If you’re like many and considering a solo hike but are put off by anxious thoughts of everything that could go wrong, then you’re not alone.
Amanda solo hiking in early 2022 along the Great Ocean Walk.
'There is something incredibly thrilling and invigorating about taking a solo hike. I can guarantee you that I have faced my fears on the trail – including coming face to face with an angry Tiger snake '
When we think of something ‘fun’ to do, there aren’t too many that would jump at the chance to take a solo hike. It’s confronting and really rips us out of our comfort zone and throws us into uncertainty – where fear can override any desire to do something challenging that stimulates personal growth.
The best way to face your fears is to understand them.
Often, we create an elaborate story around the fears we hold, it’s a justification because we don’t recognise what we need to do in order to overcome them.
There is something incredibly thrilling and invigorating about taking a solo hike. I can guarantee you that I have faced my fears on the trail – including coming face to face with an angry Tiger snake – however, pre-empting these situations and devising solutions helps to ease any anxiety you have.
Knowledge is power and when applied to fear, makes them a little less scary. So, let’s unpack some of the most common fears people have and address them with a pragmatic approach.
FACING YOUR FEARS
No mobile reception
This should be in the ‘benefits’ section. Nature is the ideal place to switch off – disconnect from the technological world and back into the connection that promotes a healthy body & Mind – our natural world.
Many locations throughout Australia have limited mobile reception so it pays to invest in an EPIRB Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon in the event of serious injury and need for evacuation. These are designed to emit a distress signal to Emergency services for 48hours and help to locate you on the trail – within close range.
These are for emergencies only.
The Image to the left is for illustrations purposes only.
In nature, we need to respect all the wild creatures and it helps if we try to understand what to do in a specific situation. Take the number one fear on the trail as an example: Snakes. We’ve encountered many snakes on the trails, particularly post lockdowns, and the best approach is to maintain distance and keep your eyes on the trail.
Many snake bites are due to the hiker not seeing the snake, either on the trail or through high grass, and stepping on the poor bugger and they retaliate. If we respect the animals, back away if they appear threatened then they move on. Read more on what to do if you are bitten by a snake here (https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/snake-bites)
This applies to Kangaroos too. You may want to get a close-up picture but respect wildlife and keep your distance and invest in a zoom lens. They tend to watch you with curiosity as you move along. Understand the location and what wildlife you may encounter before you set off to ensure that you are prepared.
Sure, there are times when I have hiked solo and seen some incredible sights and wished that I had someone to share the experience with, but to be lonely is to better know yourself.
What better way to really understand what makes you tick? What is it that the loneliness is telling you? Get comfortable with being alone and learn to love your own company.
Take time to reflect and process some heavy emotions. Connecting with nature.
Twist an ankle
If you are prone to a twisted ankle, it would be worth packing some hiking poles. Poles are lightweight and are a great way to distribute pack weight on a hike through the upper body and can be used as a crutch when twisting an ankle.
Always carry a first aid with compression bandages and if you’re near water, soak your foot/ankle to help reduce inflammation.
Most of what we consider unsafe are in our minds. We have incredible imaginations and possibly watch a little too many Hollywood movies where the main aim is to create cinematic attention. Whilst it pays to stay alert when hiking solo, it’s anxiety-inducing to consider everyone you pass a threat.
Keep earbuds out of your ears and tune in to the surroundings and you won’t be surprised by any approaching steps.
Pay attention to the trail too. Many trails can cut in close to cliff edges or ravines so make sure that if you’re looking up or around, stop and take it in more mindfully. This applies to looking down at your phone too. These accidents can be avoided.
WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER
Preparation is the key to success. Research the terrain where you are going. Knowing the conditions of the season and having the appropriate gear for the hike. Have you got enough food? What weight will you carry? Have you got all the gear – water filtration, cookware, tents, sleeping bag, etc.
Training is another aspect to consider. Have you ever packed with a backpack before? Knowing our limitations and working within these makes for a more memorable trip.
Do you have an understanding of what the trail will be like? Is there river crossings affected by tides? Do you follow an APP or have GPS off-trail maps to follow? Having the information of the trail you are hiking can alleviate any uncertainty and ensures that you aren’t put in unnecessary danger. Be informed.
Unless you’re a jump-in-the-deep end person, the best approach for a solo hike is to ensure that you have the ability to achieve your goal. Make sure that it's not unrealistic but also that you have the general fitness to make it through.
Considerations; do you know how to put up a tent? Use the cooking gear? Pack it all up again so it actually fits in your pack (this is an art form).
Packing for a few days on the trail.
When you set off for a solo hike – ALWAYS – tell someone where you are going.
Many hike-in camps require prior bookings so check in with the office before you depart (this is a requirement). Text a friend where you are going, and when you expect to return and plan to check in with them upon your return. Communication is key. You already knew that though.
Perhaps you’ve read this far and still think I am mad for solo hiking (and perhaps curious about the Tiger snake incident- stay tuned that hike deserves its own blog) so here are a few reasons that a solo hike could be beneficial for you:
When we hike alone, we are free of distractions, allowing our bodies and minds to sync with the natural environment more mindfully. Immersed in a sea of blue and greens, our nervous system slows, we feel less stressed and reconnect with nature.
With technological advances, there has been a separation of humans and nature, where the two are regarded as separate domains. Rather than seeing nature and culture as separate entities they are entwined. The mental and physical health of humans is related to the health of the earth and its natural ecosystem- connecting with nature on a solo hike, strengthens our connection and subsequently improves our holistic health.
Solitude / Processing time
The importance of solo time to process life events cannot be underestimated. Often our lives are busy between work, family, life commitments that we don’t give ourselves times to process some pretty heavy circumstances that we are experiencing. Taking a solo hike strips back to the simplicity of walking so that you have the brain power to sit –walk – with all the feelings. There is no place to hide when you’re by yourself. Its therapeutic and crying into the old forests makes the emotional load that little bit lighter.
The late Summer sun makes for a sweaty hike. Amanda feels accomplished after a solo 37km hike in 2 days.
Been trying to plan a hike with friends for what seems an eternity only to watch a few months/ years go by and you haven’t done it yet? Don’t wait for others to plan your trip, head off solo.
Maybe it's work commitments and you can't get the time off. Whatever the reason, with only you to plan for, flexibility is an excuse killer.
Go your own pace
Friends a speed walker or perhaps it's a snail's pace that drives you mad. When you hike solo you can set your own pace, and stop when you want. Go as far as minimal as you want, because it's just you.
There is a lot to consider and for some, a lot to be anxious about. With preparation, skills & a solid mindset, you’re on your way to an unforgettable experience.
We know that not everyone will want to hike solo, or even invest in all the gear so we offer all-inclusive trips for everyone. From the first timer to the more experienced that just wants to join in with what we offer – a more holistic hiking experience.