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Backpacking solo
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Benjamin Ingalls
(Bingalls)
Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 11:43:25 MDT Print View

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.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 12:02:32 MDT Print View

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?

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 12:30:39 MDT Print View

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.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 12:35:04 MDT Print View

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.

Benjamin Ingalls
(Bingalls)
Solo trips on 03/21/2014 17:43:02 MDT Print View

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.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Solo trips on 03/21/2014 17:45:56 MDT Print View

Maybe try a close in overnighter, just to break the psychological barrier? Then gradually move up in terms of duration and remoteness.

Kenda Willey
(sonderlehrer)
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 18:26:41 MDT Print View

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.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 19:32:22 MDT Print View

Some words of wisdom, and others in these.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=1259

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=40173

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 22:13:44 MDT Print View

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!

Edited by millonas on 03/21/2014 22:29:06 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Try These on 03/21/2014 22:45:29 MDT Print View

Couple Ideas

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.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Try These on 03/21/2014 23:02:47 MDT Print View

" 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. :-)

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
The real danger... on 03/22/2014 04:48:17 MDT Print View

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...

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Colin Fletcher: Backpacking solo on 03/22/2014 05:37:51 MDT Print View

"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.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Solo trips on 03/22/2014 06:43:09 MDT Print View

Saying things like:
"I don't know what it is."
And
"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.

Edited by Glenn64 on 03/22/2014 06:43:42 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: Solo trips on 03/22/2014 06:57:24 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by stephenm on 03/22/2014 06:58:50 MDT.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/22/2014 09:17:22 MDT Print View

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).

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 03/22/2014 10:26:18 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by xnomanx on 03/22/2014 10:30:40 MDT.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Re: Solo trips. Risk assessment and mitigation. on 03/22/2014 20:33:29 MDT Print View

Write down all the concerns and risks.
On a scale of 1 to 10 score the likelihood that a risk could happen, and again the severity of the risk, and finally the impact. Then add up the score points and logically figure out if this risk is worth mitigating.

Example. Lightning strike in April.
It could happen, though extremely unlikely. Give it 1 out of 10.
If it did happen and you lived with the burns, the severity would be 9/10. Assuming that if you died, the problem is solved.
The impact is also high is you are stranded.

So you mitigate the risk by checking the weather forecast, read and practice lightning safety, let someone know where you will be, etc.

Another example. Wildlife attack, score according to region, if your score is high then mitigate by practicing food safety, carrying defensive spray or other means.

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Sick and Twisted on 03/23/2014 10:10:07 MDT Print View

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.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/23/2014 11:05:20 MDT Print View

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!

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/23/2014 14:06:39 MDT Print View

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. :)

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/23/2014 20:14:17 MDT Print View

I'm not helping your solo fears, but it is funny.


Bear noise at night

Kelly G
(KellyDT) - F
Solo on 03/24/2014 21:21:12 MDT Print View

Just do it. You will gain confidence as you do it successfully.
Kelly

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Basic easy overnight trip on 03/24/2014 21:31:30 MDT Print View

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.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 03/24/2014 22:07:25 MDT Print View

"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.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Backpacking solo - a few thoughts on 03/25/2014 01:04:53 MDT Print View

I've been mostly backpacking solo for over 40 years, and learned a few lessons the hard way.

- Hiking with a partner is NOT a solution to all backcountry emergencies. Chances are good your partner will be injured, hypothermic, AMS, ... right along with you. Chances are good that you know more about first aid and survival than your partner. Learn to take care of yourself (and others), and to make safer choices.

- Take classes in backpacking, Wilderness First Aid (Wilderness First Responder is better), even wilderness survival, if they help you feel more confident. Way back when, I took a Sierra Club Basic Mountaineering course that helped a lot.

- Hike on well-traveled trails. If something bad happens, passersby might be able to help or call for help. Or at least identify your remains for next of kin :-)

- When in doubt, bail out. I've cut short many trips when multiple signs were pointing the wrong way. Like the morning I woke up with a bloody nose, giant blisters on both feet, and snow falling when I wasn't prepared. Best to head lower and closer to civilization, not higher and deeper into the wilderness.

- Take a PLB, or something similar, and know their limitations.

- Start with short, easy solo trips and work your way up to longer, more challenging trips. You'll gain experience and confidence with each trip.

Hope this helps.

-- Rex

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/25/2014 08:26:37 MDT Print View

"I think you are really wrong on this. A partner could save your life in most conceivable backcountry emergencies."

I may be. But you haven't convinced me. If you are unconscious and remain unconscious, then a partner could definitely help. What is your distinction about unconscious near water, sleep walking? :) You also forgot unconscious near a cliff, unconscious near a rattle snake den .... And what happens with your unconscious friend next? Leave him there to go get help?

As far as the first scenario, broken leg, broken arm. I could get my shelter up and in my bag. And send a signal for rescue if necessary. Or in your case, wait for your friend to hike 25 miles and drive into cell coverage to summon help.

Hypothermia? Avoid it or prevent it by keeping your bag dry and dealing with issues like getting soaked immediately. Sure anything is possible, but if someone can't keep their bag dry, recognize when they need to take action to get warm, and start a fire when necessary, that person should not be in the back country alone. Or perhaps at all.

