Hiking for me is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding hobbies i have ever taken up. Fresh air, nature and beautiful scenery get me psyched in a way that very few things do. Unfortunately I (and most other hikers i know) was not anywhere near as prepared as i should have been when i first started and when it comes to hiking this can have serious consequences. Luckily i have compiled a list mistakes i made starting out so that you can bypass all that nonsense and be hiking like a pro from day one.
1. Hiking above your skill level
This one ranks number one on the list simply due to the fact that i have had to learn and re learn this lesson no short of 2 dozen times. The final straw was last year when i decided to go on a 2 day 18 mile hike through the Adirondacks on one of the most difficult trails on the east coast with what i would call inadequate preparation to say the least. I was caught in a down pour about 2 hours in to our 40+ hour journey and the result was a 6 month hiatus from hiking all together. Challenging ourselves is one of the best parts of hiking but knowing our limits will keep us from having negative potentially dangerous experiences that push us further away from what should be an amazing time.
2. Break those boots in before hand
New hiking boots/shoes are one of the funnest gear purchases one can buy. New hiking boots the day of the hike result in bloody and blistered feet and limping the second half of your hike to avoid agonizing pain. Please please please make sure to thoroughly break your boots in a week or two prior to the day of the big hike. If you’re like me you will ignore this one but i beg of you do not make my same dumb mistakes.
3. Not packing enough food and water
If your not used to hiking i can’t fault you for this one. One mistake many hikers make is to think “We’re only going to be out for 5 or 6 hours, how much food and water do we really need?” I have an answer for you. Far more than you would if you were sitting around the house for 5 or 6 hours. Obviously hiking is a very physical activity. Don’t under estimate the toll this will take on your body. I suggest adequately hydrating prior to the hike and bring 20% to 30% more food and water than you think you will need.
4. Not researching the hike before hand
This means researching everything from the parking situation at the trail head to the weather and skill level of the trail that you choose. Hiking is one of those things where the more you know the better off you are. Don’t wait til the day of the hike to let these things surprise you. Go into this thing with a lot of research and a well oiled plan. Executing these things right will increase your likely hood of a successful and and subsequently your chances of diving into hiking even more.
5. Over packing
I realize this can seem counter intuitive to the beginner hiker but if you have read pretty much any one of my other posts you will know how i feel about an over packed bag. I am for sure a fan of being prepared but many beginner hikers fill there bags up with things they’ll never need for a day hike simply because its fun to pack a bunch of cool stuff in there bag (I’ve done this on more than one occasion). Although gadgets can be a blast and get us excited for hiking its important to remember we’re hiking to experience nature and decompress from the day to day that is real life for a while. Loading 50 extra in our bag and suffering from unbearable back pain the whole time is not what real hiking is all about. Truly being prepared means analyzing the hike before hand and packing only what we may actually need
6. Hiking alone
I’d be careful about hiking alone even if you are a seasoned vet in the game. The reality of nature is often times no one else is on the trail (sometimes for days). You are putting your safety on the line when you hike alone and that doesn’t help anyone. I suggest at least for your first few hikes try to find someone that has some experience. Watch what they do an try to pick up on good tips and habits to help accelerate your own learning curve.
7. Forgetting sunscreen
You wouldn’t skip sunscreen at the beach, the trail is not the place to pass it up either. Newer hikers a lot of times forget that hiking means being outside essentially all day long, often times in direct sunlight. Sunburn will not only mess your hike up it can have potentially life threatening consequences. There are plenty of things to play games with but the sun is not one of them. Respect mother nature and all her fury when on the trail.
For sure you are going to make mistakes hiking, everyone does. I still mess up all the time. What is important is to get the big things right to ensure that you don’t endanger yourself or others. As long as you go in with realistic expectations and a basic understanding of the does and don’s of hiking you are in for a great time. Please feel free to comment on this post if you think I’ve missed anything essential or just want some additional tips to improve your own hiking game. Thanks as always for reading and please subscribe if you want more articles like this one as you dive deeper into hiking.