Car camping, backpacking, or hiking by yourself can be intimidating. But we’ll let you in on a little secret—it can also be freeing and empowering. Whether you’re looking to build your confidence in the wilderness or your camping buddy just flaked out (again), going on a solo adventure isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are five reasons why you should give it a try and how you can make it happen.
1. Set Your Own Pace
When you go on a solo adventure, you can set your own pace. Want to enjoy a swim and a sunny post-lunch nap before continuing your hike? Go for it! How about getting that alpine start and racing up the mountain before sunrise? Go ahead! You aren’t tied to anyone else’s agenda, and you can bask in the freedom of making your time (and your trip) your own.
How to make it happen: Start small with an activity that is within your comfort zone while you find your own pace. Do you usually pull 10-mile days on multi-day backpacking trips with friends? Stick with seven or eight miles since you’ll be carrying all the gear, and to give yourself ample time to be safe, navigate correctly, and have time to stop along the way.
2. You Know More than You Think
Build your confidence and feel empowered by doing it on your own in the outdoors. You’ll quickly realize that you know more than you think when you’re forced to rely on yourself for map reading, route planning, and finding camping spots. Adventuring solo is a great exercise in self-reliance and you will learn to be innovative and pick up new skills on the fly, like how to change a flat bike tire or which types of camping spots are best during rain. And as you learn from your mistakes and build your experience, you will become a more capable and reliable trip partner.
How to make it happen: It can be daunting to plan a solo adventure, but first make a long-term trip goal and build up to it with several shorter trips. Maybe you have always wanted to test yourself with a five-day solo backpacking trip, bikepack the West Coast, or kayak the length of a great American river?
Build your confidence by going on a close-to-home overnight backpacking trip, a single night of car camping by yourself, or a day out biking the trails. You will gain confidence from these shorter trips, finding your unique stride and ramping it up when you feel ready to push yourself toward that long-term dream trip. Consider taking relevant outdoor courses like wilderness first aid or mountain bike repair to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and to help you feel safe and confident in the outdoors.
3. You Can Be Flexible
Your shoes and backpack are on, and you’re about to head out the door when you get that dreaded cancellation message from your trip partner. A last-minute disappointment can be frustrating, but if you’re prepared to go solo, you don’t have to resign yourself to spending a beautiful weekend indoors. Planning a solo trip sets you up for a successful day—you know that you’ll follow through, and won’t have to worry about someone else’s whims or accidental late-night putting a damper on your plans.
How to make it happen: Don’t flake out on yourself. The hardest part is just getting out the door, so set yourself up to be successful and follow through with your plans. Treat every solo trip plan like it’s a set-in-stone trip with the best trip partner out there—you. Mark it on your calendar and begin trip preparations a few weeks in advance to give yourself extra time to do those things that you may usually rely on a trip partner to do. You don’t want to feel overwhelmed at the last minute and find reasons to cancel. Get a good handle on the weather and those little travel details, like campsite reservations or parking passes, so that when your trip comes—whether it’s one day or several—you’re ready to go.
4. Your Options are Limitless
A solo trip means that you can hike, bike, camp, or kayak just about anywhere that you want to. You don’t have to search for someone just as interested as you are in the hiking and cuisine of Southeast Asia or who wants to spend a whole week fly fishing. And it may sound counterintuitive, but when you travel or adventure alone on a trip that suits your desires, you will meet like-minded people. Chances are you won’t be traveling solo for long (unless you want to, of course!).
How to make it happen: Think about the kind of trips you enjoy the most and the places that you have always dreamed of going. Let your creative juices flow and think outside the box. There’s no reason to limit yourself to trips that a partner wants because, with a little research and planning, you make your dream trip happen.
5. Enjoy the Peace
Perhaps the best thing about adventuring alone is the time to reflect and be at peace in the outdoors. Our devices connect us to the world through the constant chatter of social media, and many of us live in bustling cities and work in fast-paced environments. Going solo means that there’s no trail chatter or small talk and there is space to hear yourself think and get to know yourself a little better.
How to make it happen: Take your phone along for safety but ditch the earbuds and put it on silent or airplane mode, or better yet, turn it off. Hike, bike, or kayak in silence, and you will be amazed at how much more you notice about your surroundings, and at how much more peaceful and rejuvenated you feel when you return home from your trip.
Written by Jacqui Levy for RootsRated in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by Will Saunders