Even with all of my experience with solo backpacking, people often ask me if backpacking alone is safe for women. I’m going to share with you 11 solo hiking safety tips for female backpackers that might inspire you to want to start planning your next trip.

Is Backpacking Alone Safe For Women?

As long as you’ve done the proper trip planning, are prepared with the right gear and training and have good judgement and confidence in your own skills, solo backpacking can be a safe experience for anyone, regardless of gender.

So my answer is YES! Backpacking alone is safe for women.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #1: Connect with Other Solo Female Hikers And Backpackers

I recommend connecting with other solo female hikers and backpackers, either in-person, online or both. You can do this by joining online forums or social media groups that share tips, advice and offer support specifically for female hikers and backpackers.

You can look for hiking/backpacking/outdoor-related online groups that are specific to the area or state you live in. You can find groups online through social media like Instagram or Facebook. On Facebook, there are tons of women-activity-location specific Facebook Groups you can join for free.

A majority of these communities are private, especially the women-specific groups, so this could be a safe way to reach out and meet other likeminded female hikers and backpackers online. Some groups might also offer in-person and online events like workshops, social gatherings and guided trips.

Before jumping into the next solo hiking safety tip, I want to do a plug for myself and the online backpacking program I created, which is called The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System.

Are a female hiker or backpacker or a woman who wants to BE a hiker or backpacker and have goals to go on your first backpacking trip this year? Are you tired of waiting for someone else to go with you and you want to start learning how to build up your confidence to go alone?

Or are you a well-seasoned backpacker who wants to start planning bigger, solo trips out in the backcountry and need help with trip planning, sorting out your gear and building up your confidence to get out on trail for farther and longer trips?

Do you want to take a leadership role with planning a group backpacking trip with your friends this year? Are you looking to be involved in a women-centric hiking and backpacking community where you can meet accountability partners, get support as you work towards achieving your backpacking goals and want to meet other likeminded women hikers and backpackers to plan future hiking and backpacking trips with?

THIS is what this program was created for.

The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System is a comprehensive, self-paced, online backpacking program for women that’s designed to help you go from feeling scared and intimidated about backpacking alone to feeling comfortable planning your backcountry adventures to that you feel confident getting out on trail by yourself.

This is the online backpacking program I wish I had access to when I first started hiking and backpacking.

Since launching this program two years ago, I’ve not only helped women learn about backpacking and helped them up level their own backpacking skills but have also created a safe place for these women to have discussions and ask questions about sensitive topics they might not feel comfortable talking about and asking elsewhere.

In addition to the online, self-paced program, this program also includes:

  • My personalized guidance and coaching through live, weekly group coaching calls to give you real-time, customized feedback as you make your way through the program and plan your trips.
  • A private online community made up of other likeminded female hikers and backpackers that have gone through or are currently working through the program.
  • The opportunity to join me for group day hikes and overnight backpacking trips that are only available for students in this program, throughout the year for no additional charge.
  • And you get lifetime access to the program, including all of the coaching support, materials, guides, resources and any updates made to the program.

Whether you’re a beginner or well-seasoned backpacker, this program will walk you through, step-by-step, everything you need to know in order to plan, prepare and build up your confidence to comfortably go out on either your FIRST or NEXT overnight backpacking trip.

Enrollment is currently open for any woman who has goals of getting out for her first or next solo backpacking trip THIS YEAR!

If you’re ready to make achieving your backpacking goals a priority this year and you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to help you achieve your goals while getting ongoing coaching as you plan your trips, have access to an incredible community of other women hikers and backpackers and want the opportunity to join me out on trail for group trips throughout the year, then THIS is the program FOR YOU!

My ultimate goal with creating The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System is to help inspire more women like you to want to get out on trail for their own solo adventures, safely and comfortably.

Interested in becoming part of this awesome program? CLICK HERE to schedule a free one-on-one Zoom call with me where you’ll get to talk to me live about your backpacking goals, ask me questions about the program and if you’re a good fit for The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System, you’ll get the chance to enroll into the program on our call.

Since creating and launching this program over two years ago, I’ve been able to help several women plan and get out for their own solo backpacking trips. You could be next!

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #2: Trip Planning

Trip planning skills are essential when it comes to safe travel in the backcountry, especially when you’re solo backpacking. Trip planning is everything from researching where you want to go to putting together an itinerary and knowing where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

Trip planning also includes learning what the rules and regulations are for the area like if there are permits required for overnight camping and how to obtain those permits. You’ll also want to research the potential wildlife in the area you plan on traveling in and then familiarize yourself with how to deal with those types of wildlife encounters.

