Trekking in the Himalayas is one of the lifetime experiences for trekkers. But what about solo trekking? Trekking in a group is different and trekking on your own is a completely different ball game. You have to manage yourself, carry your backpack, pitch a tent and cook for yourself. But yes, once you have completed your solo trek, it will make you more confident and you will gain invaluable experiences. It won’t be incorrect to say that solo trekking is dangerous because you don’t have anyone to help you if anything goes wrong. Although if you are someone looking for greater mental or physical challenge, then you should definitely give it a shot.
Not to forget everything has its own benefits and some drawbacks. Let’s first understand those and then it will clear the picture whether it is worth it for you. And if you are still willing to go solo trekking then you can continue reading the tips or tricks below.
- First and foremost benefit is, solo trekking helps you to overcome your fears. We as humans have many fears like darkness, height, being alone, animals, etc and trekking solo will help you a lot here.
- It brings you closer to nature. Traveling in groups sometimes doesn’t let you see any real nature because the noise and invasion, drives the wildlife away. Plus groups won’t let you wait for you to watch those beautiful butterflies sitting on flowers or waterfalls or for that matter sunrise or sunset. During group trekking, you have to meet your daily targets because their camping spots are fixed and you have to reach there at the end of the day.
- Trekking solo also offers you great flexibility, taking breaks, changing the pace, changing the camping location and anything else which you want. Pitch your camp wherever you find it good, walk slow or fast, it’s on you. If you think you don’t need rest, you can continue until you feel tired.
- Solo trekking makes you more responsible. You are on your own in the wild and you make all your decisions whatsoever. You tend to become more skilled and knowledgeable. You rely on yourself for food, shelter, and protection. Plus after completing the trek you say “I did it” and it’s a moment of pride.
- Another benefit, solo trekking gives you time for self examination. You are alone in the wilderness and relaxing from the busy city life. You get a chance to meditate and bring positive vibes in you.
These are some basic benefits which we can consider while planning for solo trekking. You get good views of nature and a peace of mind. Moreover, you get to challenge yourself physically and mentally with a dose of adventure. But not to forget, there are some disadvantages also.
- The first thing you will experience is loneliness. Humans are social animals and we prefer others around us and enjoy sharing our experiences and you will miss it while trekking solo. Many trekkers failed to complete their treks, and that is not because of poor planning or injury but due to loneliness. You are walking for days with no one to talk to, it becomes boring and thus turns into a bad experience.
- Secondly, you have to carry your own load, no matter how heavy it is. And ofcourse it will be heavy, you are carrying everything on your shoulders. Your tent, utensils, food, water, first aid, other required gears, clothes, and much more.
- Thirdly, there is a high possibility of natural events like wind, snow, rain, falling rocks, wildlife etc. In mountains you can’t predict these things. Weather changes within fraction of time and likewise you can be attacked by some wildlife, although chances for this is less but still it does come under natural events and can’t be underlooked. There is little you can do about natural events.
- Getting injured is always a real possibility in the wilderness but the disadvantage is that there will be no one to take care. You have to deal with AMS, burns and cuts etc.
- And the one which is most feared is getting lost. Losing your way is very common for solo trekkers. There is no one to check the route or find directions. You have to do it on your own.
You definitely need a bunch of skills before going out in the wilderness for solo trekking. Missing any of these skills will land you in trouble and can create a life threatening situation as well. Keep the disadvantages before you head out. A proper planning and a good marked trail is from where you can start our solo trekking. You need to start from choosing a trek, to successfully completing it and not to forget the adequate fitness level needed.
Now then you have looked on a few basic positives and negatives of solo trekking. We thus discuss the tips and tricks which can reduce these disadvantages to a minimum. These will keep you safe while you will be trekking solo. Although it is considered to be really tough, I would suggest you go solo atleast once. It is not a mandate to go for long treks on the first time itself. Let’s start then.
