Planning a day hike or a couple hour hike on the trail? That’s great — but don’t rush off without considering the following mistakes that people make while hiking:
Don’t Take The Wrong Trail
This is especially important for newbies who many wander onto trails that are too tough.
Before setting out, check to see if the trail is ranked by difficulty and gauge your experience with the trail you choose. Check the trail with a topographical map (or any map) and be aware of trail intersections which may inadvertently lead you onto a different trail which may be more difficult or even get you lost.
Remember that for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain is an energy equivalent of hiking two additional miles – so gauge your hike accordingly.
Don’t Over-pack and Don’t Under pack
If you’re planning on an easy few-hour hike, you don’t want to pack 20 pounds of gear. Conversely you don’t want to be without if you’re caught in an emergency.
There are arguably many items and gear that you might bring along for a day hike, but these essentials will get you through most of them:
Essentials For A Day Hike
Map and Compass. Bring a map and a compass (know how to use them). Many areas (national parks, etc..) provide up-to-date maps.
Water. Depending on the length and difficulty of your day hike, consider bringing along at least 1 quart (liter) and up to 3 or 4 quarts (liters) of water. Don’t fill up your drinking bottle from a river or stream without using a water purifier filter or treating-boiling it first.
Food and Snacks. Energy bars combining carbs and protein are a good choice. Trail mix, jerky, and crackers with peanut butter, etc… Nibble throughout rather than overeating one meal.
First Aid Kit. A mini first aid kit with Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment to clean wounds, and athletic tape.
Rain Gear. You never know for sure (regardless of the season) if it’s going to rain. Avoid hypothermia by bringing a rain jacket.
Flashlight or Headlamp. In case you’re stuck after dark.
Knife. A pocket knife can be used for countless scenarios and tasks.
Cordage. A length of paracord is lightweight and strong while useful in many emergencies or otherwise.
Don’t Forget The Poles
For a relatively flat hike, poles won’t help much, but don’t discount their advantages if your hike will include up and down moderate slopes.
When you’re walking uphill, poles will help redistribute your weight while using more of your arms. While walking downhill, poles will relieve some of the weight off your knees, hips and ankles.
Don’t Hike Without Knowing How To Read A Map
Learn how to use a map and compass — to make the map and the markers on the map fit the terrain around you in order to identify landmarks, your location and your direction.
Even after knowing the basics, while on the hike it may be self-educational to practice with your map and compass. Be aware of where you are on the trail relative to your map.
Especially on rough terrain or rocks, rushing your pace unnecessarily or a quick leap or run-up not only strains your Achilles and calf, it can lead to injury or a fall. An injury while out on the trail can be a very dangerous circumstance – so don’t tempt fate.
Take smaller steps on rough terrain. Lean forward as the pitch gets steeper. Keeping looking ahead by a few paces. Don’t give in to momentum and race down hills which may easily lead to a nasty spill.
Don’t Be Distracted
Be looking where you want to go, NOT where you DON’T want to go. If you want to take in a view, then stop and take it in… Your body will tend to follow your gaze. For example if you’re walking uncomfortably near a cliff, keep your eyes on the path in front of you.