Over the past few years the term ‘Hike Your Own Hike’ has become more common within the hiking community but what does it actually mean? Put simply it means that you should hike/bushwalk in the way that you enjoy, and not try to follow someone else’s plan.
In practice any hike that involves more than one person will involve a degree of compromise; and at some point, you need to decide whether this is acceptable. If not what you are going to do about it? No matter what hiking style that you have there are advantages and disadvantages to the way you hike and you may find you change your hiking style to suit the given conditions. Now lets look at some hiking options and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Solo hiking is great for those that like the solitude.
You can choose when to start and stop hiking and don’t have to wait for anyone. You make all the decisions.
You can walk at your own pace, whatever that happens to be. I find that I will naturally fall into a rhythm when I solo hike and because I am hiking alone I go into autopilot, at least as far as pace is concerned.
If you want to take a nap at lunchtime you don’t have to ask anyones permission.
From a personal perspective when I solo hike I get ‘in the zone’ and am comfortable starting early in the day and finishing with enough time at the end of the day to set up camp and eat just before it goes dark. I have been known to do up to 15 hour days when I solo hike but this is not the case when I hike as part of a couple.
As a generalisation solo hikers are usually quieter than a group so will often see more wildlife.
No restless sleepers to disturb you.
No one to share those special moments with.
If something goes wrong, you’re it!
No one to share the load with. A stove weights the same regardless of how many people are using it (fuel aside).
No one to keep you warm at night (if you are a couple), or just good friends.
You may not have the mental stamina to hike for long periods by yourself. We are naturally social creatures an some people just don’t cope with long periods of solitude.
I will often snooze at lunchtime when I solo hike if the weather is good.
Hiking with a friend or ‘significant other’ can provide some of the best moments is a relationship/friendship. And sometimes your spouse may not want you to hike alone. When Gill and I hike we have a rule that we need to be in sight of each other, so this distance will vary depending on the terrain. Other hikers who hike in a pair may choose to meet up at a certain point during the day. If you are hiking as a pair then set the ground rules and stick to them. How close do you stay to each other, when do we meet up if you aren’t walking together, what happens if there is confusion on the trail concerning which trail to take, and what happens if you get lost.
Share the joy. We still talk about shared experiences on trips that we did 10+ years ago.
Sharing the load e.g. splitting a two-person tent and stove between two people is about as light as it gets
If you are hiking with your tent partner, then there is someone to split the chores with.
There is someone there to help if things go wrong
There is someone there to cheer you up when you have bad days on the trail; and vice versa. On long trips you will have the occasional bad days.
Someone to talk to
If you are hiking together rather than ‘same day same trail’ then the slowest person will set the pace.
I don’t know why, and I’m sure that there is some scientific reason for this but when I hike with Gill I don’t have as much energy. When I hike by myself I am supremely focused and don’t think about being tired.
You worry about you hiking partner even if there is no need.
How well do you get on with just one other person? Make sure you know this particularly on the longer trips.
End Trail Head on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
Hiking in a group
Hiking with a group is a very different beast indeed and something that both Gill and I just aren’t into. We started out long distance hiking on commercially organised trips and we learnt the hard way that groups just aren’t for us. We have lost friends from group trips! Having said that it’s a very personal choice and I know that many people love hiking in groups.
If you get bored with someone you have others to talk to.
You can minimise group gear. No need to have lots of stoves or water filters. You can share.
Safety in numbers. The recommended group number at least four(4). Now this is based on one person getting injured, one person staying with them, and two people hiking out to get help. This concept worked well before technology became common. Carry a Personal Locator Beacon, particularly when hiking in groups of less than four.
The bigger the group the slower the pace. Generalisation I know but anecdotally this is the way it works.
The group dynamics wants to be very good. You want to have a group that gets on well together, hikes in a similar manner/speed, and has similar likes and dislikes. If you don’t like the people you are hiking with then you have problems.
Lots of noise. If we are talking about recreational hiking here and not military groups, big groups are noisy. As such larger groups will scare wildlife way. Large groups at night will also impact on a quiet sleep.
The need for group consensus regarding where, when, and how you hike.
The need for a larger camp space to fit the group.
We are not fans of huts. If possible we will prefer to sleep in a tent rather than use huts for others sakes (I snore) and for our sakes as well.
Bunk beds inside one of the Huts on the Overland Track
In the end the main thing to remember is that when you are out on the trail, on some grand adventure, is that you are there to have a good time. Don’t let yourself be talked into something that’s ‘not you’. If this means hiking by yourself then go for it. Alternatively, if this means hiking in a group then go for it as well. Many of us will start hiking as part of a group but don’t be afraid to vary to group size or even try solo hiking. Maybe even mix it up and do both.
If you do find a hiking partner, spouse or friend, that you just seem to click with then hang on to them as they are rare.