Why I Hike Alone

Contrary to generally accepted advice about always hitting the trail accompanied by a partner or as part of a group, I almost always day hike and backpack alone.

I often make last minute decisions about when and where to hike based on my sometimes erratic work schedule and the weather. I find it hard, weeks ahead of time, to commit to another person or group and join them on the trail. I might decide the day before or even in the morning to hit the trail for a six to eight mile day hike, and that does not give me a lot of time to find a hiking partner or others to decide whether or not to join me. When I recently embarked on what ended up being a four day and three night backpacking trip, I did not decide what day I was going to begin my trip until the day before, and only then because I had to reserve camp sites ahead of time.

Although I am not antisocial, I am an introvert, and I like my quiet and alone time. I do not want to carry on a conversation with a hiking partner or participate in a group discussion while on the trail. Hiking alone, in silence, increases my chances of encountering and spotting wildlife. Only when I suspect that bears might be in the area will I attach a bear bell to my pack or a trekking pole, but even its little jingles are less bothersome and intrusive than an ongoing conversation with someone several feet away from me.

trail-tee

When I hike alone, I can hike as fast or as slow as I like and need. I do not worry about a straggler falling behind or slowing down the leader, even if the straggler or leader is just one other person. Furthermore, I can pack and prepare the food I want without taking another’s tastes or dietary restrictions into account. At night, I can snore as loudly as I want without disturbing others and without their snoring disturbing me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have indeed enjoyed hiking and backpacking with others. I have enjoyed several backpacking trips with a hiking partner and a few as part of a larger group, but in the past several years, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Since I do often hike and backpack alone, I always let someone know where I will be going, and when cell phone service is present, I use Facebook to “check in” at the beginning and end of my trek.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Mark Stanavage : Jan 28th

    Can’t agree more! I too love the total freedom. I really like people and the trail seems to bring out the best in us. That being said, hiking solo means when I stop to hang out and talk to someone, I can focus on them and not have the distraction of a partner waiting on me. Like you, I would remind aspiring solo hikers to leave a hike plan with someone and text, call, whatever at end of day for sanity of those that love you and so there is a last reported location in case of trouble.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      John Edward Harris : Feb 1st

      To say we should start a solo hiking club seems like an oxymoron. I have not read any statistics but my hunch is that most AT thru hikers hike solo. Even while we are alone we are not alone. Thanks for the reply.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Frank : Jan 29th

    Agree here also. I do enjoy my alone time. Planning a thru hike in 2018.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      John Edward Harris : Feb 1st

      Thanks for the reply. I assume you are planning a solo thru hike.

      Reply

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