The best tip for trekking solo is to start with small treks. Start with probably a one day or two days trek and check how comfortable you are. The reason for starting from a small one is to make you gain knowledge and confidence. Treks like Kheerganga or Triund Trek are the best ones to start with. You will never go wrong with these two. Also these treks can be done solo even if it’s your first trek but not to forget you will require planning and fitness for these too. Once you gain some experience, you can increase the duration to 4 days and so on.
Pick Popular Trails
Picking the right trekking trail is important for a solo trekker. While picking the trek, another thing which you would need to keep in mind is picking a popular trek. Both of these go side by side. You really don’t want to go on an isolated trek. The main reason for selecting a popular trek, you get to meet while you ascend or descend. It makes the experience fun and you won’t feel lonely.
Also make sure you check the conditions of the trail, do your research and talk to people on the ground and understand what the trail is like right now. Check the weather conditions and make sure you have adequate gear to keep you warm. Things you can do.
- Research on your trek – read blogs
- Check the weather condition when you are going
- Join trekking groups on facebook and look for people who have done that trek recently
- Talk to the locals before starting the trek
Work On Fitness
We always have given emphasis on fitness and there is a reason for that. Every trek you go on requires fitness although different trails means different fitness levels. The trail will include uneven, inclines and rocky terrains and even snow. Hence, being fit is even more important when trekking solo. You not only have to walk long distances but cook your own food, pitch your tent, carry water from sources, dig a cat hole for yourself and much more. If your fitness level will be limited then you won’t be able to complete all these activities after reaching your campsite.
When you are traveling with a group, you only have to walk and reach the campsite. You have people who will prepare the food, pitch the tent and do all other sort of work but you are on your own during your solo trek. You will need to develop great strength and endurance by following a fitness routine. You should work on your fitness atleast 3 months before your trek. Remember the more prepared you feel, the easier it’s going to be.
Be Mentally Prepared
A trekker is incomplete unless he or she is mentally prepared. Definitely your physical strength will be a plus point but understand, you will need your mind to work on some extreme conditions. You will experience rough weather and unfamiliar terrains where you will need your mind to calm down. If you get injured, you really don’t want to panic at this moment rather handle the situation calmly. You will experience moments of heaven and hell whenever you are on trek. Just make sure you always stay positive.
First Aid Training Is Must
Another tip for trekking solo is to learn the basics of health and first aid. You are on your own and during any injury, you should be aware about the basic treatment. Always pack the first aid which should include basic medicines and first aid materials which you will require. If it’s possible, you can attend a short course which is offered by major hospitals and will need only 2-4 days. Basic Life Saving or FIrst Aid Training are the ones which you can go for.
Also when you will be going on higher altitudes, chances of AMS increases. Hence it becomes important to know about Acute Mountain Sickness i.e AMS. Lack of knowledge can land you in trouble and can be life threatening. Make sure you are educated about basics, types of AMS, precautions, preventions and treatment to take to avoid AMS.
Get The Right Gears
For trekking solo, not only your shoes and backpack plays a role. Remember you have to carry your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and stove as well. The problem which many people face is blisters, so make sure you have the right fit shoe and thick socks. However, buying these is expensive and if you don’t want to invest initially, consider renting gear. There are many organizations who rent out every major and minor trekking gear from a knife to tents. Unwind Life, Sharepal, Blue Throat Adventures are some of them who lets you rent and might give you home delivery and pickup. However, if you buy trekking gear then it will make your upcoming treks a lot cheaper.
You will also need to learn how to use them, practice with the shoes and trekking bag with some weight. Learn how to pack the backpack, how to use the stove or how to pitch the tent. There are numerous videos available and also you can learn from the person who is selling it. Give time to these gears.
