Solo Travel and Hiking with Dog

16 comments

I get asked often about hiking and traveling solo from other women, “Aren’t you scared?” with horror on their faces. Yes, I do get anxious at times on the trails when the trail doesn’t show up on my GPS and I don’t see anyone for a while but those moments don’t stay long. A little bit of fear is good for you like anything else.

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I may be little more adventurous than an average person but I am never reckless. Let me share what goes on behind the scene that you don’t see in my photos and videos. Maybe this will give you some ideas on how to start solo traveling or hiking with your pup if you’ve been thinking about doing it.

1. Life is better with a dog

To be honest, traveling with a dog is a lot harder and requires more preparation than traveling solo. Not all hotels, restaurants with outdoor seating and hiking trails allow dogs so I need to research prior to getting on the road to make sure we both enjoy our trips. However, traveling/hiking solo with a dog comes with irreplaceable benefits.

Xena attracts good people. I am lucky that she is patient with kids, not a barker and behaves well in public places. We always seem to meet the kindest people when we travel. I’ve received kind and encouraging words from older people. “It’s not usual to see a woman traveling by herself with a dog. Good for you!” and they always tell me to enjoy myself on the trip but be careful. Maybe because Xena puts strangers at ease. She makes everyone from kids to elderly persons smile when we pass by. I know for sure if I were to travel alone, I wouldn’t experience the same warm encounters.

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However, if Xena sees a person who looks suspicious(e.g., hood over their head so we can’t see their faces, refuses to make an eye contact while passing by, walking tensed, etc.), Xena stops still. Her body tight and tense, she stares at the person until the person is far from us or out of the sight. A lot of times, her fixed stare makes these suspicious grown men feel uncomfortable to move away from us instead of walking straight. “Good girl, Z”, I tell her when we are alone. She protects us from bad energies from every directions. Dogs can sense things humans cannot. I listen to her instinct without a question.

2. Common sense goes a long way

Often we travel to an area where there is no cell phone reception when we go hiking. While I love exploring wilderness, it raises a safety issue in case of emergency for sure. My biggest fear is ‘what if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.’ However, I have no interest in cars and don’t even want to learn how to fix a flat tire. I don’t even know if I can physically do it with my wimpy upper body strength. Any way you slice it, it’s a bad situation. So I religiously keep up with regular maintenance of my car. I should probably still learn how to change a flat tire…sigh..

I always let my sister know where we are going. We both use Waze, a free community-based mapping, traffic & navigation app, and we are “friends”. Before each drive, I send her an ETA from the app. She can check the app on her phone to see where I am on my route and gets a notification from Waze when I am about to arrive at my destination. This tool has been great for us especially when I am on a road trip because I am always on the go. This prevents her from worrying about us and also makes me feel safe that she can come and rescue us 🙂 or call for help for us if needed.

3. Get to know the trail before you go

Read trail stats (total distance, elevation gain, etc.), download the map of the hiking route to your GPS tracking app if you are going in to wilderness and do your homework on the current trail condition so you know what to pack.

  • Is it dog-friendly?
  • Is it exposed? Is there any shade?
  • What is the terrain? Do I need shoes with good traction?
  • Is there any water crossing? Do I need water shoes or a towel?
  • Are there any poisonous plants or wild animals to watch out?
  • Is it well-maintained or hard to follow? Is bushwhacking or scrambling required?
  • Is it shared with bikers and/or horses? How is your dog around horses? Look out for speedy bikers.
  • Is it a popular trail that gets busy during the day? How is your dog with a crowd?
  • Is there snow/ice? Do I need microspikes?

More information you have about the current trail condition, you are already better prepared to hike this trail and will be safer than someone who just shows up without proper gear and enough water. I recommend you always pack more water and food than you think you would need. You can get lost or you might decide to stay out longer. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are dangerous for you and your pup.

