Is it safe to go hiking alone? I know hiking has its risks. As do a lot of things, but generally you want to feel that what you’re doing is relatively safe.
So as I sit here I’m thinking about doing a day hike to Mt Snowden in Wales and I fancied doing it on my own.
It got me thinking about the risks of hiking solo. So I decided to do some research on the risks of doing a hike alone. So…
Is it safe to go hiking alone?
Generally, hiking is pretty safe, but hiking alone does carry some risk that can be minimized as I’ll detail in this article. Risks associated with hiking alone are getting injured, animal attacks, sudden illness, getting lost and running out of light. Even with these risks, Hiking can still be enjoyed alone.
Even though hiking alone has its risks, it can still be a wonderful experience which will enrich the soul.
I love hiking on my own as it gives me some time to unwind and feel at peace with my surroundings.
I always feel pretty sure that I’ll be safe when I go solo hiking but if you’re still unsure let me easy that worry.
So let’s start by going into the dangers and then we’ll cover how to minimize any potential safety issues so you can feel happy and confident going out and hiking solo.
Why Is Solo Hiking Dangerous?
So the things I’ve listed below are real risks, but I’m not trying to scare you.
I’m just trying to highlight any possible risks so you can then just use your common sense and be able to minimize these risks to nearly zero.
Most things are completely avoidable and hiking alone can be 100% be enjoyed without worry and fear.
So here are the main things to be aware of:
Injury – It’s possible to injure yourself if you fall on a rock, or slip down an embankment or something similar.
Sunburn – If you’re hiking for a long time in bright sunlight especially in the summer you are at risk of getting sunburn which could also lead to sunstroke.
Sudden Sickness – If you have an underlying issue such as a heart problem, epilepsy, diabetes or something else you could fall ill whilst on your own.
Animal Attacks – Bears are an example of an animal you could potentially get attacked by.
Human Attacks – Getting attacked by another person on a hike.
Getting lost – Going for a long hike and losing your bearings and then getting completely lost.
Running out of light – If you got lost for example you could find yourself in the dark if you don’t make it back quickly.
So most of those things are pretty rare occurrences but if you want to feel safer when hiking solo then you can take up some safety measures.
How Do You Stay Safe While Hiking Alone?
When hiking alone you need to take some common sense precaution before you head off alone.
You can be prepared for all scenarios with little effort and you’ll enjoy your hike a whole lot more.
Below I’ve listed the precautions you can take for each potential safety issue.
Something that I advise is to create a checklist before you go on your hike and then check off every precautionary action you will take.
That way you’ve got everything with you that you’ll need and you’ll feel fully prepared before you go.
So let’s talk precautions.
Safety Precautions When Hiking Alone
Injury Safety precaution:
The most common injuries would be from things like slipping and hurting yourself as you fall.
So a simple piece of advice is to get good quality hiking boots and a hiking pole.
If you’re prone to rolling your ankle then I would advise getting mid cut hiking boots as they have more protection for your ankle.
I did this in-depth article on low cut vs mid cut hiking boots that you should check out if you’re not sure what boots are best for you.
Also, hiking poles are worth considering as they will help you keep your balance as you hike.
You should definitely not buy cheap hiking poles from your local supermarket as my friend bought some cheap hiking poles and his broke on the first day using them.
One snapped and he took a big tumble and gave his head a good bump as well. Luckily he was ok but it could have been worse.
Getting some strong poles is worth the investment if you use them.
This is so simple to prevent. Just remember to put suncream on.
It’s so easy to forget to put it on, but if you are hiking and the sun is beaming down on you then you could easily get sunburnt.
I had it so bad once I had to go to a skin doctor as my face got badly blistered. I know not a pretty thought.
You need to remember to keep it in your hiking daypack at all times as if you forget it you won’t be able to put it on anyway.
Another precaution against sunburn is to cover up with a long t-shirt and a good hat with a neck flap.
Sudden Sickness Precaution:
There are many types of pre-existing medical conditions that people have.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition that could be a potential issue then I know you aren’t stupid and you already know you need to make sure you have medication on you.
If you’re diabetic you know to have insulin on you, if you’re allergic to bee stings then you know to have an EpiPen on you.
That still doesn’t stop you from being human and forgetting them.
The best thing to do is use a checklist before you head out for your hike.
If you do then you will check before you go out that you have it on you just in case.
Another thing you should think about is leaving for your hike with a full phone charge.
