Are you looking to get into hiking or would like to start hiking solo on an upcoming adventure? I’ve personally been on solo hikes all across the world and have really come to love and enjoy solo hiking. Over time, I gathered a list of my top tips that have made me feel confident and safe while hiking solo in a variety of landscapes. I hope this helps you feel inspired and confident to go on a solo hike in your near future!
1. New to hiking? Start with a buddy!
I recommend starting with a group or at least one other person to get comfortable with your new hobby, understand how your body reacts to various climates, and start to get comfortable and gain confidence in this activity.
2. Pick a popular trail
I recommend picking an easy to moderate popular, well-known, well-trafficked (a common hiking term to look for in reviews/descriptions) hiking trail. National Parks and State Parks typically have great signage and more crowds that make me feel safer about hiking solo.
3. Use All Trails
Not sure what hike you want to do? I personally LOVE using All Trails (I use the free version) to research the hike to know what to expect, see the latest comments and conditions from fellow hikers, weather, elevation, description, and more! As a solo hiker, I look for phrases such as well-trafficked, clear trail signs, felt safe, plenty of people hiking, busy, etc.
4. Look for lots of cars in the parking lot
You may have picked a popular trail, but turns out there isn’t anyone else there at that time you are hiking. I feel more comfortable hiking solo when the start of the trailhead has many cars at it, so I know I’ll be passing people and in the worst case, have others to ask for help.
5. Hiking in Bear Country?
I recommend waiting for another hiker or group of hikers and kindly ask if you can hike with them or shortly behind them. I did this in Grand Teton National Park, which is well known for Grizzly Bears and Moose, and felt so much better hiking behind this kind couple.
6. Check the Local Map and Signage
At the trailhead, I always check the signs for any key plants and animals to be aware of. Depending on your area, it’s key to know what animals you could encounter and how to best protect yourself in the case of seeing a bear, moose, mountain lion, which snakes are poisonous, poison oak, poison ivy, or whatever is in the area.
7. Share Your Location with Someone
I share my location with several people via the Find My app on the iPhone. I highly recommend turning on this feature while hiking solo because even if you lose service, you can reference the last available location.
8. Share Your Hike Details with Someone
I like to share the hike details directly from the All Trails app and text the details to at least one person on your “emergency contact list”.
9. Listen to Your Gut
If something feels off, consider turning around. You can always come back and hike the trail again, but you need to stay safe!
10. Check Your Location vs The Trail
I often use Google Maps and All Trails to see where my current location is in comparison to the trail to ensure I’m on the correct path and avoid getting lost. This often works even when you are offline.
11. Download Offline Google Maps
Not sure if you’ll have cell service on your hike? I highly recommend leveraging the Google Maps “offline maps” feature. Go to your profile > offline maps > select the area you’ll be hiking in > download prior to leaving your accommodation for the hike.
12. Pack the essentials
Water, food, layers, emergency kit, sun glasses, a hat or beanie depending on the weather, portable phone chargers, and an emergency safety whistle just to name a few. I’ve gathered my go to list down below!
13. Always pack an emergency kit
14. Text someone you’ve completed your hike
When you finish your hike and have access to cell service, send a message to that same person you informed which hike you were doing to let them know you are safe.
15. As Always, Leave No Trace
It’s important to follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace when you are hiking solo or with a group. Essentially, leave the beautiful place you are hiking better than you found it!
Clothing Items to Wear
- Hiking Boots: If you spend any money on hiking gear, start with a good pair of proper hiking boots! It’ll save your feet and be safer on rugged terrain. I wear the heck out of my Keen hiking boots, or Merrall and Solomon and many other brands are great as well! I recommend going to REI or Backcountry to try the hiking boots on with the inclined rock since you’ll typically size up a half to full size. In addition, I highly recommend waterproof hiking boots to make them a great all mountain boot.
- Hiking Socks: I frequently wear REI, Smartwool, and Stio hiking socks
- A hat
- Reef Safe Sunscreen
- Comfortable workout clothes: I recommend leggings to avoid random scrapes or contact with various plants that you could encounter on the trail. I frequently wear Outdoor Voices sets (top and bottom) and Girlfriend Collective sets (top and bottom).
- Layers: I really like my Patagonia Puff and Stio Puff jackets (use code HALESYAH for 20% off)
- A durable backpack ideally with a chest strap for back support, bonus if it has a hip strap for longer hikes
- Trekking poles
- Snacks or a full meal. A mix of protein and healthy carbs are great to pack. Here’s a list of healthy travel snacks that double as great hiking snacks. I also love packing my snacks in my Stasher Bags (this link gives you 20% off!).
- Plenty of water via a Hydroflask or Camelbak Bladder
- Hydration tablets/powder of your choice. I recommend Nuun tablets because they are easy to travel with and add to your water.
- Portable Phone Charger
- First Aid Kit
Additional Items to Consider Packing
- Depending on the location, pack/wear layers; a puff and a rain jacket are my go to layers
- Bear spray if you are in a bear country. You cannot fly with bear spray, so you’ll need to purchase it at a local outdoor store.
- Safety/defense tools as needed, whistles, etc.
After your Hike
- Extra water and snacks in the car. It’s great to have backups ready after a long hike to renourish your body and avoid carrying the extra weight on your hike.
- Pack sandals or clean socks and shoes to change into and let you feet breathe after a hike
I hope this helps you prepare for your future solo hiking adventures! Comment any additional questions you might have about hiking solo and any additional hiking recommendations that I may have missed.