Sometimes it’s not always possible to go walking with others, on occasions you may need to hike alone. Or maybe that’s what you would actually prefer, setting out alone and getting away from everything your normal life is throwing at you. But is it weird to go hiking alone? Here we look at some benefits and some reasons to be cautious.
Benefits of Hiking Alone
There are definitely some benefits to hiking alone, and whilst you may have never considered it before, reading these points below may inspire you to consider going on a solo hike.
Boosting self esteem by having to rely on your self
When you are walking with a friend or in a group, you have someone to discuss options with – you come to a fork in a path and you’re not sure if it’s left or right; you can see a change in the weather ahead and you decide whether to plough on or seek shelter; you feel a bit peckish so want to stop and eat some of your provisions but it’s still quite early. When with other people it’s quite easy to discuss the options available and come to an agreement.
But if you are hiking alone then you need to make your own decisions. Look at the map and does it clearly answer your choice of left or right; have you planned ahead and brought a waterproof jacket or should you retrace your steps half a mile to that cafe you passed where you can seek shelter; if you eat now will you be able to make it all the way without feeling hungry again?
By putting yourself in the position of being the sole person who can make those decisions will start to boost your own sense of self reliance and esteem. See, you can make decisions, take in the information to hand and set the best course for yourself.
This even starts from the moment that you decide to go hiking alone – you decide where to go, you plan the route, set out what you need to take based on how far and how long you have decided to go for.
For some this may be a step too far, but if that is you, make sure you start by going on walks you have done before with other people. That way you have experience of what you are likely to come across, but the planning is still up to you – but you have a head start to help you.
Immersing yourself in nature
When you are walking with other people it’s so easy to walk along chatting and miss things. I am so guilty of this, although Nicky is much better than me.
We all know how walking in nature helps restore our sense of well-being, being outside in the fresh air and seeing flowers, trees, birds and wildlife, hopefully some stunning scenery and if you are at the coast then some stunning seas. Well with no-one to distract you, it’s possible to really immerse yourself in nature and marvel at all it has to offer.
The more you do this the sooner you get to relax and notice your surroundings. Who doesn’t marvel at the sound of an owl or woodpecker, or slow down when they see a deer grazing at the other end of a field? When you are hiking alone you will notice more as you won’t be mid-conversation and concentrating on your discussion.
Let your thoughts wonder
There are times in everybody’s life where we have things that we just need to think through. It may be a difficult relationship issue, a problem at work that needs some thinking through, maybe even a life changing decision. You need to get out and give your mind the time it needs to think through all the different scenarios and options.
By going on a walk alone you can use this time to really mull over your options and come up with the best solution to your particular problem. Set off and let yourself relax first, and after a mile or so you can let your mind start to tackle the issue.
If you are going for a hike alone for this reason then I really suggest that you go on a route you have already tackled and know well. That way you will relax quicker, and you won’t be concentrating on navigating and giving your mind something else to worry about.
Time alone from partner
Whilst it’s great to be with your loved one, there are times when you just need some time apart. I think the Covid-19 lockdown that we have experienced in 2020 has thrown couples together for far more hours than they are used to. Now whilst this has been great for some, others have had to get used to being around more than is their norm, and as such some relationships have been strained.It’s healthy to have your own interests, some time apart – it helps to cement your own feeling of self worth and when you do have time together you have more to talk about and share. Showing a real interest in your partner’s activities will also make them feel loved, although they may not want you around to join in necessarily.
Hiking alone can give your relationship a huge boost simply by giving you the space you need to breathe.
Other hikers in groups
If you are hiking alone and you meet a group then often you’ll find that they show some concern. They may want to make sure you are not lost, especially if you happen to be looking at your map or guide book at the time.
If you are at a beauty spot with a stunning waterfall or landscape, you may want to capture that as a memory. Whilst you can take a photo of the landscape yourself, you may want to have you in the photo too, especially in this Instagram age. Other hikers will often offer to take your photo for you, and that memory is cemented that much more.
Hikers are in general a friendly bunch, and they will often show concern without overstepping the mark, and respect your boundaries.
Setting your own pace
Sometimes when in a group, even if only a group of 2, you feel that you are either being held back or being rushed. When you hike alone you can set your own pace safe in the knowledge that you only have your own schedule to fit.
There are times when you are able to commit a whole day to walking, and as such you can slow down if required, stop and take a seat on a bench or fallen tree, take in the scenery and the nature surrounding you.