Having the right partner is a lot different than just having a partner. I went with a couple of friends many years ago. He broke through some snow above a creek later in the day and soaked his leather boots. He went to sleep pretty early and the next morning he told us about it and how he was shivering badly so he got in his bag. We were doing camp chores and hadn't noticed it. We discussed that the time to mention that is right away. Not the next day. On the last day he was REALLY slow. Turns out his pack, which he hadn't wore in years and took on this trip because he wanted more volume, was chafing his hips badly. But again he didn't mention it until it was already a problem. I haven't backpacked with him again.

Another time, a friend and I were doing the 4 Pass Loop as an overnight. At his insistence we passed up a nice camp spot maybe an hour before dark. He really wanted to get to another spot he knew a mile or two away. There was a stream crossing and I zipped right though it. He didn't want to get his feet wet so he looked up and down the stream for quite a while trying to find a log or rocks to cross on. Eventually he gave up and took his shoes off, waded, dried his feet, put his shoes back on, etc. Now it's dark, cold and starts raining. The trail is quickly a quagmire and when we get to his spot, it no longer exists. Strong winds had blown over tons of trees in the area. We had to backtrack to a spot near the stream. If I had been by myself, I'd have been warm and dry in my shelter. Instead I was cold with wet feet setting up my shelter in the rain. I wasn't hypothermic but I was cold enough that I was stopping no matter what at that point to avoid it. I quickly got into my bag and was fine. But it was a bad idea to ever get into that situation. Which we discussed at length hiking out the next day and we worked it out and have not had any issues since.

Bottom line is I fully trust myself to avoid most problems and deal with the ones I do encounter. And to carry a means to summon help in a true emergency. If you'd rather go with a partner than solo, that's certainly understandable. But when I do it's because it's someone I want to spend time with, not because I feel safer having them along.

Edited by rlnunix on 03/25/2014 09:01:41 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 03/25/2014 09:47:29 MDT Print View

Randy, sounds like you would have been a bit safer WITHOUT your partner on that occasion. However, I doubt he would have been safer without YOU.

A little less than a decade ago I had a friend die on a trip I planned in Sequoia NP - a simple out, camp for two days, and back on a route to a regular primitive camp area, with reservations no less, where people often bring there little kids on their first overnight trip. In other words an easy trip I planned for a semi-newb backpacker.

I had to back out due to illness, literally at the last moment. I had backpacked with him a few times before, and knew he had minor issues of judgment and situational awareness, at least in my view - but I figured he would be fine.

Anyway, apparently he wandered off exploring on the second day, fell down into a stream, hit his head, and then drowned while he was unconscious. I feel like if I had sucked it up and went with him, in spite of the way I felt, he would not have died. If I had been with him maybe I could have pulled him out of the creek, and maybe he would have had at least a chance. More importantly, if I had been with him I could have probably kept him from making bone-headed decisions, as I had done on a few past trips with him. A ranger who was handling the search told me later that he probably would have died anyway, but I still felt he as just trying to make me feel better.

So while you are technically right about hypothermia, for example, not being an issue if you are prepared, the same thing could be said for the vast majority of injuries. It is the time when we miscalculate that it is nice to have an extra person along, if only so that the other person can have the opportunity to learn from experience from a mistake without having to pay too high a price.

That said, I will still be going solo most of the time anyway.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/25/2014 10:30:44 MDT Print View

"When in doubt, bail out. I've cut short many trips when multiple signs were pointing the wrong way. Like the morning I woke up with a bloody nose, giant blisters on both feet, and snow falling when I wasn't prepared. Best to head lower and closer to civilization, not higher and deeper into the wilderness."

I would've thought the trip was just starting to get fun at that point. ;-)

I'm kidding of course, but I think a person's perspective on adversity makes a big difference in whether or not they will enjoy going solo. Ask yourself, "if something really challenging happens which threatens to end the trip or even my life, will I enjoy taking on that challenge alone, or will I regret not having someone to help me?"

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
solo hiking on 03/25/2014 10:50:58 MDT Print View

"A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American"
--Cactus Ed

That is rather how I feel.

I could die in the backcountry. My wife would (hopefully!) lament it. But I truly think that people would feel happy for me in the sense I am doing something I love when I pass on.

I remember seeing my grandfather a few days before he died. This man who fought a war, raised a family and was strong well into his old age. More importantly, through example, he showed my brothers what it was to truly be a man. Not the macho BS that is looked on to be "manly", but rather the real way to be a man: Be honest in your dealings, work hard for those you love, and there is no such thing as "man's work". Grandma would cook a wonderful meal that often last all afternoon; my grandfather would clear the table and wash the dishes while she was enjoying coffee and dessert.

However, the man on his deathbed was not my grandfather any more. Old age robbed his strength. Dementia robbed his personality. He did not die peacefully in his sleep. He was obviously wracked in pain until the end.

I do not romanticize dying out in the wilderness. Could be painful or lingering. Could also be quick and painless.

I do know that I do not want die robbed of whatever makes me *me*, however.

