Solo Backpacking Tips
Solo backpacking means peace and quiet. No one to talk to means no words are put between you and the beauty around you. The miles just flow. It's entirely up to you to say when you eat or take a break. Want to jump in that alpine lake? It's your decision alone. It's a unique experience.
A solo backpacker also is vulnerable. Twist your ankle, and there's nobody there to help you. Have you ever been stuck alone without food for days? How can you make your solo backpacking trip safe? You can't. It's inherently more dangerous to go alone into the wilderness. What you can do though, is make it safer.
Some Solo Backpacking Tips
1. Tell someone where you'll be, and when you expect to return. It's probably best if you leave a map with them, and let them know who to call if you don't return on time.
2. Bring a cell phone. I don't do this yet myself, but many lives have now been saved by cell phones. Turn it off and put it in the bottom of your pack so it won't bother you.
3. Bring the usual safety items (matches, 1st aid, iodine tablets, etc), but double-check to see if they are there and in working order, as you'll have nobody elses supplies to back you up.
4. If you're not sure of your abilities, or have a bad knee or other potential problem, stick to well-traveled trails. On many routes, another backpacker will be by every hour. That's good to know if you're in trouble.
5. Learn well how to read a map and use a compass. If you are two miles off route and can't get a signal on your phone when your knee gives out, you're in trouble. Even if you like to wander, you should be able to know where you are on the map for safety.
6. Know your abilities. Don't plan on twenty-mile days if you haven't done them before.
7. Learn to lighten your load. When you're alone, you lose the efficiency of sharing the load for stoves, tents and other common items. It's easy - and dangerous - to become overloaded when yours is the only backpack. You might want to read up on ultralight backpacking.
Solo backpacking is riskier, but for some of us, it's well worth the risk. Try it, and you might agree. Just be sure to take the necessary precautions.
Steve Gillman is a long-time backpacker, and advocate of ultralight backpacking. His advice and stories can be found at http://www.TheBackpackingSite.com
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