Trekking Alone? Here Are Tips From An Expert Solo Trekker

A s a Trek Leader, there’s one question that I get very often. “Karthik, I have completed Kanamo Peak, Goechala and Pin Parvati Pass treks. Can you recommend the next trek for me?

What trekkers expect in response is a recommendation for a more challenging trek. Something that climbs to a higher altitude, something that makes them trek longer hours, something that simply pushes their physical limitations beyond their previous trek.

What they fail to realize is that how you do a trek often determines the level of challenge more than what trek you do.

To explain this, I’ll start with a question for you.

What do you look for the most in a trek?

Whatever it is that you are looking for would fall under one of these two broad categories –

  1. Good views, peace of mind, snow etc.
  2. Physical and mental challenge with a dose of adventure

If your answer falls in the first category, you are not essentially looking for a “tougher” trek. Depending on what you prefer – valleys, summit views, water bodies, flora and fauna – you can choose a trek that offers these things. For example, if you love summit views, Kuari Pass would be the ideal option. Or if you enjoy birds, Sandakphu and Deoriatal are great options. If you have something in mind, just speak to anyone at Indiahikes, they’ll suggest your best option.

But in this post, I want to focus on the second category.

If greater physical or mental challenge is what you are looking for, I recommend that you try solo trekking.

What makes solo trekking challenging

Trekking on your own, without the support of an organisation such as Indiahikes, is a completely different ball game. You not only have to manage your own logistics, you also have to carry your gear, pitch campsites and cook for yourself. In the process, you learn that how you do a trek is as exciting as what trek you do.  This is a truly challenging and adventurous way to do a trek.

I learnt this many years ago when I’d just started my trekking journey.

In 2014, my friends and I attempted the Indrahar Pass trek (14,245 ft). We went on our own, without a guide. It took us 4 days to reach the Pass and return to McLeodganj – we did not cross over to the other side.

After the Indrahar Pass trek, I have done several longer treks climbing to higher altitudes, including the 9-day-long Goechala trek and 19,553 ft high Kanamo Peak. Despite this, I found Indrahar Pass to be more challenging.

Despite having done Kanamo Peak that climbs to over 19,000 ft, Karthik found solo trekking to Indrahar Pass, which climbs to 14,000 and odd ft, much more difficult

It was tougher because I was completely dependent on my own preparation and had nobody to fall back on. The excitement of reaching such a high altitude on a tough trail on my own was incomparable.

Because I would like you to at least consider solo trekking, I’m going to give you a quick top-down on how to go about it.

How to prepare for a solo trek

Taking the plunge to go on a solo trek can be daunting. A lot of questions may have already started popping in your mind.

How do I select a trek?

How do I ensure nothing goes wrong?

Am I even capable of trekking on my own?

The five points that I will explain here will help you to get started.

1. Start with short treks

For your first solo trek, choose something small, like a 2-day trek. The Indiahikes DIY section has several options. These guides give you a fair idea of the itinerary. Once you gain some experience, gradually increase the duration to 3 days and so on.

The more you trek on your own, the more efficient you will become. In fact, you will realize over time that your gear is lighter on your longer treks than it was on your first two-day trek.

2.Work on your fitness

Every trek you go on requires a certain level of fitness. You walk long distances on unfamiliar terrain. There could be inclines, rocky or uneven trails, river crossings and even snow!

On a solo trek, being fit is even more important. Not only do you have to trek long distances, you also have to set up your own camp, carry water from sources, dig a cat hole for yourself, cook and clean up once you are done. You have only yourself to rely on to do all this.

Negotiating all of this successfully requires you to be physically and mentally strong. You can develop this strength and endurance through a sustained fitness routine. Read about the fitness level required for a trek well in advance and work towards it.

Trekking with all your gear, including sleeping bags, tents, first aid kits, etc requires much higher levels of fitness than going on an organised trek. So be doubly prepared, says Karthik

3. Learn the basics of health and first aid

If possible, attend a course in Basic Life Saving and Basic First Aid (BLS & BFA). This is a short course (usually 2-3 days) that most hospitals offer.

Pack basic medicines and first aid material that you will require. Take a doctor’s help if you are not sure of which medicines to carry. You can also find a basic list in the trek guides on the Indiahikes website.

If you’re going on a high altitude trek, it’s imperative that you know about altitude sickness, its many forms, and its treatment. There’s Acute Mountain Sickness, HAPE, HACE. Lack of this knowledge at high altitude can be fatal. So educate yourself about this before stepping into high altitude.

