Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.
I love hiking. 18 year old me would have laughed in my face at that statement, but over the years I have fallen in love with hiking. Whether you are hitting the open hiking trails for some solo hiking or with a group, for the day or for a week, there is something exhilarating about carrying everything you need on your back.
Hiking can be an empowering and life-changing experience for women across the globe, and it is an amazing way to discover a new country. No matter your level of hiking experience, there are some things every woman should know before embarking on a solo hiking adventure. This guide will outline some hiking tips to help you prepare for your next trip. While these hiking tips are tailored to female hikers, they can apply to backpackers, solo travelers, and groups alike.
Solo Hiking: What you should know before hitting the open hiking trails
Map out your route
Before you hit your local hiking trails, you need to plan. Packing a bag and hitting the open trails without a care in the world may sound fun, but in practice, it can be dangerous.
It is super important to research your route ahead of time, especially on multi-day trips. Get to know the ins and outs of your route. Make sure to check the websites of local hiking trails for any safety notices, trail closures, and any other warnings. Read up on the trail itself and learn about the wildlife you may come across. It can be helpful to look up reports and feedback from other hikers who have completed the trail.
The day before you leave for your trip, double check and refine your list if necessary. If there is an abrupt change in weather, you may need to adjust your packing list to accommodate. I also recommend letting at least one other person know your plans when solo hiking, in case you run into any issues along the trail.
What you pack for your solo hiking adventure is one of the most important aspects of your trip. Create a packing list with everything you need, and double check that you’re all set before heading out.
For day travel, you will need the essentials — food, water, and appropriate clothing. I also recommend packing a small first aid kit and sun protection, whether that’s a hat or sunscreen.
For longer travel, there are quite a few other items that you may want to consider, here are a few of my must-have solo hiking items:
- fire starters, since i’m a disaster trying to light a fire otherwise
- cooking + dining tools
- a tent, sleeping bag, and plenty of warm layers just in case
- lightweight toiletries (if you’re on your period, a Pixie Cup is a must)
- a swiss army knife, for all purposes
- a jetboil for easy cooking
- a LifeStraw for extra water
It is super important to consider the weather throughout your hiking route, as that can impact what you pack. For one, always pack enough layers, especially for overnight nights. Additionally, weather could impact what’s accessible on your route. If the section of your route that led to a stream is now closed, you may need to pack more water.
Lastly, don’t forget comfort items. Packing minimally is good practice, but packing a luxury item that will boost your spirits can be nearly as essential as the actual essentials. You never know when a little piece of chocolate (or glass of wine) or a comfortable blanket will come in handy to get you through a rough patch of your trip.
Get to know your gear
Surprises are great, but not when it comes to your gear. I cannot stress enough that you practice using your gear before you hit the open trails. It also helps to make an emergency preparedness checklist, and ensure you have a solid understanding of basic survival skills.
Your pack needs to be comfortable, and you should know how to use your water filter and any other crucial gear. Having good survival gear is important, but knowing how to use your gear is far more important. Trust me, things like bear spray, a safety whistle, and GPS or personal locator beacon (PLB) equipment should not be tinkered with for the first time during an actual emergency. On a recent trip to the Grand Tetons I chose to read the instructions on my bear spray for the first time when a grizzly was only 100 feet in front of me, not smart Taylor!
And please, do yourself a favor and don’t wear brand new hiking boots on a long trail. Even if that means wearing them around the house for the day to break them in.
If you’re planning to camp overnight, make sure you know how to set up and take down your tent, how to operate any of your cooking gear, and how to use your water filter if you’re using one. I love to fill up my reusable Vapur water bottle. If your route does not have any streams, you will need to of course carry more water on you.
Let your mind wander
The mental reel can be annoying and intrusive, but it can also be your safety guide. It helps us run through potential problems and worst-case scenarios, so we can successfully plan for them before they happen. It is important to think through any potential problems, and make a mental plan for how to deal with them.
