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Tips for backpacking solo

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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Herm » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:53 pm

I will go solo, and I hope to be out soon. It hasn't been hard at all for me to do things by myself for most of my life. Know yourself - that will inform you whether or not you will enjoy solo backpacking. It is what I prefer, though I am not afraid of human contact.

A few summers ago I met rlown in the backcountry as I was traveling solo, and we just happened to be at the same location on the same day. An unplanned but welcome meeting.

Herm
Last edited by Herm on Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby SSSdave » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:58 pm

Well I hope you have an enjoyable time at night on your trip timachine
...and what's crunching those twigs out there in the black inkyness? :eek:

Who else is set to start a solo trip in the next few weeks? The two backpacking trips I've done this summer have been with my bro Joe. Next week will go solo from Mosquito Flat to base camp 3 days in Pioneer Basin. Anyone else out in those parts might PM me. Making the rather strenuous hike in for someone carrying a heavy pack a bit mellower, will start hiking after the long drive at maybe 10pm in the evening and move up towards 12k Mono Pass by headlamp, sleeping tentless somewhere along the trail. And no reason to get up early west of the crest so ought still get my sleep and be fresh. On the route out will spend the night at either Trail or Summit Lakes then climb Mt. Starr at sunrise in order to take a telephoto a bit later towards Pioneer Basin with Red & White and Red Slate poking up behind the Hopkins/Crocker Ridge. Hanford NWS expects t-storms into Wednesday then clearing but am hoping for at least some clouds. And am hoping salix arctica are going to change a bit early due to the droughty weather but that is a pure gamble.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:11 pm

To me the biggest thing about going solo (other than the usual safety considerations that would apply to any trip) is whether or not one really enjoys that mode or not and one usually has a feeling for this from having been out on trips with people. When I worked by myself in Montana for a good part of a summer, I pretty much had to backpack solo if I was going to backpack, so I did. I personally like backpacking with others better than solo, whereas I always enjoyed climbing solo a bit better. As far as sleeping, I think I tended to sleep better on my solo backpack trips because I had more room to thrash and roll about in my tent (always backpacked with 2-person tent whether solo or with someone).
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Aug 17, 2013 10:50 am

I believe this subject has been discussed in another thread, so I am probably repeating myself. Solo if staying on busy trails, is really not "solo". I call that disorganized group hiking. My last two "solo" trips were mainly on trials, and believe me, I did not feel that I was going "solo"! Whereas, my two trips in July I went several days off-trail not seeing anyone. The best way to get used to "solo" is to go by yourself on a major trail. Then you can gradually go off trail until you feel comfortable.

Bears and severe weather are two things that concern me when I solo. Fortunately, the last few years I have had less close-up bear encounters. When things get tough, I really have to focus on the essentials, stay calm and rational. No different from what you would do with another person along, except you do not have that "sounding board" and backup. Confidence is a big part about being comfortable alone. I am lucky that I have had extensive formal survival training.

I wear ear plugs at night. I just sleep better when I cannot hear any noises. At least if a bear wants to eat me I will not have to be terrorized by hearing it approach my tent. And for little animals - when I cannot find an item, I blame rodents for carrying it off; then I find the item in the bottom of my pack! When you get old and forgetful, it useful to blame stuff on pesky animals.

I am more cautious when I am alone. If I have any doubt about the safety of an action I usually retreat. But, there always are times when I find myself in the situation of going forward on a sketchy move to more quickly get out of the danger zone where backtracking actually would be more dangerous. I am sure I do not always make the right decision. But I am not sure these things are only a "solo" problem. Same happens when in a group too.

I use a spreadsheet to produce an detailed trip plan with map. Lately I have made a copy and left it with others. I am thinking it would be good to make another copy and simply give it to the ranger when I get my permit. I pretty much stick to my travel plan, except I may be a day ahead or behind and may not camp exactly where planned, but I do stick to the route and also show potential alternate routes.

I end up solo hiking a lot because lately it has been hard to find someone who will really commit to a trip. I have had too many last minute "Bail outs" and find it easier just to go solo. But I really prefer to go with a compatible backpack partner. For years I lead organized climbing groups, and became burned out on that mode (and responsibility).
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Cheetahwoka » Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:13 pm

Well, I'm probably going out tomorrow for a longish solo trip, but not by preference. Anymore.

When I was much younger, and invincible, and backpacking in the Sierra was new and totally life-changing, I went on mostly solo trips because I could rarely find partners. The solo part of it was part of the life-changing part. During that period in life, my daily life was overpopulated and urban. I didn't really mind going solo, and welcomed it.

