So, just how safe (or dangerous) is it to try to hike the Appalachian Trail alone?
If you don’t like to watch/listen – then read on!
Honestly, while there is some risk that comes with hiking and backpacking, it doesn’t have to be more dangerous than doing anything else alone! Do you drive alone? Do you run errands alone? Do you walk around your town or neighborhood alone? Great! Then you can hike the Appalachian Trail alone too! I promise.
- The first step is simply knowing that solo hiking, or solo backpacking is not nearly as crazy or dangerous as the media or our imaginations would have us believe. Go on day hikes alone with these tips first before going camping or backpacking alone.
- You’re best defense against hiking hazards is knowing your own abilities and keeping your wits about you, to keep you out of trouble in the first place.
- Make sure you have a plan, where will you start your hike? Where will you camp? Where will you end? Will you be resupplying at all or stopping in towns? etc. Make a trip itinerary, as detailed as you can, and then leave it with a trusty friend back home.
- Check in with said trusty friend regularly, and establish what regularly means – everyday? Every other day? Once a week? So that they know when to sound the alarm if they don’t hear from you in a while.
- Do carry your fears! If you’re scared you’ll run out of food, you’ll probably end up carrying way more food than you need. If you’re scared of being cold, you’ll probably carry way more clothes than you need, if you’re scared of lions, tigers, and bears (and strangers) you may end up carrying bear mace, and an airhorn, and a scary-ass knife, and an emergency beacon, or more…. but if that makes you feel better and more confident on the trail, then I say do it!
- Don’t camp near roads/trailheads. While most trails and even trailheads are relatively safe, there is definitely a higher chance of vandalism, theft or worse near road crossings. Hike several miles in to camp, where you know you’ll be surrounded by others in the hiking community, and less likely to run into randomers just looking to get into some trouble in the woods.
- Don’t share your exact camping plans with strangers. Other hikers may try to make small talk – asking you where you’re camping that night or how far you’re hiking that day. But be weary about how many details you give away to other random people. Now, if you’re actually trying to meet up with and camp out with other hikers later who you like and trust, then that’s different.
- If you’re going to hitch hike into towns – bring a buddy. Don’t be afraid to turn down rides if someone pulls over and gives you the creeps. And try to keep your pack and gear with you if possible, as opposed to putting in a trunk of a car.
That’s all for now! Drop your questions or extra advice about solo hiking in the comments below.
For more hiking safety tips, check out:
- First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, and Wilderness First Responder – What’s the difference??
- 12 Tips For A Safer Campsite
- Winter Hiking Safety Tips
PS – Grab my complete backpacking gear checklist for free! This is everything I carried with me on my 1,300 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.
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