And if you want to stop for half an hour because you’ve seen some deer and you really want to take photos, you can set up a tripod, get comfortable, and hunker down whilst you capture the perfect shot.
Other times you know that you have only a couple of hours, but you really want to maximise that time by getting in as many miles as possible. In this scenario you can set off quickly without the fear of going slower because your walking partner cannot keep up.
Reasons you shouldn’t go hiking alone
So there are plenty of reasons to go walking alone, but there are also some reasons for not going alone too.
Probably the biggest reason to not going hiking alone is that of safety. Whilst I don’t mean to scare anyone, it is important to look at safety aspects of walking alone.
First of all, what happens if you fall and hurt yourself? You can easily trip over and twist your ankle, or maybe take a fall. Will you be able to carry on, or do you need to seek medical assistance? How will you get that help? There will be no-one else there to help you carry your rucksack, so trying to get to somewhere safe may be difficult.
You may also come across wild animals that are scared and for their own self preservation decide to attack you. Maybe you have encroached into the area they live and are worried you are trying to attack their young – their natural instinct is to protect their family, as would ours be.
And whilst 99.9% of people you meet out hiking are nice honest people, it may be that you happen across someone who sees an opportunity to steal from you or attack you. There is some safety in numbers, and someone dishonest may not be so keen to act if outnumbered.
The trail you have chosen is too challenging for you
It may be that you have set your sights too high, and having read about a walk that you really wanted to tackle, half-way through you realise that actually you cannot cope with the demands that it has thrown at you. What do you do then?
Whilst this could happen when in a group or with someone else, they may have looked at the route in advance and realised what was ahead and raised the question in advance. Even if not and you do find yourself in a challenging position, being with someone in that situation you are able to assist each other.
You never really want to get lost when on a hike, but it’s oh so easy to miss-read instructions, as we know from experience oh so well. But if you are walking alone then you have no-one to confer with, to try and make the best decision as to go forward.
Most times we get lost, we can discuss the instructions, find out where we are, and decide on the best way forward. But if you are hiking alone then you need to make those decisions yourself. Should you go back to the last point you know you were on track, or can you see on a map that actually you are not far off track and there’s an easy option ahead. If you’ve already been put into a panic and started to doubt yourself, it’s a lot easier to allow someone else to calm your nerves.
Loneliness and motivation
Loneliness is a real possibility if you are walking alone, especially if you have chosen a route which is not busy. Walk along the South Downs for example, and you’ll meet lots of people to say hello to, but if you are hiking somewhere remote then you may not see people for miles.
Now obviously lots of people would be fine with this, but if you do think it would be an issue for you, then you may well want to choose a route that’s a bit more popular.
If loneliness does hit, then are you going to be able to motivate yourself to keep going? Or will you seek to pull out at the next opportunity? Read here for more tips on motivation.
Multi-day walks – overnight accommodation
Going on a day hike alone can be quite a simple decision, but what about a longer hike alone – be it 2 days, a long weekend, a week or even longer?
First of all, you’ll have to decide on where you are going to put your head down at the end of the day. Will you be staying in bed and breakfasts en route? Or maybe you will be camping.
If you are going for the bed and breakfast route then obviously it’s down to you to establish how far you can walk each day, and book these in advance. But you won’t be able to spread the cost at all – can you afford it?
If you are going the camping route, then it’s all down to you to carry all the equipment you require and to setup your tent each night, cook your food, and wash up. Are you prepared for these extra chores alone when you may be feeling extra tired and potentially suffering from blisters? This may well also cut back the miles you can walk as you need to find a suitable place to pitch your tent in the light.
Conclusion – is it weird to go hiking alone?
Is it weird to go walking alone? No, of course it’s not weird at all, but it’s not for everybody. Most people would be happy to go for a short walk alone, but the longer it gets the more it will test your personality.
Key to any hike is preparation, and even more so when you are hiking alone. If you think about this and plan appropriately, then there’s absolutely no reason for not hiking alone, just as long as you take precautions.
The more I read up and learn about walking in different seasons, the more often I hear people say that gaiters are essential equipment for people walking or hiking. And having got very muddy the...
First shown in 2018, I watched Britain's Favourite Walks Top 100 today, presented by Julia Bradbury and Ore Oduba. This made great viewing for New Year's Day 2021 - a nice way to plan some walks for...