Trip planning also means knowing how to check the conditions for the area you plan on traveling in so you know what type of gear to pack for your trip. You’ll want to know what the current trail and road conditions are, what the forecasted weather for the area is, emergency exit points along your route, how to find water sources and campsites along your route and figuring out how much food and water you should carry for your trip.

One of my favorite trip planning resources I use to plan my solo trips is onX Backcountry. I use onX to find nearby trails in my area and get helpful trail information to plan my trips like an overview, description and photos of the trail I’m looking to travel on, total mileage, elevation gain and loss, trip reports written by other onX Backcountry users, nearby routes, land management agency information and the weather forecast for the area including current weather, hourly forecast, weekly forecast, wind direction and speed, sunrise/sunset times and moon phase information.

I also use the map and map layers on onX to search for potential water sources, campsites, emergency exit points along my route and see what the parking situation might be like at the trailhead.

I can also create a route for my trip using onX and then download a map of the area I plan on traveling in, which I can then use on my phone once I’m offline and out of cell and WiFi service.

Then once I’m out on trail, I use onX Backcountry as my primary navigation tool thanks to its built in GPS feature and being able to access any of the maps I’ve downloaded with the routes I’ve created for my trip, all within the app on my phone.

If you’re interested in checking out onX Backcountry to help plan your next overnight backpacking trip, use promo code “HungryHiker” and CLICK HERE to get either 20% off your onX Backcountry Premium or Elite subscription OR start a 14-day trial of onX Backcountry Elite for FREE.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #3: Share Your Itinerary with Someone You Trust

 No one will know to come looking for you if they don’t know you’re missing in the first place. This is why you always want to let someone else know when and where you’re going, especially if you plan on going backpacking alone.

Once you’ve put together your trip itinerary, leave your itinerary at home with someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Your trip itinerary should include information like your planned route, expected return date and emergency contact information.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #4: Pack the Right Gear for The Right Conditions

Whenever I’m trying to decide which backpacking gear to bring for any of my trips, I always want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. This way, I’m usually prepared for whatever conditions or challenges the trail might throw my way.

Start with packing the 10 Essentials, which are a list of 10 different items you should always carry in your pack, no matter what type of trip you’re going on, what time of year you’re out on trail and how long you plan on being out on trail.

The 10 Essentials include:

  • Navigation
  • Illumination
  • Shelter
  • Extra Clothing
  • Extra water
  • Extra Food
  • Sun Protection
  • Fire
  • Knife and Gear Repair
  • And a First Aid Kit

CLICK HERE to learn more about the 10 Essentials and what they are.

In addition to the 10 Essentials, figure out what gear you’ll need for the terrain and conditions you’ll be hiking in.

For each of my backpacking trips I always pack the following systems, some of which are also a part of the 10 Essentials:

  • Pack System
  • Shelter System
  • Sleep System
  • Cooking System
  • Water Filtration System
  • A Repair/Tool/Toiletry Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Poop Kit
  • Electronics
  • Packed Clothes
  • Clothes I’ll Hike In
  • And Misc. Gear

Misc. Gear can be dependent on the forecasted weather, trail environment and terrain and rules and regulations for the area you plan on traveling in. Misc. Gear can include things like:

For clothing, pack clothing and layers based off of the climate and conditions you’ll be traveling in. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to include checking the weather forecast and current trail conditions as part of your trip planning. If the area is forecasted to be wet and cold, you’ll want to pack rain gear and warm layers. If the area is forecasted to be hot and is an exposed area, you’ll want to pack plenty of sun protection like a hat and a long-sleeved sun hoodie.

For footwear, make sure your hiking shoes and socks fit your feet properly in order to help prevent trail injuries like blisters.

When solo backpacking, you might also want to consider bringing with you some personal safety items like a personal safety alarm or an emergency whistle, to signal for help in an emergency situation. Most backpacks will come with some sort of safety whistle located on the sternum strap. Check to see if your backpack has this feature before purchasing an additional emergency whistle.

If you need help trying to decide what gear and clothing to pack for your next overnight backpacking trip, download my FREE Backpacking Gear Packing List. This list will show you how to separate your gear into systems, help you figure out what you need to pack for your trip and help prevent you from forgetting to pack whatever you might need for your trip.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #5: Consider Carrying a Satellite Messenger (or PLB)

I didn’t get a satellite messenger when I first started backpacking because it’s an expensive piece of gear. Not only did I have to invest in the actual device, but I also needed a monthly subscription in order for the device to work. I also needed to invest some of my time into learning how to use the device and all of its features, both on the device itself and through its pairing app before taking it out on trail with me.

