Backpacking Solo in the USA: Unforgettable Experience
For many avid backpackers, hiking far into the wilderness means leaving the distractions of modern life behind and focusing on experiencing the natural world in all its glory. For such individuals, the most unforgettable kind of backpacking adventure is one that also takes them away from the distractions that friends and family can represent. Backpacking solo is a way to truly “get away from it all” and become immersed in the sights, smells, and sounds of mountain or desert trails.
Backpacking solo can be a true test of an individual’s spirit and endurance. A trip alone through the wilderness requires great strength of both mind and body, not least because it means that a person must rely entirely on his or her own physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual resources while exploring the vast natural areas that still characterize much of the United States.
Best destinations and places for backpacking addicts
Few other backpacking destinations can rival the magnificent Pacific Crest Trail – an excursion that takes backpackers along more than 2,500 miles as they travel through the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. This trail has the advantage of passing close to many cities and towns, allowing solo backpackers to emerge so they can replenish their supplies and perhaps indulge themselves in a day or two in a hotel, complete with amenities such as a pool. Having a swim after a week’s trekking is a real luxury.
Backpacking addicts on the East Coast will want to experience the Long Trail in Vermont. The oldest hiking trail of its length in the nation, the Long Trail extends nearly 300 miles and crosses the entire state of Vermont. Those who traverse its length will find themselves crossing the summits of several peaks in the Green Mountains.
An excellent backpacking destination for beginners is Texas, where the Lone Star Trail offers more than a hundred miles of generally flat terrain with forests to provide shade. Those who are just starting out with solo backpacking may find that a less strenuous hike is a good way to build confidence before tackling trails with a great deal of elevation gain.
How to have an unforgettable experience while backpacking alone
One of the best ways to have an unforgettable experience while solo backpacking is to take full advantage of the freedom that a hike alone offers you. Group hikers may have to deal with a regimented routine of resting for ten minutes at the top of every hour, or stopping for lunch when everyone else prefers. When alone, however, you can take rest and meal breaks whenever you please. You can break camp early and set off at first light, or stay an extra few days at a lake that turns out to be more pleasant than anticipated. Being able to control your own timetable means that you can truly revel in the freedom of being in the wilderness.
Tips and advice for solo backpackers
The solo backpacker must be particularly conscious of personal safety. This means planning ahead to be sure that adequate supplies – including all maps required – are on hand throughout the adventure. Since solo backpackers will not have a “hiking buddy” to fetch help in case of an emergency, it is imperative to hike alone only on well-traveled trails. This precaution will help to ensure that a passing stranger can be sent for assistance if it becomes necessary. Ideally, an injured hiker should not have to wait more than a few hours before someone comes down the trail.
Common sense also requires that a solo backpacker prepare an itinerary ahead of time and adhere to it as much as possible. Family and friends should know the exact route the solo backpacker intends to take. This will mean that if the hiker fails to emerge from the wilderness on time, search and rescue teams will have a good idea about where to look.
Although reception may be spotty, hikers should also be certain to take their cell phones along, but should keep them turned off as much as possible to conserve battery power. In an emergency, turn the phone on. Even if it is not possible to get enough signal to make a call, the switched on phone may be helpful to search and rescue teams through the technology available to pinpoint a live phone’s location.
Solo backpacking provides hikers with a challenge on several levels at once, but the rewards are worth the effort required. Those who backpack alone will get to know themselves on a deeper level not often enjoyed by campers who only experience the natural world in the company of others. Along the way, solo backpackers will build physical strength, mental confidence, and a heightened understanding of the importance of nature – qualities that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
Ben Brown is a freelance writer who loves travelling and meeting new people!