Mental Preparation for a Solo Backpacking Trip

It’s early November of 2018 and I’m on the cusp of a solo venture into the backcountry for a backpack elk hunt. I’m going solo to a familiar area where I’ve been numerous times, yet there are feelings of question beginning to drift into my head. If I’m not careful, these questions will turn into doubt and if left unattended, will settle into fear and ultimately the end of a much desired adventure.

It’s the nights that will be the most difficult on this solo backpack hunt. With the sun going down earlier and coming up later, nearly half of my day will be spent in darkness with nothing but my own thoughts to keep me entertained and/or terrified. Knowing that this will happen and that it’s completely normal gives me a sense of relief, but it won’t make it any easier.

Knowing that my own internal thoughts could end my hunt early, I have to find things to keep myself in the game. I need to prepare my brain for the coming hours in the cold and possible rain so that I can come out with a heavy pack full of fresh elk meat. So what’s my plan? Here are a few things that SHOULD get me through my trip.

How Not To Go Crazy

  1. My plan will begin with the things I’ve learned over the past few years of backpacking both in familiar country and foreign. I’ll break my day up into segments and focus on each segment one by one. When covering miles and miles on a long trail, this helps to keep the brain from getting too board, so I plan on adapting this technique to my elk hunt.

  2. Next, I’ll spend the next few days mentally preparing to be alone. I’m going to spend some quiet time in my head putting myself in that position up on the mountain so that when I’m there, it will feel familiar rather than burdensome.

  3. To help keep my wits about me, I’ve found that if I take time throughout my day to talk to my wife via personal vlogging, it really helps bring a little bit of home with me while I’m on the trail or in the mountains. It’s a one way conversation, but it really does help when you’re feeling lonely. A bonus of this, is that you’re fully documenting the process of your adventure.

  4. The final element of my plan to stay out there for 3 days and 2 nights is to stay curious. The funny thing about hunting is that it can be really boring right up until it’s not. If I allow those boring hours to dictate my happiness, I’ll lose within mere hours of being out there. It’s important to remain curious about the world you’re a part of when you’re out there and to focus on the details. I’ve been guilty in the past of not enjoying the process and it’s been detrimental to my hunts. I’m promising myself not to allow myself to blow over the joy that comes with the process of hunting. In doing this, I’ll no doubt meet my goals out there regardless of whether I’ve filled a tag or not.


Final Thoughts

Hunting solo is rough. It can really suck at times being out there alone, but it’s also really freeing. You get to make all the decisions yourself and are the only one responsible for the outcomes of your hunts. It’s a double edged sword at times, but I’ve come to really prefer it.

This coming hunt will be my first solo backpack hunt in November for elk. It’s going to be challenge, but I’m up for it and am looking forward to returning home to tell of how it went. Without a doubt, it will be one for the books and the first of many.

Working on Being Alone,