is very philosophical.  I will ponder.

    Is your question a statement?

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I don’t care if people wear masks, even if not needed like for covid outdoors solo.

    If somebody walks by they’ll be protected.  From colds and flu too.

    It is so easy to wear a mask.

    I am still wearing mask at store even though only a few others do so.  Except once I forgot.  I’ll probably forget more in the future.

    Bob Kerner
    BPL Member


    No it was it not meant as a statement. Go back and read the OP please. Rather than wonder why, I chose to ask. I got answers now. I understand.

    R L
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area, East Bay

    I forgot to brush my teeth.  sorry

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    You dont say how remote this trail is.

    I am seeing the same thing on some local trails.

    Maybe they are wearing masks to protect others,  and just find it easier to keep the mask on and avoid the hassle to pulling the mask over their face on every 20 minutes when they come across someone.

    Scott H
    BPL Member


    I have not been on trail much yet, but some people just have not moved off masking.  Some feel a need, some may have serious health concerns for which they feel it gives them protection, whether placebo or cure, I have no problem if someone chooses to wear a mask.  Indoors if someone wants me to wear a mask, i will happily do so.  However on trail you won:t see me wearing a mask even when covid was at its worst, the trail was our refuge where we could go and not worry about masking.  We would pull up a covering if we met someone but otherwise no masking for us.

    d k
    BPL Member


    My thought is that just wearing it is probably easier for them than pulling it up and down.

    I’m no longer bothered by seeing people on the trail not masking up, but neither am I bothered by seeing anyone wearing a mask.

    Tom K
    BPL Member


    Out of habit?  Fashion statement?  Misinformed as to risk?  All of the logical explanations given above, pollen, auto immune situations, etc?  Who knows, and beyond natural human curiosity, who cares?  I’ve seen far stranger things in the backcountry down through the years.  Human idiosyncrasies provide an unlimited source of cheap entertainment, and sometimes food for thought.  ;0)

    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    Where I live, at this time of year, I’ll sometimes wear my mask outside for two reasons: 1) Allergies. 2) It’s open burn season. A mask helps for both those situations. Truthfully, the open burning affects me far more than my allergies. At least I can, and do, take allergy meds. For 5 months per year agricultural burning is allowed in my area, but it seems the majority of it occurs in April and May, This also happens to be allergy season so it’s a double whammy for those of us who are sensitive.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    I sometimes forget to remove my mask. I’d probably remember if I were sweating up a trail though. I wear one still to the grocery store, and other places with lots of people, even though I am occasionally subjected to harassment or mockery by nasty people (not referring to the OP). The Covid virus has not disappeared and will not. I actually like the mask practice, because working with the general public, my staff has had no head colds or tummy bugs since we started masking. I like not being able to smell people’s nasty breath. Lots of benefits. It’s no longer required, but most of my staff still opt for masks. No one wants to be sick; it’s really that simple.

    I hope we Americans will evolve into a people who really actually believe in freedom – including the freedom to wear a mask if you feel like it – or a hajib, or a long dress, or sidelocks, or dreadlocks – without harassment and anger from others. We have a long way to go.

    Claiborne B
    BPL Member


    Pollen. I’m not allergic, but in the South, pollen falls from the trees like snow in a white out. From mid March to mid May in the southern Appalachians, I’ll be sporting a mask while hiking, solo, with loved ones, in groups, whenever. Wish I could wear swim goggles too, but that would just look weird.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I’ve also noticed that on Regional Park trails in California and my first reaction was that it seemed needlessly conservative (in a public-health, not political sense).

    Some cultures (sometimes a majority of the hikers were Asian-Americans, many of them recently enough that they weren’t American coach potatoes yet) have long embraced mask use in public during flu season (therefore through the pandemic).

    I found it a bit nerve-wrecking – not the personal disease-transmission risk calculations, but the social calculus of “Do I put my mask on when someone else has theirs out of respect for their comfort?”  Or is it off-putting to reach for mask when I see you coming my way?  A more relaxed approach is to just leave it on and not have to pay so much attention.  One of the delights of hiking in CA or the Eastern Time Zone is that nothing in the wilderness is going to eat me so I can relax and veg out more than is prudent in Alaska.  e.g. the year I got my first iPod and listened to tunes on the trail, I saw 5 grizzlies, which seemed too many.

    I had a epiphany in the garage 2 months ago and thought to put just a surgical, not even N-95 mask on before using the big belt sander on a wood project and YEAH! I didn’t have sniffles afterwards like I usually do, and that’s my new norm.  So keeping the dust and pollen out of your nose would seem a good reason.

    Maybe not in NY last week, but in my town, it can still be 29F and blowing 25 mph, so just like in winter, a number of us routinely mask up in the car for a warmer walk across the parking lot, even though there’s essentially no disease-transmission issue until you enter the building.

    And, back to Asian cultures, some people, especially women, will wear extensive hats, gloves and even full-body swimming suits) to avoid sun tanning which is associated with lower-class farmers and laborers and not with being the idle rich like in the West.  A mask would be a better sunblock than any SPF lotion  making it a bit of multi-purpose kit:

    – sunblock,

    – lip moisturizer,

    – disease abatement,

    – pollen/dust mask,

    – social nicety,

    – water pre-filter,

    – emergency coffee maker,

    – super-emergency TP.

    And, of course, it could be a bit of virtue signaling to one’s tribe, consciously or not, just as much as a MAGA hat worn indoors.

    In other news – I got my 4th jab on Monday.  Only took 10 minutes.  No waiting in Alaska with lots of vaccine allotments but fairly low demand.

    MJ H
    BPL Member


    I lived in North Carolina for three years and liked it. But every time I think about moving back, I remember the absolute misery of pollen season there. I thought it was bad living in Nebraska and being allergic to corn pollen, but I was wrong.

    Also, I like being able to drink iced tea without having to repeatedly check that nobody didn’t fill the thing with sugar when I looked away.

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