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Solo or No Go
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Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
what is the "DAM" mattress? on 10/03/2006 07:59:50 MDT Print View

Sunny, what does the acronym DAM stand for in your post? I am interested in a pad lighter and thicker than Thermarests. Thanks.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
DAM on 10/03/2006 08:32:14 MDT Print View

DAM usually stands for Down Filled Air Mattress ...

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: DAM on 10/04/2006 07:24:43 MDT Print View

Yes that is correct..Down Filled Air Mattress..mine has primaloft in it instead of down but I still call it a DAM. For 22oz I get 2.5" of comfort..

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: Solo or No Go on 10/11/2006 16:31:05 MDT Print View

Jumping on this thread very late in the game. Just did not see it at first. Although I have not read all the responses, I'd like to share my views on this going solo thing.

First, I love going solo!
I set my own pace (fairly fast), pee when I want to without the usual comments from friends to get a move on, stop to smell the flowers or to just gaze at the scenery as long as I wish, eat when I want to and pack as much or as little food as I deem appropriate. All of these are reasons to hike solo, but the best is that I am my own company, and I like that. We are so enmeshed in a culture that bombards us with sensory input all day long. We usually never get a momment's rest from all those emails, phone calls, colleagues, friends and family that demand attention. It's exhausting and enervating.

My wife says that I am a better person and companion after I have been out solo hiking -- even if it is just for an overnight. She often will send me on a hike because she observes that I need a recharge. What an incredibly astute and loving woman! I get out for a backpacking adventure prehaps once every 60 days. I return refreshed.

Some observations and promises to keep.
1. I never deviate from the itinerary I leave with my wife, the ranger station and in my car.
2. I have a PLB that I bought to provide an additional layer of security for my wife's peace of mind.
3. I always tell my wife when I will call her when leaving the trailhead for home and a window of time in which that will occur. If she has not heard from me by that time, she is to call the ranger station near the trailhead -- a number I have left with her.
4. I have taken NOL's mantra to heart. My best 1st aide resource is between my ears. I take refresher courses in wilderness 1st aide regularly. Know myself and my limitations and NEVER EVER push that envelope. I have no one to fall back on if I guess wrong.
5. I hike established trails, keep a GPS, maps and a compass with me and know how to use them. There is so much to see even on trails that I hike repeatedly that I see no reason for me to solo cross country and off trail.
6. I am old enough and mature enough, I believe, to recognize that my days bungy jumping. hang gliding and playing Russian roulette with my life are long over and should be. A loving supportive wife, great kids moving though life at a frenzied pace, a challenging career, all are proof that when I solo I don't need to take unnecessary risks -- there is too much to lose.
7. When satellite phones become less expensive and more durable, I will get one of those, too, for my kit.

Here endth the lesson.

Bill Law
(williamlaw) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
solo, but with PLB on 10/12/2006 16:57:12 MDT Print View

Can these things be "customized" to trigger different responses, or, to prompt a call to a spouse, etc.?

I have "medical issues" and I'd like for the rescuers to come prepared if I had to use the thing.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: solo, but with PLB on 10/12/2006 17:12:55 MDT Print View

PLB's come with a extensive form to be filled out by the purchaser/user. In it you would note all of your medical and other conditions that a potential SAR team would need to know about you. Go to any REI store and you can do some hands on examination of the two units they sell and look at the form itself. They are very accomodating at REI.
edit: Forgot about the spousal notification issue. No can do. They are glorified GPS systems that triangulate your position down to about 10 meters square. Here is a link to the NOAA site with info on the system:

Edited by mitchellkeil on 10/12/2006 17:16:51 MDT.

Bill Law
(williamlaw) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
solo, but with PLB on 10/13/2006 10:11:09 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info. About the phone call: I meant to ask whether the responders would be instructed to make the call if you turn it on. It sounds like they definitely would have contact information on file, in addition to the medical info.

I'll have to look into this some more. The PLBs sound more dependendable than most of my backpacking partners :-).

