Written by Annie Lindgren, Sunshine Ink
Solo adventuring is rewarding in many ways, including the freedom to explore and experience on one’s own accord. As a woman, I often hear the concern in the voice of others who may not think it is safe for me to be alone. The reality is, there is no difference between what a man and woman are capable of doing safely as a solo adventurer, as long as the individual has the necessary knowledge, skills, and gear. Here are some tips for safe solo adventuring.
Choose adventure activities that are safe to do solo, and that fall within your skill sets and experience level. Hiking, cycling, running, paddle-boarding, camping, and traveling within the US are great options. Research where you plan to go and find out if there are safety factors to be aware of – like fire, increased bear activity, or a perpetrator on the loose. Choose areas with less risk as you gain experiences.
Have the Skills
Skills are a vital element to adventuring safely. You can gain skills through experience, learning from others, reading books or watching videos, and taking classes. Know your gear and how to use it. Become proficient in your adventure activity of choice before setting out to do it solo.
Know Your Route
A lot can go wrong if you get lost. Have maps and know how to read them. Take a picture of the map posted at the trailhead. There are apps and devices available to help with route finding, that runs off GPS as opposed to cell service. My favorite for trails is alltrails.com, though I use other apps based on the activity. Apps allow you to track where you are along the route and help you get back on the trail if you stray. You can download maps to your phone for use when not in cell range. Have a battery pack for recharging devices. Always pay attention to where you are along your route.
Be Prepared for Emergency
Be prepared for any emergency related to your chosen activity. Take a first aid class, or read a book about survival, and have a fully stocked first aid kit. I carry a Spot Satellite Communication Device that will call emergency services with the push of a button. I also use the device to inform contacts of where I am along the trail, where I plan to stay for the night, that I am ‘ok’, or that I need help (if not an emergency). Emergency happens without notice, and the more tools you have for survival, the better chances you have at making it home safe and sound.
Where there is strength in numbers, there is a weakness for solo adventurers. Human and animal predators are more likely to approach a lone traveler. Be aware of how to handle yourself around the animals you may cross paths with. I always carry mace and a knife accessible on the straps of my pack. I most often have my protective dog, on a leash, leading the way. Mace is my number one line of defense; it is effective on wild animals, humans, or attack dogs. I carry it every time I go out.
Animals in the woods aren’t interested in eating humans. They attack when humans threaten their food sources, their offspring, or in self-defense. Letting them know you are there, by making noise, paying attention, and giving them their space when you encounter them, goes a long way towards avoiding incident. Keeping dogs on leash is best.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Always pay attention to your surroundings. Keep an eye out for animals or suspicious-looking people. If camping, be aware of who (or what) is in the area. Pay attention to where dead trees might fall. If you notice someone doing something strange, quickly remove yourself from the area. Avoid using earphones, or appearing vulnerable by distraction. Being hyper-aware of your surroundings can keep you out of many dangerous situations.
Let Others Know Where You Go
Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. If something happens, people need to know where to start looking for you.
Be Aware of Human Predators
The fear of sexual assault is on the minds of many who don’t feel women should be out adventuring alone. I hear it often. By possessing the above tools for self-protection, being aware of my surroundings, carrying myself with confidence, and being fit and prepared to protect myself at all costs, I have avoided encounters while adventuring. More often than not, I meet men who share a concern for the safety and well-being of women and who are quick to offer help if needed. Unfortunately, men exist who think they can take what they want without permission. Women need to be extra cautious of this, but should not let fear keep them from experiencing life.
If you are not yet confident in solo adventuring, set goals, and make gradual steps out of your comfort zone. If used to following someone else, practice taking the lead. Start with a trail you are familiar with and don’t be afraid to ask others for help or guidance. Stay in a place that has cell service so you can call for help. Gather items needed for safety and educate yourself.
No one should feel they can’t experience the benefits of adventuring, just because they don’t have a partner. There are a lot of perks to adventuring solo. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want, and stop and take pictures or admire views without apologizing or asking for permission. Exercise and outdoor time are essential to a healthy life. A reprieve from the needs and feedback from others is restorative. You learn things about yourself, gain skills, and build confidence. The opportunities for mindfulness, reflection, and growth are limitless.
This author is an experienced solo woman adventurer. You can learn more about her adventures by checking out her blog at SunshineInkLLC.com or social media outlets @SunshineInkLLC. Have questions about the above? Email Annie at SunshineInkLLC@gmail.com.
This article was published in North Forty News and New Scene Magazine, a Northern Colorado News Publication that Annie Lindgren is a contributor for.