A few weeks back while scouting for a Summer DirtRoadTrip Camp Out location, I decided to hit the trails alone in order to be able to cover more ground and maintain a relatively flexible schedule. Remarkably, halfway through the trip I realized that I could count the amount of times I’d ventured solo into the back country on one hand. Then once I started thinking about it, I kept asking myself why I hadn’t made it a priority to do this more often.
Before we go deeper into this subject, I want to say that I understand there are numerous benefits to traveling with a partner or in a group. From having someone else to help you should you get injured, a second set of eyes,
a warm body to share a sleeping bag with a dedicated navigator/photographer, or a running truck to get you back to civilization should your vehicle become disabled, common sense would dictate you always abide by some form of the buddy system. Skill set also plays a big role in this as well, I personally am all about choosing the right team to make up for my skill deficiencies and weaknesses, but sometimes you just need to get away and find some solitude.
So why should you take a solo trip? The dirty secret no one wants to talk about is that trip planning for a group is pain in the ass and anyone who’s led a group down a trail knows how much it can potentially suck. All of the expectations are put on your shoulders, and while you like to tell people you don’t care if they’re not enjoying themselves, deep down you either really do care, or you’re an ass hole. I’m sure many of us have all been there staring at a laptop screen, reading through the forums asking yourself the same questions over and over. Where is a good place to camp? What sites are there for them to see? Is the terrain challenging or easy enough for them to accomplish without issue? Do they have the right gear? Did they bring enough
beer water? These are the thoughts that goes though every trip planners head and it doesn’t just stop once you get to the trail.
So what’s the point? Getting out on the trail by yourself is a great way to step back and get away from all of the stress of trip planning and just think about yourself. I find that it makes myself much more cognizant about what’s going on around me, and I notice a lot more than when I’m worrying if the last truck in our group made the correct turn. It also gives me the ability to test my skills and gear to get a better perspective on what I need and don’t need. The biggest benefit though, is I find the solitude to be very therapeutic, and not in that hippy meditation kumbaya kind of way. There’s just something inherently rewarding about building a fire, cooking a meal, and sitting under the stars with a glass of bourbon with only the sounds of nature keeping you company.
Now as always here are the caveats. I’m not telling you to venture off like that dumb ass from Into the Wild, while Christopher McCandless had a short life full of adventure, he also ended up dying in a bus in the Alaskan wilderness, moral of the story, you don’t want to be that guy. If you’re not comfortable going out into the back country solo, then don’t do it, if you want to give it a shot, having the right equipment is a must. Make sure you have some basic recovery equipment that you know how to use (training is always good), basic first aid training is always good to have, and a PLB or SPOT is a good insurance policy to have should things go sideways. You’ll notice I didn’t mention food, water, sleeping bag, etc. If you need advice on that stuff, stick to the local campground, for everyone else, I hope this gives you a little inspiration for planning a solo adventure of your own.
*Note, it’s hard to take photos of yourself when traveling solo*