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Friday, May 22, 2020

Outdoorsy Girls Guide To: HIKING ALONE

This is one of the posts I didn't actually know I needed to write.  As someone who has spent a lot of solo time on the trails, I (naively) thought this just came naturally to a lot of people.

Sure, some people may think twice about entering a trail alone in the woods for fear of getting lost or encountering wildlife as these are more in line with my hesitations when I walk onto a trail.  What I didn't know, was how many people are afraid of other people while hiking alone. I was alarmed by the amount of people asking for tips on hiking alone for this reason. 

This just didn't seem like a reality to me, this idea of some assailant lurking in the woods to hunt me down, central park jogger style.  The woods were always a place I felt safe and my worries were more of nature and navigation variety, not mankind.  While I may be naive again, I can confidently say I feel much safer hiking in the woods than I do running on the roads.  

As COVID-19 makes its presence, a lot more people are making their way into the woods and often alone.  It felt like good timing to write a post on safe practices when you head into the woods alone.  So today, I am sharing eleven tips for solo hikers - wildlife, navigation, and social awareness included.   

1)  Have a plan, leave your plans with someone 
Having a plan is important.  Do your research on the route you are hiking, especially if it is a more challenging hike.  If you are out on a longer hike, plan our water sources and a backout option if you need to get off the trail.  It is also important to leave your plan with someone.  Tell someone what trailhead you are leaving from, what trail you are following, and what time you should be expected back.  If something was to happen, someone has the best information to help a search and rescue team locate you. 

2)  Check the weather
Checking the weather before you head out the door may be a lifesaver.  Flash flooding in the canyons or a lightning storm at the top of the mountain can be deadly.  Check the forecast and plan around it. 

3)  Carry a basic first-aid kit with you
I carry this more involved kit when I head on any long hike or backpacking trip.  Something smaller is also a great option for shorter day hikes.  Bandaids for cuts or scrapes that won't stop bleeding, Advil for muscle soreness or a headache, moleskin for blisters, and a few other staples will go far. 

4)  Have a fully charged cell phone/battery pack/GPS
If I am out on a longer hike, I make sure my phone is fully charged and I carry an external battery pack.  The smaller lighter version (this is the one I have) will let you fully recharge your phone at least once.  I also like to carry this Garmin GPS with me.  It has a topo map where I can check to see where I am as well as nearby features even without service.  

5)  Start on a more popular trail
If you are nervous about hiking alone, start on a more popular trail where you will see several hikers along the way.  If you are afraid of being lost of getting off the trail, this is a great way to have some peace of mind while also hiking solo.  

6)  Bring a map! 
It seems so simple but this day and age, we rely on electronics for everything.  bringing a map, or even taking a picture of the map at the trailhead is a simple safety tool.  

7)  Bring a headlamp
This inexpensive lightweight aid will help you off a trail if you find yourself out past sunset.  Make sure you check the batteries every now and then and always leave one in your bag.  

8)  Know the basics of natural navigation - Be aware!
A few basics are helpful if you are out on the trail.  Things like knowing which direction the sun rises and sunsets, where any water bodies are and which direction they are heading, where any major landmarks in the trail system are.  Also, leave your headphones at home, being aware is important to being in tune with the environment around you. 

9)  Bring Fido
There is something so calming and secure about having Olive with me.  If nothing else, her company is calming but it's also nice to know that she is there as an extra sense of security, helpful for wildlife, or any other intrusion. 

10)  Bear Bell
I find a bear bell is a very useful tool when hiking alone.  When hiking in a group or with a partner, conversation and footsteps are important to offer just enough sound to alert any wildlife you are on the trial.  A bear bell gently chimes along the trail, alerting any animals you are in the area before you come across or startle them.  

11)  Pepper spray
If you are worried about an interaction with wildlife or other people on the trail, keep some pepper spray in your bag.  I kept a basic pepper spray in my hiking back that was meant for runners to carry incase a neighborhood dog went after them while on a run. 

Be smart, be prepared, and don't be afraid to head out on the trails alone.  Start on a more popular trail until you have the confidence for something a little more distant or technical.  There is something so relaxing about being out on the trail, setting your own pace, enjoying a hike in the company of one. 

Happy Hiking,

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