As hikers, we always need to be safety conscious, mostly due to the fact that if an accident happens, we’re not exactly within range of easy help.
As a solo hiker that means we’re responsible for every aspect of our own safety from researching trails, checking in on the weather and fire alerts as well as ensuring we have emergency provisions like food, water and first aid.
But there are other valid aspects of safety that come with hiking solo; they may be relevant to you and maybe they’re not. But for some hikers these safety concerns can be challenging and not often talked about. So we’re going to open the conversation.
Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’re in the middle of a beautiful Aussie forest. On your own. There’s no sounds of civilisation, nothing except bird calls and a slight breeze rustling through the leaves. There’s no visual signs of civilisation either, just towering gums, spiky grass trees, native flowers and maybe a cockatoo or two.
Really put yourself in the moment….
…. be honest with yourself
… how do you feel?
The sensations that come with this visualisation may either be peaceful and serene or an uncomfortable feeling of isolation.
And both are totally ok!
In reality, solo hiking isn’t for everyone. Some folks honestly crave the peace and quiet of the bush, finding a mental rest away from being social. Others enjoy the trails for the outdoor invigoration that nature and moving brings, but that quiet isolation isn’t part of the joy for them.
We’re all different but we all get something out of hiking, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it! And for most people, there’s probably at least one aspect of hiking that they don’t particularly enjoy, even if it’s something as simple as the amount of driving time it takes to reach the trail.
But as with all aspects of our lives, how we hike and what we get out of hiking, is only relevant to the person doing it.
Honour what you enjoy and be ok with what you don’t.
Not Comfortable Being Alone
In life, it’s likely that all of us have felt uncomfortable being alone at some point, and some more than others.
Without doing a deep dive into psychology, everyone has their reasons for feeling this way.
But if that’s something within you, that you’d like to challenge a little bit, then hiking solo can definitely help.
Whether alone time makes you feel too introspective or uncomfortable without company, then spend your solo hike flower spotting or challenging yourself with an increase in striding speed. Have something else to focus on other than your own thoughts.
This is not the time to test your limits. Choose shorter trails that don’t keep you out long enough for uncomfortable feelings to set in. Use popular trails where your alone time is broken by passing hikers, for a fleeting social reset.
Create a scenario that will challenge you just a little but the overarching result should be enjoyment!
For the ladies, we want to preface safety concerns around men with a few things we’d like you to consider.
Outside of extremely rare cases, blokes that hike enjoy nature, peace, exercise, a physical challenge, nature photography, practising survival skills, a break from work, me-time and exploring.
You have a lot in common with other hikers, male or female!
Hikers recognise like minds and are highly likely to say a friendly hello, give way on single tracks and might even answer/ask questions about the trail.
In fact, for solo hikers, other hikers are the most willing, most prepared and the most available help for you in the event of an emergency. Particularly blokes because they thrive in high pressure scenarios and protection is often an automatic instinct.
We’d also encourage you to take quiet notice of the men you pass on the trails. They’re often with someone else, like a wife or girlfriend, or with another male friend; they’re often chatty, they smile, and their body language is relaxed and friendly.
But as with women, even men can be shy and reticent. So even if a passing male hiker says nothing or doesn’t make eye contact, don’t stress about it, just keep on with your hike. We’re all there for different reasons (remember the me-time we mentioned earlier!).
Body language says a lot!
Take notice of the cues we’ve mentioned BUT if something doesn’t feel right to you – move on. Trust your gut.
As a not so confident solo hiker, use short popular trails because there’s more people around (safety in numbers) and it’s not so far to your car if worry gets the better of you.
Hiking has a way of making you face a lot of challenges, both physical and mental.
Confidence in particular, comes with experience, both with the trail itself and the people you encounter on the trail.
For some people self defence classes help bridge a wider gap in their confidence they perhaps feel they can’t manage by themselves. And the first thing you’ll learn is that confidence is a big deterrent to anyone thinking of harming you.
