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Solo female hikers often face pushback from friends and family whose anxiety is triggered by the suggestion that a woman might be heading into the wilderness alone. It’s time to call that what it is.
Of course it’s sexism. Even now, this attitude drip-drip-drips toxic limitations and expectations into our culture.
Even as late as June 2022, a follower of my content on Facebook took issue with this very post. Regressive attitudes remain an ever-present problem.
Unfortunately, for many people, the idea that a woman might not just survive in the backcountry, but thrive there, seems somehow unimaginable even now, 67 years after December 1, 1955.
It’s time to rewrite that narrative.
Solo Female Hiker Safety Tips
Most of my own hikes are solo hikes, even in winter. Of course, I’m a middle-aged cis-gender straight white male. I understand it’s different for others.
However, 60% of my followers on social media are women, many of whom have hiked solo regularly for years. And my hiking besties are all women. They all hike solo, too — a lot.
Hiking solo is different for women, of course. Women do have extra concerns and, unfortunately, have to take a few more precautions than men.
- Communication: Staying connected with loved ones is crucial for solo female hikers. Share your detailed itinerary, including expected start and end times, with trusted friends or family members. Establish check-in points throughout your hike, using phone calls, text messages, or satellite communication devices to provide updates on your progress. Additionally, consider using GPS tracking apps or devices that allow your contacts to monitor your location in real-time, offering an extra layer of safety and reassurance.
- Personal Safety: As a solo female hiker, prioritizing personal safety is paramount. Trust your instincts; if something feels off or unsafe, don’t hesitate to change your plans. Maintain situational awareness, paying close attention to your surroundings and any potential threats. To avoid unwanted attention, avoid revealing your solo status to strangers. Carry a personal alarm, or pepper spray to deter potential threats. Disclose routes and timings ahead of time only to loved ones.
- Gear: For deep backcountry expeditions, consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite communication device to call for help in case of an emergency.
- Community: Creating connections with like-minded women can be an empowering aspect of solo female hiking. Seek out online forums, social media groups, and local clubs dedicated to women’s outdoor pursuits. By sharing your experiences and learning from others, you can help dispel myths and reinforce the positive narrative around solo female hiking. Encourage open discussions around safety concerns and share best practices to create a strong, supportive community. Together, you can inspire more women to confidently explore the wilderness and embrace the joys of solo hiking.
These tips aside, I want to stress that on the whole — assuming the correct gear, knowledge, skill and experience — hiking is an extremely safe pursuit for women, either with friends or solo.
Solo Hikes for Women Today
The benefits of solo hiking for women are numerous. Hiking alone provides an opportunity to embrace independence, resilience, and a deeper connection with nature. Despite lingering societal biases, women have consistently proven themselves to be just as capable as men, and often more so, in the great outdoors.
If you’re just starting out, this is a great era for solo female hikers. There’s an enormous network of women hikers who can help their sisters get there by encouraging hiker growth, independence and mastery.
In short, if anyone tells you “you shouldn’t”…
Solo Women Hikers Speak Out
Solo sister hikers can join forces to break down barriers and rewrite the narrative around solo female hiking, emphasizing the importance of self-reliance, preparedness, and the indomitable spirit of adventure that knows no gender.
Here are some amazing women hikers and their thoughts on solo hiking.
Photos in this post were supplied by the hikers quoted, and are being used with permission
“Hiking solo makes me feel confident, capable, & badass! I love alone time in the woods to enjoy nature at my leisure & give myself space to be in the present moment!“
“I never hiked as fast as I did the first time I hiked solo 😂 but once I calmed down, I found I loved the quiet, the ability to stop and examine whatever plant I wanted to, and the feeling of really knowing the power of my physical and mental self.”
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“Did a solo of Windham High Peak and never felt more me.”
“Hiking solo is my time to truly be myself. I can hike literally however I want, fast, slow, taking a million pictures, stopping to look at some trees, or take a different route if I so choose. I can appreciate the silence and stillness of the forest, or take a dive deep into my own thoughts, or not think about anything at all! Solo hiking is like meditation for me. It feels so good for my soul.”
