Hiking Alone: 8 Safety Tips for Solo Hikers

Last Updated: April 2021

Hiking alone can seem like a daunting undertaking. However, for many hiking solo is an empowering and captivating activity.  

We have put together this list of 8 top tips to help solo hikers to stay safe and fully enjoy the experience.

When you start hiking alone you don’t have someone else to help you with things like picking a trail, navigation, packing, or carrying gear.

Everything is up to you, so you need to be able to rely on yourself entirely. 

We could talk about hiking tips all day, especially for solo hikers, but we narrowed it down to eight of what we think are the most important to consider when hiking alone. 

Personal safety should be a priority, even if you carry a tracking device or satellite phone.

Beyond knowing how to read a map and understanding the area weather patterns, here are a few things to consider before embarking on a solo hike.

hiking alone beach solo hiker blue sky

1. Have an Itinerary 

While you may know where you’re headed, and you’ve done the necessary research to feel confident in your plan, write it down.

When you’re hiking alone, especially when backpacking, at least one other person should be aware of where you’re headed, the expected route, and when you intend to return.

This way, if you get lost or hurt, someone will alert search and rescue as soon as possible.

Text a friend or family member your itinerary and even consider putting a printed copy in your car in case the authorities discover you’re missing first. 

2. Stay Hydrated 

solo hiker hiking alone drinking water

Hydration is vital to a successful hiking trip. If you are backpacking, you likely won’t be able to carry all of the water you need and will also need to plan for water stops. 

Knowing how to stay hydrated and filter your water safely while hiking is an essential skill for any hiker. 

3. Plan your Meals Properly

Eating the right kind of food and the right amount of food on the trail can take some trial and error. But once you have a few “go-to” backpacking meals and snacks for backpacking, this will be easier.

Just remember that you’re likely burning more calories than usual, so you may need to eat more frequently. 

4. Be Aware of Local Flora and Fauna 

solo hiking safety animals hiking alone

While this should be a concern whether you’re hiking alone or not, take extra precautions regarding knowledge of wildlife and plants in the area.

It is important to understand which plants may be poisonous to you and any potentially dangerous animals you could encounter.

If there are bears, know how to store food. If there are snakes, know what to do if you come across one and get a bite. 

5. Avoid Getting Lost

hiking alone map lost solo hiker

We never want to be lost, but there are extra steps you can take to avoid getting lost when hiking alone.

First, choose trails that are well marked and well-traveled. This will make you feel less alone and prevent you from second-guessing yourself.  A good place to start is this list of the best hiking apps for finding trails

Then, have a map and know how to read it, especially in the backcountry. When you come across intersections, even if you know which way is the right way, get into the habit of double-checking. 

If you do get lost when you are hiking alone, try not to panic. 

The best thing to do is to stop where you are and wait. This gives you a moment to collect yourself, observe your surroundings, retrace your steps in your mind, and take a closer look at your map.

A general rule for wilderness survival when lost is to stay in the same spot, so a search party has an easier time locating you faster. However, if you are legitimately able to reorient yourself, carry on. 

However, if there is uncertainty, always wait.

Hopefully, you’ve also brought a whistle because three blows of a whistle is a universal signal that someone is in distress. If there are others nearby, they will be aware that someone needs help in the area. It is also wise to consider investing in a quality GPS watch

Also, you should always have an idea of how long you will be on the trail. Check out our guide to estimating hiking times

6.  Invest in Quality Gear

hiking alone mountain beanie backpack mountain

There is no rule saying that you cannot go on a nice hike wearing running shoes and some athletic clothing.

However, if you choose to tackle a long hike or a multi-day trip, your gear list starts to get a bit longer and more detailed. You’ll need things like a backpack, tent, cooking equipment, etc. 

Investing in quality gear can be an expensive endeavor at the start, but it will be worth it. In the outdoors, quality is everything. After all, you have to carry everything you need to survive on your back! 

Quality over quantity should also be a rule when hiking alone. You don’t need much to survive in the woods for a few nights or even a few months on the trail. So, save yourself some pack weight and only bring the essentials

Hiking Shoes and Socks

Hiking is essentially a long, very scenic walk. So, if you’re using your feet the entire time, take care of them.

A good pair of shoes goes a long way, but don’t neglect your socks’ quality either.

Even the best pair of hiking boots with a lousy pair of socks will lead to discomfort and blisters. Brands like SmartWool and DarnTough are of the most reputable for quality hiking socks.

Depending on your budget and the terrain, your hiking shoes will be a very personal choice. Some hikers prefer to have ankle support, while others choose to wear trail runners because they’re lighter.  To help you find the right hiking footwear we put together this Best Hiking Boots Buying Guide.

Rain Gear

No matter the climate, always bring at least one item: a pack cover or garbage bag. The last thing you need on a solo hike is for all of your gear to get wet.

If you get wet, it isn’t as dangerous (unless it is cold). So, even if rain isn’t in the forecast, still pack rain gear to protect your pack. 

Ideally, you’ll also invest in a poncho or a raincoat to keep yourself dry too, but a good rain cover for your pack goes a long way. 

Waterproof gear extends to your tent as well. Be sure when you buy a tent that you are getting something that will work in the climate and season you’re hiking. 


Yes, you can get by on a short hike with just a fanny pack or a Jan sport backpack. Still, as you start to tackle more challenging terrain and overnight trips, your backpack needs to be comfortable, the correct size, and able to hold all your gear. 

Finding a backpacking pack or even a daypack that fits your needs is difficult. Mostly because there are so many options on the market. Before you invest in a new pack, decide what your intended use is and necessary features. To learn more, check out our Best Backpacks Buying Guide.

Bonus Item: Trekking poles are ideal for backpacking, especially on steep terrain. Trust us, these will save your knees. 

7.  Take Time to Train

hiking alone solo hiking training girl red shirt sunrise

One of the best parts about hiking alone is that you get to go at your own pace the entire time.

There is no pressure to wait for or catch up and match your hiking partner’s pace. However, that doesn’t mean that you should neglect to train before tackling a long backpacking venture alone. 

Being in good physical condition before a solo hike is one of the best ways to build your confidence and prevent injury. If you are feeling tired, sore, and lethargic the entire time you’re hiking, chances are, you aren’t having a very good time.

Optimize your experience by training ahead of time so you can truly enjoy the scenery instead of worrying about how sore your back and knees are the entire time. 

Some great ways to train for hiking and backpacking are to hike more!

If you don’t have access to hiking trails in your area, go for walks daily and try to find a hill or two. Biking, swimming, running, and other cardio types are also excellent ways to build endurance and strength. 

Don’t forget to do some cross-training, strength work, and stretching, either. For exercises you can do with relatively little equipment, check out these home workout guides.

8. Start Small and With What You Know

The best advice we can give anyone that wants to get into solo hiking is to start small and start with what you know. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but you should be smart and work up to larger trips. 

Remember, knowledge is one of your best friends in the wilderness. If you know what you’re doing, you will be confident and empowered to hike further. 

solo hiking alone mountain success man

Final Thoughts on Hiking Alone

No matter the distance you are hiking or the terrain, you only have one person you can depend on: yourself.

That means that you should be fully prepared to tackle unforeseen circumstances and be aware of potential dangers.

Personal safety should be a priority, even if you carry a tracking device or satellite phone. 

Use our top tips for people who like to hike alone before you start or before you pursue longer trails. 

For more information on getting started, check out our other outdoor how-to guides.

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