Hiking Solo? Leave an Itinerary!

“What seems to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
– Oscar Wilde

I have had the opportunity to do a great deal of thinking since I’ve been laid up after my surgery. One of the questions that keeps running through my mind is, what if I had been alone during that backpacking trip? What if I didn’t have my two friends there to call for help in what has proved to be one of the worst days I have ever had. Now, when I originally planned this trip, I was going to go alone but a couple of months later I asked two friends if they wanted to join me on what was supposed to be a three day adventure.

Thankfully, Ray had an app on his phone that was able to give the exact latitude and longitude of where we were. If I had been alone, I would have only been able to give a general description of where I was therefore possibly delaying my departure from the trail. Jaime immediately knew to call 911 and the Park Rangers to summon help as quickly as he could. Once again, if I had been alone, due to my physical condition I am not so sure whether I could have properly summoned help and I may have sat there for hours waiting for another hiker to come along.

When I was younger I never thought that hiking alone could be a dangerous activity. I spent many days in the woods and my family didn’t even know where I was or when I was going to be back. I never thought for one second that I would ever get hurt hiking!

However, as I started to get older, I decided that it was probably in my best interest to leave an itinerary, just in case.  So what info do I leave my family?

  1. The first thing I do is write down the name of the trail map(s) I will be using. Next, I make sure that I carefully detail what trails I will be hiking on. The most important thing to remember about this one? Never, ever deviate from the information that you leave for your family!!
  2. Make sure that after you write the information down you tell someone that you are going hiking and that you have left an itinerary. If no one is home when I am leaving, I will text my wife and tell her I am going and that the info is in the kitchen.
  3. When I start the hike I will text my wife to let her know that I am heading out on the trail and how long I think it will take me to complete the hike. If I think that I am going to be later than I originally thought, I send her a text letting her know that.
  4. As soon as I have completed my hike, I usually give my wife a quick call just to let her know I am done.

I used to think that leaving all of this information was overkill. After fracturing my ankle last month, I am now more committed than ever to making sure that I let someone know when I am going to be out hiking.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Make sure you have more than enough water for your hike. Stay hydrated!!!!!

Happy Hiking!!!

6 thoughts on “Hiking Solo? Leave an Itinerary!

  1. Jen Kennedy

    Yes, stay hydrated. My sister is a big advocate of taking a picture right before a hike. I like to pinpoint the start of my location on my phone and send it to someone so they know where I started my hike and of course let them know when I’m finished. I feel many people don’t take the time to do these simple little things. They think they will be ok but you just never know and I have to remind myself of this when I do hike solo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Zen Hiker Post author

      I agree 100%! The five minutes it takes to to get the information down could literally be the difference between being found quickly or being stranded on a trail if you were to get injured. Thanks very much for reading and the reply!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kwarren1970

    Yes!!! I agree. I’ve been a target of SAR once and I’m an advocate for letting people know exactly what your hiking plans are and hiking with friends. While I do hike nearby lower elevation hikes solo, I don’t hike 14ers alone. We were hiking a 14er when an intense and sudden thunderstorm came upon us with no warning. We were watching the skies but the storm was different. Long story short, I got separated from my friends due to falling trying to escape the storm. I hit my head pretty hard, my phone which had my map downloaded onto it died, and I somehow lost my Garmin eTrex. One of my friends had the paper map. Anyways, I got disoriented and lost for 38 hours, spent the night out there. Because my friends were able to talk to SAR of my last seen sighting, I was found. It was pretty traumatic. I learned a lot of lessons that weekend of which I share with others. Now, I often learn of ongoing SARS for missing hikers lost on our many 14ers. After action reports often say that hiker was on mountain such and such, but no details of specific trail so search teams have no narrow search area. So I’m here to agree and reinforce that telling loved ones specifics and not deviating is a big deal. Leaving a note in your car while parked at the trailhead of your itinerary is a great idea. Taking a picture just before your hike and texting it or Facebooking it is a great idea. Carrying at minimum, the 10 essentials and what you would need for an unintentional overnight stay. Talking, at least small talk with other hikers as you’re on the trail. Signing registries. And having a way to charge your phone is a great idea. I now carry aGarmin InReach Explorer +. No one plans to get lost, to need a SAR, to get hurt, or to die. But, in the event that you do, increase your odds of being found quickly. And yes, I still hike 14ers, but always with friends.


    1. The Zen Hiker Post author

      Thanks very much for commenting! All of your ideas are sound and if you have the chance to do all of them, then take the time to do them!!! I never really thought of it when I was younger but now that I am a little bit older :), I need to be careful. I even do this for short day hikes. And, fracturing my ankle this summer reinforced what I wrote and what you have said above!!! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person


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