View Full Version : Any problems being alone?

01-18-2006, 14:36
Has anyone of you gals had any problems hiking the trail alone? I'm referring to being a lone female amongst a group of men and other wildlife. Some of the concerns of my family is just this and I'm trying to put them at ease. (Not trying to insinuate anything, men. Don't take offense!)

01-18-2006, 14:57
You can team up with folks out there once you start if you don't want to be alone. There are plenty of hikers around during March/April. Great friends are made along the way!

Spirit Walker
01-18-2006, 15:23
The main problem, for me, in being female among a group of guys is getting privacy. I used to leave early in the morning so I could arrive at the shelter earlier than anyone else, so I could have a little time alone to clean up, write in my journal, etc. The guys were great - but they didn't seem to understand my occasional need to be alone. I camped alone at times and would take a motel room all by myself just so I could shut a door between us.

Male humor is also a bit different. I enjoy it, but I always appreciated meeting other women hikers so we could share a smile at some of the absurdities in our companions.

Young women may find themselves with an entourage of sorts. Single females are in short supply - that makes them very precious. The good part of that is the other hikers will keep an eye on you - you'll have a dozen protectors - but it can be a problem too. I've known women thruhikers who had a hard time shaking off someone who was a little too interested. One of the best solutions is to find a partner - any partner, male or female - so you don't seem quite as available.

That said, I never had any problems. I hiked alone the first time, just hiking with others very casually for a few days or weeks at a time. My second hike I started alone, got into a group and then became partners with one other hiker (now my husband). But I wasn't a 'sweet young thing' - even on my first hike, so many years ago. There are a lot more women on the trail now than there were then - so you should be fine.

01-21-2006, 16:41
The main problem, for me, in being female among a group of guys is getting privacy.

I hike alone, and that is the major problem I have with shelters.

01-21-2006, 21:49
Lots of hikers tend to move in groups along the trail... its interesting to watch how the groups and hiking partnerships form...

You're going to end up hiking, taking breaks and sleeping in the same place as other hikers. You'll find other hikers you bond with and share your plans with. Everyone tends to know who's where and when.

While on trail most of us aren't at the height of hygiene... water and wipes can only get you so clean. Its not while on the trail that you are the most attactive. On trail its all about hiking, where to camp, where's the next town, and the next water source. Its in town when everyone is getting cleaned up, heading out for dinner and a beer that you might have a guy interested in something other than the boots your wearing.

If you keep in contact with folks at home, call them when in town, let them know when to expect that you will be checking in next. When talkng with them give them the names of some of the folks you're moving with on trail.

01-22-2006, 14:23
While on trail most of us aren't at the height of hygiene... water and wipes can only get you so clean. Its not while on the trail that you are the most attactive.

True enough! But here's another way some guys think about it:

"She's dirty and smelly, but she's still cute. This is as ugly as she gets."

I suppose it's not just a male/female thing, but whether you call a glass half-empty or half-full. :)

01-22-2006, 14:33
My second hike I started alone, got into a group and then became partners with one other hiker (now my husband).

How ironic. :D That story, as nice as it is, may be one reason why hiker guys tend to gravitate to certain nubile single women hikers.

I don't think many real hikers are dangerous people. It just makes sense mathematically if you think about it: if you're a guy and you really love hiking and the outdoors, and you encounter a normal, sane woman who also likes hiking, the AT has already done some of the winnowing for you.

What I mean is that in the off-trail world, you're not as likely to encounter women who share this passion. That's all it amounts to, I hope.

Nevetheless, I'm taken and I've never sought female companionship on the trail. Also, after doing a string of 20-milers in the cold, not getting enough sleep, and smelling like a warthog, I would probably not be interested even if I wasn't taken.

01-22-2006, 17:00
Nope, no real problems. The worst I ran into was the night a skunk decided he REALLY wanted inside my tent. I managed to pack and leave without getting sprayed but it was a close thing.:D But that could happen to anyone anywhere.

Privacy is something you will have to figure out if you sleep in shelters but not that difficult. But from time to time I did intentionally camp all alone just to get some solitude for a change. Not really to get away from men per se, rather the whole cosy crowded shelter environment.

01-23-2006, 02:20
I want to thru hike this summer, and would have to go alone b/c I don't know anyone who can leave their job long enough to do it with me. My husband would love to go w/, but it's not even an option. He REALLY does not want me to go alone... but I think I would love it. I also tried to recruit one/some of my sisters but they all have stuff to do this summer. He thinks I need a male... and shouldn't go alone anyway in case I got hurt or something. Is he being over protective? (I think he's jealous b/c he wants to do it too!)