“I have only been taking hiking seriously since 2020 and I started hiking solo in 2021, but my limited experience has added so much confidence in myself. I have bad anxiety and often find myself staying home for fear of trying new things. Hiking, specifically hiking solo has shown me my ability to take care of business! Having enough faith in myself and my knowledge to keep myself safe alone in the wilderness has been great for my self efficacy overall in my life. I never thought I’d hike by myself but it’s become some the most cherished moments I have. Starting small and with familiar trails is my biggest advice to anyone starting solo hiking. It can be scary as a woman but being prepared for all situations at least make me feel better. I recommend it to anyone, even if they’re scared. ESPECIALLY if they’re scared!”
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“The first time I solo hiked was only a couple of summers ago and I was scared shitless. I kept thinking of all the mountains and miles I had done before that hike but this one was truly uncomfortable because I was scared and I was challenging myself – by myself. I kept thinking that a bear would be just around the bend. Then I feared someone would accost me on the trail because, well, I am a woman. Nah, it would be a bear. Or mountain lion (which happened to cross my path but a few days later hiking with a friend). All these thoughts were racing through my head and they were ruining my hike. As I kept walking, I focused on my breath and each step. I started to notice all of the different leaves and beloved low humidity. Before I knew it, I eased my way up to this spot and took it all in. I had the whole place to myself. I felt stronger, more confident and grateful that I was able to put my fears to rest and enjoy this sweet spot. I didn’t let my fears win. This is why we do it and this is why we sometimes we do it solo.”
“Hiking solo is incredibly empowering. It shows me that I can do things I never thought I was capable of. It allows me to feel free in a way that nothing else does. And as a bonus, I get to do the things I want to do, even if no one else is available.”
“The first hike I ever did was solo to Overlook! Until that point, I was not an outdoor gal and had never felt that independent, confident or triumphant ever. Now I hike solo as frequently as possible because it’s pretty much the only way to find silence these days and because I know I’m capable of doing it.”
“The woods and mountains are where I go to reset, especially when I’m solo. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I’ve been hiking solo for over a decade and I feel safer out there than I do anywhere else. I make sure I’m super prepared with proper gear and hydration, and I always let a fellow knowledgeable hiker know where I’m going and when, and when I expect I’ll be back.”
“Regarding how solo hiking feels and what it means, starting solo hiking was a huge step I took in realizing my independence and strength in myself. Before my first solo hike I wasn’t very comfortable being alone (especially in the woods). But being out there by myself I’ve found is the best environment for self-reflection and social battery recharging! Sometimes people ask me if I’m afraid to hike alone, but honestly I feel more worried walking around the city at night.”
Changing the World One Hike at a Time
Solo female hikers play a significant role in transforming sexist attitudes in the outdoor community. Keep in mind that it is not their job to do so. But simply by embarking on solo adventures, women defy traditional gender expectations and demonstrate their innate strength, resilience, and competence in the wilderness.
Intrepid women serve as inspirational role models for future generations, encouraging other women to embark on their own journeys and break free from societal constraints.
As more women explore the great outdoors independently, they contribute to a more inclusive and gender-balanced environment, ultimately helping to dismantle long-standing biases and paving the way for greater gender equity in the world of outdoor adventure.
So, yeah, please fucken persist!
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3 responses to “Advice for Solo Female Hikers: Persist”
Gotta ask… where is the hike in the cover photo of this article?
Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire — on my list to visit for sure!
People who don’t hike just don’t get it, and not-understanding-a-thing always seems to make people anxious. I remember my first couple of solo hikes being nerve-wracking, just because I’d never done it before, but then that sense of accomplishment — it’s so great. And then I just got used to it. Very quickly. I don’t even worry a little any more. The next step for me was hiking at night. And I don’t worry about that any more, either. But if you’re not a hiker, heading into the woods at night sounds like a very scary thing to do. You just have no experience with that scenario, and all your anxiety rushes in — but it’s literally the most peaceful time and place!