Minimize Your Weight
Trekking solo means you have to carry everything required. Right from the backpack to tent to cooking utensils to first aid. You don’t have anyone else to share that weight. And if packed heavy, then it will be really hard for you. You are carrying all the gears, so you need to shave off every gram where possible. Invest in lightweight gears which are designed for trekking. Carry only required number of clothes, carrying 3 jackets will only overload your bag. The heavier the bag will be, the slower you will walk. It will put more pressure on your back and shoulders, and during any ascend or descend, the chances of injury increases. An overweight backpack can even lead to twisting of your ankle. So make sure you always pack light.
Enhance Your Cooking Skills
You will be the chef on your solo trek. And if you don’t know how to cook then it will be a major disaster. You can practice easy food like pasta, noodles and soups etc. You will find n number of ready to eat food from dal chawal to poha to dahlia and much more. Keep in mind, you are burning so many calories everyday and if you are not maintaining your diet with proper nutritional food then it can lead to sickness. Moreover, once you start cooking the food, you will also get an idea on how much ration you would require on your trek.
You can buy the stove and practice on it using those utensils which you are planning to take with you. Also you can practice on your terrace or in open space so you can get comfortable.
Another thing, you need to decide your menus for your trek beforehand. So buy them and pack ingredients for each meal in ziplock bags. It will help you to pack the right amount of food for your trek.
Be Open To Trekking With Others
You will notice that even though you are trekking solo, you will meet many people along the way. Many times you will turn out to be good friends. Always greet other trekkers and respect them. You don’t have to hang out with them forever but if they are being nice to you, return the same. You never know when they can be helpful to you during your trek.
On small treks you will find so many people but on long trek you will find very limited, it’s always a good habit to show them some respect and offer them help if they need. They can be better cooks and you end up getting some delicious meals for tonight, they might be a good singer who can entertain you after a long tiring day. So always be open to these possibilities.
Learn From Others
Whenever you are trekking with others try and learn new skills. It will help you while you will be on solo trek. Cooking your own food, combating blisters, picking the right gear, pitching the tent are some skills which are necessary. You should know what to pack in your backpacking while making sure your bag is not overweight. I would suggest trekking with someone who has these skills before trekking solo. It will help you gain confidence and knowledge of wilderness safety. Plus you will get a better sense of how & what to pack and how to maintain pace to accomplish your daily targets.
Now that we have discussed the tips or tricks you can get the most out of your solo trekking and how you can be prepared for the worst situation. One point which I won’t include in the above will be ‘How To Be A Responsible Trekker’. And no it doesn’t only count for the group or only for solo, this is for all the trekkers. Although on organized treks, they take measurements already but while trekking solo, we must be more conscious about these basic things. There are 7 principles of Leave No Trace which we should always follow.
- Camp on a durable surface and before pitching your tent make sure you look for existing campsites.
- Try to minimize campfire impacts. Campfire should only be done if required and that too within boundaries. You can look for established fire rings.
- Leave what you find. Don’t leave anything in nature which doesn’t belong there and don’t take anything away as well. Souvenirs are not a sign of your trekking experience rather your memories are.
- Do not wash clothes in or near water bodies. Make sure if you have to take a bath or wash your clothes or utensils, carry the water atleast 200 meters away from the water source and use biodegradable soaps and detergents.
- For human waste, dig a cat hole. Do not take a dump in open. Dig a 6inches deep and 200 meters away from the water bodies, trail or campsite. Cover it with mud and leaves to use it as a mark to prevent other trekkers from stepping on it.
- Do not litter around and carry as little plastic as possible. Pack all your trash, tissues and toilet paper in a ziplock bag. Check your campsite before leaving for leftover food and trash. Bring back your waste and dispose of it properly.
- Try not to disturb other trekkers, avoid loud noises or music. Be courteous and greet other visitors. Respect the wildlife as well. Try to be as quiet as possible.
Follow these basic principles to be a better and responsible trekker and by with the tips and tricks shared above, you will be prepared to do your solo trek. Make sure you plan and prepare properly before you head out.
HAPPY TREKKING TO ALL