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Tips for backpacking solo

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Tips for backpacking solo

Postby timachine » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:05 pm

Ive been backpacking twice. Once in Zion and did the JMT in 2011. After unsuccessfully trying to convince family and friends to go with me for the past two years, I was thinking of going solo over Bishop Pass and staying for a night in Dusy Basin for a day then hiking back out.

I think I would psyche myself at night being by myself. Does being at peace by yourself come with experience? Tips would be appreciated.

Photos of my JMT trip for your time : http://www.flickr.com/photos/66772150@N05/
Last edited by timachine on Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby austex » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:17 pm

Solo is GREAT! Peaceful; go your own pace, stop where/when you want.... Really gets things out of your head and is VERY relaxing. I see no drawbacks except you have to carry everything no sharing loads/equipment. I've been 2x this summer and never would think 2x about it again. There are many here who go solo for whatever reasons. Me b/c I live in Tx and it's hard to find any of my L.A. friends that have my flexibility in schedule.
In a phase; awesome and satisfying.
Oh BTW; welcome to the greatest forum with equally great people.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby J ney » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:27 pm

Welcome to HST! I do believe that with solo experience, it becomes easier to sleep alone. It is rare that I backpack with others for the same reason as you - schedules are tough, many friends don't share the same desire - and I initially was wary of camping out by myself but that dissipates quickly. I don't know if it is a "trick" but I typically try to sleep within ear-shot of some kind of stream if at all possible (and legal)... I find that WITHOUT such white-noise I occasionally become hyper-aware of every innocuous tent-rustle and pitter-patter near me.

Ultimately - at least in the our fair state- it comes down to having confidence that (a) you know what you're doing and you establish a good campsite , (b) we do not have to worry about any predators (less the very rare mountain lion and other humans that have watched Deliverance too many times), and (c) the biggest obstacle to a good nights sleep is yourself... take a moment to reflect with gratitude on how privileged we are to be a speck in this awe-inspiring wilderness (sorry for the cheez at the end)!!
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby sparky » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:39 pm

Not sure what you mean exactly, but my first solo backpack i wasnt sure how i would react being alone for 5 days, all that nervous energy melted away with my first step on the trail.....literally the first step. I got done with the trip and got a permit, resupplied and went right back out!

Go for it, be careful, and have a good time!

I have never really tripped out on noises at night. Mountain lion tracks keep me vigilant. As for wierdos, i eyeball everyone....a result of living in a rough town, but it works.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby timachine » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:47 pm

Thanks for the replies. These are the responses I was looking for; the mindset of others when they are backpacking by themselves and how the deal with being alone in the wilderness.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:47 pm

Hi Timemachine,

Welcome to HST! We have our version of a time machine in the "search" feature, and
if one goes back in time they will find numerous threads similar to this one. :)
Enjoy:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7020&p=49286&hilit=+solo+backpacking#p49236
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8599&p=63067&hilit=+solo+backpacking#p62860
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8676&hilit=solo+backpacking#p63620
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6760&start=0&hilit=solo+backpacking
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:51 pm

As far as sleeping goes, I sleep terribly in the mountains whether I'm alone or with others. I find that half an Ambien does a world of good.

For me, the downside of backpacking solo is that when things go badly--when the weather is miserable, or the routefinding is difficult and frustrating, or you spill your dinner on the ground, or whatever--there's nothing to cushion it, nobody to commiserate and share the experience. I had a trip last week where one day there was a miserable cold wind all afternoon, lasting until sunset, and it just got to me--to the point that I was ready to say screw it, I'm hiking out tomorrow. I didn't, and the next day was the best of the whole trip, just a perfect day in the Sierra. Anyway, the point is that the highs can be higher because they aren't mediated through anyone else's experience, but the lows can be lower for the same reason.

Being aware of that from the start is important to making solo backpacking a good experience overall.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Tollermom » Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:51 pm

I went on my first solo a couple weeks ago to Round Lake (off hwy 89/Big Meadow trailhead). It was a Sunday night so only a couple other people that I knew of were camping around the lake. The serenity was blasted by some hoodlums shooting a shotgun and exploding a couple bombs over the boulder pile from me after dinner. The explosions echoed off the surrounding cliffs for well over an hour and was very unnerving as I could not tell which direction the bullets were flying. I stood there with my hands on my hips thinking NOW what should I do?? Other than that I was fine sleeping alone. i did realize that I am more a social animal than a loner because once my tent all set up (and it was only 10:30 am), I wished I had a buddy to share some hiking and exploring with.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby kpeter » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:39 pm

I go solo about half the time, with others about half the time. The two experiences are so different that they feel like completely different avocations to me. I like both experiences.

