Starting out with anything new in life is fraught with potential pitfalls. Whether you are a new parent, learning to drive a car, deciding to take up Crossfit, or are about to embark on learning a new language, knowledge, experience, practice and of course having access to the right specialist equipment, all play a big part in improving your success and those motivating results. It’s OK to have a couple of epic fails along the way as you get to grips with an entirely new discipline. You are but human after all! Just try not to repeat them consistently!
Whether you are totally new to the wonderful world of hiking and the great outdoors adventure that awaits you, or you are a seasoned veteran, hiking is no different and forewarned is forearmed. Preparation is everything as anyone who’s ever tried to set up camp on the side of a hill in the pouring rain wearing flip-flops will be able to testify! There are always ground rules you should follow and luckily for you we’re about to uncover some of the biggest mistakes and offer up solutions on how you can actively avoid them. Here’s a clue for you. If you are hiking in inclement weather, hiking shoes, hiking sandals or hiking boots are appropriate footwear. Hiking flip flops most certainly are not! So let’s jump right in and look at the top 20 Hiker Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
1. Failure to purchase, wear and back the appropriate clothing
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail and all that! The other saying goes, “it not bad weather just inappropriate clothing.” Don’t let your hiking experience be ruined because you’re headed out in a pair of denims, a t-shirt and your favorite leather jacket all teamed with those lovely loafers you just bought! I know, sounds ridiculous right? However, you would be surprised at just how many people head out on a long trail walk or challenging trail without first checking the weather forecast and secondly wearing the correct clothing and footwear. You need lightweight and breathable garments that you can layer to add warmth and a good pair of supportive water shoes for hiking.
2. Buying hiking kit from your local supermarket rather than specialist store or from a recognized brand
Following on from our point above, hiking gear is technical so if you are looking to invest in a specific pair of hiking sunglasses or some water shoes designed for hiking, do your research or pop into an expert outdoor and trekking sports company and get their valuable advise first before you spend your hard earned cash. Your supermarket may well be the place to buy all your fruit and veg but will it have access to all the technical equipment and clothing that you really need in order to protect yourself and more importantly full enjoy yourself when you are out hiking.
3. These new boots were made for walking!
We’re still on the subject of hiking shoes and sandals here. You know that feeling only too well of breaking in a new pair of boots. Do you really want to do that on a grueling 30-mile hike? Wouldn’t it be better to make sure that they’ve been broken in first before you commit to a big old challenging trail? There’s nothing worse than sore, blistered feet so try wearing your new boots on a regular basis, for general activities like walking the dog or heading to the shops. That way when you do come to wear them for their proper purpose, your feet will be well used to them.
4. Over and Under Packing
These are both two common scenarios. Not just when it comes to planning for an upcoming camping or hiking trip either. We’ve all been there, forgot to pack a jumper for the chilly evenings but have five pairs of swimming shorts for our summer vacation. Plan out the contents of your backpack carefully before you head off on your adventure and make sure that you have planned or the unpredictable. You can leave the Rolex at home. You don’t need that on a hike but make sure that you have access at least to a hiking watch or apps already downloaded on your smart device that won’t take up much room but which might well help you out of a sticky situation.
5. Being overconfident about your abilities as a Hiker
This tip applies no matter what stage in your personal hiking journey you are at and how many years of experience you have notched up. Even the most competent Hiker will have built up their hours and ability starting off with easier trails that suited their level of skill and progressing to more challenging ones over time. Do the same and don’t go all guns blazing, hitting the most difficult trail straight away. Just because you do have a compass and a pair of new boots, doesn’t make you invincible.
6. Don’t set out without having had a good breakfast!
Skipping breakfast is never a good idea but especially when you are about to head out on a challenging hike for the day. Don’t set off on an empty stomach. Make sure that you have had some light yet filling and satisfying so that you start the day the right way.
7. Do not forget your trail map
Even if you are used to apps and like to do things the smart way, there is no substitute for taking a trail map with you. It really could turn out to be a lifesaver. You don’t have to worry about your physical map losing signal, getting a flat battery or being out of range! With a map and good old-fashioned compass you can navigate your way out of anywhere, so these are two are both essential items to have in your Hiking kit.
8. Don’t start out too late in the day
When you are hiking, especially if you have a long day planned out, it’s better to start out nice and early. The weather will be more tolerable (especially if you are hiking in the hotter summer months) and you will be able to stick to a more even and regulated pace. Make sure you refer back to your hiking apps or that trail map regularly to make a note of any elevation as this will slow down your pace. Stick to your intended route to stay on track.
9. Don’t go it alone
While answering the call of the wild and being at one with nature has its appeal, when you are new to hiking and just starting out, it’s definitely recommendable to bring a more experienced companion along with you. That adage of safety in numbers could turn out to be absolutely vital, especially in an emergency, but besides that, you will also pick up plenty of handy tips and hints from a more experienced companion and that way develop your own levels of confidence.
