Have you been inspired to get out and backpack by yourself? Maybe you want to get out to a pristine alpine lake that you’ve seen on your social feed or tackle a 100-mile section of a long trail. Whatever your adventure, there are a few extra things to consider before venturing out into the wild.
As with all outdoor adventures, the ten essentials are, well, essential! I do want to point out a couple important ones and add some to your list.
Be sure to leave an itinerary with someone responsible. As a solo hiker, you need to have a back-up plan in case of an emergency on trail. If you don’t call in by a certain time, or a certain day, your emergency contact needs to know what protocol to follow.
Have a well-stocked personalized first aid kit and know how to use it. Taking a basic first-aid course can be a huge confidence boost. And don’t forget the emergency chocolate!
Some hikers opt for extra protection. For me, this meant carrying a satellite-based SOS device. Mine allowed me to send and receive text messages, which kept me connected with home. Some women will carry a can of pepper spray or bear spray. If you do, know how to use it and keep it in an easily accessible place.
When looking for solo gear, you’ll need to determine the maximum amount of weight you can actually carry. Look first at your Big Three: tent, backpack, and sleep system – there might be lighter alternatives. Next, you’ll want to invest in lighter weight technical clothing that serves multiple purposes.
Unfortunately, men’s and women’s gear are not always created equal.
In my search for the perfect lightweight raincoat I often found myself coveting the highly technical gear only available to men. It was nearly impossible to find a lightweight backpack that took my hips into consideration.
Thankfully the outdoor industry is starting to become more aware of women adventurers. This season more brands are releasing lightweight gear that is designed specifically for a women’s shape and needs. I love my trusty Wild Tribute National Parks inspired t-shirt and wound up going up in sizes to make it as versatile as possible; to sleep in, to wear hiking and to throw on after a long day of trekking.
Okay ladies. We’re all adults here, and we’re about to talk about hopefully won’t come as too much of a shocker; the good weather doesn’t always align perfectly with our menstrual cycles.
The only way to deal with this, and to deal with other, ahem, natural occurrences, is to be prepared. Remember, everything you pack in, you must pack out. This includes tampons for obvious reasons. Another alternative is menstrual cups. It’s important to remember they need to be cleaned 200 ft. away from water sources.
Toilet paper is another one. Don’t let us catch you leaving that stuff behind! You can get creative here with bringing a re-useable washcloth. And since we’re on the topic, breathable underwear is a great investment. And yes, wearing them inside out a few times over longer trips is a totally okay thing to do in the backcountry.
To keep you feeling mean and clean, a damp facecloth or wetwipe at the end of a long day trekking in the dirt can feel incredible!
When I talk to friends about my solo hiking adventures, the first question I always get is “Weren’t you scared?” If I was, I certainly wouldn’t be out there!
Before heading out to hike alone, you must have confidence. Confidence in your gear. Confidence in your experience and abilities. Confidence in yourself.
A lot of confidence comes with practice. I didn’t just jump right out on the trail from the couch. I’ve had years of learning new skills and putting them into practice. I highly recommend going out on a few solo day hikes first. Then backpack a trail you’re already familiar with, using all of your new gear. This is called a shake-down hike and it is invaluable for gaining confidence and testing your gear.
It’s perfectly normal to doubt yourself along your journey. What matters is how your overcome that self-doubt. How you manage to keep going. Setting mini goals through your day is one technique I’ve used. Having a mantra or a list of reasons why you’re on your adventure is a commonly used tool as well.
Hiking solo can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Moving by yourself through the woods allows you to connect with nature, and with yourself on a different level. The quiet and calm can be a balm to our busy everyday lives. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you reach your daily hiking goals can be incredible!
When I return from a week of solo backpacking, I’m a stronger and more confident woman. I own my space, I own my skills, I own my adventure.
About the Author: Lisa’s outdoor adventures have taken her from girl scout, to hiker, to backpacker, and then to long trail backpacker. She lives within a couple hours of some of the best hikes in the Pacific Northwest. She shares her adventures on her West Coast Hiker Girl blog. All photos are the property of Lisa Pulsifer.