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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Solo Hiking vs Hiking with a group.

I started hiking in 2003 after I started hyper-extending my knee on a regular basis due to a skiing accident. Perhaps because I started slowly or maybe because of my background (hunting and fishing) or maybe all those military orienteering courses. I've never felt uncomfortable hiking alone.

 The flip side to this is that many people only hike in groups. So far I've been fortunate to do about 1200 to 1300 four thousand foot peaks here in New England and New York (most in the last 6 years). About 65% have been alone and in recent years I've been more likely to seek out fellow hikers just due to the social aspect of hiking.

I ran into an article that explored the pros and cons recently for both that I wanted to share the article but also to expand on it. The author felt the decision to hike alone versus in a group should be based on your experience, conditions and your preference.

What I would inject into that is-- you are in many cases going to start hiking because you like it and if you really like it you will begin to build confidence, buy suitable gear and eventually make mistakes that you learn from. As I like to say "I've survived several learning curves". I think the conditions are a none factor. Doing a hike in a group in bad weather is just as bad as solo and of course you might take a few people with you. What I often run into is more scheduling conflicts or and I know this sounds stupid but your "needs" ie the goals for whatever project you are doing at the time.

Hiking in groups has many advantages. Navigation is easier as usually some knows the way. Funny I've never seen a disagreement about which way to go most groups are familiar with the other hikers and in agreement that the fastest most efficient way is the way to go. In case of an injury you have help. You pick up things that work. Everyone does things a bit differently has cool equipment and I know that what I carry ---is often because I've seen someone else using it. Conversation is a big benefit. It makes the time pass, you learn about the people you are with and it's really hard not to bond with them. Trail breaking in snow is much easier. It is nice not to have to carry the burden all on your own.

What are disadvantages? Pace can be hard sometimes. Not everyone walks at the same pace, some people like to stop on mountain tops or for long breaks and others like to keep moving. You have to learn to be patient. Perhaps that's a positive in itself. The unwritten rule is if you start with a group you should finish with the group unless a consensus lets you go. I've never been with a group though that would not work to keep all happy.

Solo Hiking allows a great deal of freedom. You pick your route how fast you want to do it and all the rest. It gives you a great opportunity to roll thoughts around in your head, vent or what ever you need to do.

The down side is the room for error is minimal. You need to have everything you need for your outing clothing, food, water, traction and first aid. I carry a spot device to be able to signal if I was incapacitated (it appeases my wife but also gives me another tool if something bad happens). While the mountains in the North East are not very tall (most people hike between 4000-6000 feet) they are covered with mud, sticks, roots, ice, snow and every type of weather imaginable. It gets lonely always being on your own. Like the saying "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there did it really happen?" people crave other people if only to witness.

What are your experiences? What would you add?


Anonymous said...

I advise to always have a Glock
as company . . . some very strange
people outdoors and that includes the
Appalachian Trail!

Anonymous said...

I advise a Glock as company no matter where you go in the woods or up and down the Appalachian Trail!

Barre ArmyNavy said...

It's a lot of extra weight and doubtful that you would get the opportunity to use it.

Anonymous said...

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Anonymous said...

I hiked alone for years because no one I knew cared to do the fairly minimalist, somewhat remote backpacking that I enjoyed. Then I got hurt, burned my hand very badly; had to wrap it up, break camp alone, drive back to the city....very embarrassing, but also could've been so much worse. The family freaked out and now I can't go alone anymore. Damn it. Doddering old fool! I carry bear pepper spray for wildlife, and a 7-shot S & W revolver loaded with .357 hunting rounds in case of whatever else I may run into. Yeah it's heavy, but then so is a sleeping bag and all the other stuff!

Barre ArmyNavy said...

Thanks for sharing. I've never carried a weapon in many years of hard hiking and never felt I needed one. Hiking by yourself though can lead to having to get out on your own, question is do you have what it takes?