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One of the joys of hiking is doing it with other people. Especially training for mountaineering, but with busy work schedules and life, it's sometimes hard to find partners to consistently go with. You shouldn't let this stop you. Here are some top tips for hikers that are especially important for solo hiking.

Risk tolerance

Know your limitations and stick to the trail.   As a solo hiker, you should have a lower risk tolerance than being with a partner who can help or summon help in an emergency.  Especially if you are traveling on a trail without much traffic.  When hiking alone factor in additional tolerance for the weather, amount of gear needed, exposed spots on the trail, allergies, and turn around times (hint: Cairn’s ETA feature shows your time to destination and adjusts as you hike based on your current speed).

Leave a Detailed Trip Plan

Send a Cairn to contacts before you leave. Letting family and friends know where you are going, allow them to track you real-time, the time you are expected back, what they should do if you don’t check in, and other details are one of the best ways to help Search and Rescue save time in finding you. Cairn makes it super easy (less than a minute) to do this by email or SMS.  Contacts can then track your progress and even be alerted to your device battery status at each point. It also shows you where there is cell coverage which you can download on offline maps.

Carry the updated 10 essentials.  

As a solo hiker, it’s even more important because you don’t have a partner who you can share essentials with.

  1. Navigation (offline map, compass, smartphone, extra power, and Cairn app)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing- see below and sleeping pad)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid kit
  6. Fire (waterproof matches or magnesium fire starter)
  7. Repair kit and tools (multi-tool)
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water and purification method)
  10. Emergency shelter (poncho or small tarp)

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Learn and practice some basic survival skills.

ZipOutoors has put together a good survival guide for hikers that breaks down simple skills including a video on how to read a map. 

Pack extra clothing

Clothing is the first line of defense against the environment and one of the most important factors.  Since exposure is one of the leading causes of death in the wilderness, this is one of those items that will help reduce risk.  Focus on layering.  Start with a good base layer (long underwear top & bottom) that’s breathable.  Depending on how cold it is and your activity level you’ll want to bring insulated or fleece tops, insulated or fleece bottom, a shell top & bottom, at least 1 extra pair of socks, gloves (can be base & shell), a warm hat (watch cap), and extra dry t-shirt or long sleeve shirt in event your base layer gets wet.  Wear a tough pair of insulated (such as 600 grams of Thinsulate Ultra Insulation) waterproof (100% Gore-Tex) boots.   I also recommend packing hand and foot warmers.

Take a wilderness first aid course

Practice how to bandage yourself and read up on self-aid improvising.  Realize self-aid is different than what is taught in much other first aid or wilderness first responder courses.   This will also give you confidence and build experience.

Stay fit

Having a high level of fitness will allow you to push through, cover larger distances, and get out of tough situations when you encounter an emergency.  I recommend using one of the FitClimb fitness plans to stay in shape when not hiking.

Managing Batteries

Devices such as headlamps, radios, GPS, PLBs, and smartphones have been indispensable to wilderness activities.  Prolong use and the cold can drain batteries.  In cold one option to extending your device battery life is to ensure the battery and device are warmed up before using, do this by storing on your body between layers of clothing or holding it for a few minutes.  Pack extra power in the form of extra batteries or chargers.  There are many new and economical charging devices on the market from solar to crank ones.  Follow these 6 tips for managing your smartphone battery in the wilderness.

Got a tip I missed? feel free to post in the reply.

Adventure On!

Ali Alami

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