Have you ever got this idea in your head, that you were *so* excited about, you rapidly started researching how to make it happen, thinking about all the what-if’s, day dreaming what it will be like when it becomes your reality…. only to realize that when you say it out loud to friends and family, they immediately squash it, tell you it’s wrong, and question your sanity???
This is how most Appalachian Trail thru-hikes start, my friend.
Venturing out on a recent late night solo hike got me thinking about this. Or I should say, the security staff giving me the side eye for going out on a late night solo hike got me thinking about how we can handle hiking naysayers.
I feel like I have heard it all, from my mother, from my neighbors, and everyone in between, that spending time in the woods isn’t safe, backpacking isn’t safe, hiking alone isn’t safe, and even try to talk me out of doing it!
Why? I may never know. But here are some ways to handle these comments and beliefs that it’s not safe to go hiking or backpacking, especially alone.
You could just say nothing. Honestly, with most people, this is the best option. If someone is already set in their beliefs, there is usually no telling them otherwise. Even though, ironically, most people who think hiking is dangerous have never actually gone hiking, and never will. So you can just let them go on believing that hiking is scary and go on your merry way!
The key here is to not let their negative comments bother you or discourage you from spending more time outside! Just let their comments hit you, and roll right off, the way rain rolls off your rain jacket.
If you’re curious and up for discussion, ask why they think it’s dangerous. Really though. Get to that why. Do they think you’ll be kidnapped? Attacked by animals? Instantly be eaten by the trees and vanish forever? Starve? Figuring out why they think it’s dangerous may give you the answer on how to talk to them about it or what to do to make them feel better. (It may give you a good laugh too!)
Another option is to shoot back some statistics. Contact your local park service or rangers and ask how many rescues or incidents have happened in your hiking area in the last year. They should be able to share the data, give their professional guesstimation, or at least point you in the right direction to get an answer. And everyone will be shocked by how low those numbers are. Also feel free to point out, that people live alone and/or drive alone every day, which is just as, if not more, dangerous than hiking alone.
But some people will still not be convinced, even with the facts.
So, you can be a little proactive about this. Get a personal emergency GPS/beacon and always carry it with you hiking. I do carry a SPOT gps and it puts me and my family at ease. Especially because I know I don’t have cell service in a lot of areas I hike in.
You can also reassure this worried person that you have a plan, know what you’re doing, have the skills you need, and have a support person off trail who will come looking for you if they don’t hear from you.
Or, ask them to be your support person, if they’re willing! It may make them feel better to know your detailed itinerary, where you’ll be hiking and camping, and know when they can expect to hear from you. And make sure they know not to worry until your check in time has passed. Just know that they will form an army to come and find you if you don’t check in!
Like I said earlier, you really won’t be able to convince everyone you know what a magical and relatively safe thing hiking can be. But I can’t say enough how important it is to not let the naysayers get you down or worse, keep you off the trail. As long as you know that you can get out there and hike, that’s all that matters.
If you already have an awesome comeback in your back pocket for these people, let us know what it is in the comments below!
If you’re in the planning stages of a long distance hike, check out these extra resources:
- How safe is it to hike the Appalachian Trail alone?
- 12 Tips for campsite safety
- How much first aid training do you need to hike the Appalachian Trail?
- 10 skills every backpacker needs
PS – if you’re new to backpacking, download the Badass Backpacker Bundle now, for free! You’ll get the complete backpacking gear checklist, hiking first aid kit checklist, and a weekend-long backpacking meal plan, delivered right to your inbox.
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