Having said all that, I obviously love backpacking solo.

Another pertinent quote:

"I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of lonliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness
and a quiet exultation. "

So said Cactus Ed....

I really can't say it much better..but because obviously I ramble on, I'm going to say something anyway. :-)

When hiking solo. I do not feel alone. I do much thinking that otherwise would not be done.

Everything is more intense. Somehow the views are vaster, the sounds sharper, the smells more intense. The feelings are overwhelming. In short, I feel intimately
connected to the universe in which I walk. I do not feel alone...but more connected. The longer I am out, the more this feeling is intensified.

On a past hike, I remember being out nearly four days without seeing
anyone. I stumbled in a herd of elk on a damp Oregon day. The sounds of hoofs crashing through the woods, the smell of damp earth, the incredible sight of the
large elk going through the woods. Years later, this image is etched vividly in my memory.

On a trip in he San Juans, I was caught in an early September snowstorm on San Luis saddle . I bailed into Creede. The following day, I was again on a divide. The mountains around me were white, the sky was a deep blue. The air had the crispness of Colorado in autumn. It was an over-whelmingly intense scene. My eyes filled up with the
intense emotion I felt with the beauty encompassing me. Being alone can do that and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Solo hiking can be difficult. You are by yourself, in your own thoughts. You must use your own resources. I don't think being alone is what makes going solo
hard...I think confronting yourself, having all around you that much more intense...that is what people find difficult.

For me, solo hiking turns a backpacking trip from an extended vacation into a wilderness pilgrimage. When going solo, I am forced to confront on a very gut level what I am seeking on the pilgrimage. The beauty, the emotion, my thoughts. And I would not have it any other way.

Is it more dangerous? Perhaps. But I do not take any unnecessary risks. I do not ski avalanche paths. My hiking on technical terrain is on the conservative side and does not take me past my ability level.

Most importantly, my wife has a plan of my itinerary and often a map.

Perhaps I am being foolish gy going solo.

But if we only did things that were 100% safe, a bicycle would never be ridden for the first time, skiing would be something I would never do and I'd have been too timid to ask out my now-wife out on date less I get turned down and embarrass myself (I embarrass myself with Mrs Mags in many different ways now!)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: risks on 03/25/2014 11:17:32 MDT Print View

I've always thought I was in more danger on the way to the trailhead than off the pavement. City life is fraught with dangers! Odd, but we will stand on a street corner with an 80,000 pound bus roaring by at arm's length away and then feel endangered on a trail. Jaywalking a busy street has to have far more odds of catastrophe than walking a dirt path alone.

I had a co-worker who slipped on some easy stairs outside a city center mall and dislocated her shoulder. She was European born and had hiked the Alps with no incident. The irony was not lost on her.

And there was the guy I saw riding a bike the wrong way down a one-way street without a helmet and smoking a cigarette. If he didn't smoke, at least he would make a better organ donor!

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Backpacking solo" on 03/25/2014 14:00:03 MDT Print View

I agree with Dale. I backpack "solo" most of the time. I've definitely gotten past the whole "let me consider all of the horrible ways thatI could die doing this" thing. Much of that is projection, and a bit irrational. Oh, and I also don't buy into the whole "he died doing what he loved" business either. On the contrary, I take simple and obvious precautions while solo hiking that keep me as safe as possible. Also, since I pretty much stay on trails, out of precaution, it's typical to run into people during the course of a day, or every other day.

I think that fear of hiking solo is a bit like fear of bears. Once you've done it a few times you realize that the danger is exaggerated, mostly in your head.

I feel incredibly at home in the wilderness by myself; hiking solo has helped to give me this gift--and others as well. Also, I get to go more often, and to places that I like going, because I don't have to take a group itinerary into account.

Edited by book on 03/25/2014 14:02:01 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: solo hiking on 03/25/2014 17:17:00 MDT Print View

"I do not romanticize dying out in the wilderness. Could be painful or lingering. Could also be quick and painless.

I do know that I do not want die robbed of whatever makes me *me*, however.

Having said all that, I obviously love backpacking solo." and the rest of your post.

Well said, very well said, indeed.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
risks on 03/25/2014 19:40:32 MDT Print View

You might die.
So what?
You might have the time of your life and experience things that will change your life for the better.

You WILL die someday, in some way, that you cannot know beforehand.

Sitting on your sofa afraid to go do anything because something "might" happen , isnt living.

With most things in life, the greatest rewards await those that take the greatest risks.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Good Stuff on 03/26/2014 11:44:00 MDT Print View

I am relatively new to backpacking and up to this point I've always been on trips with my son's Scout troop. So a group - with a lot of more experienced hikers around (both adult and older scouts).

We've missed some hikes over the past 6 months due to various conflicts and my son and I have talked about going on a trip just the two of us. Now I know this is a thread about a solo trip - but backpacking with a 12 year old who has gone on as many trips as I have (i.e. a newbie, and a young one at that) inspires feelings of trepidation similar to those mentioned about a solo venture - maybe more pressure as I am responsible for my son on at least higher levels (he is a good hiker and knows plenty of basic skills at this point but...).

