Is it weird to hike alone? That’s what I asked myself before my first solo backpacking trip.
At first, I didn’t think much of it. I wanted to go on a backpacking trip but didn’t have any friends that were into backpacking. In reality, I guess I didn’t have very many friends at all—just a few. A solo hiking trip seemed like the next best option but would people think I was weird to hike alone?
Once I became involved in the hiking communities I found online, I began to see that many people hike alone regularly. It’s been a normal thing for decades.
So is it weird to hike alone?
Not at all. Solo hiking is socially acceptable in the hiking and backpacking communities. It’s even considered normal. It’s seen a huge rise in popularity since books/movies about it have come out. To people who don’t understand hiking, it could seem weird to them, but who cares?
When I first began to consider the idea of hiking alone I started to remember where I was in life a couple of years prior. I reminisced about how connected I was to God and also to people. Even so, I’d daydream about being in the wild, with a tent, all by myself. I was getting in touch with my “why,” even though it took a few years for me to build up the courage to go on my first solo hike.
Here are some truths I’ve discovered that will take the weirdness out of your first solo hiking trip.
1. Get Connected With Your ‘Why’
It may look different for you but get connected to the reason you want to hike.
For me, I wanted to connect with God, nature, and my true self. As strong as the desire was I never did it because I thought it would be weird; a 33-year-old man camping by himself in the woods. Would people think I was homeless? Would I need to bring something to protect myself? How would I learn camping skills?
I had a ton of questions, and truth be told, fears that entered my mind. I let them stop me. I didn’t even know what backpacking was back then. To me, the idea was just pitching a tent in the wilderness. I didn’t realize that there was an entire culture dedicated to both hiking and backpacking—and that many people hiked alone on trails on a regular base.
2. Don’t Let People’s Opinions Stop You From Hiking Alone
Some friends, family, and strangers on the trail may think it weird that a person would be hiking alone. The people you come across that believe this are probably not avid hikers, and therefore do not understand hiking culture, trail etiquette, and related topics. To many people, the idea of a hike (or a walk) is a random, and very casual, occurrence. It’s not something they’ve put much thought into. Most people are so attached to western comforts that they can’t imagine why someone would want to go on a hike by themselves, let alone go camping.
3. Join an Online Hiking & Backpacking Community
There are a lot of hiking & backpacking communities online. People hike all over the world. It’s extremely popular. There are hiking/backpacking groups that are centered around many different topics, such as specific trails, terrain, countries, religions, beginners, general groups, etc. Find a group to plug into. Ask questions and read other people’s questions. You’ll find just how normal it is for people to hike alone. You will find that many of the questions you may have have been already answered.
Good Online Communities To Join:
- r/Hiking Reddit
- Facebook Groups (Search for ‘hiking’ or ‘backpacking’ and then type in your ‘state’ or ‘region.’
- Backpackers Basecamp
- BackCountry Forum
- Backpacking Light
- r/Ultralight Reddit
- [r/Backpacking Reddit]
4. Find a Local Hiking Community in Your Area
If you are open to the idea of making new friends, learning, and hiking with others than you might want to consider joining a local club or class. This will give you the experience to connect with more experienced hikers and also hikers that are at your skill level. It’s a great way to learn, make friends, and also to give back.
Good Sites To Find Local Meetups, Clubs, and Classes
- REI Coop – Local Meetups & Activities
- Search Facebook Groups for a group local to your area. In my case, I found one for Missouri I’ve linked to, but you can search for your state or region.
5. Be a Friend To The People You Meet On The Trail
Going solo is good. but you also need a community. While you are hiking alone be friendly to the other hikers. Make a friend or two. Have an attitude of gratitude. Be a servant. Don’t take more than you give.
You will learn a lot from the people you meet. They will teach you many things, both practically, and about the human heart. There are as many practical lessons to learn from the people you encounter on the trail as there are spiritual.
If you have any questions (or fears) don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced hiker. Most people are more willing to help others than I think we give them credit for. At the same time, you may encounter someone that needs help. From people who forgot gear to people who are lost and need directions.
6. Don’t Let Society Condition You Think a Certain Way
We live in a society that has conditioned us to be constantly moving. We always have something to do, somewhere to be, and someone to be with. We must produce, in our capitalistic fantasy, at all costs. Our society doesn’t understand the value of less. Being alone in the ‘elements’ isn’t a desire that most people, in western society, have. Which is a shame, because it wasn’t too long ago society experienced life, mostly, outdoors. Today, we are addicted to screens, obsessed with new technology, all-the-while burdened with unnecessary responsibilities.
Wonderful things can happen when you are alone in nature. Healing and rejuvenation can flood into your soul as you spend time alone on a trail and in nature. As simple as it sounds, it will connect you to God, if you let it, and connect you to your higher, true, self.
7. Acknowledge The Condition of Your Soul
There are so many things that add comfort to our lives that have really only been invented recently (in the last 100 years.) Some comforts (now necessities), we can’t live without, didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago. What did people do back then when they weren’t staring at a screen?
Our society has shifted, so suddenly. Most people can’t fathom the idea of giving up ‘modern comfort’ and the company of people to go hiking alone in nature. They can’t fathom it because they are addicted to a system that feeds them lies. A system that says that bigger is better and that the greed of consumerism is really a good thing because they deserve it.
Our society is ungrateful, upside down, and has forgotten where (and who) we came from. Spending all day inside behind a computer or phone screen is weird. Having everything instantly available, on-demand delivery of anything you could want is weird. Texting friends/family instead of calling them or visiting them is weird.
Many of us are so isolated in our technology addictions that we don’t remember what being alive and living life really feels like. Getting alone in nature, with God, with your thoughts, for an extended period may just help bring the life back into you.
8. Hiking Alone Detoxes The Mind
When you are alone in the wilderness with a backpack and only items essential to survival something shifts inside of you. Depending on how long you will be hiking for, whether just a day or multiple days, you will be faced with whatever the primary issue is in the soul that’s holding you back in life.
The wilderness can rip open your soul, and as you learn to respond appropriately, it will heal it. You will experience the highs and lows that are involved in this process. Solo hiking, to me, is very similar to fasting, in that it detoxes the soul.
Without access to my addictions and to the comforts I used to numb the pain in my soul, I am faced with my true self: my ugly self. The wilderness can make a person raw; like a pimple that has to bubble to the surface of the skin to be popped; so the wilderness can be to the human soul.
Still, wondering if it’s weird to hike alone? I hope not. If you have any questions, feedback, or stories to share please leave a comment below.