Should You Hike Alone or With Others?
As a general rule of thumb, hikers are discouraged from heading out alone. This mainly has to do with safety as one of a million different snafus along the way can quickly turn into major problems. Having someone with you can be worth its weight in gold if and when you encounter any type of difficulty. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and there are ways to make hiking alone as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Risk vs Reward
The first question to ask is whether or not any potential risks associated with your hike would be offset by traveling with a partner. Consider the terrain, your overall experience and skill level, how far off into the backcountry you plan on heading and whether or not you are able to keep in touch with the outside world during an emergency.
The key is to be honest about your capabilities and how you can fend for yourself if something bad happens. It's also important to be familiar with the area that you'll be hiking so that you can make an informed decision. At the end of the day, using good judgment and erring on the side of caution will help you to make the best choice.
It's important to take time to plan your hike, no matter if you're going solo, with a partner or as part of a group. Think about where you will go, how long you will be there and when you plan on coming back. Make sure to tell someone about your plans so they can reach out for help if something bad happens and you don't check in. If you're traveling with others, it may be a good idea to get a sense of their skill level and what roles everyone will play in the event of a problem on the trail.
Be Properly Equipped
Once you've considered the details of the hike, make sure that you pack the appropriate gear and bring enough basic supplies. One of the benefits of traveling with others is that items can be divided up so the load is distributed evenly among everyone. The opposite is true when traveling alone, and it's up to you to be able to bring everything you need without ending up carrying more than you can realistically handle.
Finally, it's important to consider whether or not traveling alone will make you more vulnerable to attacks from people or animals. If you are considering taking a hike in a risky area, don't go alone unless you are confident that you can defend yourself if necessary. This may sound like common sense, but personal safety is something that often escapes the minds of hikers until they're faced with a potential threat.
Remember that hikes are meant to be fulfilling and enjoyable, and you can get the most out of the experience as long as you are prepared. Take some time to run through the unique challenges you will face if you travel alone as opposed to going with others. If there are too many risks involved with going alone, consider taking a different, safer hike or wait until someone you know can join. The more that you err on the side of caution will help to minimize risk and maximize enjoyment once you get out on the trail.