I've had a hard time pulling the trigger - and reading this thread has been helpful. He is up for the adventure and I am, at least intellectually, getting there.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
preparation on 03/26/2014 12:30:27 MDT Print View

I can only imagine the feelings are different going solo vs taking someone you have responsibility for.

Taking a Wilderness First Aid course may help ease those feelings a bit.

About $200 +/- and a weekend and you will have the basics and perhaps more of a peace of mind to go in the backcountry with your son.

I know in the West, WMI/NOLS is the main instructor. I believe SOLO back East? Not sure where you are located in NC, but they be a class offered locally.

Just one idea anyway.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Good Stuff on 03/26/2014 12:48:36 MDT Print View

As far as taking your son on a "trip", I wouldn't think it need be exotic, at least not right away. I don't know what your local is like, but around here there are a few state parks that have hike-in only campsites. Some less than a mile from the ranger station or parking lot. That's not to say that you couldn't do 10 miles of trail hiking and take the long way in, or out, but it would be a bit of peace of mind for you and yet an adventure for him.

It would be a great way to build confidence, skill, technique, streamline your system and even lug in some luxory items at first. All the while being close to civilization and probably still in cell phone range, yet being leaps and bounds above backyard or even car camping.

And ditto on the paid training if you can find it. I've yet to find anything worthy in my area without being a full on EMT course.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Red Cross on 03/26/2014 14:19:16 MDT Print View

I forgot the Red Cross also offers a WFA course. The curriculum seems similar.

May be more widely available, too?

http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/program-highlights/cpr-first-aid/wilderness-sports-pets#wilderness-remote-first-aid

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
fears on 03/26/2014 18:33:51 MDT Print View

I do recall my trepidation at taking a 43 mile trip on the AT with my son when he was 12 thru Roan Highlands on the AT. My son, wasnt worried about a thing. Blind trust in dear old dad I suppose. We planned 4 days, maybe 5, just did not know what to expect with him.

Finished it in 2.5 days Passed up thru-hikers in NC/TN that had been on the trail many weeks. After that, zero hesitance to take any trips. When you know you can walk 20 mpd or more if needed, well any trail just seems like a much smaller place. You really arent that far.

In reality, a mile isnt very far anyway. Even 10 miles is a small distance. People are just very slow walking on foot.

Most people were probably petrified when they first drove a car in heavy traffic when learning, I know I was. After a while, its second nature.

Edited by livingontheroad on 03/26/2014 18:36:52 MDT.

Donna C
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: fears on 03/29/2014 06:29:56 MDT Print View

My first solo was a 4 day trip out in the Mt Rogers area. Simple right? I tried to sabatoge myself with my own thoughts. I got lost on the AT. How does that happen? Well, there is an area where equestrians all saddle up with thier horses and there must have been a club ride because there was at least a dozen horses or more. They blocked the trail head...they blocked the white blaze. After wandering around, I realized the problem, so then I had to push through a sea of horse rump to get to the trail. I was scared I would get kicked. Honestly, I didn't want to die with a hoof in my head.

As I continued the next day, I couldn't find where the next campsite was. I looked at the map...I thought it was further than it really was so I bedded down in a grove of trees...found a small trickle of water and scooped it up in a baggie. I was crying the entire time. Mad at who knows what. But something happened when I awoke the next day. I listened to the stillness of that grove....I felt strong within...and decided this wasn't so bad after all. Yes, I fell along the way on the last day. I went head first on a downhill, slid and landed on the Virginia Creeper trail with a thud and face plant in the dirt.

While I was finishing up, a thru hiker who was SOBO, had been passing me from time to time along the way ( very UL, btw) saw me in Damascus and came running out and we hugged. He knew it was my first solo. It was the icing on the cake. When I approached my car, I was dirty, sore, and beat up.

I'm going out this summer to do the Foothills Trail solo. I can't wait to see what adventure it brings.

Good luck in your quest of facing your fears. It's our mind and the voices of others that tend to hold us back.

Edited by leadfoot on 03/29/2014 06:35:26 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Backpacking solo on 04/09/2014 20:25:40 MDT Print View

I think there are 3 kinds of people.

1) Those who, when they started backpacking, thought. "Wow, this is fun and would be more fun if I went alone." These folks might be like me. We are inclined to want to do things By ourselves. At work if I get assigned to a project to create a new product and it includes "collaboration" and a work group, I ask to be reassigned to a project I can do alone. It's my personality.

2) Those to are okay being alone or with a group. Sometimes they prefer to go it alone and other times with a group.

3) Those who are most comfortable in a group and really don't like to be isolated.

These are personality traits that perhaps we are born with.

Solo backpacking has nothing to do with bravery, courage, self-sufficiency, etc. Some people like it; others don't. Solo is not necessarily good or bad. For me it is my preference 99% of the time.

If you somehow want to go solo, but there is a lurking question whether it is safe, reasonable, etc.; it probably means that you may lack specific knowledge about a facet that has you sitting on the fence. Determine what it is that is stopping you (the "fear") and then research the subject.

Last year I wrote this article on my blog, which included...