01-23-2006, 17:47
PinkLemonade, my mom is doing the same thing with the "you need a guy out there to protect you" bit. A good part of it is general cocern for my well-being. My brother was going to thruhike with me but he is notorious for not following through on plans, so i'm pretty much dead set on going alone unless i can find someone to meet up with. Then again, when you consider how many people do start out you're bound to find someone you can pair up with or at least a few people you know you'll be seeing on a regular basis.

I think alot of safety concerns boil down to comon sense and erring on the side of caution. i'm debating taking some sort of self-defense class though, just in hopes that that will ease some of my mother's worries.

01-23-2006, 18:55
I really doubt that hiking alone on the AT is that much of a concern. I made my thruhike alone in 2004 with no problems. And on the AT "Alone" is a pretty relative term, at least going northbound. You will find no lack of fellow hikers, both male and female.

Finding someone else on the trail to walk with is not very hard either.

Pennsylvania Rose
01-23-2006, 19:33
I've never had a problem being alone - on the AT or anywhere else. The AT at the height of thru-hiker season is probably one of the safest places I've been hiking. There are plenty of people around, often even other women to hike with. My experience on the AT is that you often end up with a group of people in the same place several nights in a row. As you get to know folks, people start looking out for each other. If you prefer to do your walking alone you can always refer to the rest of your "group" when you meet someone you don't know.

I was 18 my first long section hike and emerged unscathed (Springer to Erwin with the crowd).

If your family is really dead-set against you starting your hike alone, you could always advertise for another female hiking partner here, on another list-serve, or in the AT Newsletter (or whatever it's called now, I'll never be able to change the name in my mind). Just be sure to take a few practice hikes together to make sure your styles mesh.

01-23-2006, 19:35
When I was 16, my mother made me take my brother and his friend along with me and a couple of other girls on a cycling trip through MA, NH, and ME for our "protection." Guess what? The stupid boys ended the trip in the middle of nowhere in Maine by cutting up and ramming one bike into another, ruining two bikes beyond repair. We had to call our parents to come pick us up.

Fast forward many, many years... I've got a husband and three grown children. I will be hiking the AT alone this year because 1) I'm the one who wants to do it 2) it's way, way too big a commitment to ask anyone to do it just to keep you from being alone 3) a person who doesn't really want to hike the AT for their own sake will very likely end up ending the trip prematurely, by hook or by crook.

Ditto what the others have said about the alleged aloneness and dangers of hiking solo, going northbound. At least, that's my observations during section hikes in GA, NC, and TN in the spring.

BTW, my mother is a nervous wreck about my planned SOBO hike. The word she used the first time we discussed it on the phone was "appalled." But no less a person than Stumpknocker told me he carried a cell phone during his first AT hike, to ease his mother's mind.

01-23-2006, 19:49
I agree that you will seldom be alone on the AT. Privacy is indeed an issue with me also. But the previous messages have addressed that. My family didn't want me to go alone because of my age, not my gender. I guess they figured I would be less able to protect myself. I was more concerned about falling!

I will be back out there this year, without any worries about being alone, definitely stepping carefully and slowly.


"you don't quit playing because you grow old...you grow old because you quit playing".

01-26-2006, 13:06
I will admit that hiking alone has definitely been a concern of mine. I am traveling SOBO and have a partner for the first half or so of it, but am on my own for the end. I figure by then I will have met people to hike with the rest of the way, but does anyone have any advice as to how to explain this to nervous family members?

02-20-2006, 03:57
I will admit that hiking alone has definitely been a concern of mine. I am traveling SOBO and have a partner for the first half or so of it, but am on my own for the end. I figure by then I will have met people to hike with the rest of the way, but does anyone have any advice as to how to explain this to nervous family members?
Let them know that it's a community, not just a path in the woods, people know about eachother and care about eachother and the community, and are out there for a reason. You'll realize this more fully once you're out there. Many of the people you meet could be your friends for the rest of your life...

02-21-2006, 11:36
When I first decided to thru-hike this year, it was a solo thing. Since then, I've become involved with someone I met while hiking. He's decided to thru-hike with me...at first I was a little peeved because it was MY dream ~ and I wanted to do it alone. Now, I'm glad he's coming along. :) I tease him about following me 2100+ miles to protect me, though I know that's not the case.

That said, I've been on a lot of trips where I was the "token estrogen" and I didn't mind. I'm such a tomboy that hanging out with the guys doesn't bother me. I don't worry about fellow hikers as much as I do some crackpot in a trail town.

Privacy can be an issue, but all of the guys I've hiked with have been very gracious. When I want to change or, as a example, go to the bathroom above treeline, I just ask them to turn around ~ and they do.

I am looking forward to meeting lots of hikers this year, men & women alike!

