Hiking solo – nothing could be safer, right? A stroll through the woods, admiring the views from some rugged trail? What could possibly go wrong?
There’s no way we’d want to put the damper on your wanderlust, but according to some sources, the annual hiking death toll is bigger than rock climbing. And, the chance to survive on your own is much lower compared to group hiking.
While hiking travel insurance is designed to help in situations of injury and loss when hiking (and provides additional levels and elements of cover you might not otherwise enjoy with other types of travel insurance), you do need to be self-aware.
Here we share some tips on staying safe while hiking solo.
Before you go…
Check the weather
Check the weather forecast for the next few days – while it may look beautiful outside, the weather is changeable. If severe weather is forecast, don’t hike! It isn’t worth taking the risk of getting stuck somewhere.
While looking at the weather, don’t forget to check when sunset is so you can build in enough time to complete your hike – with time to spare before darkness falls.
Take suitable clothing
Pack a range of supplies. These should include:
- food and water (take extra than you think you’ll need in case you get trapped somewhere)
- a map, compass and torch
- matches in case you need to start a fire
- a survival bag and whistle
- a fully charged mobile phone and solar-powered battery charger or battery pack
- gaffer tape (for use if your shoes fall apart or something breaks, for example)
- a variety of suitable clothes such as a warm jumper (you can buy thin, thermal tops that can easily fit in your rucksack without adding bulk or weight), a waterproof jacket, spare socks, a peaked cap, sunglasses, gloves etc.
Make sure your hiking shoes are comfortable and that the laces on them aren’t liable to snap anytime soon!
Plan your route
Pick a route or area you are familiar with. That way you will be more confident about where you’re going as well as being aware of poisonous plants and any particularly rough terrain.
Also, choose a popular trail – it will typically be well-maintained (so you are less liable to injure yourself), and there will be other people around. So, if you do get in trouble, you know that someone will be along soon who can help.
If you are travelling abroad, make sure you understand their trail markers as these can vary from country to country. And do a trial hike with a group before you attempt it on your own.
Tell someone where you are going
Let a friend or family member know where you are going – tell them your planned route. For extra peace of mind, you may wish to set up real-time location sharing on your smartphone with someone.
You can also sign up to the what3words app – this provides rescue services with details of your exact location. According to Wiki, as of October 2019, 75 English and Welsh emergency services have signed up to the system.
Also, make sure you have emergency contact numbers for the country you will be hiking in, should something go wrong. In the UK, call 999 (or 112), and the Police will direct your call to emergency rescue services.
On the move…
Once you are out and about on your hike, make sure you keep to your planned route. For example, while suddenly deciding to visit a waterfall a mile or so away may seem a great thing to do, going off-trail could be dangerous.
Instead, make a note to include it in your next hike.
How busy is the route…
We highlighted earlier the importance of using a popular trail. If you are out and you notice that you aren’t seeing many other hikers, take extra precautions.
Look for markers and point of interest
The whole point of solo hiking is to enjoy the fresh air and solitude. As you hike, take in the surroundings and make mental notes of trail markers or landmarks that will help you get back if need be.
If you are worried – say by a wild animal – blow your whistle to scare them off. If you are lost, blow your whistle three times, wait 30 seconds and repeat. This is an internationally recognised SOS distress call.
Making sure you are well-prepared before you go and staying self-aware en-route will give you the peace of mind to make the most of the fresh air and sights and sounds during your solo hike! Enjoy!