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Tips for backpacking solo

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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby KathyW » Sun Aug 18, 2013 3:22 pm

These days I'm solo most of the time. About 12 years or so ago I did my first short solo backpacking trip because I was always the slowest one on group trips and tired of the stress of having to try to keep up or feeling bad about holding everyone up. I still occasionally go with others, but not often because I really enjoy the freedom that goes along with being solo. When I headed out alone the first time I was afraid that I would be scared at night and not be able to sleep. That's not what happened at all because I slept like a log that first night and was never afraid again.

I don't have a spot, I don't leave an itinerary, and I don't always get a permit. I know that this increases the risk that I will go into the backcountry and not make it back out some day. I keep saying I'm going to invest in one of those personal locator beacons, but I haven't yet. I suppose if I still had a child or anyone else dependent on me I would be more concerned, but I don't.



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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:17 pm

I did my first solo trips when I was in my early 30s. The first one was to Sunrise Lakes, which was a sentimental journey for me since Sunrise was my first backpack when I was 17 or so. I was nervous and excited. But I knew the trail and the area. The closer I got to the lake, the more excited I became. I was so cautious, though, that I even told a man that stopped to talk with me that my boyfriend was coming up behind me on the trail. I was a little fearful at night but then told myself that I had already spent many nights out and knew what night sounds there might be. In the morning, I heard coyotes and loved it. Soon after I went to Ten Lakes Basin from Tuolumne solo, which was a farther trip and a trail new to me.
Last year I did an 8-day solo, which was my longest. All on trail to the Silver Divide, Lake of the Lone Indian, and back. I used ear plugs for the first time. I slept well and didn't mind not hearing
the little critters that might be scampering around in the dark, though I missed the sound of the wind in the pines. I've gone solo a handful of times. Mostly because I've had groups and a partner to hike with.
I like being alone in general and I wanted to solo to find out how it would feel. I wanted to be able to go when I wanted to and plan my own itinerary. I loved the solitude and observing a bird, colorful rocks in a stream, the play of light on granite, or critters scampering in the grass that I would otherwise miss if someone was with me. I love sharing the experience too but it's empowering to know that there is nothing to fear in being alone. Though I saw people on most of my solo trips, I always felt alone because in fact I was. People come and go on the trail or at a nearby campsite and although I love to say hello and perhaps chat, that doesn't in any way (for me) assuage the feeling and knowledge that I am alone. (I have a SPOT)
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby MountainMinstrel » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:05 pm

I too find that I am primarily a solo hiker. My days off are weird so it is hard to find a partner, but to be honest, I like being alone. The only time I am not comfortable in the backcountry is when I get to camp too early. Then I can get a bit bored until I rest long enough to go out and explore. It is in those times that I have nothing going on that I will feel a bit of loneliness. I admit that I usually pick places to go that are on trail, but out of the way enough that I rarely am sharing a camp spot with others. My wife likes the idea that if I get hurt someone will be by to bring help.

This last weekend I did my first real X-country route and spent a night at Iceland Lake where I saw no one for a day and a half. I have to say that it was totally awesome and slept like a baby even though the wind was blowing pretty good. That was until I woke up to "someone" tapping me on the shoulder :eek: It turned out that one of the guy-lines on my Contrail had come loose and the tent was hitting my shoulder in the wind, but let me tell you, I was WIDE awake for about 30 seconds, then I figured it out rolled over and went back to sleep without even fixing it.

There were just two times this trip when I wished I had someone with me. The first was watching the most amazing Alpine-glow I have ever seen, and the other was on the X-country trip out as I lost my camera. There is a good possibility that a partner would have heard it fall out and hit the granite. Unfortunately now I will not be able to share that experience with anyone :angry: #-o :crybaby:
Just an old musician who loves the Mountains.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby SweetSierra » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:47 pm

[quote="MountainMinstrel The only time I am not comfortable in the backcountry is when I get to camp too early. Then I can get a bit bored until I rest long enough to go out and explore. [/quote]

I felt this way on the 8-day trip. I'm an early riser and so left camp each day at around 7:30 or 8 and arrived at my destination at around noon or 1. I had too much extra time (and too much food as it turns out, but not complaining about that ;) for the trip I'd planned. I could have done a longer route easily and as it was the trip was shortened by one day. I'm glad I had a couple of good books.
Still, I felt a little lonely in the afternoon, which is the time I feel most at loose ends and melancholy. If I'm with someone at this time, even in silence, it's easier for me. Like you, when I was camped at Lake of the Lone Indian, I spent a lot of time exploring.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby Tom_H » Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:07 am

I wrote a long reply when the thread was new, hit submit, and lost the post due to my connection being down. I posted the following reply today in another thread that was a TR about one person saving a friend who was seriously injured on a trip. I hope the moderators will allow me to repeat most of that post here.


In the last 4 months we have read on HST about 5 different people who perished or went missing in the wilderness. What did they all have in common? Each was by him or herself. Hiking/backpacking/climbing solo involves seriously more risk than if done with others. I am not saying it is necessarly wrong, but statistically there is immensely less chance of survival if one is alone and incurrs substantial injury.

What are the things that increase the chances of survival if you do go solo?

1) Write a detailed trip plan of everywhere you intend to go and everywhere you might go. Calculate distance and elevation changes for every point along the way. For every point on the route, know the easiest evacuation route, but also every possible evacuation route in case fire blocks the primary evac. route. Leave this trip plan with at least 2 people with a date and time to contact SAR if you do not report in.

2) Have not only extensive experience, but also adequate training. I have a friend with a lot of experience. She just went on her first NOLS trip and learned all kinds of things she did not know before. Even experience and training are not guarantees. For many years I was a professional guide, instructor trainer, and then a regional director and my training was in the NOLS methodology. Nevertheless, there were times on technical climbs of 14ers when the weather changed severely and instantly, bringing on hypothermia. Had I been solo, I would have died. Likewise, I have saved the lives of compatriots.

3) Remember that staying on-trail increases the chance that someone will find you if you are injured. Staying on more frequently traveled trails increases that chance even more. The more remote the location into which you wander, the less chance you have of being found.

4) GPS, SPOT, PLB increase chances of survival greatly, but they are not a guarantee. If your device is at camp and you have a compound fracture of the leg while getting water 200 yards away, you may not be able to get to the device. Batteries can fail and you may be in the shadow of a range that blocks the signal.

If you don't have someone to go with you, remember, you can always post here on HST and ask whether someone is interested in going with you. (Choose wisely though.)

The first rule of survival: Avoid Survival Situations!
The second rule of survival: There is Safety in Numbers!
BSA Motto: Be Prepared!
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby sekihiker » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:07 pm

KathyW wrote:I was always the slowest one on group trips and tired of the stress of having to try to keep up or feeling bad about holding everyone up.

I haven't read everything you have ever posted, but from what I have read, I never had the impression that you would hold anyone up. You seem to get around just fine.
It's odd how many of us go solo for so many different reasons and end up preferring it.
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Re: Tips for backpacking solo

Postby The hermit » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:55 am

We prefer solo for many reasons.no one to rush or slow down for. No need to talk just to hear myself talk
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