And keep a power bank with you in case you need to top up the charge. If something happens then you can call for help.
Also, let others know where you are going so if you don’t come home when you should they’ll know where to look for you.
You could also get a tracking app that will let others see where you are in case something happens.
That way they will find you easily.
Animal Attacks Precaution:
Man I swear I’m terrified of seeing a bear on a hike, thank god you don’t see them in England but they are not cute cuddly toys if you see them out in real life.
A bear could eat you up for dinner if it wanted.
The truth is, the chances of being attacked and killed by a bear or any animal on a hike is super rare.
Honestly, most animals are scared of us anyway. Even bears, they don’t want to eat you, they want to be left alone and will keep away from you.
You just need to use your common sense here and not go near any animals if you see them.
Just calmly walk away in the opposite direction.
If you’re in brown bear territory then carry bear spray to prevent them from attacking you if you do accidentally come across one.
Human Attacks Precaution:
Again attacks from other people whilst on a trek is really rare but in a very rare chance, it could happen.
So if you want to feel comfortable then the best thing you can do is carry pepper spray.
NOTE: You need to check it’s legal in your country as pepper spray is illegal in some countries such as the UK.
The UK has an alternative called self-defense spray which can give you vital seconds if a person attacks you.
If you’re a femal you could carry a rape alarm as well.
Even though there might not be anyone about to hear it the noise might still scare an attacker off.
So it’s still worth having it.
The pepper spray or defense spray will be your best defense against an attack unless you want to learn Krav Manga!
Getting Lost Precaution:
It’s so easy to walk and be enjoying the scenery and then think, hey where am I?
And if your trek is not well signposted then you could be trying to head back to where you came from but end up walking the opposite direction.
Thankfully this doesn’t need to happen!
Introducing technology! Yes, that’s right unless you’ve just come out of a 25-year Cryopreservation then you obviously know your phone has GPS.
And did you know that your phone GPS will still work even without Wifi or phone signal?
Your phone can still pick up satellite signals even when on airplane mode.
It’s the same way a Garmin GPS tracker would.
Just make sure to download the maps to your phone’s app beforehand and you’re good to go.
Another tip is to pinpoint your starting location so you know where to head back to.
I made this mistake once and after a few hours of walking, I wasn’t actually sure where I started on the map.
Lucky though, I found my way back!
If you don’t want to use your phone then you can always buy a hiking GPS instead.
Also, it would also be advisable to keep a compass and know how to use it.
Something else I should mention is food.
You should bring some extra food in case you do get a little lost.
Bring some high energy snacks like nuts or energy bars as they will keep you going if you get hungry and lost.
Or you could also try to find some edible plants. I don’t know much about that, best get a book or learn from Bear Grylls on that one!
Running Out Of Light Precaution:
Come on, this is easily preventable, just be sure to check when sunset is before you head out and then be mindful of the time when you’re hiking.
And don’t go too far out if you know you only have a few hours of light left.
As long as you don’t get lost you’ll be fine.
As a precaution, I would bring a headlight that you can put on in case of you not making it back before sundown.
At least you will have some light to guide your path if you accidentally leave it a little late in getting back in time.
Also I forgot to say, if you get lost and run out of light you will no doubt feel a change in the weather so it’s worth keeping a spare clothing layer or two just in case of the rare chance you get lost and caught in the dark trying to make your way back.
So there ya go.
Pretty common sense stuff but you still need to take action on these precautions otherwise there is no point of knowing what to do.
I’m pretty sure you’re smart and won’t be taking any unnecessary risks!
Something I did wanted to briefly touch on is woman’s safety as I think there might be a perceived idea that women are more at risk when hiking alone, so I thought I’d quickly talk about that.
Is It Safe To Hike Alone As A Woman?
So are you more at risk of something bad happening to you if you’re hiking sole as a woman?
Well, it turns out that you’re actually really safe on a hike when it comes to crime in comparison to normal day to day living.
In that same year, there were 16 murders on Park Service land and 14,249 murders nationwide.
As you can see, you’re really really safe in comparison. I would say you are much safer going for a hike on your own over having a walk around town on your own.
As long as you take proper precautions as mentioned in this post, you will be remarkably safe against crime, so just go out and enjoy yourself.
Should you feel safe going hiking solo? For sure! Just take proper precautions and then go enjoy the beauty of being outside and enjoying the peace and serenity of it all.
Being on your own with time to relax, unwind and connect to nature is something we must all do from time to time.