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#213086 - 12/15/10 03:19 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: bsmith]

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 1836
this is a subject that comes around a lot at BWCA.COM the canoe tripping site.lots of us see solo canoeing as a "art" so to speak.not at all like base camping with the fishing buddys for a week or going out with the family and the dogs,which i also do.
the same ideas about being alone apply out in the canoe and on the hiking trails,i think a canoe is a bit safer than walking over rocky,muddy,closed in paths all day.in a boat your sitting down and have a better view and the only danger is bad water you can always get off or falling on a portage which being the only way between lakes means someone will be along sooner or later,you hope.everyone will tell you the drive to canoe country has more hazards than the adventure it's self and i'm sure the same holds for hikers.the women at bwca are avid solo trippers of all ages and post some great story's.everyone gets a case of the "hebby-jebbys" at first but get over it after a trip or two.
sum up---solo.big yes!!..the dangers are over rated by the Safety Sam Gang.

not only is there no one else on this lake i had not see anyone else for several days and would not for several more.

Edited by CANOEDOGS (12/15/10 03:21 PM)

#213089 - 12/15/10 04:05 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: djlmwh]
Dagny Offline

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC
Originally Posted By: djlmwh
... I won't go it alone in the wild again without a buddy.

Welcome to ETS, djlmwh. Great account of a harrowing experience.

I'm from Hood River and my only solo hiking was a relatively brief foray on the well-traveled PCT/Timberline Trail while staying at Timberline Lodge on a return visit.

No way I'd be venturing into the Oregon wilds alone -- especially not after reading your story. That is big, big country.

Thanks for the contribution.

#213090 - 12/15/10 04:07 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: bsmith]
UncleGoo Offline

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 360
Loc: CT
Day hikes and overnights, usually solo for the solitude.
Longer hikes than that, with buddies for the company.

#213091 - 12/15/10 04:12 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: bsmith]
unimogbert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 856
Loc: Colorado
All the precautions assumed are good ones and I do them.

I hike alone most of the time. My former companions have been taken over by their children's soccer leagues.
So if I'm not willing to go alone I'd nearly never go.

Hiking with someone isn't an automatic good deal. If you and your partner are matched, or your partner is smarter/fitter than you it's good. But if your partner can't be counted upon to be sensible and a true partner then you might be better off alone.

Some folks will not be able to help you when you need it. Some may invite trouble by doing stupid things that you wouldn't do. (climbing stuff, jumping stuff, wading water, etc)

And there is the phenomenon that the bigger the group, the dumber the group decisions ("hey, if that doesn't work the group can carry me out, right?")

I fired a guy as my hiking parter because he had no more responsibility for the outcome of the day than his Cocker Spaniel. I decided I was better off hiking alone than hiking with him. (He took it to heart and got some training to be a Sierra Club trip leader.... )

Hiking alone isn't perfectly safe. But neither is painting your house, walking the dog, or driving to Grandma's house.

#213096 - 12/15/10 05:27 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: NightHiker]
Hikin_Jim Offline

Registered: 10/12/07
Posts: 1804
Loc: Southern California
Nice analysis, Night Hiker.

I appreciate the thoughtful comments of everyone. I appreciate the fact that people took the time to go beyond the surface and to probe a bit.

The drawbacks of group dynamics have been alluded to in earlier posts. Indeed, there have been studies that have reported that groups are more likely to have accidents in the wilderness. Some of it may be due to peer pressure. Some of it may be due to "I'm with a group; I feel safe" thinking.

In other words, the idea that solo travel is in and of itself more risky isn't necessarily true. The idea that it's safer to travel with a group assumes that the individuals don't relax their vigilance when they join a group, a poor assumption.

It sounds like for most of us the issue isn't whether or not to go solo. Maybe the issue is more where to draw the line as to which trips we'd be willing to do solo.

For me: A walk in the local canyon on the established Forest Service road where I know that I'll see a dozen people? No problem. I do it solo all the time; it's my regular training hike.

A remote cross country ramble on steep, rocky, loose ground in patchy snow conditions? I'd think twice about doing something like that solo.


Edited by Hikin_Jim (12/15/10 05:30 PM)
Adventures In Stoving

#213098 - 12/15/10 05:49 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: Hikin_Jim]
bsmith Offline
day hiker

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 584
Loc: ventura county, ca
Originally Posted By: Hikin_Jim
Nice analysis, Night Hiker.

I appreciate the thoughtful comments of everyone. I appreciate the fact that people took the time to go beyond the surface and to probe a bit.

hey hj, i couldn't have said it better. thank you for that.

i've been reading all of the responses and i do very much appreciate the time you all have spent responding to my question. i will post more when i have more than a few minutes.
“Everyone should have a horse. It is a great way to store meat without refrigeration. Just don’t ever get on one.”
- ponder's dad

#213104 - 12/15/10 08:05 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: bsmith]
Outdoor_Quest Offline

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 305
Loc: Central Oregon
Solo - yes

Caution - of course

Preparation - Essential

I'd like to offer my nickels worth regarding leaving your trip plan with a responsible person. Not enough of us do it but we know we all should.

