Backpacking Alone: How To Go Solo On The Trail

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Sometimes, it can be a bit scary or possibly a bit thrilling to go backpacking alone. It does not matter where you plan to go. Honestly, it does not even matter if the area is dangerous or considered tame by all estimation.

When solo backpacking, you need to keep a lot of things in mind. On solo backpacking trips, the most important of all is safety. Of course, that safety we speak of is mostly involving yourself. Yet you must also think of other beings you might come across that should be considered.

Depending on where you go, there might be a lot of animals or possibly other people you come across. Make sure not to harm the environment if at all possible. This means if you do hunt, you should only do so with animals you can catch with ease and not those that are incredibly dangerous.

You should also practice gun and knife safety so that you do not accidentally harm other people that could come by. Always be on your game, but only use forms of lethal force if you have to.

While this article will mostly be about protecting yourself or doing things backpacking on the trail by yourself for the first time, we did want to mention others too.

Tell Others Your Path Backpacking Solo

backpacker with a cellphone

Before you EVER go solo backpacking, we always recommend telling someone. This can be a parent or sibling, or even a friend. The best way is to tell multiple people. Make sure to tell them the exact path you’re deciding to take and the locations you should be in.

We do not advise telling people you’ll be in a specific place by an exact time and date. The reason for this is that you might very well be in a situation when you could run into a problem like a major storm, or possibly even that you just decided to take your time.

The best thing to do would be to tell them that you’ll give them a call specific days of the week or you’ll check in with them AT LEAST once a week. This will allow you to tell them where you are then and where you expect to be this time next week.

Giving yourself a week to, say, reach 50 to 80 miles is pretty fair for an experienced solo backpacker. If it’s your first solo backpacking trip, we’d recommend 30 to 50 miles as this is much easier to deal with…especially if you’re going on a straight path without any mountains to climb.

This will give people a map of where you’ll be and, therefore, if you do not call or show up where you planned to be…people can send help to find you.

Take Specific Supplies With You

portable solar cell

We all know it is smart to take a knife, snacks like protein bars, as well as to take bottles of water with you on your journey. It is obvious to take a fire starter such as matches, a lighter, or a Ferra-Rod. Most even know it is right to take a flashlight with you and a light backpacking tent. Know how to use everything you take. You won’t be able to rely on someone else.

What tends to get missed here are the little supplies that people do not always think about. The types we’re specifically referencing are things that people can use to better stay alive. One of those is water purification tablets.

These tablets are cost-effective and very easy to use. We prefer the version from Aquatabs. The brand makes tablets that are next to nothing cost-wise. Just one tablet purifies just under a liter of water, making it safe to drink in about 30 minutes.

Another thing we’d advise taking is solar batteries. These can be quite costly at times but you can get some for under $100 too. They will obviously charge in the sun, so you can let it charge up for you while you’re walking around.

By the time you need to charge your phone or anything else, you’ll be good to go.

Meanwhile, if you plan to stop somewhere that you know you’ll have access to electricity, you can take rechargeable batteries too. These types of batteries will be possible to charge with your solar battery but save that power if you can charge them with normal electricity.

Finally, a good large jar of baby wipes or alcohol wipes. You’ll know when you need them. Also bring proper hygiene products like toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, and other toiletries. Lastly, for peace of mind, a good first aid kit is a must.

Consider Your Budget Solo Backpacking

backpacker with debit card

You do not need to take a wad of cash with you while backpacking these days, as we do have both debit and credit cards to use. However, you should consider your budget and plan accordingly for anything you might need on your way.

That means things like good food and drink budgets, as well as a budget you need to consider if you plan to stay anywhere other than the outdoors.

Hostels & Church Stays:

You can consider places such as Hostels over motels or hotels. A lot of these hostels are free or cheap to stay in, but sometimes a bit dangerous. It truly all depends on the type you go to if we’re being honest.

Keep in mind, you’re going to be in a random place with people you do not know. Likely even sharing a room with them. Things can get stolen and people can get assaulted. Therefore, there is a level of danger here at times. Check into ones you might come across to see any potential risks they have been connected to.

Others are fantastic places with lockers for your stuff, small but private rooms with locks, as well as shower rooms that can be locked. They’ll have a great, efficient staff member there at all times of the day that you can speak with about any issue that arises. Some will even have security.

Although the kitchens or living spaces will be multi-person, you’re there with more people and that can feel safer for most too. Yet you should still be aware that there is still some risk for solo travelers, so don’t think it’s good to feel overly comfortable.

There are also some churches that allow people to stay for a night at a time, depending on where you are in the world. The same for some campsites, where they might be free for people. Simply check-in with them, and ask. It cannot hurt.

Showering:

When solo backpacking, you do need to shower, and these places will have facilities to do that. Yet there are some public beaches that will cost next to nothing to get into if they charge at all. Many of them have shower rooms people can use.

The same thing for several of the rest stops across America. Some do charge people to use the showers while others do not. It truly all depends on where you are.

Keep in mind, most of these places will not be guarded by security. At least, not guarded 24/7 for sure. Therefore, you should think of this like Hostels. Good options, especially for saving money. But there is still a level of danger you MUST consider.

Yet this is also why we brought up alcohol wipes above. These can be great to clean your body with during times when you cannot afford somewhere to shower, or simply cannot make it to one. We’d recommend only using these a few times a week and not every single day, as they could cause skin irritation when used too often.

Have Some Level Of Survivalist Knowledge

survival food

Before you go backpacking solo, you should know how to survive on your own. This means you need to have some level of survivalist knowledge. You’re going to be in the middle of nowhere alone most of the time while backpacking, of course.

No matter where you are while hiking alone, anything could happen. With the potential for anything to go wrong, you need to be prepared for it. This is where survivalist knowledge comes in handy. Anything in the wild and on your person can be used to help you if things go wrong.

Whether a major storm hits out of nowhere or you get injured, perhaps something else entirely, your knowledge before going is crucial. If you’re unsure, simply take specific information with you such as a survivalist guide.

You should not rely on your phone or the internet, however. This is because you may not have access to either when you’re out there. Therefore, a hard copy of something is better to have just in case. Remember, survival is all about being prepared for anything.

We feel this, combined with everything else we mentioned, will help you have a great time while solo backpacking wherever that happens to be. Remember to stay safe, keep aware of your surroundings, but most of all…just have fun on your solo backpacking trip!

survival quiz