Staying Safe as a Solo Female Hiker in the UK

hiker looking at dovestone from above
I solo hike a LOT and one of the questions I get more often than questions about routes is about personal safety when hiking alone as a woman. So here's how I reduce risk and stay safe when hiking solo in the UK.

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Maybe it’s a sad sign of times, but I get asked more about safety as a solo hiking female than I do about anything else.

And it’s not just general mountain safety either. People are asking whether I’m worried about being attacked out solo hiking – so essentially how do I protect myself not just from the elements but also from other people.

Let me start by saying one particularly important thing…

I feel safety hiking alone as a woman in the mountains or on walking trails in the countryside than I ever do walking alone in a town centre at night.

That said, I do take safety precautions, many of the same hiking ones that men and women would both take. And I want to share a few things I do in the interests of safety when hiking alone.

I Share my Location with Someone

I always share my location live with someone. You can do this through a number of different apps, of course. It has limitations:

  1. If you have no signal most of those apps won’t be able to locate you (but last known location will be available)
  2. Location can be a battery drain. More on that later!

But by sharing my location with someone, it eases their mind and is just a safety precaution I take (and would take when solo hiking, regardless of gender).

I Share my Planned Route and Estimated Time Details

hiker on sharp edge blencathra

I plan my routes out the best that I can before heading out solo hiking. I use OS Maps and AllTrails for this plus paper maps. And then I share an electronic version of my route with a loved one or with friends. 

I also tell them how long I expect it will take me (and I generally always aim to over estimate here so as not to cause any unnecessary worry if I’m slower than I expected). 

This puts their mind at ease and also means that should I get into any trouble (injure myself or similar) and find myself without signal, someone will know when I’m late off the hike and where I might be!

Backup Phone Battery Charging

Honestly, you can never have enough portable charging banks as a hiker. If you’re on a full day hike or even a multi day hike, there’s a good chance your battery isn’t going to last. Lots of use mobile phones for navigation (back up paper maps are handy though!) and this, along with location sharing and all the photos you’re stopping to take is going to mean your battery doesn’t go that far.

Personally I use this portable charger as my main one because I get multiple phone charges out of one power bank charge and it’s really slim line with lots of different charging port options:

I keep that and the appropriate wires in a dry bag inside my hiking rucksack.

I have a work mobile phone as well as my personal one. And sometimes I even take that and leave switched off in my bag but knowing I have a second phone in there in the event I lose or break mine is really helpful.

The Right Kit

If it’s the winter months, then winter hiking kit including crampons, extra layers and all that lot is essential. Even if there’s no snow in the forecast, take the crampons! Better to have them and not need them than to not have them and find yourself on icy terrain. 

Regardless of the season, I also always carry:

  • Survival thermal bag (they take up next to no space and if I were to find myself with a badly sprained ankle and unable to get myself off a mountain, then staying warm while I’m stationary would be essential)
  • Back up paper map in case my phone lets me down
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Head torch (even if I expect to be finished before dark)
  • Ability to charge both head torch and mobile phone

Spare layers, dry socks and waterproofs are always essential.

Navigation

I prefer to navigate electronically. Simple as that. But I learned how to navigate with a map and compass and carry one with me just in case.

Navigate however you like. But make sure you know how to navigate.

Check the Weather – But Plan for the Forecast Being Wrong

If you’re hiking up mountains, you’ll need to check the forecast at different elevations. The Mountain Forecast website (along with many others) is great for this.

You’ll often find very, very different conditions on top of a mountain than at the base – and I’m not just talking about the temperature.

Light rain at the base on a cold day could mean snow on the summit. Winds will generally be higher up on summits too.

So for me, I don’t solo hike on really bad weather days. I don’t mind the cold, I don’t mind a bit of rain. But it’s going to be gale force wins, heavy rain and no visibility, I don’t solo hike. 

And regardless of what the weather forecast says, I always take a waterproof!

Plan for Daylight Hikes when Hiking Solo

Now sometimes you end up running late, sure. But I always plan for solo hikes to start and finish in daylight. I don’t mind dark/night hiking when hiking with someone else though. But alone, I prefer to hike in the daylight.

That said, I always carry a head torch just in case.

When I was hiking Crib Lem Spur and the Carneddau summits back in September last year, I started later than I would have liked and the intensely hot temperatures ultimately meant I was slower than I expected to be.

Nonetheless, all was going well for me getting back down before dark. And then I summited Yr Elen and was greeted with this utterly magical cloud inversion and sunset:

Sunset from Yr Elen 2

I knew if I hung around too long then there was a good chance that it would be dark by the time I got back down to my car. But I wanted to take more photos and just enjoy it so I made the call to stay up there a little longer.

It meant going faster than I might otherwise have on the descent but I knew I had the head torch if I needed it. 

I made it back down just before it got totally dark in the end. Was it work it?

Damn right it was.

I DON’T Listen to Music when Solo Hiking

Honestly, I just enjoy being in my own head when I’m hiking solo anyway. But I don’t listen to music at all when I’m hiking solo. I like to know I can hear what’s going on around me. Maybe this one makes me a little paranoid! But it’s personal preference for me.

Personal Attack Alarm

I do have a personal attack alarm and it’s one of the thing I do keep in an accessible waist pocket.

I have never needed it.  I use this one:

I said this at the outset of this post but I’ll repeat myself. I feel safer solo hiking mountains and trails than I do walking around a town centre at night alone. It’s walking around town centres I feel the need to keep my hand on that personal attack alarm. 

Nonetheless, it reassures my loved ones!

Anything Else?

I think safety as female solo hiker is much the same as for a male solo hiker. The risks are more related to becoming lost and injured on the trail than from other people. So the usual hiking safety measures you take would apply!

Anything any other solo hikers would like to add? Get in touch and let me know!

 

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