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Solo Backpacking and Trip Plans

I do a lot of solo backpacking because it can be difficult to find a good hiking partners and because dealing with their shuttle logistics can be extremely frustrating. However, even though I hike alone, I often camp with other backpackers who I've run across during the day or meet up with at a shelter. This makes solo backpacking incredibly fun in my opinion, because you are meeting new, very interesting people out of the blue, who share many of your core values about the outdoors and it's spiritual benefits.

But solo backpacking increases your risk level when you are in wilderness areas and you need to mitigate the consequences of hiking alone by taking some extra precautions in your trip preparation.

The most important of these is writing up a detailed trip plan and leaving it with a person who is expecting you back at a certain time. My trip plans include my expected mileage per day and where I expect to camp each evening. They also includes emergency numbers that can be called in case I'm overdue, like the state police or the local forest service.

In addition my trip plans include detailed lists of all of the gear, first aid supplies, and the caloric values of food that I will be carrying on a trip, and are a very useful tool for planning contingency scenarios such as cold, wet weather or running out of food, if I need to stay out an extra day.

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7 comments

  1. Great post, and no mention of cell phones, fantastic. I never thought to put food on my trip itinerary but that's a real good idea.

  2. I go on solo trips too, and I agree it is very important to conduct a risk assessment prior to the trip and to mitigate against some of these risks by providing a trip plan to folks before you go.

    While I do enjoy going with other people, there is something very special about a solo trip.

    Cheers,

    Mungo

  3. Good post, and some timely reminders. I do most of my trips solo like you, and for much the same reasons. Generally I leave a photocopied map of my trip plan with my wife – I also mark the routes I might take off the mountain if the weather closes in unexpectedly. This winter, for the first time, I'm thinking about taking out rescue insurance as well.

  4. I think the rescue insurance might be a good idea. Do you carry any kind of personal locator beacon?

  5. I wish… do you know that PLBs are actually illegal in Japan? Ridiculous, isn't it. Something to do with broadcasting equipment controls.

    I do carry an avalanche beacon with me if I'm back country with friends during the winter though.

  6. Very odd decision by the Japanese government. Maybe you need to elect a mountain climber to major public office.

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