Go Your Own Way: What You Need To Know Before You Travel Solo
So you're thinking about embarking on your first solo trip? Props! If you've divulged these aspirations to anyone, I'm sure you've already received an earful of well-meaning comments and questions of concern from family and loved ones. Sure, it will technically always be "safer" traveling with a companion or within a group, but you're not here to be subjected to half-baked and long debunked scare tactics, you're here to garner inspiration and the courage to embark on your next solo adventure.
From a pragmatic standpoint, soloing is sometimes the only way we can fully immerse ourselves in the outdoors. It's difficult to find a hiking companion who shares your pace and your goals, and sometimes it's hard finding anyone at all. Going solo gives us a unique opportunity to have honest conversations with ourselves. Not only are we distanced from the impressions of others, we're also untethered from social media and the resulting pressures of conformity. It's a chore to create our own ideas when immersed in an artificial world we didn't create. Sometimes, we need a healthy amount of space from external influence to be free to be our own person.
If you think you're ready to take the leap, here are some tips to ensure your solo trek is an experience you'll reflect back on fondly.
Tell People Where You're Going You should give your itinerary, including emergency routes, to a friend or family member, with clear instructions on who to contact if you fail to return on time. If there is a ranger station or a place to sign in at the trailhead, check in before you start and then remember to check in again when you are finished. They will start a preliminary search if they think you never made it back.
Trek Within Your Limits Stay within reasonable limits for mileage, elevation gain, navigational challenges, and technical skills. Choose a familiar trail for your first solo. Stick to well-traveled trails and campsites. Don't pick the most challenging, remote hike you can think of for your solo trip when what you're used to is moderate and populated.
Pack Wisely It’s important to be self-sufficient and be prepared for most situations. Include the 10 essentials. Pack light but never compromise safety for the sake of lightening your pack load. Decide which extras to bring by weighing the consequences of not having it against the burden of carrying too much. Always carry a signaling or communication device.
Address Your Anxieties Before You Hit The Trail Know what they are and be ready with a plan of action. If it’s navigation, practice with GPS, maps and compass; if it’s bears, invest in a bear bag to secure your food and bear spray to provide added protection against an unexpected encounter.
Don't Take Unnecessary Risks Research all potential hazards in the area and develop contingencies for dealing with them. Before taking even routine risks (like crossing a moderately challenging stream), carefully evaluate the potential dangers. Never rule out an alternative route or simply turning around.
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