4. But just in case, keep the emergency kit close

Over time, my emergency kit grew. The list isn’t complete and I still have some items I would like to add to my backpack like a compass and a pocket knife. My phone has a compass but what if my phone get damaged?

So, what’s in my backpack?

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Extra battery pack, Xena’s first aid kit, whistle, antibacterial wipes and waterproof bandages

I also have two first aid kits in my car at all times – First Aid KitAMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit – and extra bottles of water. The AMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit has a comprehensive list of wound care, sprain/strain, medication and medical instruction for you and your pup. I recommend it to anyone who is active with their pup(s). The First Aid Kit is a backup plan and it’s also for home. I have it already so why not have it in the car. Did you know your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) covers for these?

5. Be your best friend and guardian

After taking care of things I can control, I try to stay calm and positive. When fear creeps in to my mind, I try to use my logical side of the brain. What is the likelihood of my car breaking down right here without any warning? Highly unlikely. What are the chances that someone will attack me from the back without Xena noticing the person first? Very unlikely. It’s more likely I will roll my ankle and sprain it or worse break it than the other terrifying scenarios. This type of self-talk works for me.

I enjoy solo travelling and the feeling of adventure. It’s a great opportunity to learn about myself. I learned to trust my instinct (and 6th sense) and especially Xena’s. At the end of each adventure, I feel more empowered and our bond deeper than ever.

Being aware of my surroundings, Xena’s guarding nature and being prepared for the possible emergency situations put my mind at ease. Hopefully, this blog helped you to get prepared for your first solo travel or hike with your pup. I am curious to know what other emergency gear I should carry in my backpack. Do you have any suggestions? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks so much!

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Never stop exploring!

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16 comments on “Solo Travel and Hiking with Dog”

  1. Great post. I have never used Waze and didn’t know it could be used like that. I think that dogs are the best travelling buddies ever, if only for the early warning system. And they keep me grounded: I’d be more likely to do something dangerous but when I have them with me, I have to be responsible and keep their safety and comfort in mind.

      1. Thank you so much. You have such interesting places that I’ve been keeping a cheat sheet that you visit. The hardest part of dealing with my mutts is not getting tied up in the leashes and pee time: Jack pees then Leo pees then Jack has to pee again…

  2. excellent post!!! I think everyone should try solo travelling – I agree 100% – you meet so many nice people!! Do you have rattlesnakes out there? I get the rattlesnake vaccine for Jo – she will still have a reaction if she gets bitten, but it gives us time to get to a vet because it gives her a bit of immunity to fight the venom….so far we haven’t had to test to see if it works – and I don’t EVER want to! LOL! PS – I noticed I don’t think my comments are posting to ur page the last few I left so I have no idea if u will see this – LOL!

    1. LOL! Found you in my spam folder so saved you out of there! Weird! Good you got a vaccine for Jojo. Yes, there are rattlesnakes out here, plenty. Luckily Xena shows no interest in reptiles whatsoever! Lizards to rattlers, no interest. But we are always careful in hot weather to look out for them. Yes, I agree with you, everyone should try solo travel at least once. 🙂

  3. Great post. I might give Waze a try. I find that I’m usually reluctant to try trails that are more remote/farther away but once I’m actually out there, I feel great and totally safe. My biggest fear (aside from people, and while Robin’s warned off men once or twice, if the person is reasonably normal I don’t know if he’d do anything) is rattlesnakes and being able to get Robin out fast enough if he got bitten. I need a mongoose.

    1. Thank you.😊 Luckily Xena shows no interest in reptiles whatsoever! Lizards to rattlers, no interest. Maybe you should consider rattlesnake aversion trainings? If you are interested, I can connect you to my friend who is signed up to do that with her 1 year old pup.

  4. Hi! I also do quite a lot of traveling and hiking with my dog which I love but generally for a day or weekend. I am actually planning a several week cross country roadtrip this coming spring and I was wondering if you’ve even taken on anything like that with Xena? I was hoping to pick your brain about taking on something like that since you seem familiar with extended solo trips.

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