Solo Hiking Safety
The moon casts a subtle glow on the alpine trees, shedding perspective on my smallness amidst the wonders of the trail that lies ahead. My headlamp beams a path two feet in front of me, as I trust the beat-up Keen hiking boots that provide padding above the dirt trail below.
There is a serenity that envelops me when I'm alone on the trail. I'm left with nothing but the present moment and nature. It gives me a sense of independence, relying solely on myself to trek up the mountain. It has shown me the beauty of solitude and allowed me to master the art of it.
As beautiful as this may sound, it’s important to also prioritize safety. To experience the magic of solo hiking, it is crucial to take certain measures, to ensure peace of mind, safety, and protection during your one-person adventure.
Here are some key points to help you stay safe while out on the trail alone:
Always share your location:
If you're an iPhone user, share your location with someone you trust. Additionally, I recommend sharing your coordinates with one or two people and providing them with an estimated check-in time. This check-in time can be your estimated time of return or a spot along the trail where you expect to have service. If possible, do both. Remember, you can never be too safe. Keep in mind that you may not always have service, so estimating a check-in time can allow someone to know when to expect contact from you.
The rule of thumb is to always be over-prepared rather than under-prepared. Being over-prepared means having an extra supply of everything, including but not limited to food, water, layers of clothing, batteries, and a portable charger. Create a checklist of supplies before leaving home, so you can double-check that you have everything you need. I suggest packing the night before and then checking once again in the morning. Use this list to reference the 10 essentials:
The level of protection you choose is ultimately up to you and what makes you feel safe as well as the area you are visiting. Bear spray is a must-have in areas that have bears. It's essential to familiarize yourself with safety protocols for various situations. Ask yourself these questions: Do you know what to do if you encounter a moose, a bear, or a mountain lion? The following articles provide in-depth explanations of how to react in these specific situations:
Do your research:
Conduct specific research on the hike you plan to undertake. AllTrails is a good resource. Learn about the geography, potential hazards on the trail, and possible obstacles. It's also important to check the weather ahead of time and prepare for potential conditions. Many apps offer offline maps that you can download to ensure you stay on the trail, but a paper map is also a good non-negotiable item to carry. Sometimes, trails may lack well-marked paths or signs, so downloading an offline map is a great precaution, especially when hiking through lush forests and rough terrain.
Carry a safety card:
Fill out a card and leave it in your car. Include information such as the trail you're hiking, your estimated time of return, your name, phone number, and emergency contact. In case of an emergency, if a lone car is left in the parking lot, a fellow hiker or park ranger can use this information to get you the help you need and ensure your safety.
Be aware of your surroundings:
Keep at least one ear free to listen to your surroundings. Some people enjoy listening to their favorite playlist while hiking, getting lost in the music and jamming out. While I love this feeling too, it's important to be aware of your surroundings. Whether it's the sound of a bear approaching or someone shouting, "watch your step!" staying alert is crucial.
By implementing these safety measures, you can fully enjoy the bliss of solo hiking with significantly less worry. Remember, your local JAX Outdoor Gear store has all your gear needs covered, with knowledgeable associates trained and ready to answer your questions and help you venture out onto the trail safely.