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Backpacking solo
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Benjamin Ingalls
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
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
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 T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Backpacking solo on 03/21/2014 19:32:22 MDT Print View

Some words of wisdom, and others in these.

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

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."
"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 Deep Frreze
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.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 03/22/2014 20:33:29 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/01/2015 14:14:47 MDT.

Delmar O'Donnell

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!