I spend a lot of time alone in the backcountry. Everything from a quick hike to clear my mind, to a multi-day photography excursion.
Don’t get me wrong, hiking with others can be great fun, but sometimes you need to fly solo. This is especially true in the case of the backcountry photographer. Afterall, there aren’t too many non-photographers that will put up with the lunacy that is backcountry photography! Plus, hiking solo can be a lot of fun!
Here are my 5 tips to help ensure that you have a safe, successful solo trip in the backcountry.
Tip #1: Always Have a Solid Plan
This one should be a bit of a no-brainer. Anytime you venture into the backcountry, rather it is alone or with others, you must always have a plan. Your plan should include, at a minimum, the following:
- Where are you planning to go?
- How will you get to and from your destination?
- What sort of conditions will you be facing (terrain, weather, etc.)?
- What sort of gear will be required for your trip?
- How much time is required to complete your trip?
- What are your options if something goes wrong?
These are just the bare minimum requirements for a good plan. The more detailed you can make your plan, the better off you will be!
Tip #2: Let Others Know Your Plan
So you’ve spent plenty of time gathering your plan, now what? Well, now it’s time to let other, trusted individuals know your plan. It’s good practice to always leave your plan with others! Just make sure the people you are informing can be trusted if something goes wrong. Some good options for people to trust might be parents, significant others, or really close friends.
Some of the information that you should leave with whoever you decide to tell are:
- Where you will be going
- How long you expect to be gone
- How you intend to let them know everything is ok and you’re back safe and sound
- Emergency contacts for the area you are going (police, hospitals, search and rescue, ranger stations, etc)
Just like with your own plan, the more details you can leave with your trusted contacts, the better!
If you’re like me and go into the backcountry frequently, then you may also want to consider a device like the Spot Transponder.
Tip #3: Be Realistic About Your Abilities
This tip is an important one. The backcountry is no place to let your ego get in the way, especially when you are alone! One of the best ways to avoid a bad situation on a solo trip is to not let hubris get in the way and be real with yourself on what your actual skill level is.
Not confident you can safely complete that rock scramble? Then don’t do it.
Not sure that stream can be safely forded? Then don’t do it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to push yourself to find out what you’re truly capable of, but a solo trip probably isn’t the time to do it!
Tip #4: Be Prepared for Things to go Wrong
There are a million and one things that can go wrong on a trip into the backcountry. When you’re alone, however, problems tend to be magnified.
Why you ask? Well, it’s simple: you’re alone, thus you must deal with any problems that pop up on your own. It’s for this reason that it’s imperative that you’re prepared for things to go wrong on your solo trip. This includes things like the following:
- Carry a first aid kit
- Carry gear to deal with inclement weather
- Bring all necessary navigation equipment
- Bring some basic tools (duct tape and a multi-tool are godsends!)
Things will eventually go wrong when you travel in the backcountry. The important thing is that you are prepared for this. This particular incident happened in The Smokies when I dropped my camera. Thankfully, this filter was the only thing that broke!
Tip #5: Be Alert and Trust Your Instincts
When you’re out alone it’s more important than ever to be alert of your surroundings and trust your instincts.
Don’t quite get the right feeling about that person you just ran into on the trail? Avoid further contact.
Don’t feel like that tree is safe to camp under? Find a new spot.
It’s always better to air on the side of caution, especially when you’re on your own.
Bonus Tip: Be Confident!
If you’ve followed the above 5 tips, then you’re well on your way to having a safe, successful trip! It’s time to be confident in yourself. Going out into the backcountry alone can be an amazingly rewarding experience. Be confident and enjoy yourself!
So, there you have it: My 5 tips to help make sure you have a safe, successful, solo trip in the backcountry. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to discovering the immense rewards of traveling solo!
Got any tips of your own? Please be sure to share them in the comments down below!