Thursday, September 29, 2022

Why You Should Solo Hike At Least Once In Your Life

How to Plan the Perfect Solo Hike: Benefits & Safety Tips for Women

by Janice Chan

Hiking Alone: Benefits & Safety Tips for Women

Have you ever wanted to go on a hike but had no one to go with? Do you want to do something at your own pace for once but you’re worried about going at it alone? I get that! With a little preparation, you can make your way outdoors and have a great time on your own. Hiking can be one of the best things you do for your mental and physical health. Whether you’re solo hiking or in a group, I’ve got the essential tips that will make your next hiking trip enjoyable

hiking tips for women and benefits of hiking alone. tips for women

My First Solo Hike Experience

I went on my first solo hike in 2019 when I was visiting family in Boulder, CO. I definitely got caught up in family activities as soon as we landed. The weekend flew by, before long I was checking in for my return flight and I only had one day left in Boulder. I still hadn’t hiked the must-see Mount Sanitas and Sanitas Valley Loop Trail. My family had other plans for the final full day we had, but I wanted to do the trail. I researched the hike on AllTrails and estimated it would take me 2 hours to finish the 3.2 mile route on my own. It seemed a bit challenging but the summit looked well worth the climb. I wanted to do this so I got up early the next morning and hit the road with my backpack and hiking shoes.

I remember feeling so nervous on my drive to the trail. Was I going to go through with this? I could see the headlines already. “Tourist Who Took on Treacherous Trail Airlifted to Hospital”. By the time I made it to the trail I had 100 different scenarios of how things could go wrong. Still, I kept going – I found a great parking space (the BEST sign) and got my gear ready. As I walked to the trailhead, the apprehension hit again. I kept my pepper spray in one hand and with my keys turned out in the other hand, I hit the trail. 

The trail was quiet, the sun was high and bright. I soon passed by a few fellow hikers and felt myself relaxing. In the end, it was a very doable trail with a wide path and the day was perfect. The sun was high and bright, people were so kind on the trail and the climb felt so good! I couldn’t have been happier that I had gone on this hike.  At the summit with Boulder below me, I thought about how glad I was that I didn’t miss this opportunity.

Are you ready to take on your first solo hike? Here’s why you should try it when you have the chance!

my first solo hike experience
Caption: Shot with my GoPro + Tripod on the top of Mount Sanitas in Boulder, CO

Benefits of Solo Hiking

You know the level of challenge that’s right for you and you’re able to go at your own pace when you’re alone

I LOVE stopping to take in sights and photos. Sometimes, I feel I’m inconveniencing other people and snapping photos, but when I’m alone, my time is my own. I can take my time or if I’m trying to hike for speed, I can do that too! It’s all up to me and I don’t have  worry about being too fast or slow for anyone else.

Solo hiking gives you the chance to recharge

Solitude gives you the chance to relax and step away from all your devices. When I solo hike, I’m giving myself space for my thoughts and feelings to take flight. Being in the wilderness can be cathartic, especially for women. It can be such a rewarding experience to have the opportunity to meditate or reflect for miles on a trail.

Solo hiking will help you become better at making decisions on your own

Solo hiking does a lot to increase mental fortitude and independence. I recommend it when you’re feeling at a crossroads in life. The answer may be on the trail! 

how to hike solo alone - hiking safety tops for women

Tips for Your First Solo Hike

Hiking alone can be so rewarding if you prepare for it. I’ve got some safety tips & gear recommendations for you in this next bit. And whether it’s your first solo hike or 500th, these are great reminders for setting out on the trail! Let’s go over hiking prep together!

Let someone know where you’re going

This is the most important thing. Let someone you trust know where you’re going to be (exact address) and around how long you plan on being out there. Tell them that you’ll check in with them at a certain time post-hike with a follow up, “I’ve returned!” text or call.

Pay attention to your surroundings & be aware of wildlife in the area 

I’d recommend picking a trail you’re familiar with that is well-populated and well-marked. If you do want to try a new trail – be sure to do some research on the trail online beforehand. I research all my trails on the Alltrails App/Website before hiking. I also download the offline trail map in case I lose signal out there. 

Be sun safe / weather aware

Make sure that you are checking forecasts and hiking around the early morning. Temperatures can rise in the afternoon and nighttime hikes are dangerous without preparation. I’d recommend starting your hike early in the morning and finishing around the afternoon. This will vary depending on the length of the hike but these are good starting points!

Stay hydrated and eat often

Especially when hiking solo, you should bring a little more food and water than you think you’ll need. Standard rule of thumb is .5L of water for every hour you’re going to be out on the trail. I usually add an extra .5L in case. 

