My Top Five Hiking Mistakes

Along the Keystone Thrust Trail at Red Rock Canyon NCA, Nevada.

Along the Keystone Thrust Trail at Red Rock Canyon NCA, Nevada.

I remember when I first began to hike–for fun and for work. I loved the scenery, being outdoors, the sun, nature, the adventure of it all. But I learned along the trail that some things can go wrong that don’t seem like a problem when you start out, but can turn into a disaster as the hike goes on. I remember rookie mistakes I made that turned my imagined epic hike into the ultimate walk of shame. Whether you are just starting to enjoy the magic of being on the trail or are a seasoned hiking master, learn from the top hiking mistakes I made early on in my outdoor adventures:

5. Bad Socks. Yeah, so, this seems like a no-brainer now, but when I started hiking I had no idea how serious bad socks could be after a couple of hours on the trail. I thought that those run-of-the-mill, cotton/polyester hybrid things you can buy anywhere would be just fine. No. Never. Aside from your feet sweating incredible amounts of moisture, your feet take the brunt of every step, which is measured in several pounds of pressure per square inch. Buying somewhat expensive Merino wool socks made all the difference in the world in comfort and in having little to no blistering during longer hikes. The wool blend wicks moisture away from the foot exceptionally well, and also provides good buffering between your foot and your shoe.

4. No snacks. If you planned a hike you thought might not be longer than two hours ignore this mistake. But if you will be out for half a day or more, don’t forget snacks high in protein and calories. You burn through your energy quickly hiking, especially on a hot day. The body requires food stuffs in order to keep the cooling system working while exerting itself. I found that a Clif Bar was my best go-to snack. Everyone has different needs and issues that require different foods, but don’t make this mistake. Take peanuts, trail mix, your favorite salty snack, jerky, or really anything that can provide a quick burst of energy on the trail. I have been on longer hikes without taking easily eaten snacks or meals and ended up becoming extremely shaky and very out of sorts in short order–which can lead to bigger mistakes, like getting injured or lost.

3. Not being prepared for your hiking environment. This can cover many issues, from checking the local weather report before heading out, to bringing sun block and a hat. Check the weather, bring along rain gear, bring your sun protection and first aid kit, check trail conditions. Don’t be uninformed about your route and what the day may bring. It could save you mountains of trouble in the long run.

2. Hiking in new shoes. Who knew that new shoes or boots could be so evil? I’ve made this mistake, and got the blisters to show for it. If you are going on a hike, wear trusted footwear that has been broken in and that makes you feel a solid trail connection with each step. If you got a new pair of shoes just for outdoor activities, break them in first by walking around with them at home or on neighborhood walks before hitting the trail.

1. Not bringing enough water. I’ve spent most of my hiking hours in the desert. I’ve never been more upset than when I didn’t bring enough water and there was none to be found along the trail, none that was drinkable anyway. Don’t make this mistake. Bring enough water. My personal water rule was 3 liters for five to six hours of hiking. Sometimes I would bring more, like an electrolyte drink as an extra. If you know your route has water, bring along a filter or treatment option just in case you need to drink out of a creek. You never know, so why not be prepared?

Please share some of your own rookie mistakes in the comments below. We can all learn from each other.

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