10. Don’t forget to check the weather report before you leave
Again, this might sound like an obvious tip, but one of the top mistakes that Hikers make is not checking the weather before they leave. A few minutes checking what the conditions are going to be like over the next few days could really pay dividends. Even if you are happy trekking in inclement conditions, it’s most certainly better to know ahead of leaving your base camp what the day might have in store. You can also invest in a Hiking watch too that will provide relevant information about weather and changing air and altitude conditions.
11. Forgetting to pack a first aid kit
As with our earlier hint on over and under packing, the same rules apply when it comes to first aid. Do you really need a morphine drip! Might need ibuprofen though and a gauze bandage! Before packing any medical essentials, consider where you are going, the size of your group and what medical knowledge the team has too. There’s absolutely no point whatsoever in packing something that you are totally clueless about how to use!
12. Ensure that you have packed adequate food and water for your trip
Water, of course, is an absolute must-have when undertaking any form of physical exertion and it’s critical that you keep yourself hydrated. Many backpacks now feature internal water reservoirs and hydration packs, and you can buy all kinds of different sized water bottles. If you are going on a more extended trip, then you will want to boost your energy levels and keep hunger pangs at bay so pack smart, densely nutritional and energy-boosting snacks that are easy to grab and go. Peanuts and trail mix will help curb your hunger and energy bars can also make an excellent, convenient go-to snack.
13. Make sure you keep yourself limbered up
Hiking can be challenging and strenuous, especially if you’ve been walking on an incline, over uneven terrain or for many hours. It’s a physical form of exercise so as with all exercise, it’s vitally important that you stretch out your muscles afterward. A good old stretch at the end of the day will help you to feel far less sore when you wake up the next day and positively bounding out of your sleeping bag, eager to don your hiking shoes for another day out on a trail.
14. Cooking inside your tent
Tempting as it may be after a long day out trekking to come back to camp and rustle up a hot meal in your tent because it’s still raining outside, the consequences of doing so are most definitely not worth it. Lighting up in any enclosed area brings with it not just fire risks but also potentially harmful carbon monoxide fumes. You neither want to burn your tent down not gas yourself out so please cook outside or at the very least in the vestibule to your tent rather than actually inside it.
15. Talking of good. Don’t feed the animals!
You see the signs all the time at the local zoo, but it’s even more relevant when you encounter animals in their natural habitat. If you feed animals in the wilderness, it will alter their foraging habits, and as a consequence, animals could end up getting trapped or even killed, Just as importantly, make sure that any food that you do have is safely and securely stored away. Invest in hiking specific food storage, and you will all be much safer.
16. Be present and enjoy your surroundings
So many Hikers make the mistake of not actually stopping enough to enjoy their surroundings and to take in the scenery. It’s not just about the end destination, it’s also about enjoying the journey so make sure you take time just to be present. To take deep breaths and a step back to revel in the moment, the tranquillity and the beauty and the sheer joy of being at one with nature and your friends and family.
17. Don’t be tempted to hike when ill
You may well have had this trip planned for months, but you are doing nobody any favors by hiking when you are sick. Don’t ignore any physical symptoms that might be the precursor to something more serious that might hamper both your experience, enjoyment and your health. A cold can quickly lead to an ear infection, that can affect your balance and ability to equalize which could be perilous if you become dizzy traversing a dangerous precipice.
18. Make sure that you have packed appropriate sleeping equipment
Sleeping bags come in all forms, shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. As with your specialist footwear and clothing, make sure that you have an adequate sleeping bag for the weather and temperature conditions you are camping out in. Temperatures can plummet over-night, so even if you have been happily walking all day with just a t-shirt and a light fleece, you may be shocked at how cold it can be once the sun goes down.
19. Having respect for your environment and for fellow Hikers
Leave no trace is a rule of thumb that everyone should live by, but especially Hikers who are setting up camp where other humans and animals will be venturing afterward. If the hoards of revelers attending Burning Man every year can leave without a trace, then you most certainly can on your camping trip. Make sure you take all your rubbish away with you to either be safely disposed of, burnt or recycled.
20. Not hiking your own hike and being true to you!
When you are starting out as a novice to hiking, it might be easy to get overruled and to end up trying to attempt a trail that is too challenging for you. Either at this particular stage in your experience or according to your own physical capabilities. Hiking in a group is a lot of fun but don’t be afraid to speak up and say if you are not happy with the proposed ascent. The best hiking boots, GPS tracker and watch in the world, won’t help you get up a steep rock face if you don’t have the muscular endurance or strength to tackle it. A strong will, strength of character and great equipment will do a lot of the job, but know and understand your own limits too and above all else, enjoy your hiking experience.