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Never Fear: The Phobias

Use this step-by-step guide to beat 7 common backcountry fears. Plus, ideal hikes for overcoming–or avoiding–the source of your scare.
Panic snakesPhoto illustration by Stephen Beneski

ALONE IN THE DARK

On Mandy Coleman’s first solo backpacking trip, she spent the night cowering in her tent, convinced every rustling leaf was a fierce animal or prowling human attacker. “It’s a fear of being in complete solitude, with no way to get help if something were to get you,” she explains. Unable to stand another night filled with imaginary horrors, Coleman doubled her daily mileage to hike out early.

The Real Risk
According to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, your odds of becoming a victim of violent crime in a national park are one in 708,000. In the United States overall, it’s one in 50.

The 4-Step Fix

  • Solo hiking is a golden opportunity for peaceful contemplation, but it demands know-how and preparation. Practice navigation skills and get training in wilderness first aid before going alone.
  • Build up to a solo trip: Go with a group, but hike alone during the day and rendezvous at your campsite. Also, try a night in your backyard.
  • Camp in a familiar, well-trafficked area the first few times you backpack solo.
  • More worried about the dark than anything else? Add time alone in a dark closet to your fear hierarchy list. When you venture out for real, choose a night with a full moon and pack a lantern.

The Big Test
In Capitol Reef’s Halls Creek Narrows—in winter—you’ll have one of the country’s darkest night skies all to yourself. nps.gov/care

Safety Zone
Camp under the midnight sun in Denali’s epic backcountry, where you can expect more than 20 hours of light on long summer days. nps.gov/dena

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