Essentials for Your First Solo Hike

By SoFe Travel Editors
Posted on

There’s something reverent about hiking solo.  

The senses tune into nature. There’s a certain peacefulness in listening to the sounds of the wind, birds, a single footstep in the dirt – and nothing else. 

For many women, the prospect of doing your first solo hike is intimidating, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable ways to get to know yourself and immerse yourself in nature. Whether your hike is three hours, or three days, certain essential items will make sure you are safe, comfortable, and ready for anything. Like the Girl Scouts motto says: “Be prepared!”

Photo of the Buffalo River Trail
The 36-mile-long Buffalo River Trail (BRT) wanders along the cliffs in the Ozark mountains and down to the grassy meadows and jaunty wildflowers of Arkansas. Although the river itself is a popular canoe and float waterway, the trail is quiet. Often, hikers will see only one other hiker on the trail during the day.


what shoes to wear for your first hike
Every hiker has their favorite pair of hiking shoes. Some prefer to hike in traditional hiking boots while others prefer trail runners, and each one has its pros and cons.

Hiking boots provide more warmth and are best if you need more stability in ankles while trail runners are lighter and maneuverable. Whichever you choose, be sure to wear them several times before your hike to break them in. No one wants to find out that an expensive pair of shoes causes blisters on the heel when you’re 10 miles from the trailhead.

I never skimp on shoes. While you can go the budget route for some hiking clothing, it’s best to go to your local outdoor retailer and be fitted for a pair of hiking boots or shoes that’s just right for you. 

Not sure where to start on your quest for the perfect shoe?
Read up on these recommendations from our Facebook group members.

What To Pack for a solo hike

A female sitting outside a tent

What you pack for your hike depends on the length and difficulty of your first solo hike.
Your essentials should always include:

  • A first-aid kit that fits into your pack, like this Adventure Water Tight Ultralight Medical Kit. 
  • A trail map. Always carry a map of the trail. Having a waterproof map case is also helpful.
  • A compass. Learning to use a compass will help you if you do happen to get lost, and many compasses like this AOFAR AF-4090 Multifunctional Military Compass also have neat, helpful add-ons like a whistle, signalling mirror and even fishing hooks and lines.
  • Plenty of food. If you’re only going out for a couple of hours, then items like trail bars, tuna packs, beef jerky, trail mix and peanut butter are great, easy-to-pack options. Longer hikes will take a little planning, but trail-ready freeze-dried meals like Mountain House Adventure Meals are convenient, albeit a little more expensive. A good rule of thumb is to pack an extra day’s worth of food in case you get lost or need that extra energy boost.
  • Plenty of water.  You should plan on carrying a half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures or a full liter of water per hour on strenuous hikes in high heat. If you are hiking near water sources like streams and rivers, investing in a water filtration system like the Sawyer Water Filtration System will ensure you always have access to fresh water and can help reduce the carrying weight.
  • Waterproof matches and firestarter cubes
  • Headlamp. A small headlamp will be your best friend should you get caught out in the dark.
  • Menstrual products. Menstrual cups like The Diva Cup are lightweight, packable and reusable.
  • A quality multi-tool.  Leave that Rambo knife at home and invest instead in a good multi-tool like this Gerber Armbar. It even has a corkscrew for that post-hike celebratory glass of wine!
  • Sun protection. A lightweight sun hat, sunscreen, SPF lip balm and sunglasses should always be in your pack. 
  • Bug spray. Especially NB in areas known for tick and mosquito attacks!

HOw to stay safe on trail

Woman with doing a solo hike with hiking gear looking out towards mountain landscape
Fear of walking alone is the biggest deterrent for most women who want to hike solo, myself included. And it's a valid fear.
There are ways to increase our peace of mind while trailing. STEP ONE: Read up on trip reports via Alltrails and assess the feedback. Take into consideration which country you are in, and the levels of violence. Reach out to our community on Facebook if you need insight from someone who lives in the area. If you feel uncomfortable hiking alone, trust your gut and team up with a fellow solo female traveller. Side note, dogs make ideal travel partners! Reach out to rescue programmes -some will allow you to take dogs out for exercise on trails. STEP TWO: Inform someone back home of your route, your distance and your estimated time. Should you twist an ankle or get lost, that person will be your lifeline. First-time solo hikers can ease into the experience by choosing shorter, more popular trails like the Lamar Valley Trail in Yellowstone National Park or The Gertrude’s Nose Trail at Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Upstate New York or even short portions of The Appalachian Trail like the famous McAfee Knob trail in Virginia. STEP THREE: Research your trail. Every trail is different, so you need to educate yourself on the unique challenges of each path. Download the Alltrails app, and make sure your route is accessible offline. STEP FOUR: Consider self-defence strategies in advance. If you’re hiking in bear country, then bear spray is a necessity. But  what about self-defence against humans? We recommend keeping pepper spray within easy reach, or bear spray. It works just as well on humans as it does on animals, but if you do decide to arm yourself, study the local laws on carrying weapons.

be prepared and ready for adventure. but mostly, happy hiking!

Solo Female Tour Morocco

Ed’s note: This post contains affiliate links to help support the running of the SoFe Travel team and SoFe community at large. Wherever possible, we support women-owned businesses and ethical, sustainable organisations. Got any product recommendations? We’d love to hear about them! email [email protected]



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