Vlad Putin

Locale: Radio Free Pineland
Re: Solo or No Go on 11/07/2006 18:10:15 MST Print View

I have been doing a lot of solo backpacking in the past year. Most people will advise you against it and some do see it as having poor judgment. I think there ARE some types of terrain and climates where it is just poor judgment to go solo for more than a day.

That being said, I say do it. I have been doing a lot of 12 milers solo in the past year and much of it (at least half) has been at night time with a Tikka XP LED headlamp. I am not afraid of the dark, even by myself. Perhaps it was my upbringing, I grew up in a rural environment and lost my fear of darkness in the woods by the time I was in high school.

Some advice if you go solo though...

1) carry a cell phone with you (adds a little weight but in this case who cares)

2) avoid off trail backpacking using map and compass or GPS...stick to the trail. Off trail movement is just too risky when you are solo.

3) wear boots to give you added protection against a severe ankle sprain or even broken ankle. You can find yourself SOL with a severe sprain or broken leg miles from a trailhead.

4)make EXTRA sure you are well protected from and know how to prevent hypothermia in mild to cold weather. And heat exhaustion in hot weather. With nobody to depend upon to administer you first aid except yourself, you are basically dead if hypothermia sneaks up on you and gets past the initial stages.

5) Leave a topo map at home with loved ones, with a pre-planned trail route marked out with highlighter and STICK to the route. Write out your trail plan if you feel the need to.

6) Avoid water sources while solo except to cross small creeks, streams and to get your water from. Avoid solo river crossings while. This goes triple if the water is cold.

I do cold weather backpacking solo now. This is dangerous, but I actually enjoy getting away from all the hassles and stress of regular life. What I do in cold weather is carry a "hypothermia prevention backup kit" which consists of:

1) One or two chemical handwarmers. These I can snap and activate if I start to feel chilled and think I am in the very early stages of hypothermia. Put them inside my parka, and let them heat me back up some.

2) a packet of instant jello. If you are severely chilled and run down and feel you are possibly in the early stages of hypothermia, break out your stove and quickly heat up 2 cups of water. Dump the packet of instant jello into the hot water, stir and drink it. The combination of the hot water with the sugars and proteins in the jello give you a shot of calories real fast, with minimal hassles and can heat up your core enough to give you a little added time to get your tent pitched and sleeping bag rolled out to get into.

Between the two items carried and my knowledge of hypothermia dangers, I feel reasonably protected against death by exposure while alone and unsupported in remote mountain terrain.

So far, I havent had to use either of the two above items. I prevent hypothermia from occurring...the best way to treat it.

My plan is if I ever have to use above items solo, the trip is over as far as I am concerned. As soon as I am warmed back up and feel confident to walk out, I cut the trip short and go home and sleep, get hot calories into my system and get out of the cold.


Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 11:34:10 MST Print View

Jumping in late...I would only add that it seems you can supplant most any other item for solo journey protection with a Sat. phone. Rental costs are reasonable enough that I would choose that single item over just about anything. The piece of mind it buys the "spouse" is incredible as well.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 11:48:25 MST Print View

I would like to offer an alternative perspective. It has nothing to do with saving weight, and everything to do with the extent to which you are mentally engaged with your solo experience.

Skip the communications devices.

No cell phones, sat phones, pocketmails.

I often carry a sat phone, because it does give my wife peace of mind. That's important to me.

But the occasional overnighter taken with a minimal kit and no umbilical cord is a reward in and of itself.

If you have a shelter with you, and you left an itinerary at home, it's not like you're going to die or anything.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 12:15:45 MST Print View

all agreed. Such intelligent thoughts have been posted here. Very cool.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
No Solo? Don't get swallowed by the "Fear Factor" on 11/10/2006 12:18:36 MST Print View

I'll admit I’ve not read most of this thread so if much of what I say has been previously stated, forgive me.

Much of the difference in weight between the contents of a traditional pack and ultralight pack is due to what I call the “Fear Factor”. It’s all that stuff we think we need when things start going south. If you look at the extra gear and precautions recommended by a number of comments in this thread about the dangers of solo hiking, again you can pretty much chalk it up to the proverbial “Fear Factor”.

