If you have some vacation time coming up, have you ever considered a trip backpacking alone? There are plenty of reasons why you should travel alone, but it might also sound scary at the same time.
If you’re ready to brave the wilderness here in the US or abroad, check out this handy guide to help you plan your trip
How to Plan Backpacking Alone
Backpacking alone safely is possible when you manage your risk and prepare for the unknown. Check out these seven tips for solo travel:
Map your route
For your first solo trip, map out exactly where you intend to hike. Pick frequently traveled campsites and trails where you can apply for a wilderness permit so there is record of your proposed route.
Bring maps or copies of guidebook pages with you for the entire area, not just the trail you eventually picked.
Live Like a Local
If you are backpacking alone outside the US, spend some time learning the local customs or languages spoken at your destination. Using these skills will help you ask for directions or assistance if you run into a problem spot. If you’re comfortable with your language skills you may also learn some helpful tips or advice from the locals on lesser-known sites that make your trip even more memorable.
Leave a trail
Make sure someone back home is aware of your solo backpacking plans. Leave a copy of your map with them along with your scheduled return home date and an emergency phone number to call in case you don’t. When you arrive to your site, sign in (and out) at every trail and shelter register to make it easier if people need to look for you.
Preparing for your defense while backpacking solo probably sounds like a contradiction of terms. You’re leaving civilized society to get away from crime, right? Unfortunately, crime doesn’t stop at the city limits, so you need to plan for your safety from other hikers as well.
If you are comfortable using pepper spray or guns, be sure to pack these along with any weapon permits your required to have on hand. If you are traveling internationally, guns will most likely get stopped at the airport. Check with internal laws and rules on whether you can travel with other weapons and what the regulations are for their transport.
You might also choose to bring your mid-large size dog to help fend off attacking animals as well as criminals. The goal is to have a system that you feel safest within the event you run into attackers – either animal or human.
Plan for Equipment Failure
Think through what could go wrong with your gear and develop backup plans for handling them. Ask yourself mini-“doomsday scenarios” to figure out what would make the trip unbearable if your backpacking tools were to fail. Plan ahead for those annoying equipment breakdowns that could make life on the trail cumbersome so that you aren’t forced to return early.
Plan for the Need to be Found
While you are planning ahead, your ultimate “doomsday scenario” might be that you get injured or lost, so be prepared if that happens. Take a signal mirror and GPS transponder that can track your movements and alert others to your location.
In the event you do get lost, it’s important to keep a cool head and not panic. Be sure to pack a compass in case you need to backtrack to the start of your hike. If you are unsure whether you are following the right path, travel only a short distance back to where you think you began because searchers will start at the point where you were last seen.
Pack a whistle or other noisemaker that you can use to alert searchers. If you bring your gun, shoot off three rounds in a row which is recognized as a distress signal. You can also use fire and smoke to draw the attention of rescue personnel to your location.
Remember: Alone Means Alone
Many travelers report how surprised they were at how isolated they felt during their first solo backpacking trip. Don’t let loneliness define your experience. Detaching from civilization can be a big change.
Backpacking by yourself is a perfect time to reconnect with those activities you enjoy in solitude but don’t always have time to do. Prepare by bringing a journal or a sketchbook that you fill with sketches of your wildlife finds. Get your Ansel Adams on and photograph the vistas that you discover.
Group Trip vs. Solo Trip
Not ready to try backpacking alone yet? After this article, backpacking by yourself might sound a little intimidating. If you’re craving a little solitude in your travel, but nervous about staying safe, there are other adventure/travel packages that you can choose from.
Travel packages range from completely planned to partially planned itineraries so that you can feel safe as well as have time to explore on your own.
Some travel packages plan all experiences within your purchase price. Everything from your transportation to the time you eat your meals are all predetermined. These itineraries are the safest for backpacking solo since you will be surrounded by others (albeit strangers) at all times of your trip.
Partially planned travel packages give you a mix if organized as well as alone time. Group meals or hikes are common tenants of a partially planned backpacking package, along with plenty of time to explore the trails on your own. This travel package may be your best option if your seeking solitude but want to ensure your safety as well.
Are you ready to make that bold move and try backpacking alone? If your answer is “yes” then your first tasks are to set your itinerary and map your route. You can find many helpful travel apps that can help you research weather and maps to find your dream vacation spot.
Once your itinerary is set, get a copy of it and a check-in schedule to your loved ones so that you can keep in touch. If you’re traveling abroad, brush up on your foreign phrases so that you can get help and advice when you need it. Pack your GPS transponder and signal mirrors in the event you get lost.
Just follow the steps in this solo backpacking guide and your dreams for an independent getaway will come true.