"For some reason, I get the greatest criticism about hiking solo from other backpackers. This might infer that backpackers have greater knowledge about the dangers of solo walking than non-backpackers, or perhaps I come across as elitist. I couldn't disagree more. In my opinion, hiking alone is safer than hiking in a group."

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: Backpacking solo on 04/09/2014 20:42:47 MDT Print View

Well said, Nick!

I think I fall in category #2 . . .

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/10/2014 00:43:32 MDT Print View

#1 here. Have always been a loner, but would probably shade more towards #2 if my first group experience hadn't been negative. Then too, there is a difference between going with a friend or two you've vetted, and going on an arranged group trip with 4+ strangers or near-strangers.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/10/2014 04:46:00 MDT Print View

Number 2 for me.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Backpacking solo on 04/10/2014 06:53:44 MDT Print View

I've noticed for day trips, I seem to enjoy being with my friends. Most of my current friendships were developed through a shared love of the outdoors so it makes sense that we continue to have shared time together in the outdoors.

Backpacking trips? I've done them with people in the past (esp for logistic reasons), but I really do prefer solo for various reasons already articulated earlier.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/10/2014 10:09:26 MDT Print View

I'm naturally inclined to solo (and introverted, probably not unrelated). This was confirmed by having to bail out early on a couple of trips recently due to new hiking partners not being as fit/prepared as they assured me that they were. Given the limited amount of time I have in the outdoors I'm loathe to not make the most of it.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/10/2014 11:23:21 MDT Print View

Wish I was in #2, but if being honest with myself, I'm firmly #1.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Backpacking solo" on 04/10/2014 12:04:47 MDT Print View

I'm a #3 trying to get the courage to be a #2. Right now I solely go out with others, but that's fear driven. I'm a woman so there's a bit of caution of "what if some creeper guy notices I'm camping alone?", and then I am in Alaska where we have bears and other predators which are more easily deterred by groups than a lone individual, and finally the fear that if something happened I would be completely alone with no help around.

On the flip side, I day hike alone all the time. All. The. Time. And the reality is, I'm just as alone and exposed on a day hike as I would be on a backpacking overnighter (or longer trip) but I guess I feel safer because I'm not spending the night? I don't know.

It's a fear I need to get over, because I want to backpack more than I currently do and I don't want to be so dependent on other people's schedules.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
solo on 04/11/2014 20:30:00 MDT Print View

I prefer hiking alone to staring at someone elses derriere all day. Of course, that could depend on the derriere.

I do like sharing awesome views, etc with others, as long as they dont spoil the moment.

And of course, I like chatting and socializing for a while in the evening, meeting new people. Before going off by myself to eat and camp.

You are more likely to see wildlife solo as well. Multiple hikers make too much noise.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Solo on 04/13/2014 20:04:32 MDT Print View

Based off Nick's criteria, I'm mostly a #1. I will occasionally hike with another person or two as long as they can keep moving.

For instance, last year my ex, her brother, and I went on a 3-day, 2-night trip. She assured he could average 18 miles a day. Well...he certainly did not. To me, nothing detracts from a trip more than having to stop and take a break every 30 minutes. In reality, he did not belong on trail with us, at least for that trip.

However, dayhikes are different. I'm willing to go at others' pace. To some people, 10 miles is a big day. Heck, for some people, 6 miles is a big day. I can deal with that; I just have to be mentally prepared for a more leisurely stroll.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
3...2...1? on 04/15/2014 00:07:47 MDT Print View

Started out at #3, mostly #2 after a couple of years, edging toward #1 now. People change.

-- Rex

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Solo on 04/15/2014 08:06:43 MDT Print View

#1

I occasionally go with someone else, but solo, I don't have to wait for anyone or be waited for, have to do something I don't want to do just to be cooperative.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Solo on 04/15/2014 12:02:57 MDT Print View

#1 is like a trap as well - the more you go alone the less tolerant you can get adjusting for other people. Too fast. Too slow. Too loud. To much time to convince them to come along. Why bother? LOL

Bob .
(BCBob) - M

Locale: Vancouver Island
Re: solo on 04/15/2014 13:00:40 MDT Print View

For a very good read, some insight into preferring #1 (and feeling better about it), try Susan Cain's "Quiet".

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Solo on 04/15/2014 15:25:25 MDT Print View

"#1 is like a trap as well - the more you go alone the less tolerant you can get adjusting for other people. Too fast. Too slow. Too loud. To much time to convince them to come along. Why bother?"

That's the point :)

IVO KOSSEV
(joylesshusband) - M

Locale: PA lately
Re: Re: Re: Re: Solo on 04/15/2014 15:53:31 MDT Print View

"#1 is like a trap as well - the more you go alone the less tolerant you can get adjusting for other people. Too fast. Too slow. Too loud. To much time to convince them to come along. Why bother?

