Sometimes hikers, myself included, can get pretty caught up in all the obvious, physical aspects of hiking and backpacking –
do I have all the backpacking gear I need?
Too much gear? What am I going to eat? Do I have enough food?
And no matter how many times I pack and repack, I still always feel like I’m forgetting something! But knock on wood, I haven’t forgotten anything major yet!
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Then there are those of us who tend to overthink things – again, I’m totally guilty here! When you sit down to think about it…. How are you going to fill all the hours of your day on a backpacking trip??
Backpackers are generally split into two camps here, in the one camp, they say if you get bored while backpacking – you aren’t hiking far enough, long enough, or hard enough in a day – hike more, and then literally all you will want to do when you set up camp is lay down and go to sleep.
You won’t have time to get bored.
Then there are lazy hikers like me, I use that term affectionately, who do like to take long breaks throughout the day and enjoy some ‘downtime’ at camp before you go to bed.
So, what do we do without Netflix to entertain us?
Don’t underestimate the damaging effects of boredom on the trail, it really can ruin your trip if you let it. I find especially if I don’t have a way to preoccupy my mind at night – I get super anxious, scared, and paranoid that something bad will happen. Nothing bad has happened yet, so it’s best to keep negative thoughts from popping up in the first place.
I’ve also heard that some backpackers go kind of crazy hiking all day alone with no one else to talk to, which doesn’t sound like a fun trip at all! I don’t think that’s ever happened to me though, I enjoy the scenery and trees way too much to get bored while walking in the woods 😉
The goal here, and always, is to have a fun, stress-free trip that will give you the momentum to keep going out on more hiking trips. Keep your mind occupied on the trail with the tips below. And if you haven’t already, be sure to download the Badass Backpacker’s Bundle to get the ultimate backpacking gear list, complete first aid kit checklist, and easy backpacking snacks and meals for your next trip.
14 Things to do while camping alone, besides hiking and sleeping:
- Bring a book, preferably a lighter weight paperback if you bring a physical book. Bonus points if it’s a book about the great outdoors.
- Load up a book or a few on your kindle app to read on your phone or bring along a kindle.
- Download plenty of podcasts or audiobooks to your phone to listen to offline.
- Bring a lightweight journal or notebook and journal away. Print out a sheet or half sheet of journal prompts to bring along if you need some ideas.
- Play in nature. This is something we tend to miss out on as adults, but why not explore – go flip over rocks and logs and see what you can find, dig around in the creek and see what’s in there, see how many different types of kindling you can find and practice starting fires (if fires are permitted,) if you have a decent pocket knife, grab some dead branches and whittle away, make nature art with twigs, small rocks, and whatever else you can find (snap a picture and then disperse them to Leave No Trace.)
- If you’re at a shelter or shared campsite, get to know a little bit about each of the hikers there with you.
- Take the time to stretch, especially your legs and back, at the end of the day.
- Meditate, either on your own or download some guided meditations to listen to offline.
- Bring a small travel book of sudoku, word puzzles, or an adult coloring book.
- If you took a million photos that day, don’t we all tend to do that now that film is largely a thing of the past? Go through them every night or every couple of nights and delete any that you know you won’t use. Then you won’t even have to bother uploading the bad photos when you get home.
- Bring a handful of postcards or note cards and write letters to send when you get to town or at the end of your trip.
- Bring a harmonica or other musical instrument, if you’re willing to spare the weight of it.
- Bring a field guide to the local plants/trees/birds/etc and try to identify as much as you can around you.
- If you’ll be on a more popular trail, it might be worth it to bring a deck of cards or other small/light game to play with other hikers.
Hopefully, that gives you some ideas! Boredom on the trail is something to think about ahead of time. It’s too easy for new solo hikers, or even some experienced ones, to just lay awake in their tent at night, anxiously running through all the worst-case scenarios that could happen to them alone in the woods. Don’t let that be you?
Feel free to share your favorite thing to do while hiking and camping alone in the comments below!
For more hiking and backpacking tips, check out:
- What to include in your hiking itinerary
- How to pack a backpacking pack
- Hiking snack ideas to add variety to your pack
About the author, Mallory Moskowitz:
After studying Recreation, Park & Tourism Management, Mallory spent several years teaching environmental education, guiding hikes, and leading backcountry trips. Her life-changing trek from Georgia to New York on the Appalachian Trail is what sparked the creation of Your Adventure Coach, to share backpacking tips and resources with as many new hikers as possible.
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