I enjoy spending time in the hills with other people, but every so often I like to head out on a solo trip to a new area. It keeps my comfort zone from shrinking, brushes up my navigation skills, and allows me to immerse myself in my environment in a way that I could never do with someone else alongside me.
One of the things I’m often asked about my solo trips is whether I get scared being alone in the middle of the moors. The honest answer is yes and no.
In reality, I have a healthy dose of nervous adrenaline before deciding to go exploring a new area on my own and this keeps me on my toes. It makes me plan a little better and give myself back up (and back out) options.
From previous discussions, I know that there are a few people reading this blog who are intrigued and possibly thinking about their own solo trips. So, I thought it would be useful to share some of my thinking and planning.
Once you’ve read through, you’ll see that I’m not really a fearless adventurer – just a good planner!
1. Route choice
When I’m looking into a new place to visit, I go with my gut feel about the sort of terrain I want to explore. Do I feel like open moorland? Streams and river valleys? Craggy mountains?
For example, prior to today’s walk I knew that the weather was going to be good, so wanted to get up high away from towns and villages. If the weather forecast had been poor, I would probably have chosen a lower level route with less chance of getting caught in fog.
Sometimes, I’ll give myself options to cut the route short – or if that’s not possible, I have it in my mind that I’ll just turn round and retrace my steps if I start to feel uncomfortable for any reason.
You may find this bizarre, but one thing I prefer when I’m on my own is to be in a more remote area. I simply feel more uncomfortable when I’m near built up areas, perhaps just due to a healthy preservation instinct as a solo woman.
I also decide how far I fancy driving, check out some walking routes online as a guide (for both route choice and distance), then have a look on the OS map to see whether I want to make any tweaks. More recently, I’ve started downloading a GPX of the route onto my OS Mapping App so that I can get reassurance if needed (more later).
2. What to pack
I’m renowned for carrying too much stuff but, especially when alone, I like to feel prepared. Usually, I’ll have the following:
- Spare hat and gloves along with an extra layer
- Portable battery and phone charger
- Water, hot drink, lunch and snacks
- Head torch
- Emergency blanket and insulated sit mat
- Money and credit cards
- Sun lotion, shades and hat (if nice forecast)
- Traditional OS map and compass
- Mobile phone
- Spare laces
- Walking poles
From seeing other walkers, I know I’m often carrying more but my rucksack is comfortable even with all that kit, so I’m both happy and reassured that I’m feeling prepared.
3. During the walk
When I’m in an unfamiliar area, I always have a traditional OS map to hand and usually tuck it into the waist band of my rucksack. Yep, it’s a pain, but burying the map in my rucksack when walking solo means endless rounds of taking it off and putting it back on every time I want a quick check of my location. In my case, that would mean checking the map far less than feels comfortable purely because I can’t be bothered with the hassle.
And that’s the key for me. I check the map often, so that I know exactly where I am at any given time. It’s something I learned on an awesome navigation course from Lynne at Global Therapies (seriously, it was the best navigation training I’ve been on and no, that’s not an affiliate link – it was just that good!).
I also keep an awareness of my surroundings, probably more so than when I’m walking with friends. What am I looking at? What’s coming up next? Are there any big features on the map that I can expect to see? Who is around me/behind me?
It’s also important for me to check in with myself. Do I feel comfortable? Are things slotting into place? How tired do I feel? Do I feel confused? Am I eating/drinking enough (this is a biggie for me, bad news when I let my blood sugar drop)? Am I ok with pressing forward? Do I need to back out or retrace my steps? Etc.
Once done, I know that I can relax my planning mind for a while and simply enjoy the solitude and peace that comes with being out in the hills alone.
4. Other important considerations
It’s important to let somebody else know where you are going, your rough route and when you’ll be finished. In my case, I share my planned route with my husband, text to let him know I’ve arrived and am setting off, then text again to let him know that I’m safely back in my car. He’s my back up plan if things go pear shaped.
Being mindful of being female, I never share where I’m planning on going with people I don’t know. That means no social media updates until I’m finished and back home.
As mentioned above, I went on a navigation course (1:2 ratio) a few years ago as I felt my skills were lacking. If you’re going into the hills, especially alone, make sure that you have basic map reading and compass skills so that you can stay safe. I know enough about my own level of skill to understand what type of terrain is going to make me struggle and, to be fair, I’ll often avoid putting myself in that position unless I’m walking with someone else.
For anyone ready to take the leap on their own solo adventure, I hope that the above insight into my planning helps you to get out there and challenge yourself .
If anyone has any extra tips to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments below 🙂
If you’re interested in the route I followed, click this link to see more.