-- That's the point :)"


+1

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Solo on 04/15/2014 16:07:53 MDT Print View

Perhaps the word "trap" had the wrong connotation. Better: attractor with a very high energy barrier for "escape" to another way of doing things.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Backpacking solo" on 04/15/2014 18:34:32 MDT Print View

edit

Edited by book on 04/15/2014 22:57:25 MDT.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/15/2014 18:57:16 MDT Print View

" Solo backpacking has nothing to do with bravery, courage, self-sufficiency, etc "


ohhh kaaayyyyy .....

v.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 04/15/2014 19:51:31 MDT Print View

A solo backpacker facing down a grizzly all alone in the Brooks range definitely has something to do with something....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtsI1DOlVow

If it was me I would be the one (not the bear) in need of some diapers I am afraid.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Would like to solo more... on 04/16/2014 11:44:21 MDT Print View

I did my first (and still only) solo in the Smokeys on a great 57 mile loop about 18 months ago. Two months later I had a heart attack. I suspect that as long as I am married I won't be doing another solo hike but I loved the experience. I would still go it alone but my wife is now fearful. Oh well...

John Caldwell
(chaunce316) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Solo trips on 04/20/2014 19:58:00 MDT Print View

I too struggled with my first solo trips, I loved the idea of the solo trip but in practice my head just wasn't in the right spot. Finally I did a quick out and back weekend trip. I just hiked head down until almost dark and I had no choice but to spend the night. Didn't sleep much that first night but after that it just became easy. Now I like solo for a couple reasons: 1-I enjoy the solitude. 2-it seems easier to make trip decisions with yourself:)

Jeff Sims
(jeffreytsims) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
solo on 04/20/2014 23:11:09 MDT Print View

I have always hiked solo and only recently started hiking with a friend at times. At first I had a hard time sleeping but enjoyed the rest of the time. I found that 2-3 night trips were great and I was usually ready to get home to the family. last year I hit the JMT NOBO and solo and after camping near others the first 2 nights I found myself getting as far from other as possible the other 6 nights. However in the winter with a big mid, long night and a card game, company is nice.

Edward Jursek
(nedjursek@gmail.com) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Solo on 04/21/2014 20:14:36 MDT Print View

I moved to Seattle with my wife and had no friends here when we arrived. My wife doesn't hike, so it was go solo or not at all. I started slow, with some easy overnights and progressed to week long solo trips. It did feel weird at first, but now I love it. I have found hiking partners, but due to schedules, I still go out alone about the half the time. A detailed safety plan is a must, that includes the dates I will be gone, my route, and what Agencies to contact if I don't turn up. I stick pretty closely to my route. In 15 years I have never had an issue. Some of my best hikes, like the CDT through the Weminuche, the Enchantments, and the Boundary Trail I did solo.

brian H
(B14) - M

Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
people tend to pack their fears on 04/24/2014 21:32:29 MDT Print View

i had a couple pints recently with a new friend who is a double Triple Crowner.
at the link below you can watch a great clip on him
where he explains, while talking about Less is More,
that people tend to "pack their fears".
It really resonated for me.

http://www.opb.org/television/programs/ofg/segment/ultralight-hiking

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: people tend to pack their fears on 04/24/2014 22:02:05 MDT Print View

I agree about the fear comment.
another approach is the old fashioned risk management matrix.

identify all the possible things that could go wrong.
score the likelihood that each risk could occur.
score the severity that each risk could impact you.
then for the risks that score high, define a mitigating plan.

examples:
risk A: bear attack.
risk B: escaped prisoners will murder you.
risk C: it might rain.
risk D: foot blister

likelihood A: low, so 1.
likelihood B: low, I'm thinking zero.
likelihood C: very good chance of rain, 9.
likelihood D: possible blister, 4

severity A: bear attack, 6.
severity B: murderous escaped prisoners, 10.
severity C: rain, hypothermia, 3.
severity 4: just a blister, I'll live. 1.

score out of a max score of 10 x 10 = 100
score A: 1 x 6 = 6
score B: 0 x 10 = 0
score C: 9 x 3 = 27
score D: 4 x 1 = 4

next step is mitigating as necessary.
A: 6 score out of 100 for bear attack, so mitigate with bear can and best practices.
B: zero score out of 100 for murderous prisoners, so do nothing.
C: 27 score out of 100 for hypothermia, mitigate with rain gear.
d: 4 score out of 100 for foot blister, bring a bandaid, mitigate with smartwool socks.


figure out your own scenario, assess your own realistic score, then figure out a plan to mitigate the risk.

Some things are VERY dangerous, but unlikely to happen. Other things are minor but high probability of occurring. Not all dangers are equal.

Read up on wiki about risk mgmt. This is the generic high level.

TKB 1979
(ARIZONA1979) - M

Locale: DESERT SOUTHWEST
SOLO on 04/27/2014 17:37:43 MDT Print View

First, I'm new to this site - I just joined a few minutes ago to begin learning the tricks of the trade - so I am certainly not an expert, but excited to get better.

As far as solo backpacking, I sort of noticed all at once that I've turned down a few group hike/overnight opportunities over the past couple months that I would not have turned down a year ago. I ended up going out anyway, but solo, which is new for me.

I noticed I planned better, paid more attention to time, weather, terrain, made situational assessments more realistically (should I really cross here?), spent more time checking my gear prior to departure, caught myself conceptualizing solutions to foreseeable problems when I might otherwise have been joking around with buddies, and just generally felt a greater sense of responsibility when making decisions and executing them. (Along with this came a greater sense of freedom.)

