backpacking the san juans Silverton Hikes Colorado

How to Safely Backpack Alone and Return Alive

A fear, or better yet, cause of concern for many people, is backpacking alone. It’s understandably a foreign thing that can pose risks, but it is an incredible way to see our wild places and learn more about yourself. Whether going on a multi-day trek or just an overnighter, relying solely on yourself while solo backpacking brings you back to your ancestral roots. While these aren’t specifically backpacking tips for beginners, new people should 100% read this.

What I learned about backpacking alone was the freedom to roam and enjoy the quiet. After that, it was just me and nature, which is always an ace. Below are some tips for solo backpacking, suggestions, and things to consider. Lastly, the nervousness and excitement of going to a place alone were part of the fun. I truly enjoyed doing things on my own time without catering to the need of others. Yes, that’s a bit selfish, but there are points when it needs just to be you, the trail, and the trees. Continue reading to see my solo backpacking tips below.

Backpacking tips for beginners and tips for solo backpacking

Do you feel comfortable going alone?

You’ll have to face this first question when considering backpacking alone. Are you ready? That, in the end, comes down to how comfortable you feel solo backpacking. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve never gone before.

Ideally, it would be best if you had had enough trips under your belt where you A) Personally have all the necessary gear and B) Feel comfortable setting up and taking down all of your gear. If you don’t have the correct gear and aren’t sure how it all works, this isn’t the time to branch out on your own. Also, look up to see if the trail allows dogs. This is a great way to be alone without being alone.

Backpacking Alone Safely Hiking Outdoors backpacking tips

Tips for solo backpacking – Know your Route

The dangers of going along are apparent: You don’t have a dependable backup. Granted, most trails will have other people on them, so you’re likely not technically alone, but they’re not looking out for your best interests. When backpacking alone, understand trail hazards, plausible campsites, possible points that could be dangerous, and the best water sources.

Having these in your mind will make you more comfortable on your trek and give you greater trail awareness. A plus here is knowing if you’ll have cell service. Most companies have coverage maps available online. Remember that cell coverage will not be as good as being on a mountaintop if you’re camping in a valley.

Backpacking tips for beginners – Tell people where you’re going

This goes for both genders and skill levels. Tell someone where you are going. This is an easy step and one that could save your life. All you have to do is give the basics: The hike name, where you likely will camp, the duration of the hike, and any side trips you may go on. People die outdoors because they get lost, no one knows where to look, and mother nature takes over. 

Mt Sneffels Colorado 14er backpacking tips for beginners

Be trail smart

Three HUGE tips for solo backpacking: Stick to your plan. Bring first aid. Don’t be stupid.

Most of these backpacking tips are blatantly evident for solo backpacking, but only you know what you can do, and don’t go overboard. If you’ve never summited a 14er, maybe doing it alone isn’t the best of ideas. If you’ve never done 5k feet of elevation gain, don’t make that your first trek. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and you’ll be just fine!

I would also add, for females, don’t tell people where you will camp (or are camping) if they ask. Instead, be general and say, “over there or by the lake.” I’ve heard plenty of women say this and think it’s brilliant.

Gear up – Backpacking tips for beginners

When you’re backpacking alone, it’s pretty literally all on you. There’s no one to divvy up the weight. This means you’ve got to be smart with what and how you pack. While you can’t skimp on the main items, think long and hard about what you do and don’t need. This is also when getting a satellite phone may be a good choice. Depending on how remote you’re planning to go, having the ability to reach help if needed is paramount.

Review this list for the gear you might need or want.

backpacking tips for beginners

Always Have Fun

Enjoy the heck out of your trip, and thanks for reading these tips for solo backpacking.

Ultimately, it’s just you, the trees, the lakes, and the fresh air. Savor the freedom and the quiet. You’ll be fine. You’re going to love it. And you’ll be back for more. Happy Trails!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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