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Monday, February 22, 2010

Solo Backpacking: Antidote for a Frenzied Life

Solitude is an endangered species in our modern world. In many situations it is outright extinct. Our urban and corporate lives, for instance, are crowded with people, things and often-unnecessary activity.
An antidote to the frenzy of modern life can be solo backpacking. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to go it alone in the wilderness. Only the intrepid few.

Water purification systems at Lac de Bret, Swi...
Image via Wikipedia
If you choose to join the few, make sure that you are well prepared for this enjoyable but considerably-more-risky wilderness activity. Hike safely and hike responsibly. If you do stupid things that require search and rescue, you are putting other people’s lives at risk.
Here are some tips for being well-prepared and for minimizing the risks inherent in solo backpacking.
1. Leave your itinerary, including a map marked with your intended route, with someone at home. Be sure to emphasize the day and time after which someone should initiate a search for you if you do not return on time.
2. Be doubly sure that you have included all necessary safety items in your backpack and first aid kit. Make certain you have waterproof fire starting equipment, a water purification system and a signal mirror, just to mention a few of the common items any backpacker needs to include.
3. Know your hiking capabilities, plus your physical and mental limits. Stay well within your limits. Don’t over-extend yourself. Doing so could lead to injury, mental instability or worse.
4. It’s a good idea to stay on well-traveled routes, where other hikers will be passing regularly.
5. Take along a cell phone for safety and peace of mind. But, turn it off and leave it in a pocket where you have easy access to it in an emergency. If you can’t live without talking and/or texting, you’re reading the wrong article.
6. Practice light backpacking. If you are not into ultralight backpacking, at least you can move towards lighter backpacking. Plan carefully what you will need to take along, not what you will want to take along. Consider carefully what you will put into your backpack.
Make an effort to keep the weight of your pack well below 30 pounds. Being the only one in your party, it is not possible to share items like stoves or tents. So, it is doubly important to work on lightening your load.
7. Hone your map and compass skills. If you have a GPS, be sure and take it. It can be a very useful instrument. But, don’t plan on entirely replacing your map and compass with this nifty gadget. Such high-tech items can malfunction, and batteries can go dead. Knowing how to read and navigate by a map and compass is essential for solo backpacking.
Solo backpacking isn’t for everybody. There are increased risks associated with this type of outdoor activity. But, if you are the type that craves solitude, consider solo backpacking. But, you must painstakingly take the necessary precautions.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.

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