Hiking can be the perfect activity to escape a city break, commune with nature and get some exercise. However, hiking alone can pose its own safety challenges.
Here are 8 safety tips I use when I hike as a solo female traveller:
1) Hike To Your Ability
This is an important one. Many people begin a hike without checking the length, difficulty or conditions. Yes, the views pictured on Instagram might be beautiful, but what the pictures don’t tell you is the 12 hours that person hiked uphill to get those shots. Remember that however long you hike, you’ll have to walk back!
I consider myself to be a casual hiker. I enjoy a nice long walk and a view, but am by no means an expert. I look for hikes that are generally no longer than 5 hours and no harder than intermediate level. I know that is the level I am comfortable with and generally stick with that, often opting on the easier side when in doubt. Testing your limits is always an exciting challenge, but that might be better saved for a time when you have a hiking partner or group.
2) Be Prepared
No matter the length of your hike, always bring a day pack will water, sunscreen, small snacks and bug spray if needed. Many inexperienced hikers forget to bring water, which could lead to dangerous dehydration. Wearing a light jacket that you can take off is also a handy item in case the weather suddenly changes.
3) Aim For Populated Trails
Hiking alone can be dangerous for anyone. A bad fall can leave you injured in an isolated area with no way of contacting the outside world for help. As a woman, there is also the extra danger of being in an isolated area should someone approach you aggressively. This is unlikely, but I like to prepare for every situation when possible.
When I’m alone I aim to find well populated trails and adjust my pace based on other walkers so that I can enjoy some peace and quiet, while also knowing that if something does happen, someone will likely be along eventually.
4) Ask A Local
You might be wondering where to find these popular trails and as usual the answer lies in asking a local. Locals will know not only what trails are popular, but any safety concerns that come with these trails. Maybe a portion of it floods once a year or is prone to crumbling rock ledges, they will generally know if they are avid hikers themselves. There is also the added bonus that they will likely know where the best views and hidden places are.
5) Let Someone Know
I make it a habit when I am traveling alone to always let someone know where I am. Whether this is a text to someone back home or letting the front desk know when to expect me back, someone will notice if I don’t come back.
6) Check The Weather
This is another factor that is often overlooked by eager hikers. You may not think that a little rain will be an issue if you are determined, but if you are unaware that a trail is prone to flooding or falling rocks in bad weather then you could be walking unknowingly into a dangerous situation.
7) Don’t Rely On Your Phone
I use my phone A LOT when I travel, but the signal is bound to cut out at some point on your hike if you are secluded enough. Be sure to pack an old fashioned paper map just in case so that you don’t get lost. A compass can also come in handy for serious hikers, but for a casual hiker like me sticking to popular trails, I rarely need such heavy equipment.
8) Invest In Equipment
If you are hiking alone you will want to invest in equipment that will help you to safely enjoy your hobby.
Proper hiking boots are a necessity no matter your ability level to protect your ankles from rolling.
If you are hiking in North America, a bear bell or bear spray is also a necessity. The bell makes a noise to ensure that you do not surprise any unexpecting bears, causing them to become defensive.
If you are nervous about hiking alone, many destinations offer hiking tours or host hiking clubs. Not only does this let you hike with a group, it can lead to wonderful local connections and friendships that can last a life time. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of travelling!
I fully admit that I am no expert hiker! I do enjoy hiking and usually do one light to medium one each trip. These are the tips that I use to keep safe when hiking alone.
Are any of you avid hikers with any tips for Coffee and a View readers, please comment below!