Click on the image to see the AMS Manual authored by our co-founder Sandhya

4. Procure the right gear

On a solo trek, not only do you require the usual backpack and shoes. You also need a tent, sleeping bag and a stove. If you do not want to invest a lot of money initially, consider renting gear. There are several organizations that offer backpacks, sleeping bags, tents and stoves on rent at reasonable prices.

Pro tip: If you rent a sleeping bag, make sure you buy or stitch a liner. This is hygienic, lasts long, and does not cost much.

Even if you do buy all your equipment, remember that your subsequent treks will become a lot cheaper once you have everything that you require.

Whether you decide to buy or rent gear, make sure you learn how to use it. The best person to teach you this is the one selling it. There are video channels dedicated to trekking gear. Some of these are Outdoor Gear Lab, Mountain Warehouse and Trek With Swathi. Spend some time going through these videos and practising with your gear.

5. Polish your cooking skills

Practice cooking easy dishes like pasta, noodles, soup etc. These are quick to cook and light to carry in your bag. Practising will also give you an idea about how much to ration for each meal.

If you want to treat yourself to a delicacy on the trek, check the NOLS cooking show or cook book. You will learn how easy it is to make a pizza on a small canister stove or to make peanut butter truffles!

Buy a stove and practise cooking on it to get comfortable and confident while on trek. Practice on your terrace or in an open ground for real trek simulation.

Pro tip: Set your menu for the trek well ahead of time. Pack ingredients for each meal in separate zip lock bags.

Don’t experiment on a trek, says Karthik. Brush up your cooking skills and set up your menu before heading out. Picture by Milind Tambe

How to be a responsible solo trekker

A solo trek can be very exciting and challenging. It also comes with its share of responsibilities towards the place you are trekking in. In fact, on a solo trek, you have to be even more conscious about this than on an organised trek. You have to make decisions about a lot of things that you would otherwise take for granted – right from selecting a campsite to disposing waste.

Make a note of these points to ensure that you leave no trace on your trek –

  1. Carry as little plastic as possible. Bring back whatever waste you create, including egg shells.
  2. Look for existing campsites. Do not alter a site to create a new one.
  3. Avoid campfires. Try to minimise the use of uncontrolled fire.
  4. Do not wash clothes, utensils or yourself directly inside a water body. Carry water at least 100 – 200 ft away from the sources.
  5. For human waste, dig a cat hole at least 6 inches deep and 100 ft away from water sources, trail or campsite. Once you finish using it, cover it up completely with mud. Disguise it by placing leaves or twigs as a mark to prevent other trekkers from stepping on it.
  6. Leave behind anything you find on the trail. Do not carry things away from their natural habitat as souvenirs.
  7. Be as quiet as possible. Try not to disturb wildlife or other trekkers in the vicinity.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be reasonably prepared to do a solo trek. Like I said, start small and then climb higher and longer. If you have doubts, drop in a comment. I’ll respond as soon as I’m in network area! 🙂

What you should do now

1. If you want more such trekking tips: Head over to this page. We have many such tips to make your trek easier and enjoyable.

2. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. So the sooner you apply, the better.

3. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.

4. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our free guide book here.

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34 thoughts on “Trekking Alone? Here Are Tips From An Expert Solo Trekker

  1. nice article karthik. May be someday comes when i can trek solo. As I’m fond of cooking I really want to do it camping style. And yeah andhra avakay will be a must-have in my back pack then. Thank you for the writeup.

  2. Great!
    Good to hear from you Karthik after a long time. We spent some enjoyable moments on the Goecha La trek in April – May 2017

  3. So I did indrahar pass trek in 1 Night 2 days from MCLEODGANJ to MCLEODGANJ , so now if you can recommend me another trek where I can take the next step forward . I would be happy to go

    1. Hi Ankush,
      If you want to trek solo, Kuari Pass is a good option. The trail is very well marked and the trek can be completed within a few days. If you wish to do a longer trek, Roopkund, Goechala, Sandakphu and Hampta Pass are good options. Sandakphu has tea houses on the trail so you do not need to plan too much for camping and food.

  4. hey Karthik ,
    such a useful article this is. I am planning for my first solo trek. so would February – March be a proper time to go for it and which trek would you recommend first. I have done just one trek to Bhrigu lake in the month of October this year (group trek). The only problem i faced was headache at the height of around 11000 ft but not later on at other higher altitudes.
    and also if you could write about the problems that you faced when you first started solo trekking , they would give us a brief idea about all that we have to face.