When I first started solo backpacking, I carried with me a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon. A PLB was considerably cheaper than my Garmin inReach Mini 2 and didn’t require a monthly subscription. It doesn’t have two-way messaging like a satellite messenger does, but in an emergency situation, I could hit the panic button, which would send my coordinates to local search and rescue. Then I’d have to sit and wait until help arrived.

There have been many times when having two-way communication through my Garmin inReach Mini 2 has saved my butt out on trail.

And, god forbid, if I ever had to press the SOS button in an emergency, thanks to my satellite messenger, I have two-way messaging with first responders so I can let them know the state of my emergency so they can send me the help I’d need to my exact location.

Yes, a satellite messenger can be a very expensive piece of gear, but for me, it’s really hard to put a price tag on peace of mind, not only for myself, but also for my friends and family at home while I’m out on trail alone.

A satellite messenger like a Garmin inReach Mini 2 was the one piece of gear I wish I had gotten sooner as a beginner backpacker, especially a solo, female backpacker.

CLICK HERE to see what other things I would have done differently if I was a beginner backpacker today.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #6: Make Sure Your Electronics Are Fully Charged

Before getting to the trailhead, I make sure all of my electronics devices are fully charged including my phone, satellite messenger like my Garmin inReach Mini 2, all of my camera batteries, my rechargeable headlamp and external battery pack.

I always carry an external battery pack with me on all of my solo trips, whether it’s a day hike or overnight backpacking trip, so that I always have a way to charge any of my electronics devices while I’m out on trail. Make sure to also pack the charging cables for each of the devices you bring.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #7: Stay on Marked, Well-Traveled Trails

By staying on marked and well-traveled trails, you’re more likely to know where you’re at and have less chance of getting lost because the trail will be well marked. If this is going to be one of your first solo backpacking trips and you’re not familiar with the area, pick a lower mileage, lower elevation trail to help bring down the risk level for your first solo backpacking trip. This way, if after setting up camp and you decide that you’d rather go back home, you can easily pack up camp and get back to the trailhead in a reasonable amount of time.

Staying on popular, marked, well-traveled trail also means that there will be more people out on trail so you don’t feel so alone while you’re out there by yourself.

Another benefit to staying on marked, well-traveled trails, especially if this is one of your first solo backpacking trips, is because you’re more likely to set up at a tentsite with other backpackers nearby. This way, you’re still backpacking solo, but you have the comfort knowing that there’s someone close by in case of an emergency.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #8: Avoid Hiking at Night

There are a few reasons why you’d want to avoid hiking at night as a solo backpacker. Hiking at night can increase your risk for injury since visibility is greatly reduced. Hiking at night by yourself can also be really intimidating.

ALL of the times I’ve had to hike by myself at night have not been memories I’ve looked back on fondly. Most of those experiences, I was pretty scared and even terrified the entire time.

First of all, it’s really hard to see the trail at night, even when you have a headlamp. Hiking at night, I find that I’m more likely to encounter wildlife, like the slow-moving porcupine I almost walked into while hiking along the PCT in Oregon last year. That guy scared the crap out of me.

With limited visibility, I’m more likely to get turnaround and lost when hiking at night by myself.

I’m also more likely to injure myself whenever I hike alone at night. If I’m hiking alone in the dark, I’m more than likely hurrying up my pace so I can get to camp as quickly as I can. This means I’m more likely to stub my toe on a rock, roll my ankle or lose my footing, fall and slide headfirst towards a tree, all of which I’ve done while hiking alone at night.

Also, hiking at night by myself always makes me really nervous. I tend to make up scary stories in my head. Trees turn into big, scary shadows out of the corner of my eye. I spook myself out and my head is on a constant swivel until I’m able to make it into camp for the night. Hiking alone at night is just not as enjoyable for me as it is to hike by myself during the day.

Once I do make it into camp for the evening and it’s dark, it’s always really hard to find a tentsite to setup at and find the nearby water without having to shine my headlamp into someone else’s tent. I just hate being THAT person.

I’ll always opt for a shorter mileage day if this means I can get to camp and pick a good, safe place to setup my tent while there’s still daylight.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #9: Camp At Least 3-5 Miles from a Trailhead, Parking Lot or Road

 In all of the MANY miles I’ve been out on trail as a solo female backpacker over the last 6+ years, it seems like the farther I get out on trail, the less likely I am to encounter a sketchy person, which is a big fear a lot of women have about backpacking alone.

