Solo hiking: Everything you need to know

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Thinking about heading out on a solo hike? It’s not as intimidating or difficult as you might think – especially if you prepare properly. For example, ensuring you get acquainted with the local area surrounding your route, nailing your packing and sticking to all safety pointers while you hike are all paramount.

Whether you choose to go hiking alone, or join a Flash Pack trip where you can hike in a small group of like-minded solo travelers and a knowledgeable Pack Leader who can help you with logistics and local knowledge, here’s everything you should know before setting out.

Ready to hit the road? Come explore Flash Pack’s active vacations – packed with opportunities for group solo hikes and trekking in outstanding global landscapes.

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How safe is solo hiking?

It’s natural to think about whether solo hiking is safe – as with any sport or physical activity. But the good news is, it’s perfectly safe, as long as you put the work in when it comes to your preparation. For example, it’s crucial that you research and understand the local area of your hiking route, stick to your planned trail and adhere to any precautions set in place to protect hikers. And of course, you really do need to pack appropriately – a challenge for so many of us. That way, you will get the best and safest solo hiking experience – before, during and after.

If you opt for a Flash Pack solo hiking trip, you get all the benefits of exploring alone with the added back-up and insider wisdom of a local Pack Leader. You’ll also be able to revel in the experience alongside the support and company of a small group of adventurers of a similar age and life stage.

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How do you pack for a solo hike?

It can feel overwhelming when trying to come up with a solo hiking essentials packing list. We recommend doing as much research as you can, and ensuring you have space in your backpack for everything you might need. If you’re embarking on a Flash Pack trip, you can skip this stress because your Pack Leader will give you the full lowdown and expert packing tips on what to bring (some items will also be covered already).

Here’s your solo hiking essentials packing list:

  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Plenty of food
  • Plenty of water
  • First-aid kit
  • Comfortable, sturdy footwear
  • Sun protection
  • Navigational tools such as map, compass, and downloaded map on your phone
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Tips for before you set off on your solo hike

Prepare yourself

When it comes to preparing yourself for a solo adventure like hiking, your fitness levels don’t need to be super-high. That said, you’ll definitely benefit from doing some level of exercise before heading on your way.

Plan and understand your route and destination

Before you begin your trip, we recommend researching hiking destinations to feel more physically and mentally prepared for the expedition. Flash Pack takes care of these logistics and preparations if you sign up to one of our hiking-based trips, leaving more space for you to live in the moment when you’re out in the wild.

Continue to monitor the weather

Outdoor sports like hiking are at the mercy of the weather, take Luke Waterson’s experience climbing Iceland’s Hornstrandir for example. If you’re embarking on a solo expedition it’s particularly important that you track the weather before you set off and while you’re out.

Pack appropriately and lightly

While having everything you might need for a hike is all part of your preparation, you should also take into account that you’ll be carrying everything you take. So pack as lightly as you can, because every added bit of weight will take its toll.

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But don’t forget the essentials

Ensure you have your travel essentials sorted for your hike. These include a portable power bank to charge your phone, first aid kit in case of injury, all-important SPF, extra clothing layers and a torch. Also, you’ll need plenty of water and some high-protein snacks to keep your energy levels up.

Remember a traditional map and compass

If there’s a time to go analogue, it’s when you’re heading on a solo hike. To prepare for if you run out of phone reception (and access to Google Maps), having a paper map and compass will give you a trusty, endlessly helpful navigational back-up plan.

Tell someone where you are going

If you’re heading out on a hike alone, ensure you tell someone where and when you’re going; and when you’re due back. If you’re part of a Flash Pack solo hike, the small group format means this step isn’t needed.

Take out travel insurance that covers hiking and trekking

In order to cover yourself in case of illness, emergency and other unfortunate circumstances, book your travel insurance before you go on your solo hike – ensuring that your policy covers all relevant activities.

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Tips for during your solo hike

Know your limits

Taking care of yourself is extra important if you’re hiking alone, and that means being continuously aware of your physical and mental wellbeing. If you begin to feel unwell or uncomfortable you must contact someone you trust – or if you’re on a Flash Pack trip, don’t hesitate to let your Pack Leader know.

Stick to the beaten path

As intriguing as straying from a trail may be, if you’re going it alone, it’s important to stick to your planned route for your own safety – particularly if you’re adventuring aboard. Make sure you have researched your route thoroughly beforehand, and don’t hesitate to ask locals for travel tips and advice wherever you’re hiking. They will know all the particular nuances of a place best.

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Mistakes to avoid when hiking alone

Not preparing or researching properly

It’s never a bad idea to make some “get fit” goals before you embark on your solo hike, so you feel physically prepared. Contact local community groups before you set out, and be sure that you’re attuned to the terrain and weather conditions as you’re hiking.

Underestimating the hiking trail

Take things slow – make sure you do your due diligence about the difficulty level of your hike before you embark on it. It’s better to be cautious and build up your ability rather than overshoot your experience levels and get hurt or lost.

Hiking off-trail

Never stray off-trail – stick to your route, particularly if you’re hiking alone.

Ignoring the turnaround time

Setting a turnaround time means that you arrange a specific time in advance that you turn back on your route or trial, in order to return back safely. This is important, as ignoring a safety precaution like this could mean you are left hiking in dangerous conditions when it comes to lack of sunlight or bad weather. On Flash Pack hikes, your Pack Leader will decide this time.

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Benefits of solo hiking

You’ll feel a sense of achievement

There’s no better way of boosting your self-esteem than taking yourself on a solo hike. Navigating beautiful terrain and pushing your comfort zone is a surefire way to get those feel-good feelings of accomplishment flowing (hello, endorphins).

It gives you time to think and self-reflect

In a time of digital overload and burnout, taking on a solo hike as a form of adventure therapy can do wonders to clear your headspace. Anecdotally, many people, like explorer Levison Wood, report how hiking alone can transform your mental health – with time away from day-to-day stresses to focus your mind on adventure.

You can go at your own pace

One major benefit of solo travel is you can take things at your own speed, whatever that is, not having to worry about others and their itineraries. If you join a Flash Pack trip, the route will be adapted to suit all abilities and paces, with everyone cheering each other on.

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It’s a great way to get fit and stay active

Research has found that exercise in natural surroundings can reduce the risk of poor mental health. All the more reason to get out on a solo hike, with a perfect excuse to get fit in nature.

You aren’t reliant on anyone else

As our 30s and 40s demand that we balance more and more of our social priorities, organizing a vacation with loved ones gets increasingly difficult, especially if your friends are busy. Booking a solo hike or a trip with Flash Pack means you get to take the trip or solo hike that you want – without waiting for your pals to catch up.

But you might meet some friends along the way

On a Flash Pack trip you’ll make friends with solo travelers from all walks of life, who will be right there on the hike with you. Experiences like this can bond you forever, making unforgettable memories and friendships along the way. Even if you decide to hike completely solo, talking to strangers will still help boost your morale.

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Ready to embark on your next hiking adventure?

Solo hiking, whether fully alone or in a group solo format, is a wonderfully refreshing way of experiencing different settings around the world. To make the most of this timeless activity and its many physical and mental health benefits, make sure you plan thoroughly, pack appropriately and take note of all relevant safety guidelines.

Feeling inspired? Check out Flash Pack’s solo traveler adventure vacations – including bucket-list treks across the desert in Jordan; glacial hikes in Iceland; a day-long walk through Argentinian Patagonia; or a wildlife trail by the Amazon in Peru. Hiking boots at the ready…

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