Mistakes are part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes outdoors, whether they’re a beginner or an experienced camper/hiker. The more experience you have, the more you know how to prepare right for an outdoor trip and what mistakes to avoid.
Sometimes the smallest error makes the biggest negative impact while you’re on a hiking trip. When you’re in the backcountry, the smallest mishap can hurt (or embarrass) you. From preparation and packing gear to health and safety, make sure you steer clear of these common hiking mistakes:
Bringing too much or too little
Whether you’re hiking for fun or you plan to do it a regular thing, packing the right gear will help make sure that your trip is smooth-sailing. Make sure you bring enough food and water, a change of clothes, navigation, a good light, a first aid kit and other hiking essentials.
To know what the top 10 hiking essentials are, check out our blog post here.
When packing for a hike, take into consideration the length of your trip, the distance of the hike, the weather and the season. Don’t pack too light for the sake of a speedier hike, leaving out essentials you think you won’t need. On the other hand, don’t over-pack – remember that you’ll be carrying the weight of your backpack all throughout.
Not wearing appropriate clothing
Investing on good quality outdoor clothing is important for your comfort on the trail. No matter what the weather forecast says, always wear comfortable and adjustable layers of clothing, preferably polyester, wool and other wicking fabrics. This will allow you to add or subtract layers when it gets chilly or warm.
You can follow this ordering layer: a lightweight t-shirt or longsleeve, pullover, a down jacket and/or rainshell, plus a brimmed hat and mitts for micro-adjustments. Don’t forget your socks and footwear – good quality shoes/boots is key to avoiding sore feet and blisters!
Note: Don’t wear cotton. When you sweat or get wet from the rain, the fabric will stay damp, sucking away at your body heat. This makes you susceptible to hypothermia.
Not bringing navigation
© Tahoe Rim Trail Association
Every hiker should have a good map and a working compass, even if they’re hiking with an experienced guide or a group. In case you get lost, your navigation gear will help see you through.
Before your trip, purchase a compass (and learn how to use it!) and be sure to drop by the visitor center for a map and a guidebook of the trail you’re hiking. These offer helpful information about checklists, directions and timings to help you have a successful hike.
Not bringing a first aid kit
A common hiking mistake is not packing a first aid kit, one of the top essentials for any outdoor trip. Even if you’re travelling with a group, it’s ideal that you bring your own. Most beginners go for a pre-packaged first aid kit specifically for camping or hiking which is a lightweight option and usually contains complete supplies for minor injuries.
You can add items depending on your needs. If you’re prone to allergies, bring allergy medication. If you’re prone to blisters, bring more band-aids. Don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray! As you gain more outdoor experience, you’ll be able to gauge which items to add and subtract in your first aid kit.
Note: Bringing first-aid items that you don’t know how to use or what it’s for only adds weight to your pack. Either you learn how to use them beforehand or leave them at home.
© Clever Hiker
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, what more if you’re going to have a physically active day. Most day hikes start early in the morning and it’s highly important that you eat a good, nutritious breakfast before you set out. You’ll need all the energy you can get!
Be sure to bring along sufficient snacks and water, too, depending on the length and difficulty of your hike. Snack on energy-boosting, fiber-rich foods and protein like fruits, nuts, trail mix, energy bars and granola. If you’re having lunch on the trail and need something more filling, bring along some sandwiches or freeze-dried meals.
Most importantly, bring enough water. It’s important that you’re well-hydrated for the duration of your hike.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, it’s very important that you choose a trail that’s right for you. You can choose longer, more complicated ones later as you gain more experience.
Rest when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry. Pace yourself properly.Never feel pressured to keep up with the rest of your group. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion or injury. Remember, your priority is to have fun!
Getting separated from your group
© Performance Builders
When hiking as a group, be the one to remind everyone of the mantra “Start as a group, hike as a group, finish as a group.” Each of you should be responsible for each other. Getting separated from the group is a recipe for disaster – one wrong turn, an injury or a sudden storm would make it difficult to communicate with each other.
To make sure everyone stays together, designate a person at the front to set a moderate pace (to slow down speedsters) and a person at the back to make sure no one gets separated. Agree to stop at every trail junction to lower the chances of someone getting lost.
Not respecting the environment
Always leave no trace. Even if you’re only going to be on the trail for a short time, be sure to show respect to the great outdoors. Never discard bottles or food wrappers anywhere (bring your trash with you), only admire wildlife from a distance and make sure your campfire is fully extinguished.
Hiking is truly an enjoyable activity for anyone who loves the great outdoors. Don’t make these common hiking mistakes, though, one error and all the fun might go down the drain!
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