Solo hiking in the wilderness can be intimidating.
What if you get lost? Or injured?
Who will help you put up your tent in that howling storm?
But this is outweighed by how empowering and peaceful it can be.
There are plenty of pros and cons of hiking alone, but if you’re a female there’s an extra layer of things to think about.
46% of men and 54% of women agree that it’s much riskier for women to go hiking alone than for men.
But if you do a little research into crime statistics and talk to seasoned solo hikers, you’ll soon realise this opinion is unfounded.
In fact, trails and national parks are pretty safe spaces to traverse alone.
The risk of being a victim of a violent crime is thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of times lower in a national park than in the country as a whole.
The cause of this is the fear-gender paradox – whereby women report a much greater fear of violent crime than men do, because of how society has raised us.
Women are taught that being alone is unsafe and that staying in well-lit and well-trafficked places is key.
But dangers of the city are less prevalent in the wilderness.
What we’re saying is that it is the fear that is holding women back, not the reality.
Women are evidentially not in any more danger in wild spaces than men.
Unfortunately women often perceive themselves as being less then they really are.
Less physically and mentally strong, less backcountry-savvy and more vulnerable. But they have no disadvantage to men.
The same risks remain for both sexes.
Changes in weather, unexpected environmental conditions, gear failure and injury are the biggest threats to any backpacker.
If you’re planning to go hiking alone, there’s a good chance you’ll receive more scrutiny from family and friends that your male counterparts might.
The best way around that is plenty of planning and preparation.
Do your homework – check the route details, camping facilities and locations, water points and weather forecasts.
Give your plan to a partner, parents or friends.
Alongside preparation, self-confidence plays a major part in appeasing fears around hiking alone as a woman.
This comes in part from knowing you’ve done the groundwork ahead of your backpacking trip and also belief that you have the right skills and experience under your belt.
Start small to build up that feeling of confidence in the outdoors.
Perhaps try hiking with a friend at first, moving from short hikes to multi-day adventures and then progressing to solo day hikes.
Alternatively, jump right in walking alone. A good place to start is somewhere you’ve already been or places you know will have a lot of people around.
Make sure you know how set up a tent, cook meals on a camp stove, carry all your own gear and repack your backpack, treat water, etc.
From here the natural progression of doing a night camping or at an overnight shelter will soon have you working towards your first major thru-hike.
And one of the best parts of going out alone is that your plan is yours alone, so you can change up your agenda as you need.
If you feel unsure, there is no shame in turning back or adapting your plan.
Handy Tips for Solo Female Hikers
Depending on where you’re planning to walk, there are some other little tips and tricks that might make you (or family members) feel a bit more relaxed whilst you’re out on the trail.
- Remember that you’re not the first female to hike solo and certainly not the only one working through these insecurities or fears. Reach out to other women who hike alone, read their blogs and talk to friends.
- The first couple of days on the trail can be daunting and it takes time to get comfortable with yourself and the knowledge that you’re out there alone. Just think back to previous walks and the stats around how much safer you are on a trail than walking around in a city.
- Whilst it’s nice to be polite and great to make friends, you don’t have to chitchat with someone if you don’t want to. If you feel uncomfortable just smile and walk on or change direction temporarily.
- Don’t post your location on social media. Although it can be tempting to tag the campsite or area you’re in, at least wait a few days until you’ve moved on.
- If you find yourself feeling on edge, particularly after the light starts to fade, purchase a little can of runner’s mace. Though you’ll probably never use it, it’s small enough to slot in the side of your backpack and serves as a safety blanket.
- Try to camp at least a kilometre from the road. Although it might feel safer to be near where there’s a flow of people, these are typically the most dangerous areas.
- Consider carrying a Spot beacon or satellite messenger so that you have the option of calling for help in an emergency, regardless of whether there is cell service. As well as safety, if you find yourself feeling a little homesick you have a constant two-way communication channel.