The key to survival when taking to the wilderness alone lies in preparation. A backpacker should never embark on a lengthy solo hike without first mastering the fundamentals of survival. This preparation can be accomplished by studying topographic maps of the area, learning water purification and first aid techniques, and familiarizing yourself with native plant and wildlife species.
Why is this important? In a worse-case scenario, your two primary challenges will be finding food and water and avoiding encounters with poisonous snakes, insects, and wild animals. For this reason, it is a good idea to know which plants are edible and which are not, and which species of animals are poisonous or potentially dangerous. Becoming familiar with your surroundings is a great way to stack the cards of survival in your favor.
Before embarking on a solo hike, always inform a friend or family member to your whereabouts in case you become lost or encounter severe weather conditions. Rescuers cannot find you unless they know where to look. Always check weather conditions before you begin the hike; a slight rain can turn torrential in a hurry, transforming even the smallest stream into a flash-flood hazard.
During your hike, you may encounter many unforeseen inconveniences. One example is getting lost. It is always a good idea to stick to familiar trails and terrain when backpacking alone. In the event that you become lost, the number one rule is to not panic. When a person panics, they cannot think rationally and rational thinking is a key to survival in the wilderness. Climbing a hill or a tree can often solve this problem; you will gain a better vantage point and can usually find familiar landmarks to point yourself back to the trail.
Another inconvenience can be the need for drinking water. Regardless of how clean or pure a source of water may appear, never under any circumstances drink water without boiling it over an open fire. Failure to treat drinking water can lead to severe abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. The fluids you may lose due to a bacterial infection can often lead to dehydration, which is a recipe for disaster in the wilderness.
Perhaps the most important tip for solo backpacking is to employ common sense. Never put yourself in a situation that can become dangerous. Never hike in bad weather, never eat fruits or berries unless you know that they are not poisonous, never get too close to wildlife, and always stick to the trail.