The best way to do this is by asking questions, even if they seem silly. You will be venturing in wide open hiking trails, so it is always better to be over prepared. Some thought-starters to get your mind going:
- What will you do if you encounter people that make you feel uncomfortable?
- What will you do if you encounter wild animals?
- Will you come across bears or predatory cats on your route?
- Is your food storage animal-safe?
- Do you have the best survival tools on hand for your route?
- What will you do if you get injured?
- What happens if you get lost?
These are all great questions. And they’re worth thinking through before heading out.
I recommend writing out all questions your mind comes up with, and make plans to address each of them. It helps to put yourself in the scenario and visualize the best possible solution. You will need to make decisions and solve your own problems without help from others while on the trail.
Lastly, when traveling alone, allow the solitude to empower you. Hiking solo, as with any solo travel, is incredible, and you should appreciate every minute of it.
Move your body (before hitting the open hiking trails)
Depending on the length of your trek, your overnight pack could weigh 30 pounds or more. Hills, streams, and uneven terrain can be a challenge, even without a pack. Vast, open hiking trails can be unpredictable. You will need strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility to withstand rigorous trails, so it is best to prepare yourself.
Cardio workouts like cycling and running are a great way to train for challenging routes. Whereas, resistance workouts with bands or weights can help you build strength, stability, and power.
Before tackling a long-distance trail, I recommend practicing shorter trips to build up your physical fitness. You may want to first check out some hikes in Upstate NY, before trying to tackle Annapurna Base Camp Trek in Nepal.
At this point, you are mentally and physically prepared. You’ve planned every detail, your gear is packed, (and you know how to use it). Now what? Think through all of it one more time.
If you are hiking solo, you are the only person you can rely on. This means no splitting with friends, borrowing essentials, or counting on anyone else to cover you if you forget something. Having a good packing list is important, but scrutinizing your plan is just as important.
It’s also best to get a second set of eyes on your hiking planes. Have a trusted, experienced friend double check what you are bringing and give you any feedback.
Solo Hiking: Things to keep in mind on your hike
Stay hydrated, well fed, and drink electrolytes
This one may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget to drink water or not eat enough food while solo hiking. The awe of the outdoors is alluring, and the physical and mental challenges of a rigorous trail can be distracting.
Your body burns a ton of calories during a hike. If you are climbing through challenging, sunny terrain while carrying a heavy pack, your body will quickly zap through its resources. Prepare healthy, fat-filled snacks for your trip – things like fatty meats, nuts, seeds, and coconut are great! Jerky and home-made trail mix are also wonderful snacks.
It is also a good idea to set regular drinking intervals, and do not forget about electrolytes. On a tough hike, you will lose a lot of salt. I always pack DripDrop when hiking, as it helps to fight dehydration, which can be dangerous when hiking alone. Also, for day hikes, burritos are my go-to meal!
What comes in, must go out
It is ambitious to picture yourself entirely alone, braving the conditions of the natural world. But unless you are traveling in an exceptionally remote area, you are not truly alone.
Be mindful of other hikers and campers and be aware of any noise, erosion, and waste you are generating. Always take your garbage with you and do not start a fire anywhere other than in specified spots. For overnighters, when setting up camp, choose your spot carefully. All areas you cover should look nearly untouched when you leave them.
Make sure that you understand Leave No Trace principles. It is so important that you respect your surroundings and preserve the natural setting of your hike.
Enjoy your hike
When you are enduring the conditions, it is easy to be hard on yourself. Your journey will ebb and flow., and you should not expect to enjoy every minute of your hike, Nor should you be planning, anxious, and constantly wondering about the danger lurking around every corner.
Hiking brings the whole package, from blisters and mosquitos to breathtaking views and wildlife. It offers an opportunity to see the world around you and truly appreciate it, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Allow yourself to enjoy it!
Interested in solo hiking? Here are some other articles that you should check out:
- Best Hikes Around the World
- 10 Best Hikes in Upstate NY
- Best Hikes in Banff National Park
- Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike
- Grand Teton Hiking Trails