While solo backpacking is a great way to enjoy some quality alone time; it isn't as safe as going out with a friend. Here are seven safety tips for your solo adventure.
It's not uncommon for avid backpackers to embark on spontaneous outdoor adventures. That said, it's still important to let someone know where you are going, even if you only plan to be away a short time. Always leave word with friends or family members before you head out. You should also tell them where you plan to hike and the approximate time you expect to return. Once you've told someone your plan, be sure to stick to it. Don’t change your mind and take a different trail that leads someplace where rescuers may not be able to find you.
Depending on where you are backpacking, a cloudless, sunny day can turn dark and rainy within a matter of minutes. At best, this can lead to a soggy, uncomfortable hike. At worst, it could lead to deadly flash flooding or hypothermia. Be sure to check the local weather report before you head out on your outdoor adventure. You should also research the area to make sure no trails have been closed. Finally, bring along some warm dry socks and clothing in case a brief rain shower soaks you from head to toe.
While it's common for backpackers to feel the lure of secluded, unspoiled territory; it's generally better to stick to areas that see a lot of foot traffic. Well-trafficked areas are generally safer and better-maintained. They also tend to include other explorers, who can provide assistance if you get injured. Even if you are backpacking to enjoy some quality alone time, there's generally no need to worry; most backpackers will offer little more than a friendly nod or "hello" as they pass by.
It's generally best to carry a whistle or other noise-making device that can act as an alarm if you are lost or injured in a remote area. You should also have a phone, first-aid kit and water purification tablets that can render pathogens inactive and make natural water safe to drink.
Depending on where you are backpacking, you will want to familiarize yourself with potential hazards. This means knowing how to identify and avoid poisonous plants and venomous snakes. If you are hiking in an area that plays host to bears, learn proper awareness and safety practices to help avoid unwanted confrontations.
Few things are more demoralizing than hiking back to the comfort of a vehicle only to find the engine is dead. Depending on the remoteness of your area, you could be in serious trouble if your vehicle breaks down. Be sure to have your car serviced and fill up the gas tank before you head out alone.
Before you commit to a rigorous hike, you will want to know if you can handle the physical toll. If you are out of shape or recovering from an injury, try to take things slow. If you aren't sure what you are capable of, try a short hike around your neighborhood to test your limits. If you are disappointed in your abilities, consider putting off your backpacking trip until you have some time to train.
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