Trust your gut

If something feels a little off on the hike or you feel anxious during the hike – trust yourself. Sometimes it’s a natural reaction to being alone and you can shake it off. If the feeling sticks, be sure to assess it and turn around if you need to. Always trust your gut and be sure not to take any unnecessary risks out there.

Know your limits. Be sure that you’re not overstraining yourself and take breaks when needed

If you’re new to hiking on your own, be sure to start off with a short trail and work your way to longer hikes. It’s all about enjoying yourself so there’s no need to push yourself so far that you strain your body.

My Hiking Essentials

A GPS watch so you know where you’re going every step of the way.

This is a must-have for me! A GPS watch will serve not only as a map but also a timekeeper so you can keep track of daylight and automatically track your activity. The Garmin Instinct is a great hardy choice or you could go with a Garmin Venu for a more minimalist look. 

An SPF 70+ sunscreen and SPF 30 lip balm to protect your precious skin and keep you sunburnt free!

Lip sunburn is the absolute worst and lip sunscreen has been a LIFESAVER essential for me.  My favorite is the Eucerin Aquaphor Lip Balm (SPF 30). It’s moisturizing and light and doesn’t leave the dreaded white film on your lips upon application. I use the OG Neutrogena Sport Face SPF 70+ sunscreen – for all my sweaty gals – this stuff stays ON and out of your eyes. I would recommend reapplying every three hours you’re out there to be on the safe side!

A pair of hiking shoes that will keep you comfortable.

I actually wear trail runners instead of hiking shoes. Personal preference! I’d recommend Keen Hiking Boots for the trail. They come in all sorts of configurations and colorways so you’re bound to find one you like. I wore these for years before switching to trail runners and I can attest to their comfort.

A great hat to keep the sun off your head, protect your eyes and hide a bad hair day.

This Janji running cap is my go to – it’s lightweight, easy to wash and doesn’t get too sweaty. I would also recommend this Lululemon sunhat that can protect your neck more for longer hikes.

A pair of sport sunglasses that will never slide off your face.

I have the flattest nose and the damndest time finding glasses that fit when I run. Enter: Goodr. They have a proprietary grip on the nosepiece that is LEGENDARY. Goodr Sunglasses come in all sorts of colors + they’re lightweight & if I lose them they won’t break the bank. I love matching them with my hiking fits. My exact pair are these beautiful rainbow sunnies. I get a lot of compliments on these on trail – plus they’re polarized!

A water bladder so you don’t have to reach into your backpack to grab a bottle when you feel thirsty.

I have tested many hydration bladders. The Hydrapak Water Bladder 1.5 (or 3L) wins over all because you can turn it inside out to wash and the bite valve on it is 10/10. I also love that there’s a minimal amount of plastic-y taste with this one!

These biscuits that store well and electrolyte tablets for salt replenishment.

Bless blood drives for introducing me to these tasty treats. I’ll pack around 3-4 belvita biscuits in my hiking backpack. They’re tasty and they have a good amount of carbs/nutrients. I also love carrying around nuun tablets or bringing gatorade on hikes. You need to replenish your electrolytes and carbs on your hike, so these are quick and easy to carry!

A lightweight and compact tripod for solo pictures.

This one is optional but always good to have when you’re feeling shy about asking someone on the trail to help you snap a solo selfie with the landscape in the background! I have the Joby Tripod and have used it on hikes for eight years now – but I’ve linked a newer model than the one I use!

This pee funnel so that you’re never exposed on the trail.

Have you heard of pee funnels? They allow women to pee standing up and they’re lifesavers on busy trails. I did a lot of research on pee funnels so you don’t have to – this seals well and is super easy to use! Pee funnels are pretty personal though and what may be comfortable for me may not work for you. Still, I recommend that you grab some kind of funnel for your solo hike, whether it’s this one or another brand!

A sturdy knife that will help you in sticky situations.

The Leatherman Skeletool CX is a multitool and knife. I knew I was only going to buy one camp knife in my life so I went with this one because it’s designed with safety in mind and one-handed use, plus it’s lightweight!

Pepper spray in case of other ~situations~.

This is a last resort type of thing but better safe than sorry. This is the pepper spray that I bring on my hikes. If you’re hiking in an area with bear warnings – definitely also buy bear spray. To reiterate, remember to check on the wildlife/temps in the area BEFORE you go on the hike!

A First Aid Kit for emergencies.

Coleman makes a great one! This is one of the first things I bought for hiking in general, it’s an essential! Check your first aid kit every once in a while to make sure you have everything you need. Replace items as necessary.

You’re ready to go on your first solo hike. Enjoy your time out there!

Feel free to connect with me on Instagram, TikTok & YouTube @janiceachan or tag me #hikingwithjanice and #solohiking!

[#solohikingwomen #womenwhosolohike]

Shop the new lululemon hiking collection here!

For runners read here

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