As a woman, I actually feel much safer hiking by myself in the backcountry than I do walking alone in any town or city. Why? Because if someone is up to no good, they will more than likely want to stick close to a trailhead, parking lot or a road so that they can have a quick getaway.

This is why I always recommend getting at least 3 to 5 miles from the trailhead for any of your solo backpacking trips, whether it’s your first solo backpacking trip or your next. The farther you can get away from any nearby trailhead, parking lot or road, the more likely you are to be safe and less chance you have of an encountering someone who isn’t safe.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #10: Always Trust Your Instincts & Listen to Your Gut

If something feels off, listen to that. Don’t ignore it. My instincts are always a good indicator of the energy that’s happening around me, especially whenever I’m hiking by myself in the backcountry and my gut has never steered me wrong.

If I ever have a funny feeling and something feels off, whether it’s about a person, a campsite, a break spot or a weird car in the parking lot, I listen to that weird feeling and do whatever I can to get myself out of that situation immediately.

ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings when you’re out on trail alone. Make eye contact with the people you pass by out on trail and take notice of what they look like, what they’re wearing and the gear they’re carrying.

Never tell anyone you don’t know out on trail that you’re backpacking alone. If someone asks, you can always lie and say that you’re waiting for your friend or that “your friend” is either in front of you or behind you.

ALWAYS be situationally aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to landmarks, trail signs and trail junctions. Double check your navigation system at every trail junction to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction.

And if you are going to listen to an audiobook, podcast or music while you’re hiking alone, make sure you only have one ear bud in instead of two and keep the volume down so that you can hear when either other hikers or animals come up behind you.

Solo Hiking Safety Tip #11: Practice Proper Food Storage

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace (or LNT) are guidelines every hiker and backpacker should be familiar with before going out in the backcountry. The LNT Principles are guidelines to help anyone who visits the outdoors minimize their impact on the outdoor environment they’re visiting.

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace are:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • And Be Considerate of Others

Elements of most of the 7 LNT Principles can be helpful for solo hiking safety, but when talking about practicing proper food storage, I want to refer to LNT Principle Number 6 specifically, which is Respect Wildlife.

Respecting wildlife means observing wildlife from a distance and never following or approaching wildlife. This means giving wildlife plenty of space whenever you encounter them out on trail and making noise, especially when hiking alone so that you don’t come up on wildlife by surprise.

Respecting wildlife also means never feeding wildlife and avoid attracting wildlife with food. One way we can assure that we never feed wildlife is by practicing proper food storage, both on trail and at camp. Carry your food in a rodent-proof, bear-proof bag like an Ursack or a hard-sided bear canister. Part of your trip planning should include checking with local land managers to see what type of food storage is required for the area you plan on traveling in.

At camp, store all of your food and scented items away from your sleeping area and cook downwind and away from your sleeping area. If there are metal bear lockers, fox boxes or bear poles nearby, use those options when storing your food and scented items at camp.

The Hardest Part of Backpacking Alone

The hardest part about backpacking alone is knowing that you have to be 100% self-reliant for every aspect of your trip while you’re out in the backcountry. You don’t have anyone else to look over the map with to make sure you’re going the right way. You don’t have anyone else to borrow food, water or fuel from if you run out. There’s no one there for you when you’ve had a bad day on trail where everything’s gone wrong and all you want to do is cry.

Why I Love Backpacking Alone

The best part about backpacking alone is also a lot of the same reasons why it’s so hard.

I love solo backpacking for the freedom to go on these big trips without having to wait for someone else to go with me. I can create whatever trip I want to go on and then go wherever I want, whenever I want, for however long I want to be out there.

Another reason why I love solo backpacking is because it’s empowering. Nothing builds up confidence like going backpacking alone. If a situation happens while I’m out there alone, I have to figure it out by myself because I have no other choice and I become a stronger person because of those experiences.

Solo backpacking is also the ultimate confidence booster. Whenever I’m out on trail alone, I know that I have to be 100% self-reliant and there’s a lot of power in that. If backpacking alone were easy, everybody would be doing it. And if I’m being perfectly honest, solo backpacking kind of makes me feel like a badass.

If you’re thinking about planning a solo backpacking trip this year, DO IT!! If I had known how much solo backpacking would’ve change my life, I wouldn’t have waited so long to go on my first trip.

“Someday” or “one day” are never going to happen unless you make it a priority and put it on the calendar.

If you need help planning your first or next solo backpacking trip and want to build up your confidence to get out there and do it alone, I can help! CLICK HERE to learn more about how The Confident Solo Female Backpacker System can help you achieve your solo backpacking goals this year.

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