I believe, for me, hiking with others led to a false sense of security. Perhaps unconsciously, I knew in the back of my mind that someone's got to have extra batteries, extra water, extra fuel, etc. Someone knows where we're at and how to get out. If they can cross here, I can, too, et cetera.

I've been out solo now over the past three weekends (partly due to a new pack) & have come back feeling better than I used to when out with friends. I'm not quite sure if I can articulate exactly why, though. It's probably a combinations of things ....

For example, I slipped bouldering solo through a canyon wash just yesterday. I knocked my ribs pretty good against a rock & a few items went flying from my pack. (Matter of fact, it still hurts to sneeze - lol.) At first I was stunned, but then had to assess, re-orient, and keep moving on, knowing I had only an hour or so before nightfall. I honestly feel great about it, I'm happier because of it, or feel more alive or something. I think I will learn more about life & what I'm worth going solo.

Gordon Gray
(GordonG) - F

Locale: Front Range, CO
solo virginity on 05/01/2014 12:15:03 MDT Print View

I will be taking my first solo trip next week. 27 mile loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness in CO. Just until recently, I have had hesitations about going solo. All for unknown, irrational reasons which I have since tackled.

Regarding some comments above about 'false sense of security when hiking with others', I find that totally true. I have taken my 9 year old daughter out - just the two of us. I didn't feel unsecure at all. Though, other than be good company, I'm not totally sure what she could do in an emergency situation. Not sure I would be comfortable sending her by herself to get help if I was immobilized.

Paul Andronico
(Jakesandwich) - MLife

Locale: S.F. Bay Area
Have a great trip! on 05/01/2014 13:55:44 MDT Print View

Have a great trip, Gordon. I did my first solo overnight last summer, and then did another one later the in summer. Nice feeling of accomplishment and overcoming fears. Go get 'em!

J Mag
(GoProGator) - F
Re: solo virginity on 05/05/2014 11:16:14 MDT Print View

Ever since I moved to DC last year I have been doing most of my trips solo because I don't really know anyone in the area.

I don't really find going solo as intimidating, but I also don't get the excitement that a lot of people seem to feel from doing something you find intimidating. Although to be fair a deer almost ran through my tarp at 2am last weekend and waking up to that got my heart racing. Thankfully I could tell it wasn't a bear by the speed it was moving.

Honestly solo backpacking to me gets boring after a few consecutive trips because I go so often (2-3 weekends a month) and I don't like the 3-4 hour round trip drive by myself. I think a 50/50 solo/group split is ideal for me.

Alexander S
(Cascadicus) - M
solo but not alone on 06/16/2014 11:57:22 MDT Print View

My first solo trip was along the Pacific coast on the WA peninsula in the middle of winter with dark clouds, driving rain/snow, high waves and it was kind of freaky being by myself. It was an amazing trip that I didn't really enjoy like I should've.
I didn't see another backpacker all weekend.

It takes getting used to but you may find that you may look forward to the a few days of solitude and self reliance.

Try going solo on a popular trail where you will run into other hikers. Just knowing that people are around can help you bridge the "separation anxiety".

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Backpacking solo on 06/16/2014 20:55:38 MDT Print View

I hiked the whole PCT solo, in multiple sections. I enjoyed it a lot. I felt like I could pay more attention to every little thing. When I sometimes hiked with others, I would realize that whole chunks of the trail went missing in my memory.

Over Christmas vacation I did a solo hike locally, just 2 nights if I remember correctly. I brought a book and a musical instrument. I even made a fire so I wouldn't go to bed at 5PM for lack of anything better to do.

I don't seem to feel scared of mishaps or dangerous things, mostly if I am worried about being alone it's the worry of how to fill up all this time. In winter especially with such long nights, but also on some trails you just can't hike forever and ever or else you might end up somewhere where there isn't a trail or you might end your hike too early.

I just returned from a 7 day trip on the JMT/PCT. I was with my boyfriend. I don't know what his problem was but he stayed 10 minutes or more behind me almost all the time. He barely spoke to me at rest breaks. We had separate tents because he was planning to continue on another 3 or 4 weeks after I got off the trail. He mumbled and grumbled the whole time and I started to wonder if he even likes backpacking. It was the loneliest trip ever. I finally relieved him of his misery being with me and took off down the trail alone early rather than spend one more night with Mr. Grumpy Sad-sack. Thank god for the thru-hikers out there otherwise I wouldn't have had anybody to talk to or any fun at all the entire time. Sometimes loneliness is better than being with someone awful.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Sick and Twisted on 06/16/2014 21:10:54 MDT Print View

I'm with Delmar...

Actually, one of the reasons I backpack solo at my advanced age is to up my odds of dying doing what I love... as opposed to dying in a hospital... not a death wish, just upping the odds of not dying in a hospital...

b

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 06/16/2014 21:23:34 MDT Print View

"...I was with my boyfriend. I don't know what his problem was but he stayed 10 minutes or more behind me almost all the time. He barely spoke to me at rest breaks..."

