20 Tips On How To Avoid Common Hiker Mistakes
Whether you are an expert hiker or one who’s just starting out, you should always be vigilant when exploring the great outdoors. Some mistakes are more obvious, while others only reveal themselves when you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. To help you avoid these unfortunate events, we’re giving you a list of the twenty biggest mistakes that hikers make that you should avoid at all costs.
Being Too Confident
The first few mistakes hikers fall victim to are actually made before they even set foot out of their house. For starters, they could be overconfident when choosing a hiking spot. This is something a lot of novice hikers fall victim to, especially those who fancy themselves in their peak physical condition. You maybe able to carry the heaviest weights in the gym or you could run the fastest mile, but you should always remember that hiking is a completely different beast. In many cases, it takes hours or even days just to complete a single hike.
Not Thinking About What You Wear
There are also some hikers that don’t put enough thought into the things that they wear. When hiking, the clothes on your back are just as important as the gear you pack. Though it may seem trivial, you should pay close attention to the fabrics you’re putting on. Wool and polyester dry quicker compared to cotton, which could save you from extreme cold. You should also avoid wearing denim since these items could freeze in low temperatures.
Failing To Break Your Shoes In
Even the shoes you wear should be given the utmost attention. Many beginners make the mistake of wearing brand new hiking shoes to the mountains. We get that you’re excited to show off your brand new kicks, but wearing shoes straight out of the box can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if you do so for a long time. Try walking around in your shoes for a little bit before your big trip. You can do so while going about your daily chores or while you’re lounging around the house. This helps shoes loosen up and conform to your feet better. The same goes for your hiking sandals.
Packing More Or Less Than What’s Needed
A lot of advice columns will tell you to avoid over-packing; this leads to a lot of hikers making the mistake of under-packing instead. A lot of hikers do so for the sake of lessening weight. Sure, you’ll be able to navigate the tough terrain easier at the start of your hike, but who knows what will become of you when your supplies start to dwindle. Bring the roomiest bag you can get your hands on – it doesn’t have to be the most expensive – that can fit all the essentials and even a little bit more.
Not Keeping Yourself Well-Hydrated
Many new hikers carry just one or two bottles of water, again, for fear of over-packing. What’s worse is that these bottles could leak or freeze up if they’re not packed properly. It’ll always be better to have excess water on your person compared to not having enough of it. Don’t rely on reservoirs or supply sheds for refills. You might not see another one of them for the next couple of hours of your trip. Make sure you have enough water for your entire trip. You know your body better than anyone else, so drink water whenever it tells you to.
Thinking You Don’t Need Snacks
Many hikers may think that they can survive with just a couple candy bars; however, hiking is an activity that gets even those with slowest of metabolisms extremely hungry. They end up feeling tired and hungry with a lot more of the hike still to go. To avoid this, bring foods like nuts, dried fruits, and trail mix as well. These foods are jam-packed with calories, so you’ll feel full even if you just had a handful of them. You don’t have to worry about them going bad, so you can stock up on them. You could even bring the leftovers on your next hike.
A lot of hikes begin super early in the morning, but that’s no excuse for you to skip the most important meal of the day. Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast gets you going by giving you energy and starting up your metabolism. Despite this, a lot of hikers still don’t eat a hearty breakfast, while some don’t have one at all. Nutritionists and seasoned hikers recommend packing your first meal of the day full of fiber and protein, as these keep you full for longer.
Not Looking Out For Weather Warning Signs
There’s really no way to predict the weather with 100% accuracy; however, you shouldn’t be the hiker who doesn’t look for warning signs of unfavorable climate. Take an advanced look at the latest weather reports concerning the day you’re planning to head out. If the skies are clear or if you’re only going up against a slight drizzle, then there’s no reason for you to cancel you’re hike. However, a brewing storm could be a good enough reason to reschedule, especially if you plan on climbing a tall peak. The same goes for strong winds, high heat, and heavy snowfall.
You don’t want to wake up sore with a pretty bad farmer’s tan. You should always put on some sunscreen when you’re going on a hike. Choose a sunscreen that feels light and doesn’t feel sticky. Reapply it every two to three hours, or as often as you feel is needed. You might think that this is unnecessary, especially if you wear lots of layers or when it’s a cloudy day. However, those pesky sunrays will still find a way through the most resilient of fabrics as well as the thickest of clouds.
Leaving Too Late
Don’t set out too late also. Even if a guidebook tells you that it’ll take a certain amount of hours to finish a hike, never think that it’ll take you exactly that amount of time or less to do so, especially during the months when the sun sets earlier than usual. It’ll always be better to give yourself a window of a couple of hours, more so if it’s your first time to go to a particular hiking spot. Consider beginning a couple of hours earlier if you’re hiking to a faraway location. Make sure you have enough time and energy at the end of the day for the drive home.