We’ve mentioned a few things already that can make you feel vulnerable hiking solo, particularly as a newbie.
The trick is to identify what those things are (every person is different) and making plans to help reduce any negative feelings.
This does mean having to be pretty honest with yourself – but honestly that’s one of the gifts that hiking inspires. It’s not just about physical and mental wellbeing but there’s an element of personal growth as well.
Consider some of the things you’ve already achieved!
- Finding the time to hike in a busy life
- Building fitness
- Meeting new people
- Learning new skills
So what else can you do to not feel so vulnerable? Confidence, knowledge and practical experience are key. Maybe check out some of our previous blog posts.
Our beginners guide to hiking covers a lot of the fundamental basics of hiking, whether you’re on your own or not. Knowing you’re fully prepared adds a layer of self-reliance and assurance.
Getting lost is often a deterrent to hitting the trails on your own. Build your confidence by practicing these navigation skills on trails you’re already familiar with.
Emergency events can put even an experienced hiker’s confidence to the test, mainly due to the adrenaline rush that your body experiences in stressful situations. Knowing what to do in an emergency will add to your hiking skill set.
How to Prepare For Your Solo Hike
- Always pack your essential hiking gear (which you’ll find in our beginner’s guide)
- Use familiar trails to build up your navigation skills and confidence
- Take note of how long the trail is and how long it should take to finish it
- Tell someone where you’ll be; what time you’re leaving, which trail you’ll be on and when to expect you back
- Don’t deviate from the trail you say you’re going to take!
- Consider having a check-in system with a friend. Get them to call or message you at a particular time (maybe halfway through your hike). If you don’t respond they can call for help. Or you could have a code word that you can say or text in reply that means you’re in trouble.
- Keep your emergency whistle around your neck. It’ll be much easier to access if you need to raise the alarm. The sound travels much further than your voice and other hikers will likely know it’s an emergency and come to your aid.
- Plan to hike on weekends when there are more people around. On weekdays even popular trails can be very quiet.
Test The Waters on These Trails if You’re New to Solo Hiking
We’ve put together a list of enjoyable trails for hikers brand new to solo. They’re short and popular with other hikers.
Whistlepipe Gully – this 3.5km trail is perfect for everyone, including kids and dogs and only takes a couple of hours
Sixty Foot Falls – a 2.1km loop trail (with some good hills) that should take you about an hour. Very popular with dog walkers and families.
Stacey’s Loop – another family friend trail, a 2km loop that takes about an hour.
Lesmurdie Falls – another popular trail only 3kms and takes 1-2 hours.
For Solo Hikers With Experience
These day hikes are much longer but have some great scenery and are popular with other hikers.
Eagle View – a 15km loop trail that should take 3-5 hours
Kitty’s Gorge (from Jarrahdale) – one of our favourite trails and popular with other hikers too, this one’s a 16km return that will take about 4-5 hours.
For Your First Overnight Solo Experience
The Perth Hills Discover Centre is close to the city with a great campground to base your hikes from. The campground has good facilities making it great for first time solo campers. The Bibbulmun Track passes right by so this is a great base if you want to spend time solo, but not necessarily out in the wilderness.
For a hike in, camp overnight and hike out solo experience, consider following the section of the Bib between Kalamunda and Hewitt’s Hill Campsite. If you start from the Northern Terminus, the hike is about 12kms and takes about 4 to 5 hours each way. You can opt for a shorter hike in/out buy starting from the Camel Farm, making this a 3km hike in.
When it comes to hiking, always do what’s best for you.
Yes, challenge yourself but also be kind to yourself. Keep your challenges small and achievable. The goal of hiking is always to enjoy it in whatever way suits you!
Maybe after reading this, you’ve realised that solo hiking isn’t for you and that’s totally ok!
That’s a big reason why Off The Beaten Track does what it does! We get to share our love of the beautiful Aussie landscape with you on our tours – because we get it!
We love to bring people on wonderful hiking experiences where they can just rely on our expertise and enjoy a great day out.