Backpacking and hiking is a wonderful outdoor activity enjoyed by many people, families, couples and individuals. Planning for appropriate gear, choosing a trail and preparing for emergencies are all part of planning for a solo hike. Novice hikers are strongly urged not to go on any solo hikes.
The gear that will be needed depends on the type of hike. A day hike may only require food, water, clothing for weather changes and some emergency supplies. A longer hike may require a tent, sleeping bag, cook stove and other overnight supplies. Make a list of items to take then stop and think about possible emergencies. What if the weather turns bad? Will that mean rain or snow? What if there is an injury? What if the pack gets wet? Once the list is made assemble everything into a pack and put the pack on to check the weight. If it is too heavy some items may need to be removed or replaced with lighter items.
When planning a solo hike it is a good idea to use only gear that is familiar. This is not the time to try out a new tent, unless you have practiced setting it up ahead of time and can do so in the dark or the wet. It is also important to pack enough food, with perhaps a little extra. Experienced hikers will know how much they eat normally and can pack accordingly. This is where knowledge of the trail is important and can be very helpful.
The first solo hike should be done on a trail that is familiar. This will allow the hiker to practice packing the right items for food and water. There is less chance of an accident or getting lost in a familiar area. Using a familiar trail will also help the planning as you will know approximately how far you can hike in a day, though you will go slower when hiking alone. Choosing a trail is also important to make an itinerary. This plan should be copied and given to a trusted friend. The plan should include the exact location of the trail head, a description of your vehicle with a license plate number, the date the hike will start and end and a phone number for the closest ranger station. Have the friend call you on the day you are expected to return to verify you are safe. This will ensure that if something happens rangers are alerted immediately and help will arrive sooner.
This is done in the packing stage. Think about all of the ‘what ifs’ and try to be prepared. Cell phones may not work so bring a small mirror and whistle to help people find you. Extra clothes for a change in the weather and extra food and water are all good choices. Read books about disasters and how people survived them to get additional ideas.
These are the basic steps to planning for a solo hike. Safety is the top priority in any hiking situation.