Confession: I’ve never been solo backpacking. I’ve hiked and trail run by myself plenty of times, but the thought of sleeping completely alone in the woods makes my scalp prickle. Part of me tells myself that I haven’t made the leap to solo camping because I have more fun with company. The other part of me knows it’s because I fear the vulnerability that darkness brings.
But I’ve decided to challenge that fear, and you should, too: Solo trips can bring you solace, confidence in your abilities, freedom to go where you want at your own pace, and a newfound connection with the trail. If being alone in the wilderness will help you achieve your hiking and backpacking goals, don’t let the fear of it hold you back any longer. The experts I spoke to—a psychologist and a seasoned solo traveler—share practical strategies to prepare as best you can, calm your mind, and assess danger.