Guest post by: Leah Trentini
I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt the urge to get outside and explore a new trail but then decided against it when I couldn’t find a friend to join me. As a young, female hiker, I often feel strange going out into the wilderness alone.
Society tells us girls to stay out of the forest because of the dangers of wildlife or because solitude is lonely. I’d like to change this mindset.
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Solo hiking is one of the most freeing activities you can do, and it shouldn’t be limited to only men. Women can enjoy the benefits of solo hiking just as much. Hiking alone gives you a chance to reconnect with nature and yourself. It can alleviate stress, provide perspective, keep you physically fit, or even just allow you to focus on the task at hand.
Solo hiking is healing to the mind and body, and I believe women should feel just as comfortable doing it as men. Follow these 5 tips to give yourself the confidence to hit the trails and make your solo experience a positive one.
Choose a safe hiking trail
All solo hikers should keep safety in mind before choosing a destination. Don’t hike in extremely remote areas with no traffic, and don’t choose trails that aren’t well marked that you’ve never hiked before. Hiking by yourself means that if you get into trouble, you will have to rely on other hikers to lend you a hand. Feel free to choose a challenging or strenuous hike, but make the trails are somewhat populated, especially if you have little experience in solo hiking. This tip applies to both genders.
Don’t wear headphones (not why you might think)
When women hear the advice “don’t wear headphones”, they immediately think they should be on the lookout for predators. Although staying aware is good advice, it’s not exactly what I mean with this tip. I have done solo hiking on populated trails with and without headphones in. I love listening to podcasts and music when I work out, but I have found that the times I hike without headphones are much more enjoyable. I am able to connect with my surroundings on a deeper level and appreciate nature more. Even more importantly, I’m able to connect with the other hikers around me. Solo hiking is actually a great opportunity to meet new people. An older couple may ask you to take their picture and start up a fun chat with you. Or maybe you’ll pet a cute puppy and learn more about its owner. Solo hiking can be about connecting with yourself and other as well.
Scouts motto: Be prepared
Everyone has heard of the motto “be prepared” when it comes to wilderness survival, and for good reason. Solo hikers always need to make sure they pack the right gear to be self-sufficient on their hikes. Important supplies to remember are proper footwear, weather-appropriate clothing, water and snacks, and a first aid kit. I have some other essentials that I always make sure to bring like a book, portable phone charger, and small knife as well. Female solo hikers need to take that extra step to make sure they’re prepared. You should always tell someone where you’re planning to hike and how long you will be gone. It isn’t a bad idea to bring a small knife or mace for the peace of mind. And if you’re hiking somewhere new, always have access to a map or GPS other than your phone just in case there’s no reception. Being physically prepared becomes an easy habit once you’ve gotten a few solo hikes under your belt.
Set your intentions for the hike
So, we know the importance of being physically prepared, but being mentally prepared is a component that many solo hikers forget. Setting your intentions for the hike before you set out can really improve the quality of your hike. I always take a few moments, either before leaving home or once I reach the trailhead, to jot down my goals for the hike. These can be anything, from seeing the waterfall at the summit to taking a cool picture of the leaves to letting my mind be free of work stress for an hour. Knowing your reasons for going on this hike is important. When I return from a hike, I like to reflect on these intentions that I set and note how my expectations were upheld or changed. Often, I find that solo hikes bring me a peace that I didn’t see coming. If you’re looking to use solo hiking as a way to reconnect with yourself, keep tabs on the emotions that come along with your adventures.
Leave self-consciousness behind
A big obstacle to solo hiking for young women can be what other people think of you. In the world today, it’s easy to get caught up in your “image”. Many young women probably wouldn’t even think hiking is worth it if they don’t have a friend with them to take an Instagram picture. And other women may feel judged for being alone on the trails, especially single women like myself. These worries may seem shallow to some, but it is undeniably creating a roadblock to getting outdoors. Female solo hikers need to embrace the benefits that solitude brings and learn to have gratitude in the moment, no matter who is watching (or if no one is watching). If self-doubt or judgement is holding you back, lean on nature. Nature doesn’t care if you’re an Instagram influencer or if you’re a crunchy granola girl or if you don’t fit in with other girls or if you are visiting alone. Nature will accept you as long as you accept her. We all belong on the trails.
About the author: Leah is creator of Hike Her Way: a hiking blog with a mission to inspire all women to reconnect with nature. She aims to share her own hiking stories, tips, favorite trails, and more to keep women inspired by the beauty of the outdoors. Check out the blog and follow Hike Her Way at hikeherway.com.