So, take a look at my suggested plan at www.outdoorquest.biz. Select the Links button/tab....its the first link at the top of that page. Its just a .pdf file and a free download.

Also, I suggest you visit the SAR Volunteers Association of Canada's web site at: www.sarvac.ca. Take a look at their recomendations.

Great posts. Thank you to all. Blake

#213109 - 12/15/10 09:03 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
Hikin_Jim Offline

Registered: 10/12/07
Posts: 1804
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: Outdoor_Quest
Solo - yes

Caution - of course

Preparation - Essential
Succinctly and well put.

I like the trip plan form you have. I usually do mine by email. I send it to my wife and my sister. One of the things I like about email is that it can then be forwarded to SAR if need be.

I include an ACME Mapper link that shows my intended route. If you haven't seen ACME Mapper, it's worth knowing about. Here, for example, is my route from last Saturday.

A little over a year ago, I ran (very) late on a trip. I had underestimated the length of time it would take quite seriously (it had been about 20 years since I had been in the area, and the trail had not been maintained for some time). My wife called SAR and forwarded them my email which contained an ACME Mappper link similar to the one above. I finally got to a point where I got cell service and called my wife. She let me know she had called SAR. I called SAR to let them know I was OK. They sent a truck down a service road to meet me part way into the backcountry. I apologized profusely since I had caused a SAR call out due to my bad estimate of time needed. One of the SAR guys replied, "yes, but at least you were exactly where you were said you'd be. We searched for a guy a week ago and spent hours before we realized that he had directed us to the wrong place." The SAR guys were actually quite pleased to have such an easy "rescue" even though I was thoroughly embarrassed.

Interesting thought: if I had had a SPOT with me (or Sat phone or HAM radio), all of that might have been avoided. I did by the way have a PLB, but a PLB wasn't very helpful in that particular situation.

Adventures In Stoving

#213114 - 12/15/10 10:34 PM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: bsmith]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
I counsel others to take all the standard advice:

Groups of three [are] ideal. Three gives you one down, one to take care of the victim, and one to go for help. Two people can also pretty reliably carry out another even if the largest in the group is the one who can't walk. The divide between two and thee is often the divide between what a large animal, or human attacker, will take on.

Tell responsible people vital information. Stick to trails. Carry a cell phone and/or PLB. Etcetera.

That said, I've been known to do none of that and go out on my own traveling light (not quite ultra-light) and fast using experience, native resourcefulness, and local knowledge to make up for any shortfall. I usually carry twice the food I need and some way of carrying and treating extra water. Those few times I ran into problems I worked around it without resort to outside help.

I turned an ankle pretty bad once and got a large laceration that bled pretty good. I was on a early fall three-day hike (expected temperatures better than 55F) and a freak cold front came through, dropped a hell of a lot of rain, and pushed the temperature down to the teens. It even snowed a bit. I hiked out wearing every stitch I had with extra insulation from natural materials making up the difference. Short of the proverbial "two broken legs" sort of event, in which case they find my bones, I make do. I don't advocate anyone else do the same.

Corrected for wording. What can I say? I write my first language like it is my second.

Edited by Art_in_FL (12/17/10 02:50 AM)

#213135 - 12/16/10 04:11 AM Re: Hiking solo - Yes or No? - your thoughts [Re: Art_in_FL]
Crookedknife Offline

Registered: 06/15/10
Posts: 24
Loc: Washington
I don't think there is one right or wrong answer; it depends too much on the person's abilities, their amount of experience & preparation, and their goals. If a person is prepared and stays within their limits, they will be safe probably more than 99% of the time. This lets people choose whether they go solo or with people. I tend to think the safety factor is better with one or two other people.

For what it's worth, most newsworthy incidents involving hikers in my area happen to solo young men who have gotten lost. They are invariably "experienced with the outdoors" yet never have a map, compass, clothes, or extra food & water. I've not kept track, but I can only remember one incident that happened to a group, this being a mother & daughter who ended up staying a night in the woods unprepared.

More rarely I hear about shootings or assaults that happen to hikers, usually solo women or women who didn't stay with their group. I have no idea if being in a group would have saved any of those victims. I tend to think that most attackers aren't looking for a fight, and thus pick easy targets.

Personally, I almost never hike solo because the outdoors is fun & beautiful, and is therefore better when experienced with someone. Hiking alone would be like watching a game or going to a movie by myself: it becomes flat & pointless. And that's coming from a guy who's a bit of a loaner.

On the flip side, take my father: he's an avid Alaskan outdoorsman who once stated "when I die, you'll have to come look for me." He's elderly, yet still tromps around the mountains by himself every weekend. I don't know if he prefers hiking solo, but that's the way he wants to go.
"Let us climb a mountain, hanging on by low scragged limbs." - Roger Zelanzany

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