Going Solo

Until a few years ago, all my outdoor use had been with other people – partners, spouses, friends, groups & commercial companies. I now realise how valuable that time was as a learning experience. However a day came when I started to feel dissatisfied with being in a crocodile of people and relying totally on other people for navigation and information, and that encouraged me to try going solo. The info in this post is taken directly from my own action plan, which included advice from other outdoor people and rescue professionals.

Wark Forest
Pennine Way logger’s track, Wark Forest

General suggestions 

Before you go

  • Read and adhere to the Countryside Code or equivalent.
  • Respect the law and regulations of the country or area in which you are hiking
  • Empty out your rucksack and evaluate your kit to make sure that the essentials are there such as map, compass, power banks, relevant cables & some first aid items.
  • Personally I would recommend using a map and compass in conjunction with digital navigation as there is nobody else to consult if your battery runs out, you get lost, the weather changes or it starts to get dark, but opinions differ about this.
  • Do some research before you commit to buying items of kit.
  • Look at ways to reduce your pack weight.
  • Use reputable guidebooks or websites where the routes should have been tried and tested to start with.
  • Make the most of wifi and download any maps, GPX and apps you might need to your devices
  • Choose some day routes which you know and like, and do them in good weather to start with.
  • Consider joining a group as many offer walks, rides, routes, online resources, member discounts and social opportunities.
  • Try making lists of gear for day trips and multi day trips in different conditions.
  • Introduce gradual increases in the degree and variety of challenge in your trips, such as a walk in snow, a multi day trip, a high level trip, a wild camp, as and when you feel confident.
  • Consider a basic navigation course if you can afford it. In Britain the National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) is a good website on which to find out about navigation courses
  • It is worth knowing how to read your location coordinates on a map, although some apps give them. Rescue services in Britain can send you a text which, when you respond to it, reveals your location.
  • Research wildlife and insect risks and ensure you have adequate protection.
  • Seek out accommodation which advertises itself as walker / cyclist friendly.

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While you’re hiking

  • Leave no trace of your visit. Always carry out your rubbish, including organic waste like fruit peel, and bury your waste.
  • Report any access problems like locked gates or fallen trees if you can. In parts of Britain the Rambler’s Pathwatch app enables you to do this as you hike.
  • Keep checking the map to ensure you know where to find food and water if necessary and that you are prepared for potential hazards.
  • Check the weather forecast in advance and continue to assess the weather situation as you go.
  • Learn to listen to your instincts and your body about your personal goals, safety and wellbeing as there is no better judge.
  • Consider switching your phone onto Airplane mode when not needed to save power
Chesters5
Good paths heading north to Ingram

Personal safety suggestions.

  • Under 18s should always discuss plans with their parents / carers first.
  • In Britain the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland or Mountain Training NI are good starting points for advice and training.
  • Do leave route information with someone, whether it is family or accommodation providers.
  • Carry a map and compass, a mobile and spare batteries.
  • There are a variety of satellite tracking devices and personal locator beacons (PLBs) available which enable you to send distress signals and sometimes texts from anywhere. When the emergency button is activated these devices try to send details of your location via satellite to your contacts or Emergency services.
  • Consider changing route or hooking up with other people if you are feeling threatened. If the person persists and there is nobody else around, activate your emergency beacon or phone.
  • Delay sharing location details of your route or your plans online.
  • On campsites it may be worth camping near the site office or a family area if there is one.
  • The most important aim of any day out should be that there will be other days out.

Finally keep it in perspective and remember that you are usually safer anywhere in the countryside than in many cities.

Broadstruther
Wooler to Broadstruther. Viewranger & Ordnance Survey ©

6 thoughts on “Going Solo

  1. Thanks Bill and so sorry it has taken so long to reply, I think my notifications must have been awry. I also enjoy hiking in groups but I enjoy the challenge of solo hiking and find that I observe much more when I hike alone. I am glad the blog is the inspiration for any of your walks. The St Cuthbert’s Way is a special walk and worth doing at different times of year. Happy Rambling to you and your rambling group.

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  2. Hi Rose I follow you when I can on Twitter, you’ve done some excellent walks and were the inspiration for a walk I did with our rambling group on a section of St Cuthbert’s way earlier this year
    (Harestane’ to Melrose ) your piece on Solo hiking is very well written,thought provoking and informative, I find Solo walking extremely satisfying and you observe and see much more and at your own pace,though group walking is very enjoyable its great to get out on your own now and again. Happy Rambling

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  3. Thanks for the comment Sandra. I agree absolutely that there is a lot to be gained by walking alone and that you pay much more attention to your surroundings. I think you should say you are not confident enough for mountain walking YET as it may be that you will move towards this in time. As I said in the post you can always set your own levels of challenge as I am doing with wild camping. Happy walking 🙂

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  4. I belong to a Ramblers group and walk with them regularly but I love walking on my own most of all. Walking with others I find is more a social event and you could be anywhere as usually people are busy chatting and not taking much notice where they are going. Alone you can really soak up your surroundings, its more of a challange as it is completely in your hands where you go and your navigation skills really improve. Not confident enough for mountain walking though.

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  5. Many thanks for this Rose. I have been following you on Twitter and do admire everything you are doing. Thanks for the info on the National Navigation Award Scheme. That is what I need more than anything. Confidence…..

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