9 Common Hiking Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Rilor Staff
Update: October 30, 2021
Table of Contents

Hiking has always been a fun sport and outdoor activity. Since the world is gradually returning from its regular functions after being shut by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are starting to go outside again. Of course, one of the things that they longed to do was hike and go to various backcountry expeditions. 

On the surface, hiking and other outdoor adventures seem to be erratic. First-timers would often think that they only need to dress properly for the occasion and that they can simply do whatever they want on the route. However, little did they know that a small mistake in the trail could result in a disaster. 

Hence, if you are into hiking or someone who wants to try it for the first time, it is essential that you know all the common hiking mistakes and the ways to avoid them. 

Not Learning How To Use A Map

These days, traditional maps have been replaced by mobile maps, which you can download on your smartphone. Of course, these maps are pretty convenient and accurate. However, when it comes to off-grid applications, they might be useless. After all, they rely on internet connections, which are virtually absent in an outdoor setting. 

Learning how to use a map can get you a long way if ever you are hiking. Again, it is not just enough to bring a map; you need to know how to read it. Furthermore, keep in mind that there are different types of maps. Topo maps are not the same as road maps. A topo map is particularly useful in discerning the layout of a specific terrain or destination. It is a perfect tool for hiking as it lets you see various trail systems in your area. 

You can enroll in navigational courses to fully learn how to use these maps. It is an investment that every hiker should make. 

Forgetting First Aid

Aside from your other gear and clothing, you should also put importance on your safety whenever you are planning to hike. In this case, having a first-aid kit is a must. 

Hikers should be able to optimize and organize their first-aid kit. It should be tailored to accommodate the possible injuries and harms that they could encounter in the terrain they are heading to. Moreover, give a thought to the duration of the trip. You should downsize or upsize the kit depending on the length of your hike. It will also be a good idea if you consider the size of your group. Are you hiking alone or together with a group?

But always remember that these first aid kits aren't that useful if you don't use them. Again, it is essential that you learn how to use them. Try enrolling in first aid basic courses. They should be able to teach you the much-needed fundamentals. 

Wearing Clothes Made From Cotton

I know cotton can be extra cozy and comfortable. But during trips where heat and sweat are just around the corner, cotton is not advisable to be worn. In fact, there's a saying that goes like this: cotton kills. While it sounds exaggerated, it has some basis. 

You see, when you hike, all of your body parts are put into action. Of course, your physical exertion would cause you to sweat. If you are wearing clothing made from cotton, your perspiration will absorb the fabric's air pockets. As a result, it doesn't get dry all the time, and your skin is exposed to wet conditions. 

If the temperature is low, the wet cotton will make things extra chilly. It is not only uncomfortable, but it can also cause perilous conditions such as hypothermia. 

Dealing with the problem is pretty easy, though. Just don't wear any cotton layer. Instead, look for those clothes that have moisture-wicking properties. Polyester, nylon, and similar materials are definitely your top choices here!

Choosing The Wrong Gear

When it comes to hiking, the quality and appropriateness of your gear matter. It is not something that you should discard, as it might compromise your trip's overall comfort and safety. 

Every time you choose hiking gear, always ensure the item's durability and robustness. After all, you are going to expose it against the elements. If it has a flimsy construction, it won't hold for too long. Furthermore, it should have other ergonomics such as streamlined weight, versatility, and user-friendliness. 

If possible, look for gear that can be packed easily. It should not be burly and quirky so that you will be able to carry and use the item conveniently. Don't go for oversized equipment, especially if you don't need the extra size. As much as possible, hike with the most minimal weight possible. That would make your trip more comfortable. 

Also, don't forget to take into account the weather. The things that you wear and haul should be able to complement the atmospheric conditions. For instance, if you are expecting some precipitation, water-resistant or waterproof clothing is a must. 