Wasting Your Energy
Once you’re on the trail, you’ll be faced with a completely different set of challenges. One of the most common mistakes done at this point is overexerting oneself at the beginning of a hike. Compared to marathons or Ironman competitions, hiking is not a race. It’s not even a timed event, for crying out loud; so don’t try to outdo everyone else at the very start. If you use all your energy during the first few miles, you may be out of energy and ready to give up before the halfway mark. You may have even depleted all your supplies out of fatigue.
Straying From The Group
Getting separated from your group is probably the worst thing that could happen if you’re just starting out with hiking, but it’s a common mistake. Always remember, “Start as a group, hike as a group, finish as a group.” To avoid being left behind, have someone with a manageable pace lead the pack. It would also be a good idea to have someone behind the group acting as a sweeper. Redistributing weight from slower hikers to faster ones will help even out the pace as well. You should agree as a group on stops where you could recharge together.
Not Respecting The Environment
Some hikers think their trash, whether it’s a single candy wrapper or a bunch of used firewood, is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, you should always dispose of these in an appropriate manner. You wouldn’t like it if someone just went into your home and left a big mess, wouldn’t you? The same goes for the animals that call that particular area their home. Try as best as you can to respect the environment in and around the area you’re trekking.
Spacing out is another one of those mistakes that both beginning and experienced hikers succumb to. When hiking, like in running, it’s quite easy to get lost in the rhythm of repetitive physical activity. You may notice this happening to you the more energy you use up. If you space out, you may not notice a branch that could trip you. You may also fail to notice a slope that could send you on a treacherous slide downhill. We haven’t even mentioned the worst part. When you go to autopilot on a hike, you may miss out on some breathtaking views.
When you go hiking, you should always double-check your position. Many hikers fail to do this due to a lack of knowledge or because they think they already know a trail like the back of their hand. This may seem obvious, but in reality, statistics show that lost or missing hikers account for over 40% of the rescue missions conducted in the surrounding areas of a famous hiking destination. Use a map or a compass to verify your position as often as you can. It’ll also be good to know how to read the position of the sun during certain times of the day. If you’re hiking in the morning, the sun is in the east. If you’re out in the afternoon, it’s in the west.
There are people who take unfamiliar shortcuts in an attempt to cut down on time, or simply for the thrill of it. Don’t be one of those guys. This is one of the easiest ways to get lost while on a hike. Some shortcuts could even cause injuries, like those where you have to jump from a high place. You may be asking if there’s ever a good time to take a shortcut. Maybe, there is – when you can see your destination, as well as all the terrain between point A and point B, from wherever it is you are starting from.
Beating Up Your Knees
Not using a pole while on a hike could prove to be a grave error on your part. Studies have shown that using a pole greatly reduces the soreness that hikers feel after they complete their trek. However, you should be careful not to set your poles too long or too short. Make sure that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. However, hiking poles should be lengthened on the way down so that the user can lean on them for safety and comfort purposes.
Not Paying Attention To Where You’re Stepping
It may seem like an obvious faux pas, but a considerable number of people still engage in horseplay or dillydallying while on a hike. This could prove just as, or even more, dangerous than going on autopilot, which we’ve talked on length about before. Be careful, even if you’re hiking up trail that you’ve been on dozens of times before. Even the most experienced hikers are not immune to injuries. If you think of yourself as a klutz, then it would be a good idea to do balance exercises such as standing on one leg for a couple of minutes.
Failing To Secure Your Tent
There are also mistakes you can make while setting up camp. For instance, you could make the error of not properly staking your camping tent. Strong winds can carry even the most expensive tents to far away places, some you can no longer get access to. This could lead to disaster if you have important gear stored in your tent. Not only that, but where will you sleep? Always double-check your tents stakes. When camping in a snowy or sandy terrain, use “deadmen” – guy-lined rocks or logs – as a good alternative for staking.
Improper Gear Drying
Improperly drying gear is another common mistake hikers make. Some hang damp clothes inside the tent. This is wrong, since it’ll take a long time for them to dry there. There’s also a chance that the area you’ll be sleeping on will get wet and uncomfortable. We suggest putting them in your sleeping bag instead, as this has a layer of insulation. Others put their boots near an open flame. This may cause the material to crack or even the soles to melt. You should only air-dry your shoes. The same goes for your tent, unless you want to have mildew on them.
Now you know what mistakes to avoid when on a hike. If you prevent these from happening, then we’re sure that you’ll have the time of your life on your next trek, whether it’s up the peak of a tall mountain or across a gorgeous valley.