When I first started hiking solo as a female I had to fend off concerns from well-meaning friends and family. Do you ever feel scared? Is it safe? What if you get attacked? These were just some of the many questions I had to answer. My answer was always that I personally feel safer hiking solo as a female in nature than I do wandering around an urban area. My reasoning (rightly or wrongly) is that I often go to very isolated areas that don’t get much foot traffic, no one is going to be lying there in wait in the hopes that eventually a lone female will come stumbling along. They will be waiting weeks and most likely get fed up before anyone came along.
Solo hiking as a female isn’t much different than solo hiking as a male, however, there are a few extra safety concerns to be aware of as a solo female hiker. Read on to find out what they are and hopefully empower yourself to take the plunge and head out solo.
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Set some safety boundaries + rules
Set some rules and boundaries for yourself. For example, it could be only sticking to trails you know when you are solo or not being the last one on the trail. You know your skills and limits so set them accordingly.
Another good thing to be mindful about is geotagging your location in real time. It can be tempting to update your followers with real time photos of the breathtaking views but it is a good idea to remove the GPS data and posting after you have come back again. Inaccurate, vague and delayed is a term I saw somewhere (can’t remember where though) and this is a great concept when it comes to solo hiking. You never know who is reading your social media posts.
Trust your gut
Your instinct is usually pretty spot on, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be smart and aware of your surroundings. Don’t panic every time you come across a solo male hiker, they are most likely out there for the same reason as you, to enjoy the trail, but do keep your alerts on and trust that gut.
Don’t immediately join other hikers
You are hiking solo for a reason! The freedom and independence you get from solo hiking are heady. It is understandable on your first few solo hikes to be a little unsure of navigation, camping along or just being out alone, however, the only way to get more comfortable about something is to do it. In saying that, if there is a group of hikers that are friendly and willing to help you out if you are a little unsure feel free to tag along (or follow slightly behind like a stalker) so you feel safer.
You know your limits and everyone is different. Do what feels best for YOU.
It’s ok to be scared
It’s okay to be scared by the thought of doing something new or unfamiliar. I was scared my first time as a solo female hiker so I stuck to a trail I knew and slowly graduated to more unfamiliar tracks as I got more confident.
The key is to differentiate between being scared because you don’t know what to expect, and being scared because there is imminent harm.
You are enough
Solo hiking often prompts surprise and disapproval from friends and family, which can, in turn, undermine your own confidence. You CAN do it, you ARE capable.If you have the skills to undertake the adventure you have planned, then you have them. Don’t shortchange yourself. Believe in your own abilities and prove everyone wrong.
Know your limits
Be honest about your confidence level and hiking abilities. A good hiker is one who’s not afraid to accept her limitations when they arise. Don’t be afraid to say no or turn around when something doesn’t feel right or is too dangerous. The mountains will still be there next time. Your safety is much more important than your ego.
I have had to change plans multiple times due to weather conditions or unexpected dangerous conditions and that’s ok, I made it out safely which is the main thing. Hiking teaches you humility and flexibility.
Clothing + Gear
You can buy specific women’s gear, some of that is redundant and a big ole marketing campaign but other gear it is important to get the right fit for your body. A good women’s backpack is one of these. Women’s backpacks have smaller frames, narrow straps and hip belts that sit higher on the waist. They’re more comfortable for women and have features designed for females. Things such as sleeping bags aren’t so vital (I use a men’s one as it is roomier which I like)
As for clothing, a good tight-fit sports bra will hold your puppies down. Try to avoid underwire if you can as they can be very uncomfortable with a heavy pack. Breathable underwear is best (no small, lacy numbers ya’ll, granny panties is where it’s at). Cotton underwear will cause bacteria to grow, it stays wet when you sweat or sit in a puddle and become very uncomfortable.
The rest of your clothing is a personal choice. Some like to hike in leggings, others trousers, others still shorts. As long as you have your basic layering system in place you will be right.
Base layer (underwear layer): wicks sweat off your skin
Middle layer (insulating layer): retains body heat to protect you from the cold
Outer layer (shell layer): shields you from wind and rain
- Menstrual supplies are a personal choice, some like to carry tampons and others a menstrual cup. Whatever you choose to use, carry two bags, one for your clean ‘menstrual kit’ and the other for waste (it is good if this one can be sealed such as a ziplock bag)
- Again, this is a personal choice. Some women don’t feel comfortable squatting. A pee funnel allows you to stand up to do number ones
- Some women suggest using a cotton bandana instead of toilet paper when you pee. Tie it to the outside of your pack to dry in the sun. Rinse it as often as you can.
- Hand sanitizer
- Personal wipes
- Safety whistle: This can be a deterrent to animals and humans as well as a way to call for help. Three blasts is the universal call for help.
- Bear spray: This could come in handy for bear attacks (or human interactions if warranted).
- Personal locator beacon (PLB): This is essential on any hike
- Consider wearing a fixed-blade, holstered knife in a prominent position on your belt. That can make someone think twice about hassling you.
- Carry a can of pepper spray made for personal self-defence if that makes you feel more secure.
Staying alert can be a challenge as you let your mind wander around the peaceful surroundings. However, be mindful to use your senses to be aware of your surroundings, this will enable you to use your gut when you notice that something isn’t quite right. Don’t wear earphones when you are hiking solo as they can cut out the ambient noise as well as distract you resulting in you being less connected with what’s happening around you.
When you are alert you are better able to notice subtle changes such as the distant rumbling of thunder, where the track doesn’t look quite right or the unnatural rustling of leaves.
Again, this is personal preference. If you feel safer carrying something for protection, by all means, do it. It can help to keep you staying calmer and feeling more in control. Some solo female hikers carry bear spray for personal protection against ‘unwanted’ attention, others rely on their trekking poles. A dog can definitely assist in calming fears when camping and hiking alone. Just make sure that your protection is legal because, well, jail time limits nature time.
Whether it’s safe to hike alone depends on how you feel, you need to feel safe and confident. In saying that, crimes against women in the outdoors are rare. Hiking solo can be a very empowering experience for women, but only do it when you’re ready.
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