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A Guide to Backpacking Solo in the Backcountry

As much as we love backpacking with a group or significant other, backpacking solo has its perks. A backpacking trip with just yourself would give you the opportunity to go at your own pace, self-reflect, and be the controller of how you want to make of your trip.

Backpacking solo does come with its own challenges and dangers; without having any support, the idea came be daunting for first timers. However, under the right circumstances, the rewards of solo hiking and camping may just be the best way to enjoy the backcountry and get the self-isolation that we all yearn for from time to time.

Reasons to go solo

Some may conjure why anyone would go backpacking by themselves—shouldn’t the outdoors be experienced with friends? Just as with doing any activity on your own, the reasons to solo hike and camp are endless.

Finding someone go to with: Most solo backpackers find that the most challenging part of backpacking may just be finding someone to go with. In addition, backpacking isn’t for everyone and often times schedules may not align with one another.

Self-fulfillment: There’s nothing more rewarding than being self-reliant and conquering your fears in the wilderness. 

Logistics: Planning for a solo backpacking trip is a lot simpler than coordinating with a group or companion. In addition, you’ll be able to go at your own pace and rest when you want.

How to prepare yourself for a solo trip 

Establish your route and itinerary and stick to it: It’s common to go off course when you’re hiking; however, sticking to your planned itinerary is paramount especially going solo. This is because we suggest sharing your destination and itinerary with someone you trust like a family member or local authorities in case anything happens.

Get trained on safety and navigation: Remember that you are your own lifeline when going solo in the backcountry. You must be self-reliant, having the knowledge of practicing safety and getting to know the trail is crucial. There are plenty of classes provided at your local outdoor recreation retailer on navigation and first aid. 

Self-awareness: Having confidence and courage is a great quality to mentally prepare yourself for days out in the wilderness. However, knowing your skills and limits is key to having a safe backpacking trip. If conditions are unsafe or unknown, don’t be afraid to turn back. 

Essential Gear for Solo Backpacking

First Aid Kit: Pack more than you would need. We understand that this may be excessive and may increase your pack weight, but you won’t be able to borrow supplies from anyone else. Knowing how to use the items in your kit is also equally as important as bringing them, so if you’re going to purchase a kit, read up on how to properly use the items.  

Check out our article on what to pack for your first aid kit

Satellite Messenger or PLB: Aside from your map, compass or GPS device, having a satellite messenger or PLB in hand can provide some assurance when you truly need to make a call for help. Be sure to read up on the instructions on whichever device you choose and know how and when to use them appropriately.

Gear Repair Kits: Sounds excessive, especially if you know that you’ve got quality gear. It’s always good to prepare for the worst. When accidents happen, you’ll be glad you brought a repair kit. Repair kits should include things like a pole repair splint, tent patches, knife repair kit, boiler kit, etc.

Protection: When backpacking solo, you may encounter uncomfortable instances with others. It’s a shame, and truthfully and often women are more likely to have these experiences. Don’t let this deter you from doing what you love. The best way to protect oneself from dangerous encounters with animals or humans is to have the proper protection that you’re comfortable with using. A holster knife, bear & pepper spray, or even a pistol is an essential to equip yourself with when backpacking solo. Having a weapon present and around a holster can pose as a deterrent and make encounters with strangers think twice; however, we understand that this may be a personal choice. Trust your gut if you feel uneasy about your location or where you’ve set up camp and relocate if you can.

Other tips for having a successful adventure

Stay vigilant: Be aware of your surroundings when traveling through town, trailheads, or walking on roads

Don’t overshare: Keep it short with others and don’t inform them that you’re backpacking solo

Be confident: Backpacking solo for the first time can be a daunting experience but is one of the most rewarding.

Bring things to enjoy: Books, tablets, or anything to keep you from being bored when it’s time to rest.

Trust your instincts: If you have a bad feeling in your gut about a path, site, or people, do your best to avoid the situation and turn away.

Stay positive: The most important is to have a positive mind set and stay happy.