Beginning hiking mistakes are something that I know well, having made all of them myself at some point in time. There is no one that starts anything as a pro. There are certain endeavors that some people have a natural talent for.
As much as I want to be a running back in the NFL, it will not happen. It does not matter how much I train, how hard I try, I am just not that caliber of athlete.
We all have to start somewhere. Hiking is an activity that you can pick up as a young child, or as an adult and you will make progress and learn with each and every step taken. There is no shame in screwing up, that is how we all learn the best lessons in life and hiking.
11 Hiking Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes are made every day by people all around the world. There is no shame in making a mistake as long as something is learned from it. Failure is by far and away the best teacher.
1. Underestimating a challenging hike
As much as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail sounds like a romantic notion the reality of it is blood, sweat, and tears.
The thought of embarking on a soul searching journey taking you from Mexico and all the way to Canada. Having zero cell service, passing a few hikers, and finding yourself while walking thousands of miles should never be your first hike.
A long distance hike is not the best starting point for any newbie hiker. It may sound a little crazy, but each year people who haven’t taken one overnight backpacking trip before attempting the PCT.
Moral of the story is, start slow, and give yourself time. Enjoy the process and break in your trail legs with patience. Start slow and give yourself plenty of time. Hiking in the August sun while exposed to blistering heat with a 2,650 foot elevation gain will make you think twice about ever hiking again.
A good rule of thumb is to take whatever you think that you are going to need and chop it in half.
This may seem a little overkill, but ask anyone who has backpacked for long periods of time. If they are being honest with you, they will tell you that after a few weeks they realized just how little they actually needed and how much they ended up tossing out.
Taking everything except for the kitchen sink feels like the right thing to do, however, the kitchen sink gets really fucking heavy after a while.
3. Stay hydrated
Keeping a freshwater source, or most importantly the ability to make yourself fresh water is crucial.
Try packing around gallons of water and chances are you will turn around with the quickness. Water weighs in at around 8.34 pounds per gallons. If you plan on taking a long weekend hike then carrying all the water that you need is not realistic and a means to sanitize your water is a more realistic option.
Carry a means to boil water, purification tablets, a life straw, or even bleach. This is assuming that you are not hiking in middle of Australia and there is a freshwater source is nearby.
4. Wearing new boots
Busting out that new and shiny pair of hiking boots that everyone told you to spend hundreds of dollars on has gotta be the right thing to do, right? Wrong. This will leave you with blisters, sore ankles, and a bad attitude 30 minutes into your hike.
Tennis shoes work just fine, in fact, there is an argument among thru hikers that the best thing to wear is running shoes or something similar in design. In order to break in your new boots, you will get 99 different answers from 99 different people. Truth is, there is no shortcut or easy way to break in a pair of boots unless you find a new/used pair that fits.
For your first hike wear any pair of comfortable shoes that you have in the closet. Don’t invest into a heavy duty pair of hiking boots until you’re 100% sure that hiking is something that you choose to pursue.
5. Check the weather report
A summer hike with shorts and a tank-top, you got your sunscreen ready to go, and your 5 miles into an 8 mile hike. Then the rain sets in, you have no backup plan and 3 miles to go and nowhere to look except forward.
Who is to blame?
You are… For not checking the google machine. It’s a 5-minute solution to a half day problem. Bringing the proper gear will keep you dry in the summer and alive in the winter time, be sure to plan ahead and prepare for any and all weather possibilities.
Keep an eye on the weather at all times. The weather has a mind of its own and will turn on the drop of a dime. Having the proper gear for any unexpected weather patterns is going to make hiking much more comfortable.
6. Not letting people know where you are
By now you have probably seen the movie 127 hours, if not, check it out.
It is the story of a man who has a genuine passion for the outdoors and loves to hike and climb. He decides to get out and wander without telling anyone where he’s headed to, which turned out to be a potentially deadly mistake.
He gets in a bad situation and it takes him 127 hours to make the decision that no one is going to find him and the next best step is to remove his own arm with a Swiss army knife. Don’t lose an arm. Let a couple people know where you plan to hike and the area that you will be in. In an emergency situation if you are lost the search and rescue team will know exactly where to begin looking.
8. Going off trail
Stay on course. It’s your first hand full of hikes, after all, there is no need to go full Rambo and blaze your own trail.
This is how people get lost and starve to death, maybe that’s a little overboard, but you get the drift.
Hiking on a well marked trail is the only way to go when learning to hike, it removes your head from the situation to help you avoid overthinking and inevitably getting completely ass-backwards.
8. Not hiking with an experienced partner
In the mountains, get higher in the mountains.
Hiking with a friend and preferably a more experienced hiker not only gives you someone that you can chit-chat with along the way, but also someone to explain the ins and outs of hiking.
They know what to do and what not to do, and if your wearing denim a good friend will slap you silly before you walk out of the house. An experienced hiker is the perfect ally on your first hiking trip, don’t go it alone at first.
9. Wearing jeans
Denim is rad, anywhere but in the mountains. Wearing denim on the trail, be it a day trip, or an overnight hike is not common practice. Hiking in jeans leads to chaffing and a gnarly case of swamp ass. If you don’t know what swamp ass it, think of the moisture of a swamp in the Everglades.
Now imagine that moisture between your legs, gross right?
Denim and hiking are a match made in hell, just don’t do it. Hiking in denim is hot, sticky, and sweaty. It’s an error made only once, proper gear for the proper trail.
Just because you read a weightlifting magazine doesn’t mean that you can bench press 500 pounds. Ultralight camping is great if you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Experience is the only way that you can figure out what you don’t need, not reading a blog.
Pay attention to the ten essentials and be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.
11. Cooking inside your tent
Taking a break from the cold weather and cooking dinner in the comfort of your own tent sounds like a good idea., it’s not. The reasons, why not to cook in your tent, outweigh the silly reasons to cook in your tent.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is first and foremost, the same principle applies to the barbecue in your garage. It will kill you. Don’t burn the house down, or in this case your tent. You may have time to scoot out of it, and you may not. Not worth it either way.
No matter how much time you take to plan, research, and do your homework. Beginner hiking mistakes will happen and the best way to approach a blunder on the trail is to laugh about it and learn from it.
As with many of the hard times that inevitably occur throughout our time on this rock flying through space. The best thing you can do is smile. Laugh about it and move on, any mistake that you have made has been made before.
Get lost and keep wandering.