So Piper, are you taking applications for a new boyfriend now? :)

Billy

alan genser
(alan) - F - M

Locale: NE
anti-social anxiety on 06/17/2014 05:52:11 MDT Print View

this could sound out of left field...but a person in your situation could start with *really* small baby steps, like going out to see a movie by oneself. just to see/work through if there's some lack-of-social anxiety (reverse social anxiety? anti-social anxiety?) at play.

then spend the night in your backyard alone (or similar), then car camp somewhere by oneself...

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: anti-social anxiety on 06/17/2014 07:40:04 MDT Print View

"...but a person in your situation could start with *really* small baby steps, like going out to see a movie by oneself. "

You might want to specify who you are talking to as this thread is 3 months old. I don't recall anyone in the thread, including the OP who has by now probably moved on to doing 3 week expeditions by himself in grizzly country, expressing issues even remotely of this type.

Edited by millonas on 06/17/2014 07:56:13 MDT.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: anti-social anxiety on 06/17/2014 08:46:40 MDT Print View

"It was the loneliest trip ever. I finally relieved him of his misery being with me and took off down the trail alone early rather than spend one more night with Mr. Grumpy Sad-sack."

Yeah that sounds like a serious red flag. A guy from my platoon at Ft. Campbell behaved that way. He was pleasant enough to hang around with when we were in garrison but he was a miserable pice of work when we were out in the field. Not sure why the woods had a paradoxical effect on him.

Seems like the very very large majority of people I see on the trail are very happy/pleasant people so the good news is that there are other fish in the sea hiking partner wise.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: anti-social anxiety on 06/17/2014 08:51:57 MDT Print View

I was actually thinking that average hiking distance, when going with your significant other, would be some kind of metric of how thing were going relationship-wise, if not of long term compatibility - kind of like to old saying that yo don't know someone until you try to travel with them. Not sure where 10 minutes behind is on the spectrum but guessing that out of range of sight and sound can't be that good.

Edited by millonas on 06/17/2014 13:10:39 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking solo on 06/17/2014 16:40:11 MDT Print View

"So Piper, are you taking applications for a new boyfriend now?"

I'm hoping it was just the altitude talking. Otherwise I think I'm done with boyfriends.

"then spend the night in your backyard alone (or similar), then car camp somewhere by oneself..."

Oh god I'm terrified to sleep in my backyard. There are wild animals out there. Really scary ones: racoons, possums and skunks. I do NOT want to wake up with a skunk in my face!

Paul Andronico
(Jakesandwich) - MLife

Locale: S.F. Bay Area
Scary thread! on 06/17/2014 16:45:18 MDT Print View

I am committed to hiking the JMT next year. When I first mentioned it to my wife of 23 years, she had no interest in joining me. But several weeks later she is coming around to the idea and is seriously considering joining me. I hope she does, but this thread makes me a little nervous!! BTW, Piper, my wife and I met at UCSB back in 1989 and return to S.B. every year for vacation. Beautiful place.

Edited by Jakesandwich on 06/17/2014 16:47:22 MDT.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
solo on 06/17/2014 19:04:27 MDT Print View

I prefer solo , except for compared to being with my son.

You meet more people, talk to them more, see more wildlife, do things at your own pace, etc.

Joe A
(dirtbaghiker) - M
Do it on 06/19/2014 10:02:27 MDT Print View

Really. Just do it. Stop contemplating so much and go. If you got the basics down..do simple over nighters of say 10 to 15 miles. The only way to learn some things is to do it hands on. You can read all you want..but by actually doing it you can master it. Pack your bag and go. Have fun.

Brandon M
(s2bmay) - F

Locale: DC
2 on 08/04/2014 17:06:35 MDT Print View

Going by Nick's numbers, I'm firmly in the number 2 camp. I enjoy the opportunity to hike and backpack with other individuals, but unfortunately I know very few people who share my interest. For most of my friends, the outdoors means car camping, and while there's nothing wrong with a cooler full of beer and night around the fire, like most on this site I prefer higher mileage days in the backcountry. As a result, I've had to get comfortable with solo, which to be honest I've really started to enjoy as well. As others have mentioned, it can take a couple trips alone to get comfortable with being solo in the backcountry, and it's good to start with areas/trails you're familiar with. The more solo trips I go on, the more I find myself looking forward to the time alone. It also means less people to complain when I want to stop and fish.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
first solo trip - JMT! on 08/05/2014 11:45:23 MDT Print View

I've wanted to try a solo trip for years...and I've always chickened out at the last minute, or something comes up to derail my plans. Since I did the JMT with a good friend last year, it seemed like a great hike to make my first solo adventure! (familiar trail/surroundings, easy logistics, good distance, etc)

It's crowded enough so I won't be ALONE, yet I can hike by myself, nap when I want, read with my feet in a stream when I want, camp when I want, and get up and start hiking when I want. Yet if I feel nervous, or lonely, I won't have to wait too long - if at all - for company. And I imagine I should be able to set up my tent within sight of other people any time I want...

I'm really excited - like a kid before Christmas! Can you tell I'm bored at work??

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: first solo trip - JMT! on 08/06/2014 09:41:10 MDT Print View

Thumbs Up

People who are bored at work, plan very good for adventure.