If I’ve got hundreds or thousands of successful hiking miles traveling with a group and never been lost, injured or needed rescue, am I more likely to go bonkers when traveling alone? Will I disregard everything I’ve learned and start hiking more recklessly. If anything when hiking alone, I tend to be more in tune to the terrain over which I’m traveling and any changing environmental conditions.

Sure traveling cross country may involve more risks than staying on trail. In my experience the greatest risk one encounters is not the hike but the travel between home and the trailhead by car. Statistically speaking I’d bet more hikers are injured doing this than on the actual hike. Yet we’ve grown to accept the risk of driving as a natural part of everyday life. Back country travel is new, different and outside our everyday mode of existence.

There’s nothing wrong with a little fear. It heightens the senses and can add a new dimension to the journey. We do want to make sure our fears don’t paralyze us and prevent us partaking in new and exciting experiences.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 12:18:41 MST Print View


I am not certain I agree. You either need the device or you don't. You would not trek across the Alaska backcountry without it (and I am sure you are thankful for that). But you know the old adage, most accidents occur 1 mile from the house...err, something like that (basically there is no gaurantee because you are only out for one night that nothing could happen). I agree you should always be mentally engaged in the experience...and aware of your moves. Even with a Sat. phone, I do not want to weather any kind of trauma and focus on that a great deal. But having a phone in the bottom of the pack in no way interfers with my mental connection with the environs. It sure as hell is not "on" waiting for a call. I do not even think about it being there. If I have a hiking partner, I do not afford the phone. If I were going solo (near or far) or on an extended trip far from help...I would carry one.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 12:39:59 MST Print View

Scott, your comments make complete sense to me. I can't help, however, remembering the excitement I felt as a sixteen-year-old heading out into the woods and being completely independent and cut off from the outside world.

I never use my sat phone (ok, once :) but the fact that I know it's down there...I still have a hard time shaking that. I'm glad that you have been able to ignore it!

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: No Solo? Don't get swallowed by the "Fear Factor" on 11/10/2006 12:55:54 MST Print View

Yet we’ve grown to accept the risk of driving as a natural part of everyday life.

So true. You could substitute a number of things for "driving" in that statement.

My favorite version comes compliments of a neighbor. My son and his buddy were competent enough in the backcountry by age 16 that we let them tell us what to do. (or maybe it was BECAUSE we did that). On BWCAW trips we'd give them 10 minutes with the map each morning and they'd lead us all day without asking to see the map again.

Later on I had a BWCAW entry permit for Fri of Memorial Dayt weekend but they didn't want to miss senior's last day in high school. I suggested that they drive up on Saturday and paddle in to meet us. But the buddy's parents were not comfortable with that.

But they WERE comfortable giving them a graduation present consisting of tickets to a Pink Floyd concert in a town 250 miles away!

People are comfortable with what they are accustomed to.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: No Solo? Don't get swallowed by the "Fear Factor" on 11/10/2006 13:14:25 MST Print View

You make a valid point that "fear" often drives much of what we do in the wild,(why else carry a 55lb pack), and to some extent that is a good thing. Keeps one sharp. Often gives one an edge. But most of us who have decided to go solo either on or off trail have to some degree already processed that issue. Cutting the umbilical of trail companionship is part of that "fear" issue IMHO. Being alone with oneself can be pretty intimidating.

I remember when I was in my mid 20's and did the Hurricane Island Outward Bound 30 day course. I was the oldest person in my crew, even older than the guides. Each person finds his or her own personal physical or emotional challenge during these courses, and one young crew member spent every day telling the rest of us how much she was looking forward to the 3 day sole experience. When we did go on our solos, she collapsed after 36 hours and had to leave to course an emotional wreak. She found much to her suprise that she could not handle so much alone time with her demons.

