Whether you are new to the trail or have conquered thousands of miles, hiking mistakes are bound to be made.
Some mistakes made are easy to learn from and are fun to look back on and laugh at, while others can be dangerous and put an end to your hiking (or living) career.
We want everyone’s experience on the trail to be a pleasant one, and the good times should always outweigh the bad. So, friends, here’s what not to do.
10 hiking mistakes commonly made by new backpackers:
Purchasing Cheap Gear
When preparing for your next thru-hike, Wal-Mart should not be your go-to store for gear. Not to say you need to buy top-of-the-line, expensive equipment, but you should have a certain amount of trust in your gear to get you through the thick and thin.
Do some research and check out your local hiking gear store to get a good idea what gear is right for you. Remember, if something breaks down when you’re on the trail, Amazon will probably not be able to find you.
Over or Under Packing
There are countless articles on how to not over-pack your hiking pack. What it comes down to is how much you can carry, and your personal level of comfort. Decide if, to be comfortable, you need a sleeping pad, hammock, or backpacking chair, and weigh your options.
Conversely, you will need to prepare yourself to not under-pack. Hiking ultra-light does not equate to hiking ultra-safe. Don’t skimp on food, water, or adequate clothing layers. It will be worth it to carry the extra weight.
Not Breaking in Gear
Never take brand new gear on a thru-hike without testing it and breaking it in first. Learn how to set-up your tent, efficiently start your backpacking stove, and packing your pack efficiently.
Additionally, never break in your new hiking boots on the trail. Instead, wear them at home for a few weeks before you take off, and let them mold to your feet.
Your feet will thank you.
Leaving a Trace
The Leave No Trace (LNT) movement means exactly that; you leave a campsite just as it was when you arrived.
Do you know what to do with soapy water out in the woods? Do you know what to do with your personal waste? Do you know how to ethically clean your dishes after use?
Learn more about the Leave No Trace movement over at https://lnt.org/
Not Hydrating Properly
You might know how much water you need when sedentary, but do you know exactly how much water you need when hiking long distances? Or how about when the earth cranks up the heat and you’re left guzzling back the agua like it’s going out of style?
It’s of the utmost importance to research water needs and to have a water plan. Look up common water points people use on your chosen hiking trail and plan to hit those points.
Also, make sure that if you are drinking water straight from streams and lakes that you carry along a water purifier.
Solo hiking is a great way to have a great spiritual awakening, I mean, we’ve all seen or read Wild right? However, hiking alone over long distances can be risky business.
Before you take off on a long journey, find some seasoned hikers and have them show you the ropes. Chances are, they’ll be able to show you some tips and tricks of the trail and give you the knowledge to survive on your own.
Not Properly Storing Food
Bears don’t come into your house and drop off some fresh food for you to find and eat, so why would it be okay for you to do the same to them?
There are many ways to keep food away from animals both so that they don’t eat it, and so that they don’t find your camp sight through the smell in the first place.
Think Bearbags, Bear Canisters, and Ursacks.
There is nothing like hitting the trail unprepared.
Before you take off, make sure you’ve secured all necessary permits and have read through all codes and standards for the region in which you are hiking. Make sure you leave a trail plan of where exactly you will be with a family or friend, and check in with them at pre-thought out points.
Basically, think of everything that could possibly go wrong on your hike, and have a plan if those things happen.
It’s amazing how many people don’t stretch before and after they hike each day.
When walking long distances, your muscles work harder and in different ways than they do when you’re at home. To avoid injuries, give yourself greater range of motion, and to help stop the build-up of lactic acid, make stretching a routine on your hike.
Ignoring The Weather
Regardless of what you trail plan may tell you, the weather is the biggest factor of if and where you are going to hike. I mean, you probably wouldn’t book a flight to a destination that’s about to get hit by a tsunami or hurricane, right? So why would it be any different on the trail?
Listen to what other hikers tell you about conditions ahead, and check the forecast whenever possible.