Whether you are starting out hiking or have been hiking for years without much training, there are many mistakes that can happen in the backcountry that could be life-threatening. The preparation it takes to set out on a hike can make all the difference. From learning how to react against wildlife, how to start a fire, or simply treating a small blister, the choices you make in the back country will help you become a stronger hiker. We laid out some common mistake’s hikers make, hoping to save someone from a misshape!
1) Wearing Clothes that Just Don’t Work
Materials like wool and polyester are always a good option – far better than cotton. Throwing on a cotton tee and a pair of jeans may seem comfortable lounging around the house, but once you start working up a sweat the material on your body may cause a rash or stick to you causing your body temperature to change. If your clothing is wet and the temperature changes as you gain elevation, this could cause a problem throughout the hike. Sticking to workout clothes that dry quickly is your best bet!
2) Forgetting Essential Gear
Additional gear like a small backpack, water bottle, sunscreen and maybe even some trekking poles can ensure your safety on the hike. Even on short, less than a mile hikes, a small pack can come in use during harsh conditions. For example, for a trip out to Moab, Utah in July you may think a short ½ mile journey from the car will just be a quick scenic walk so maybe lets just leave the backpack in the car. The desert can reach temperatures of 100 degrees on the trail and even a short walk in the elements can cause dehydration. Sunscreen, hat and extra water are all essentials for any amount of mileage.
Heading out on a longer trek? Pack along a Hex 2.0 Original Chair (pictured above) to enjoy a comfy seat around the campfire, on top of the mountain or as an extra layer between you and the ground. Backpacking chairs keep your bum off the wet, cold or rocky ground!
3) Not Bringing Along First Aid Items
Your priority in the back country is not only to have the best time and enjoy the scenery, but to stay safe while you are out there! From a fancy first aid kit with all the bells and whistles to a small plastic baggie with Band-Aid’s, Neosporin and Benadryl it is completely up to you what goes in your kit. Each person is different and knowing what you are allergic too or if you blister easily can help create your own, personalized kit. Even if you don’t use it a passerby hiker may be looking for assistance.
4) Not Eating Breakfast
A quick cup of coffee in the morning and out the door is the American way! Breakfast can sometimes be an afterthought on a busy weekday morning, especially if you have ten billion things to do with kids, walking the dog and fighting traffic. Depending on the size of the hike you are setting out to accomplishment, pack more than you think you will need and always bring along a healthy breakfast full of fiber and protein – it will give you the energy needed to get through the adventure!
Tip: If you are not hungry first thing in the morning pack along a burrito or something easy to eat at the trail head before you start. After an hour or so of driving to the hiking location you will most likely be ready for some food!
5) Small Amounts of Food or Water
Your body will crave food, especially carbs, protein, good fats and so on. A classic mistake to make while hiking is to not pack along a substantial lunch for a day hike and just packing snacks instead. A common thought is to head out to a delicious restaurant afterwards and to hold out for that greasy burger. Don’t do this to your body! The hike back to the car will turn into a long, hunger driven mess instead of enjoying the views and time with friends. Know what you like and keep your tummy happy. (Think Hangry Snickers commercial here).
The same goes for water. A common rule of thumb is to pack two liters of water for a day hike. Always bring along extra in case – god forbidden – you get turned around on the trail and it takes longer to get back to the trail head.
Tip: Some great, easy snacks include: Fruit, granola bars, nuts, boiled eggs and chocolate.
6) The Worst-Case Scenario – Getting Lost
Having all the right gear can sometimes still leave you defenseless if you find yourself off the trail. The GPS tracker, map and compass are all extremely helpful in these scary situations but knowing how to use them properly is half the battle! Pop into your local outdoor store for a few tips or attend a community class at your local REI to make sure you are prepared for the worst!
Tip: If you are going alone stay on the trail and never go astray, no matter how beautiful the scenery is.
7) Not Minding the Weather
The mysterious and oh so unpredictable weather man! Even though the weather forecast changes by the minute/hour, check the forecast before you leave the house to get an idea of the conditions. If you notice that there is a storm about to happen on the hike, seek shelter and never stand on peaks, ridges or under trees. Keep an eye out for storm clouds and pay attention to the wind speed and sounds of the forest. Your senses can tell you a lot about what may be coming.
8) Starting with the Highest Peak
Pictures on Instagram and trail descriptions online can all be deceiving. Just because thousands of hikers reach the summit of Longs Peak every year does not mean this is an easy summit. Cross-check multiple sites to get a good feel of the trail and if in doubt call the nearest ranger station and get their opinion as well. Start small and make achievable goals for yourself
9) Losing Track of Time
Start the hike early, especially if the hike is longer or a new trail you are exploring, to provide ample time to ascend and descend the mountain. Getting off the trail hours before the sunset is always a good idea. Hiking in the dark can be fun if you have the right amount of light and are experienced, but not ideal for a beginner hiker. A small waterproof watch will do the trick!
10) Not Considering the Environment
Don’t create any kind of damage or pollution in the area that you are visiting. Take note of the Leave no trace policies before you head out.
Hiking is a fun activity and a great way to spend your free time. However, it can be dangerous if you make these mistakes. Enjoy your hike.