It took about 4 days, and like magic on the 4th day of a solo backpack trip things would shift for me. I had only to walk off the trail about 10 feet. The Earth that filled my vision had only small parts affected by humans. The immense life-threatening power of the wind, cold, rain, electricity (lightening), river and snow, and steep gravity-challenging places, and other non-human living things filled my reality almost entirely, except when I could see parts of myself in my periferal vision, like when I watched my feet stepping forward, or my hands steadying myself on a rock. And on day 4 I would 'get' something that I still can't really express. I remember sitting down and thinking, "Here I am wearing nylon. Nylon doesn't grow here. Without it my soft skin would get all scratched up. What other living things are so vulnerable? I feel like I'm an alien here on Earth."

Then I would look at the ants and see how much they changed their little environment for themselves, and I didn't feel so out of place. I started to feel like I'm just another mammal. Yes an extremely overpopulated mammal, but out here surrounded by everything non-human, I'm just another animal. And then I felt AT HOME there, in the wild. Like I could go anywhere, practically, on the planet, even in the wild, and be okay and at home. This may sound hokey, but it's the nutshell version of 4 days of immersion in wilderness.

If you can't get how wonderful this feels, I guess you'd have to be there. That's how solo backpacking was for me back then.

Now, though, I am not invincible anymore, and I want a partner for safety, at least when I go XC. Plus I live in a small foothill town and don't feel crowded. And so that feeling of belonging out there comes on day 2, when I walk off by myself in the morning to look for a little hole to dig.

Hope this is helpful.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:12 am

good luck Cheetahwoka if you are going out today. Leave an itinerary somewhere please? even if with one of those on this forum.

AND, if you change your mind mid-step, drop another note.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby markskor » Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:20 pm

rlown wrote:... if you change your mind mid-step, drop another note.


When I change my mind mid-step solo (quite the regular occurrence actually), usually a day's hike in too, often off-trail.
Where then do you suggest, should one "drop" that other note?
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:26 pm

Right where you are, with a nice piece of fluorescent tape attached. 2' would be nice.

If you're still in camp, then there.

If you don't care to be found and accept responsibility, then who really cares. You did it your way. Make that clear and don't waste peoples time looking for you, right up front. And be courteous if you actually want to be found.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby markskor » Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:49 pm

rlown wrote:...don't waste peoples time ...and be courteous.


I guess the best ploy would then be to leave a polite note under a duck? :p
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby rcymbala » Sun Aug 18, 2013 1:38 pm

Tip: sleep in a hammock (1.) you will at least be able to see what's around you; (2.) lighter (3.) quicker to set-up and take down; (4.) no need to find a campsite -- you can go farther with less weight. ***
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby jessegooddog » Sun Aug 18, 2013 1:43 pm

Hammocks are great in Topanga, but I don't want to wake up with ice in my hair!
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Cheetahwoka » Sun Aug 18, 2013 1:57 pm

Timely that y'all are talking about this, because I have been envisioning bread crumbs of this sort. Yes I'm still here and I should get back to packing but I couldn't resist thanking y'all for your well wishes.

A couple weeks ago I was on yet another solo trip up Sphinx Lakes, and slipped and tumbled in the talus for the first time. Dinged up but ok, just another little sign from the goddess that I really should be using the buddy system. Especially since I am health insurance-less.

So in addition to the normal leaving of itineraries, both at home and in my car, and not being able to afford a SPOT account at this time, I started envisioning leaving notes and sign when I went off-trail. Like with a little rock on top, with Name/Date, "Going solo up Sphinx Creek to all lakes in basin, returning to pick up this note by (date). If you find this note after (return date), please give to ranger in case I'm in trouble, thanks." Or "(Name/Date) Going up Sphinx Basin solo, continuing loop over ___ to East Lake. Please don't trash this until after (some date well after I should return) just in case, thanks." Or "(Name/Date) This is a breadcrumb for safety. Please don't trash until (date), thanks". Maybe we could start a trend of leaving tobacco can registers, like peak registers, at XC lakes, for safety.

Then I envisioned people's wilderness experience annoyed by this note-leaving trend and had mixed feelings. Sometimes I leave clear boot prints from time to time, on purpose, on an XC route when I"m solo, just in case. In any case, I'm thinking about bread crumbs more and more. Being on SAR makes me know too much, and besides, if I got in trouble (heaven forbid) I'd never hear the end of it..

I've talked to many XC hikers, some even at trailheads, that have trouble finding compatible partners. Seems the more remote folks want to go, and the more skilled they get, the pickier they are about EXACTLY where and how they go, and don't find common ground (pun not intended, but that was pretty good). Either that, or they aren't yet very skilled and don't want to do much off-trail, or they don't have enough time to do the trip at the pace/ability they need to do it at. In any case, even though I live right next to SEKI, most of the local population have never even been to the big trees.

Thanks for the love, and back to packing..
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