Sunday 12 March 2017

Going Solo

Solo camp in the Cairngorms in February

Why solo walking and camping? What makes going alone special? I think it’s because it’s only when you are on your own that you can really experience the natural world, really experience the landscape. At least that’s how it is for me. Solitude allows me to feel aware of the world around me and in touch with nature. An obvious reason for this is the lack of distraction from companions. When I walk with others a key part of the trip is being with them and sharing the experience with them. Nothing wrong with that of course but it does create a barrier between you and nature, a barrier that’s there even if you walk in silence or far apart much of the time. Just the presence of another person changes the feeling of the walk and the connection with the wild. Alone I see more, notice more. The details of the world become clear. 

In the Fannichs in July on my solo Scottish Watershed walk

Going solo gives the freedom to make decisions on the spur of the moment, to change plans at will, without the need to consult a companion. This freedom makes me feel more at home in the wilds because I’m able to react immediately to how I feel and to the weather, wildlife, scenery and more. If it rains in the morning I can delay departure, lying in the tent listening to the rain on the flysheet. If my camp is in a beautiful spot I can spend an hour or more just sitting there or wandering slowly round the area absorbing the feel of the place before starting out for the day. Once underway I can stop whenever I like, make camp early because I’ve found a site too good to miss, or walk long into the night because I’m feeling energetic. 

This piece first appeared in The Great Outdoors last year.


  1. I couldn't agree more. But it is not actually walking alone which is the key moment for me. It is settling down to sleep in the middle of nowhere.

  2. Being at one with your own company is important. Especially in todays hectic western world. I love wild camping with no tent. Just a sleeping bag and a bivvy bag. Waking up to see the stars above you or the sun rising is a great feeling. Something we take for granted.

  3. 99.9% of my trips are solo. I've been asked many times "don't you get lonely?", but you're never really alone I find. You meet like minded people along the way, literally bumping into them on the hill sometimes, who for me some of which were from overseas who I've stayed in touch with and we're planning future trips together.

    Even living in suburbia, if there's something on my mind, an hours stroll by the canal alone usually hits the 'reset button', and a long distance solo backpacking trip in nature just intensifies that experience.

    I sometimes think that if someone isn't happy in their own company, maybe alarm bells should be ringing? But I suppose we're all different; different strokes for different folks as they say.

  4. Agree with all of the above!

  5. Dawn Hansen Bryant13 March 2018 at 13:59

    I feel the aame way. Camping is my sanity saver. I can sleep in or get up early. I can take my time foraging for a meal, or just eat a handful of nuts. I can hike, or not. I can sit and just listen to the wind in the trees or the calling of the birds. Much of that is lost when camping with other people.