Solo Hiking: Top Tips for Walking Holidays

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solo hiking patagonia

Hiking to the Towers in Torres del Paine is likely the most challenging hike I’ve done. As you can see, the path disappears into rock as you get close to the top. Those orange posts mark the trail.

Hike Solo, Pack Light

Hiking partners have another person to rely on. If you forget something, there’s a good chance your partner has it in his or her pack.

Hike solo and it’s all up to you.

When my trip is going to include a lot of hiking, I travel with a day pack and a backpack.

My backpack is 36 litres. It meets most airline carry-on standards (which works in dimensions, not litres, so be careful when deciding on your pack) and restricts just how much I can carry. This is helpful as I don’t want to be moving around with a pack so heavy that it makes my trip miserable.

When I pack my carry-on suitcase, I do it the night before. No worries. Read Bare Minimum Packing: Here’s Your Packing List. But when I’m going to carry a backpack, I start earlier. I scrutinize the pile I want to pack and take pieces (and weight) away from it day after day.

Where to Hike Solo

You don’t have to take on Mount Everest to enjoy a spectacular hike. You don’t have to walk across England to experience that country’s walking culture. Hiking and walking are available to all at just about any fitness level. You just need to know your own strength and stamina so that you plan a successful trip.

There are so many spectacular hiking destinations in the world. Here are just a few posts that will give you information on hiking in specific locations. Most are about day hikes.

Solo Safety on Hiking Trails

Some trails are quiet, which is wonderful. Solitude is often what we seek as we travel solo. But when hiking, things can happen. We have to think of safety as well. Here are a few rules that I hike by.

  1. Plan the hike and let someone know the plan. This is the most basic of rules. Plan where you’re going to go and leave the information with someone responsible. Whether that’s your hostel manager, a note in your room or a text to a friend, make sure that someone knows your plan and make sure that you stick to the plan.
  2. Take water and food. It doesn’t have to be a lot of food, but carry something with you in case you get off the trail or that restaurant you were anticipating at the halfway mark is closed. You need to have something to sustain you in case something goes wrong.
  3. Know when sunset is and how long your hike is. Make sure that your plan gets you back well before the light leaves.
  4. Know the trail markers. These can vary from country to country, so know what the trail markers mean before you head out.
  5. Notice how busy the trail is. If you’re seeing people every five minutes or so, you don’t have much to worry about. Should something go wrong, someone will be along soon and be able to help. If you seem quite alone on the trail, take extra precautions.
  6. Stay on the trail. You may be tempted to divert to a waterfall, but stay on the planned route.
  7. If animals are a concern… People who hike together make noise. They chat. Hiking solo is a quiet activity. Take a bell or a whistle with you if you have any concern about animals. Bear spray may be a good idea too.
  8. Crossing rivers or streams. Take the extra steps to use the bridge. If none is available, go where the water is shallow. A deep, fast-moving stream can easily knock you over.
  9. Take note of landmarks. Yes, you need to watch your step but look up. See what’s around you. Enjoy the beauty. And, as you do, take note of landmarks that will help guide you back if need be.
  10. If you get lost… S.T.O.P
    • S – Stay calm. Relax, sit down, and take a sip of water, breathe slowly.
    • T – Think. Get out your map and see what you can learn.
    • O – Observe. Look for landmarks, look for footprints.
    • P – Plan. If you know the route, go carefully and mark your trail along the way.
  11. And if you’re really unsure, stay in one place. It’s a rule of the woods. You’re easier to find that way. Periodically blow your whistle three times. Three blasts of the whistle is an international distress call.

Not So Solo Hiking and Walking Holidays

You can plan your own hikes, but if you want walking to be your main mode of transportation, you may want to join a walking tour or use the services of a company offering self-guided tours. From France to Japan to Patagonia, you’ll find companies that will give you the extraordinary experience of a hiking holiday without the planning and with greater ease, as your gear is transported between towns.

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