Posted by on 30th June 2022

Why I Love Going on Solo Outdoor Adventures as a Woman, and Tips for How You Can Do the Same

The author enjoying dinner al fresco in the Glacier Peak Wilderness

A while back, I was talking to my husband, and he mentioned what a rarity it was that I didn’t have friends or family who got me into outdoor adventure sports. I started going on solo outdoor adventures to satisfy my need to get out there because I didn’t know anyone else who wanted to go.

Sure, I grew up running around in the woods of Georgia, but until I met my first serious boyfriend at 15, I’d never been camping outside of going with Girl Scouts twice a year. My grandmother bought me my first backpack for my 16th birthday, though it took another year for me to find people to go with.

Luckily, when I started at Georgia State University, I discovered the school had a terrific outdoor adventure program. At that point, I still didn’t feel confident camping alone. So, I signed up for weeklong trips canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp and sea kayaking the Altamaha river in South GA, plus I went caving, bike around the warm springs of Northern Florida, and more. Often, I didn’t know anyone else on the trip. But I was hooked and signed up for every trip I could.

By the time I transferred to the Recreation Resource Management program at Colorado State, I had a lot more experience and confidence. That’s when I landed my first gig as a volunteer Forest Service Backcountry Ranger and regularly had to hike into the wilderness solo for two or three days. Since then I’ve traveled around Europe alone, kayaked and mountain biked solo, and done plenty of camping road trips by myself.

The author and her dog exploring the rainforest

What do you enjoy about going on solo outdoor adventures?

Entire books have been written on the subject of how getting outdoors positively impacts both mental and physical health. I know I’m my best self when I’m active out in nature. It relieves my stress, fills my soul, and reminds me that I am but a tiny flea on the earth—which means most of what I’m worried about isn’t that important. By not waiting to find someone with the same schedule and desires as me, I get out more.

On top of that, I have the freedom to do whatever I want without worrying about what anybody else wants or needs. I can stop early or keep going. Enjoy a down day, or not. Even adventures to other countries and cities are wonderfully relaxing solo. It’s also given me a ton of self-confidence in life in general to know I am perfectly capable on my own.

What are the concerns women should have about adventuring outdoors alone, and what can they do to avoid these issues?

Well, the first few are concerns anyone should have—even if they’re with others: Getting lost, getting injured, getting in over your head, attraction the attention of bears and other wildlife. And unfortunately, women also have to worry about encountering certain men who perhaps don’t have our best interests at heart. It’s sad but it’s also the elephant in the room so I want to address it.

The author far out in the wilderness

What can you do avoid these issues or at least reduce the risks?

Again, most of this advice is true whether you’re going solo or with a partner or group.

  • Start small. Don’t opt for a weeklong solo trip your first time out—especially if you’re a novice at your chosen activity. Start with day trips and build up. Or do like I did and find a women’s or coed adventure group to join up with. They welcome solo adventurers, many charge nothing or a minimal fee to join, and I’ve included a list below to help you get started.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you’re in good enough physical shape for your adventure. Carry the 10 essentials and know how to use them (see below)—especially a map and compass because phones lose signal and die. Test all your gear before you go and make sure you know how to use it. Check bear regulations and carry any necessary food storage devices. As a woman, If I’m camping alone, I prefer to be as out of sight of other people as possible in the backcountry. In the frontcountry, I look for areas with lots of families. You can also carry pepper spray, or a taser or stun gun for added safety and protection.
  • Use technology – Of course take your phone. In the backcountry a satellite locater beacon or communication device can keep people abreast of your location and let you text, or call for help when you’re out of cell range (and you can rent one for a short period of time). Of course, you should always let someone know where you’re going, when, and for how long, also schedule regular check-ins via phone or text on longer adventures.
  • Trust your gut – It might be another few miles or hours to the next camp spot, bar, town, or hostel, but if your inner Spidey sense tells you something is off, listen to it. All too often we dismiss our intuition and make excuses because it seems easier. Or because we don’t trust ourselves and think maybe we’re overreacting. But a little inconvenience beats the alternative.

Honestly (knock on wood), I’ve never had any real problem with people or wildlife on my adventures. And I work hard to be prepared and make good choices so I greatly reduce my risk of getting lost or injured.

The Ten Essentials You Should Take on Every Solo Outdoor Adventure

This is the minimum you should carry if you’re heading outdoors for adventure—whether solo or with a partner or group. Plus, I’ve added in a few extras you might want to carry. Depending on the adventure and climate, you might add to this list or swap out a few clothing items.

  1. Navigation: always take a map and compass (optional: altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger)
  2. Illumination: Headlamp or flashlight plus extra batteries
  3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, lip balm, and sunscreen
  4. First aid kit: You can buy great ones already put together, but I like to add mole foam for blisters, an epi pen if you need one, and a sam splint, small tube of super glue
  5. Repair Kit: Knife (Swiss army or multi-tool), travel sewing kit, dental floss or fishing line, duct tape, fabric repair, packets of seam sealer, tent repair kit
  6. Fire: Carry more than one source 
  7. Shelter: Tarp, emergency blanket, or bivy sac
  8. Food: Even if you’re only headed out on a day trip, carry enough food to get you through the night in case of emergency 
  9. Water: You will always need more water than you expect, so consider carrying a filter/purification system if you can access additional water
  10. Insulation At the least an extra layer and a rain jacket—possibly rain pants and warm hat and gloves

Finding a Group to Adventure with as a Solo Woman

REI offers classes, adventure travel trips, day trips and other events at their locations across the country

Girls Who Hike is a Florida based group getting out on the trails

The Adventurous Woman is a Tampa Bay based social outdoor adventure group

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission offers class to help women get started hiking, fishing, paddling, camping and more

Women Who Hike offers group hikes and other events nationwide through their website and their network of local Facebook groups

Backcountry Babes offers backcountry skiing events, guided trips and group adventures in California and beyond

Explore Origin has a list of 10 women’s organizations catering to a variety of specific sports and types of participants

IMBA’s website is a great starting place if you’re interested in mountain biking, or just Google mountain biking and your area, to find local mountain bike organizations that lead free group rides

Of course, both Facebook and host a ton of groups dedicated to women pursuing outdoor adventures and sports from mountain biking, to climbing, to hiking, whitewater kayaking, and world travel.

So, stop waiting for someone else to go with you…Go solo and start having fun outdoor adventures now!

Wild at Heart book cover image of two sock covered feet in the open doorway of an orange tent, with mountains in the distanceWant to read about a badass woman on a solo backpacking adventure? 

Check out my latest release, Wild at Heart. A modern-day twist on the usual damsel in distress romance, the more experienced heroine rescues the hero on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. They each set out alone to find themselves, and end up coming across each other multiple time–usually naked.