When going solo, in my opinion, it is much more important to leave very precise itineraries and not to depart much from them. In this way, being solo is more restrictive than being with a group. But you can also carry a SPOT or beacon or satellite phone as a partial measure of safety.

Companionship can be wonderful when you share an amazing view, or if you are showing someone a special place. A bonding over a terrific experience.

Going solo I have a feeling of serenity and find I crave the feeling of solitude.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby jessegooddog » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:16 pm

I just returned from Cottonwood Basin on my first solo ever and I LOVED it! I really like being alone (with my dog Fred) and doing exactly what I feel like at any moment. I was unfamiliar with this area, and hadn't backpacked in over 35 years, so did expect to feel a few qualms as it darkened but really just went to sleep - I was tired! Family and non hiking friends worry, almost certainly just because I am a woman (and an official senior at that!). I know my limitations and don't go where I would not be found if I got hurt.
All packed and ready to go out again next week.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby LMBSGV » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:37 pm

Going solo I have a feeling of serenity and find I crave the feeling of solitude.

Exactly. To truly experience wilderness and comprehend all its layers of meaning one needs to go solo. Just you and the wilderness.

Dusy Basin is a great place to go for a first solo trip. Cross country travel is relatively easy. There are lots of gorgeous off-trail lakes where one can solitude and serenity.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby ssdivot » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:41 pm

All my trips have been solo, except for one about a month ago where I took someone who had never been camping before, and it was fun having someone else along. But due to scheduling of trips and generally being a loner, all my other trips have been solo. My first backpacking trip was about 13 years ago, when I just decided I wanted to do it, went to REI and bought everything in site and went. Although its been so long ago, I still consider myself and feel like a newbie. I am a middle aged female, not that I guess this makes any difference, just I am pretty sure someone looking at me would not imagine me the type to be going backpacking alone, if at all :D .

Anyway my first trip, I hiked in about 7 miles to a lake (this was the Caribou wilderness near Mt. Lassen), set up my new tent and stuff, and got settled. I had seen no people and was feeling mighty proud of myself and how comfortable I was. Yep, I'm pretty amazing. I went to sleep. I woke up late in the night and was all of a sudden terrified. I could hear something walking around outside my tent. I felt trapped. I knew logically that there probably wasn't anything out there at all, and even if there was it wasn't likely to be a serial killer, or a bear. I was mad at myself because I knew this was in my head, yet I could do nothing but lay there wondering if I should make noise, or play dead :eek: . I could not drive away this fear with logic. Finally I bolted out of my tent, saw nothing, and spent a few hours sitting with my back against a tree until I fell asleep.

I hiked back out and went home the next day and was annoyed at myself for having given in to this fear. I found another place to go later in the week, that was closer, off HWY 20 somewhere where there are a lot of little lakes..I can't even remember where it was. I was determined to go out again, and get over this. I hiked in a short ways and set up camp by a little lake. I stayed awake this time after it got dark, and stayed outside my tent and every time I heard a noise I went and tried to find it. I found that two squirrels chasing each other around at night make a LOT of noise. That there are weird sounds made by birds that I can't find but that aren't things that care whether I am there or not. Anyway I got over it.

Now, sometimes I hear things and might be slightly uneasy for a minute or two, but you know..even at home that happens occasionally. It's a great feeling to me being out there all alone and feeling at home and at peace. My main concern is just being careful when I'm hiking to take it easy and watch my step so that I don't fall off a cliff or otherwise become injured while alone. I do take a SPOT and leave an itinerary, and send SPOT check ins where I am camping, or if I change my route or destination. Also I find that the more I tire myself out, the less attention I pay to the little noises. I'll hear the noise, I might imagine it being a bear or something and then say to myself, I'm too tired to worry about it (knowing it isn't really a bear :lol: )
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