Starting Out Alone: A First Timers Guide to Thru-Hiking

Are you itching to get out of the house and explore nature? Whether it’s your first time hiking alone or ... Read more

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

Woman hiking alone, waiting on a road to catch a hitch
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Are you itching to get out of the house and explore nature? Whether it’s your first time hiking alone or you’re an experienced solo hiker, this blog post is for you!

I’ve worked to assemble a comprehensive guide on how to start hiking alone, including tips to help keep you safe, what gear to bring, and more. So grab your backpack and let’s hit the trails!

Woman hiking alone, waiting on a road to catch a hitch

Research Your Trail

It’s essential to take some serious time and research the trail you plan to hike before you start.

Make sure you know details like the length of the trail, the typical expected time required, the weather anticipated, the terrain, and any possible dangers.

Check for recent reviews from other hikers on apps like FarOut, as this can provide helpful information about the route and any potential hazards.

Additionally, make sure to check the weather again ahead of time so that you can dress accordingly and adjust any necessary supplies.

Before you set out, be sure to map out your route in detail and bring a physical map with you in case your cell service is limited or unavailable.

Bring a Map

Before you set out on your solo hiking adventure, make sure you have a paper map version of your trail.

Even if you have a map stored on your phone or GPS, it’s still important to your safety to print or carry a physical map with you.

This is a great way to reduce the risk of getting lost and be able to double-check your location while you’re out on the trail.

Make sure to research the route ahead of time, familiarize yourself with the landmarks, and plan out your route before setting off.

If possible, try to get a map from the local hiking club or tourist center to help ensure that you have an updated version of what you’re getting into.

With a physical map, you can confidently explore trails without worrying about getting lost or straying off course.

Check the Weather

It is vital to your safety to check the weather before setting out on your solo hike.

Make sure you plan for sudden changes in temperature or precipitation that can occur unexpectedly and bring a puffy regardless.

Look for bright and balmy forecasts, but also be prepared for sudden storms. If you’re heading out on a longer hike, check the weather multiple times to make sure you have an accurate forecast.

It’s also important to be aware of the temperature in the area you’ll be hiking and pack enough layers of clothing to keep you warm and dry.

Additionally, consider carrying mace or bear spray for personal protection if needed.

Make and Share Your Plan

Once you have completed your research, you will need to make a plan and share it with someone.

Make sure to include the route you plan to take, your expected return time, and a list of any gear you will be bringing with you.

You should also pack a map, compass, and appropriate navigation tools such as a GPS unit.

Make sure that you tell someone where you are going when you are leaving, and when you plan on returning. This way if something goes wrong they can help get assistance to you quickly.

Finally, it is important to remember that the more prepared you are, the more enjoyable your solo hiking experience will be.

Research the trail and plan your route

When researching a trail and planning your route, it’s important to consult with rangers and read up on the terrain.

Check in with rangers ahead of time to make sure the trail is safe to hike and ask about any backcountry patrols that may be taking place.

Read up on the trail guide so you know what to expect before you go, and take special note of any turns or difficult sections that are coming up.

Have a basic understanding of the timeline for your hike and make sure you have enough food, water, and clothing for the duration.

Finally, share your plan with a friend or family member before you set off—this way they’ll know where you are and how long you should be gone.

Prepare an emergency plan

Once you have researched the trail, checked the weather, and made your plan, it is time to prepare an emergency plan.

Make sure to have your cell phone with you at all times so you can contact help if anything happens, as long as there is cell service, otherwise a locator or GPS may be preferable if very backcountry.

You may want to bring a signaling device such as a whistle in an emergency. Ensure you have a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies with you.

Be prepared for any potential hazards like wildlife, inclimate weather, or uneven ground. It is also important to stay open to learning from failure; any mistakes you make on your solo hike are all part of the learning process.

Share your plan with a friend or family member

It is important to share your solo hiking plan with a friend or family member. Letting a spouse, friend, or family member know where you are going and when you plan to return is essential before beginning any solo hike.

Also, leave an itinerary of your plan with someone you trust in case of an emergency, family, or trusted friends.

They should also have contact information for local search and rescue teams and other emergency services if needed.

Furthermore, staying in regular contact with the person you shared your plans with throughout your hike is important.

This way, they can call for help if necessary.

Cell Service and GPS

Cell Service and GPS are essential items to bring when hiking alone. It is vital to download maps to your phone and put it into airplane mode to conserve battery.

To ensure accurate satellite calibration, turn on your GPS and let it search for satellites, also numerous phone apps have trail maps available for both online and offline use.

These apps use GPS satellites, allowing you to use them without cell service. Additionally, a handheld GPS tracking device is an ideal way to locate yourself in case of an emergency, especially if you don’t have any cell service.

Lastly, if possible, dialing 9-1-1 is the best way to get help in case of an emergency as long as you have a cell signal.

Familiarize Yourself with the Route

It is important to familiarize yourself with the route you’re planning to hike before you start.

Start by reading up on the trail, and if possible, try to get a description of the route from a hiking guidebook or online. If you’ve never hiked alone, picking something easy or familiar is a great introduction.

You should also take some time to review a map of the area and plan your route. This will help you stay on track and provide a sense of direction when you’re out on the trail.

Once you’ve done this, make sure to share your plan with a friend or family member for safety.

Bring Enough Food and Water

In order to ensure a successful solo hiking trip, it is important to bring enough food and water.

An excellent way to gauge how much food and water you need is to aim for 200-300 calories of food per hour and eight ounces of water every 15 minutes.

It is also important to remember that consuming too much water can be dangerous, so snack on some trail mix or take breaks to eat even if you don’t feel hungry.

If you are hiking in an area with no cell service, it is a good idea to bring electrolytes in case of dehydration.

Taking these precautions will ensure a safe and enjoyable solo hiking experience.

Bring Enough Layers of Clothes

Bringing plenty of layers when you go out for a hike, especially if you’re hiking alone is essential.

Even if the forecast is mild, it’s possible for temperatures to drop or for rain to appear unexpectedly.

To stay comfortable and safe, choose a lightweight base layer that can be used in cold and warm weather and a few insulating layers.

For cold and dry conditions, a down vest or jacket is an excellent insulating layer, but be sure also to bring something waterproof in case of rain or snow.

For long trips, it’s a good idea to bring both a fleece or wool layer for warmth and a rain jacket and pants for wet weather.

Finally, don’t forget to pack extras like extra socks, hats, and gloves. With the proper layers, you can stay warm and dry no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

Be Open to Learning From Failure

Being open to learning from failure is an essential part of solo hiking. No matter how much research, preparation, and practice you do, there is still a chance that something could go wrong.

If you find yourself in a situation that didn’t go as planned, take a moment to reflect on what happened and learn from it.

This will help you become a more experienced hiker and better prepare for future trips.

Before your next journey, review the information you have gathered, take the time to plan accordingly, and always be aware of potential risks.

By taking these precautions, you can confidently embark on your next solo hiking adventure with the knowledge that you can handle any bumps along the way.


Hiking alone is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in solitude and to quiet the mind. By following the tips outlined above, solo hikers can ensure their experience is safe and enjoyable.

Make sure to research the trail ahead of time, plan your route, and take safety precautions such as bringing a map, checking the weather, and having an emergency plan in place.

Additionally, prepare for your hike by bringing enough food and water for the trail, and make sure to bring enough layers of clothing for any changes in weather.

Finally, be open to learning from failure and mistakes – you may surprise yourself with what you can accomplish!

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