Trekking Alone? Life saving tips for a solo trekker
This blog is a part of our Trekking 101 series, powered by ULTIMATE TREKKER – the Outdoor Leadership Programme for pro trekkers.
Why should I go solo trekking in India?
Trekking the Indian Himalayas solo, can be one of the most liberating experiences for trekkers. Going solo is often considered a spiritual journey; it refines the thought process well. You can choose your route and rest when you feel like but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Solo travel In India calls for being responsible for your own actions, goals, navigation, food and shelter. But after completing the journey you will be more confident and gain invaluable experiences.
4Play aims to create awareness about the best practices, specific to the Indian outdoors. And enable you to step out with confidence. By making accessible an ocean of empirical knowledge gathered by the Indian Bear Grylls – Pranav Rawat himself.
Pranav Rawat is a seasoned mountaineer and an ice-climber, with a decade long experience as a summiteer. Pranav is also an UIAA certified Himalayan Mountain Guide and Wilderness First Responder, which makes him an unparalleled expert on climbing and trekking in the Indian Himalayas.
Concerns around solo traveling on Indian Treks
An often asked question about solo-trekking is about the dangers associated with it. Truthfully, going alone is dangerous because you won’t have anyone to help you if anything goes wrong. Your bag will be pretty heavy because you will be carrying all your supplies. You should be precisely able to ‘navigate’ your way through any obstacle that you might face.
These examples are not meant to dishearten you but are mentioned here just to make you aware. The very nature of solo trekking compels one to acquire survival skills for an independent way of exploration.
Since you will be travelling alone, you need to have some essential items for trekking to be self-sufficient throughout your journey.
General Guidelines for self – sufficiency
- Study weather forecasts of the trekking region beforehand. Choose the right type of clothing accordingly like a high altitude/winter jacket for your trek.
- Only take the gear that you cannot do without.
- Make realistic plans. Do not make overly ambitious mileage goals. Keep in mind what you can do and don’t consider it as a drive to prove your mettle to others.
- Choose the right kind of shoes for long treks. Trekking boots are not always the best.
- Take care of your nutrition and hydration.
- Injuries are inherent in long treks, so remember to take a first-aid kit. Learn how to treat basic injuries.
- Only functional clothes make the real difference on high altitude treks. Leave the fancy ones behind.
- Pay special heed to your sleeping system, a tent itself is not going to keep you warm at night.
Mitigating risk on treks, especially high altitude ones, is paramount.
- Combating Physical Exertion
As we pointed out earlier, if you are planning to go on a solo trek then ‘BE PREPARED’. You are all the help that you can get in wilderness. Going solo isn’t about taking chances and leaving it to fate, you should be ready beforehand. If you have trained your body well and kept the right/essential items for trekking then exertion, food, camping etc., shouldn’t be much of a problem. Also, it is always better to be prepared for high altitude sickness as it is very common. Acclimatizing before leaving for a high altitude trek is best.
- Knowing Navigation
You can learn how to navigate via compass or through a map. But honestly it’s much better if you just carry a GPS device. Today, the whole world has been mapped through satellite imaging and GPS is one of the best navigational tools available in the market. So even if you trust your navigational skills, it never hurts to keep an offline GPS file on your cellphone as a backup.
- Reveling in Loneliness
Humans invented languages to express and communicate. Keeping your trap shut for a long time might prove to be an inconvenience but it just comes with the package of solo trekking. On the brighter side, there is no one to bother you and consequently, no one to complain about. Before you embark on a long solo trek, your first solo treks should be short and manageable. You should have accumulated enough experience to begin enjoying and appreciating your own company.
- Mentally Preparing for Natural Disasters
Earth is 4.543 billion years old and “natural disasters” have been occurring since the inception of time. We view calamities in relation to the extent of their effect on human society. Our society has a one-dimensional approach towards natural disasters; Natural disasters are defined as a naturally occurring events that can only cause loss to human life and infrastructure.
We cannot stop natural disasters from occurring, so all we can do is know what to do when shit hits the fan. Therefore, it is best to learn and understand all about the place you are going to on a trek. Get a grasp on the geology of the place. For e.g., find out if it’s an earthquake or flood prone area.
Making yourself aware of such threats can help you mitigate them more efficiently.
Solo Trekking for Women in India
We had a word with our friend and veteran trekker Anne Mathias about the solo female trekking scene in India and this is what she had to share.
How safe or unsafe are Indian outdoors for women traveling on their own?
Our country, except for a few remote places in the Indian hinterland, is very travel friendly for solo women budget travellers. The same common sense safety measures that apply to men universally while traveling, also apply to women too regarding being observantly alert to your surroundings and people in them. Other than that, gender or being a woman, doesn’t particularly cause added safety concerns.
As an instance, during the winters of 2017, I was stuck in a shared cab with four other Kashmiri locals for two days. By then due to these unforeseen expenses I had totally exhausted my budget and had also missed my train back home. The cab driver and these locals not only booked me a new set of train tickets, loaned me some money, but one of them also took out the sim card from his own phone and insisted I take it when he found out my Karnataka state sim card wasn’t working in Kashmir. It’s a memory that enforced my belief in basic human kindness and helped cement my fondness and respect for Kashmir.
Is it easy to find outdoor gear for women in India? (things like trekking pants, shoes, backpacks, sunglasses, etc). Any brands or outlets you’d like to recommend?
It’s very easy to find Outdoor Gear and apparel for women in India in this day and age. With international websites like Trekkinn.com, you have practically everything under the sun stocked by them at reasonable prices, online shopping has become a breeze. As for brick-and-mortar stores in India you also have Decathlon, Columbia India, Woodland and stores like Adventure 18 and Trekkit.in that offers customers, especially women, access to the best brands and gears available in the market.
Are there any strength training or endurance workouts that you find useful for capacity building for solo adventures?
I generally just stick to a very basic fitness routine of daily warm up exercises, running, doing surya namaskars, skipping, planking, burpees, push-ups and squats. Along with that I pay attention to having wholesome nutritious foods. Training or workouts without paying attention to your diet is like pressing the accelerator and the brake at the same time. You just end up wasting effort.
We’ve heard a lot of buzz around pee funnels and menstrual cups? Do they really make life easier for female travelers?
Sometimes one person’s “must-have” tends to be another person’s “not-required-item”. Pee funnels for me personally I found not to have that much utility. I always found I managed better without it. As for Menstrual cups, now that is something that has become an integral part of my life, whether at home or while traveling. As women, it’s very important that we are conscious of our contribution and impact to plastic pollution through our choice of using sanitary products that contain plastic in them during menstrual cycles. Switching over to a reusable menstrual cup is environmentally friendly and hygienic and drastically cuts down on plastic waste and the resultant plastic pollution problem that commercial menstrual products tend to generate.
Have a query on trekking?
Let us know and we’ll get it answered by none other than Pranav Rawat himself.
Just send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject “Trekking Query”
As evident from Anne’s experiences, trekking solo in India, even for women is not impossible. The key however, as is the case with all endeavors, is preparedness in terms of knowhow of safety, climate, physical ability and finally a mentally strong outlook.
We would love to hear tales of your solo travels, do comment below.
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Author: Aditya Pande
A climber hailing from a quaint hill town of Kumaon, Uttaranchal. Focused towards staying healthy and efficient, in the mountains and in the cities.