02-21-2006, 12:11
IMHO: I have never found that hiking alone as a women is a problem, any more than it is a problem for a man to hike alone. The notion of women as frail creatures is such a load of crap infact women are probably more adept at hiking alone since we tend to embrace community. Only a few times have I actually been able to hike without running into another 2-legged creature. It depends I suppose on individual comfort level. I personally feel much more secure by myself on the trail than in a city.

I tell my friends and family to look at it this way; most people who are looking to "do harm" are looking for an easy target or an easy opportunity. I am pretty sure the hiking I and many others on this forum have done in some of the east coasts most rugged terraine does not qualify. Also the whole myth as others have already pointed out of taking a guy along is crap. I personally spend much of my time educating and leading men in the woods. Of course it is the way I was brought up that hanging out in the woods is normal and safe while cities are where "bad" things can occur.

The only precautions I make are not to camp to close to roads, or other easily accessable campsites, generally just because I do not want to deal with traffic noise, drunk high school kids and rednecks.

My 2 cents

05-08-2006, 22:25
I love to hike alone (well, with my fiesty little beagle). The peace, solitude, and beauty are something I never find in the city. I always come back feeling better, more at peace with myself and others.

Camping out at night has been a little creepy sometimes. Once, I didn't have enough warm clothing and couldn't find the tent. It was a very, very long night (This was years ago before I got my dog). Another time, it was a still night. Then, I heard branches crashing and huffing sounds. My dog gave one bark and stood up with all of her hair on end. I yelled and made a whole lot of noise, and "something" went walking heavily away. I just know it was a bear. I took my sleeping bag, dog, and flashlight, and hiked less than 1/2 a mile to the nearest shelter. At that point, I was more afraid of bears than humans.

Some of the dangers of hiking alone, especially at night, are getting lost, not having brought proper gear, hypothermia, falls, injuries. If you're not close enough to people, you could really get into trouble.

To anyone: I would advise joining a local hiking club first, making sure you're fit, have a compass, proper gear, know the terrain well, and are properly prepared. That's the best way to have good solo backpacking experiences, I think. :)

05-09-2006, 18:45
I prefer to hike alone,,,then I can go at my own pace, be more flexible. Met lots of nice people the short week on the AT I was on though. Haven't understood the big attraction for always camping in a shelter though. Much harder sleeping on wooden slabs vs ground, shelters often stink and mice infested,,,,then u have to deal with other people's noise and schedules too. I often found shelter distances too confining so would just hike til done, stop and camp.

By some of the evidence left behind at shelters, and what was written in the books,,was clear that many shelters that are close to roads are magnets for the local party scene so definitely didn't want anything to do with that.

Only stayed one nite in shelter ,,,,but, to each their own.

05-09-2006, 19:08
I LOVE to hike alone! I love the peace and solitude it gives me. I dont have to talk. I hear all the wonderful forest sounds around me.

What I dont like is camping alone. EVERYthing goes bump in the night! I have a hard time sleeping. I hear leaves rustling, branches snapping, hoots and howls from the trees. Critters coming into camp. I am not afraid of the critters, but what if its not a 4-legged critter? My mind wanders and goes into overdrive thinking "whats out there?"

If there was some way to hike solo during the day (or even nite-hike) then camp w/ a friendly sort, that would be the perfect situation for me. Is that scenario out there though?

05-10-2006, 13:29
You're never really alone out there on the AT. Most men will adopt you as a trail sister pretty fast and will be there if you need them. I had no problems whatsoever hiking alone. The only thing I could mention is a minor annoyance at how townspeople, tourists, and dayhikers reacted to me hiking alone. Yes, that was annoying. Heh. But other than that everything was just fine for me. Can't help you with the wildlife worries too much, that issue is the same with male and females. Though all I had was a young buck chase me back down a mountain.

05-10-2006, 14:39
Goodness, I could slap myself. Sorry, I did have one problem hiking solo. Hitch-hiking. Most were very fine folk, it takes a lot of guts to stop by the side of the road and pick up a total stranger, but I got a bad apple once. Southern Virginia, I was alone, the guys were ahead of me by a day and I had to get into town to resupply quickly. I had become so trusting towards hiker town folk that it almost got me into trouble. Lets just say I was considering jumping out of a fast moving truck rather than stay one more second in it with the driver. Luckily, we hit a light and I made a quick excuse to exit there. Just be careful when hitch hiking alone.

Kozmic Zian
05-10-2006, 18:17
Yea, Alone....

Nothin' to worry about, nothing to fear. Just get yourself together and get up there. You'll meet alot of folks hikin'. You can pick and choose rather or not to hike with others, other women, or men. It's perfect for the 'lone wolf'....sometimes you want to be alone, others you need some social interaction. Pick your people and times....seems to work for me. I Thru'd several years ago as a 'lone wolf', and hiked in and out of several groups and individuals. It's fun alone. I wouldn't do it any other way. KZ@