    1. Hi Mitesh,
      If you live in Delhi, we suggest you start solo trekking with an easy weekend trek such as Nag Tibba or Prashar lake.
      There are 2 ways in which you can do a solo trek – completely solo or supported solo. Since this will be your first solo trekking experience, it’s better you go with support such as a guide or a porter since you will also have equipment to carry.
      Remember that on a solo trek, the onus for your safety is completely on you. So read up throughly about the trail, about injuries and how to treat them, altitude sickness etc. This is something that you do not need to worry about too much on an organised trek.
      Karthik is on a slope, out of network area. I will pass on your message about sharing the problems that he faced when he started solo trekking to him once he’s reachable 🙂

    1. Hi Pulkit,
      You are unlikely to find dangerous wild animals on Himalayan treks. If you spot a bear close by, stay completely still and quiet till it passes by.

  5. Brilliant write up Karthik
    Very useful content, and you’ve hit the nail on its head by pointing out the level of difficulty and thrill is not necessarily in the trek altitude button the way you trek. Quality of writing was also one of the best on this website

  6. Hi

    I am planning to go Indrahar valley in coming weekend, on 10th of Feb.

    Wanna to ask how many difficult may I face there in this time.

    Thanks in Advance !

    1. Hi Adarsh,
      Do you mean the Indrahar Pass which goes from Chamba to Kangra valleys? If that’s the one you are referring to, there’ll be too much snow to do the complete trek now. You can do it in May.

    1. Hi Arindam,
      Valley of Flowers is a good option for a solo trek. However, I suggest you wait till July or August to do the trek. That is when the flowers bloom in the valley.

  7. I did indrahar pass solo in september 2017 did not found it quite much difficult . Can you recommend any other trek where peace and lonliness is most …….

  8. Hi kartik,
    I did solo track, I mean without friends. Give some tips regarding that too. I prefer to go solo but with India hikes as I get chance to meet new people.

  9. hello india hike team,
    i am planning to go for inderhaar trek alone but one thing that scares me is wild animals what if traveling solo encounters me to a wild bear or at night sleeping in my tent.

  10. Great article! I’ve been doing 2 day treks solo for sometime now and this only motivated me to do longer ones by myself too! I had one question though, trails are usually easy to identify on 2 day treks or there are shepherd huts to ask for directions. When you’re on longer treks, how do you make sure you’re on the right trail? Thanks in advance! 🙂

  11. Can you suggest for a 2 day trek in or near gangtok ? Me and my friend are planning to do it in the first week of September. Also we are planning to gear up with basic amenities like tents and other required stuffs. Can we put our tent wherever we wish to or are there dedicated spots for camping at such places?

  12. Thanks Karthik, Amazing Tips!
    Can you guys suggest some solo treks for beginners in Maharashtra? Just for information, your suggestion would be the first time I will be going for a solo trek.

  13. Hi, I am thinking of doing hampta pass trek on my own . I have all the gear . But I don’t know which food i should take with me . Bcz I don’t know how to cook food. All I can do is make maggi or boil potatos . Plz suggest me some packaged food which need to put in pan and hot it .

    1. Hi, Learn to cook food. You can carry dry grains/lentils/channa and soak them overnight and cook them in the morning. Ready to heat/eat meals come in non-compostible/non-recyclable packaging. And in the mountains there is no proper infrastructure for managing waste. Therefore learn and carry your own food 🙂

  14. Hi,
    I’m looking for gear rental shops in Srinagar/Pahalgam area.
    Mainly to procure a stove as it’s not a feasible option to carry mine across flights. Any help would be much appreciated!
    Thank You

  15. Impressive writing. You have the power to keep the reader occupied with your quality content and style of writing. I encourage you to write more. Hey, I am so glad to read your thoughts because I really enjoyed reading this. The way you explain your travel experience is truly awesome.

  16. Hi
    I did triund trek recently and found it amazing. I want to do more trekking. But since I’m a beginner, I don’t know where to go next. I also want to go on a solo trek. Please suggest me the next trek.

  17. These are some incredible tips regarding solo trekking I read your blog thoroughly as I’m planning to have a trekking trip with my friends and this blog is very helpful for me and for those who are planning to trek alone.

  18. Nice article for people like me who is looking for information about solo trek. I have done Kedarkantha, Brahmatal with Indiahikes and Hilley-Versay (Sikkim) with a local guide. Now I want to do a trek completely on my own, may be small one (2-3 days). It would be very helpful if you can provide information about choosing right place for pitching tent, how to get the permission for tenting in Himalayas or is it required to get the permission before tenting.

  19. Hi
    I am also a solo trekker and literally your tips are so helpful. i will keep all that information in my mind while go on another trek. My first trek was Hampta Pass Chandratal Trek really such a amazing experience with nature.