Not Breaking The Boots

One of the essential pieces of hiking equipment that you should invest in is a pair of hiking boots. Always keep in mind that your feet will be put into the grind in a hike, especially if you are dealing with treacherous terrains. Hiking boots are rugged and can provide extra comfort and protection. Depending on the quality of the boot, it may even defend you from snake bites!

But of course, little work has to be done first before you can fully experience the full performance of these hiking boots. For instance, leather boots have to be broken first before you put them into action. That's pretty similar to leather baseball gloves. If they are brand-new or fresh from the factory, these leather materials tend to be stiff. 

That's bad news for your feet. Stiff footwear would result in potential injuries while you are hiking. Blisters and hot spots are among the common repercussions of wearing footwear that isn't fully broken. 

To prevent this from happening, you can treat the leather boots with oils and conditioners that could make them soft. Alternatively, you could use the boot in your daily activities weeks before the big day. By doing this, you will be able to gradually stretch the leather's fibers. 

Not Bringing Sufficient Nourishments

Hiking is a taxing activity to the body. That's why it requires a certain degree of physical training. You can't just wake up one day and decide to hike--even without doing any prior preparation. 

But of course, even the most physically active hikers can't survive a hike without having a consistent supply of food and water. It is natural to get hungry throughout the expedition. It is your body telling you that it has exhausted its energy reserves; hence, it requires sufficient nourishment. 

Protein, beneficial fats, calories, and carbs are among the essential nutrients that you should pack in your trip. Don't forget to bring trail mix, nuts, and sandwiches in your pack. Furthermore, you should bring enough water on your journey. You should never risk dehydration. If possible, bring water filters so that you can refill your water bottles with nearby water sources. 

Ignoring The Weather

As a hiker, you should be able to read and observe the changes in the local weather patterns. Because of the problems caused by climate change, our weather today is becoming erratic. In the morning, it is sunny. Suddenly, it becomes dark and gloomy in the afternoon. Hence, you should remain cautious at all times and never ignore these unexpected transitions in the weather. 

If you think that a storm is heading your way, take a detour and look for a safe spot to shelter. Never go to exposed ridges and peaks since you are prone to get hit by lightning. Always remember that flashes of lightning often strike on isolated objects and areas in tall summits. 

Of course, you shouldn't just cancel your trip because it suddenly rained. However, it is necessary that you take the right precautions to avoid dangerous elements such as flooding and strong winds. 

Checking the weather forecasts can give you an idea of what to expect during the trip. These forecasts change regularly, so you must keep updated with them. 

Starting Late

It is beneficial to hike early and on time. Timeliness is a prudent value, after all, even while you are hiking. It is not only applicable to your school or work. Even to outdoor leisure adventures, being punctual puts you in a better position. 

Of course, a lot of people tend to hike during the afternoon or before dusk to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. Well, it is pretty reasonable, but doing so requires preparation. You wouldn't want to find yourself hiking in low-visibility conditions without sufficient preparation. That's inconvenient and pretty dangerous. 

Furthermore, the weather can change in the latter part of the day--as I've mentioned earlier. Hence, you can always expect that storms might brew without any notice. And that's pretty dangerous! 

Also, there's a golden rule that states that you should arrive at your destination or a safe resting spot by lunch. Well, you can only achieve this if you start embarking on the trail early. 

Not Following The Leave No Trace Principles

Some of the mistakes here are forgivable. However, this one isn't. 

You see, there should be no reason why a hiker would litter and destroy the environment of the trail they are treading. It is downright nasty and preposterous. After all, we are just visitors to these areas, and we should respect their sanctity and the wildlife that dwell in them. 

In fact, hikers should never hike if they don't have a full understanding of Leave No Trace. It is a set of established guidelines acknowledged worldwide that help outdoor goers preserve the beauty of Mother Nature. It teaches them basic etiquette such as picking your trash, finding the right place to poop and even choosing the ideal campsite. 

Don't ever think that picking litter is a cumbersome task. Always remember that what you packed on your trip should be packed back home. Nothing should be left behind. 

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