Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Solo Backpacking??

An item in TGO Magazine, October 13, issue entitle ‘Walking Solo’ caught my eye and after reading it got me to mull over why I enjoy solo backpacking so much.

I don’t suppose there is one simplistic answer; it’s the solitude; it’s the feeling of being in control/ independent/ self reliant; I can choose when I want to head out without organising others; I can walk as fast or as slow as I want; stop whenever I want for however long I want; change route without consulting others; there’s lots of reasons.  It’s definitely not bravado or wanton risk taking.

Soloing isn’t something I’d advise the novice walker to embark upon as it entails taking total responsibility for your actions and the potential consequences.  Competence is a difficult subject and one that probably most people can be very defensive about but it’s no good setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail if you can’t navigate; or with a rucksack full of shiny new camping equipment and never camped before; far better to learn to walk before running!  I’ve done my fair share of ‘walking’ and made a lot of mistakes over the years and hopefully I’ve learned a few things.

Solo backpacking does have some downsides; you have to carry all your kit, there’s no sharing the weight of a tent, etc and you may have to carry additional kit to cater for contingencies.

One thing I’ve a particularly belt and braces approach about is navigation; I reckon it’s the number one root cause why people get into difficulties.

I reckon I’m a pretty competent navigator with the good old map and compass having spent over 40 years making mistakes and if it can happen it’s probably happened to me at one time or another.  I still do make the occasional navigational digression (mistake) usually when I’m not paying attention e.g walk past a turning, etc

I normally navigate with A4 maps printed from Routebuddy and laminate to waterproof them, the compass is a basic Silva Type 4.   But what if the map blows over a cliff or the compass gets broken or lost, I’ve had both happen.

My backup mapping is either a full sheet OS map in the rucksack or more usually Routebuddy Atlas on the iPhone.

Compass loss; I carry a small bulls-eye compass which is good enough for +/- 10 degrees (it will get me off the hill) and there’s also a more accurate compass on the iPhone.

To supplement the map and compass I also carry a Garmin Geko 201 GPS, at only 80g I reckon it’s well worth the weigh.  Then of course there is the GPS built into the iPhone, I’ll normally keep the phone on Airplane mode to conserve the battery and even with intermittent daily use (telephone, photos and music) I find that a charge will easily last a week.

I believe it’s up to the individual to determine there own level of competence, what contingencies to cater for and what risks to accept; some will be happy going solo while others will always seek companionship.

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged .
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