I think of her often when I talk with packers who do not solo and express shock and dismay that I do. Often these well meaning folk express their own "fears" when they tell me how unsafe it is, etc. When I wrote on this topic above that I have an unvarying routine that I employ to keep me safe, I was certainly aware that it might sound excessive or even fear driven. But, I do not live in a vacuum, I live with a most wonderous woman. To respect her feelings, I have adopted my rules. It gives her peace of mind. Certainly, I could violate those rules once on the trail, but then what kind of man would I be. And what would happen if even on a simple overnight, as Ryan suggests would certainly not get me killed, I deviated from my rules and did get into serious trouble. We all know that Murphy strikes when least expected. I do not think I would find it easy to explain to my wife that it was only an overnight and so did not qualify as a seriously threathening situation to follow the rules. "The path outside your door could sweep you up and take you anywhere -- even to Mordor." as Bilbo tells Frodo.

The one item which does not take up any room in my pack and which is truly ultralight weight and which is the key to my ultimate safety on any trip is the space between my ears and what I put there. If one is going to go solo, one owes it those we love and who support us in doing the "fearful" things we do that they may not appreciate or understand, to take wilderness 1st aid courses and any other course one can think of to hone our survival skills. Ultimately, confidence in my ability to survive and take care of myself is what my wife trusts -- the space between my ears -- and hence my rules.

I know that I have gone on quite a bit here, but there is so much more to this issue of Soloing: the how, the when, the conditions, the reasons, the benefits and the risks, that we should all consider more than the surface of this topic.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: No Solo? Don't get swallowed by the "Fear Factor" on 11/10/2006 13:31:40 MST Print View

...And we all (or most of us) have survived previous trips into the woods before Sat. Phones were available and have lived to tell about it.

Bottom line, the main reason I go into the woods is to get away from IT all. And I do love being "cut off" like Ryan describes. So far though, the main thing that takes that away is having other people camped in proximity to me. I am not anti-social, but that is the single biggest reminder that I am not lost in the deep, dark woods. One of the best feelings I get is wandering away from any other hiking partners (especially with potty trowel) into a direction where you are sure you are totally alone...and no one may have been in that spot for years possibly. I suppose I am a little weird.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
one more step on 11/10/2006 13:41:27 MST Print View

For me solo hiking is safer than hiking with another person. When I reflect on my accident record over the last decade I think I am safer solo.

I have tripped over other peoples guylines, but not my own.

I have tripped or burned myself because I was distracted by conversation.

I have slipped while hurrying to catch up.

I have continued on trips when I would have bailed if solo.

The conventional wisdom, IMO, assumes that your companion will have a similar level of experience, skill and fitness. It might be fatal for me to try to keep up with Roman Dial. You must be well matched with your companion.

OK, I just like being out there by myself.

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Siegmund Beimfohr
(SigBeimfohr) - M
Re: Solo or No Go on 11/10/2006 13:48:22 MST Print View

Since I started backpacking 3 years ago at the advanced age of 59, I have always gone solo (except local overnights with the grandkids). I enjoy being alone and learning on my own; don't really know anyone around here that would be doing my mostly weekend outings anyway. Although the woods of upper Michigan and southern Indiana are hardly "wild and remote", there are still opportunities for bad things to happen. I never eally felt any "fear factor" when starting out alone with no experience.
As for cell phones, I haven't owned one until a few months ago. I take it with me, first because I may need it on the road and second because it will make my wife more comfortable. Don't want to leave it in the car anyway so I throw it in the pack even though there's a good chance that signal may be poor to non-existent in many places.

Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Just Go on 11/10/2006 15:34:17 MST Print View

Most of the trips I've taken in the past twenty years or so have been solo. Of the eight trips I've taken so far this year, seven were solo. The "fear" never really disappears for me, especially when I'm entending my comfort zone. But I go anyway. Last night I was alone in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. (At least there were no other cars in the parking lot.) There is something exhilarating about being totally alone in the middle of the wilderness when the storm come in, the snow is blowing sideways, and you have only your own knowledge and skills to keep you safe and comfortable.

Edited by Dondo on 11/10/2006 16:09:02 MST.