5 Mistakes While Hiking


(UPDATE) It’s the season for hiking – when many inexperienced people take to the trails during vacations, holidays, or summertime pleasure. Unfortunately some of these hikes are not as pleasurable due to mistakes that are made – some of them being potentially very dangerous.

Here’s one scenario where the hikers make mistake after mistake, with disastrous results…

A group of four friends set a date in late spring for a mountain hike, making the date months in advance. The night before the hike, they drove four hours from home to a lodging near the trail-head. The next morning the weather forecast predicted the day will be in the 60s to low 70s, but that late-season storms can be expected in higher elevations. It was warm and sunny when they left their overnight accommodations, so they set out in cotton shorts, T-shirts and sneakers…



Weather can change very quickly, particularly in the mountains, and the higher you go, the colder, windier and wetter the weather is likely to be. Late spring storms can mean snow on mountain tops, and summer storms can be nearly as cold.

When bad weather hit, in this case, the friends should have either elected to TURN BACK and post-poned their hike when the weather turned very cold and wet, or should have been PREPARED WITH KNOWLEDGE AND GEAR for winter hiking.

The friends are each carrying a candy bar and a bottle of water; one person has a cell phone, another has a compass, but has never used it before. They had no map.



They are not PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES. They don’t have a pocket-knife, maps, flashlight, First-Aid kit, rain or wind gear, or anything to start a fire. Cell phones often don’t work in the mountains. A map and compass can only get you home if you know how to use it. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.

On the way to the trail-head, one member of the group suggests they take a different, more difficult trail because he’s heard that it’s a quicker route to the summit.



They changed plans. If they had told anyone the trail they planned to hike and when they expected to be back, the information would send rescuers off in the wrong direction. They should LEAVE THEIR PLANS with friends or family before setting out and stick to those plans as best you can. You should also sign a hiking register, if available.

One friend, who has never hiked before; the others assure their friend that it’ll be a piece of cake. If you lag behind, we’ll wait up ahead for you to catch up.



They didn’t pace their hike to the slowest member of the group. They should STAY TOGETHER, starting as a group, hiking as a group, ending as a group.

They set out up the mountain. The weather is increasingly colder as they gain elevation, and it starts to snow. The friend who has never hiked before falls further and further behind. When the three stronger hikers emerge above the tree line, they are caught in a snow. Two of the group decides to make for the summit since it’s closer than the base.



Not only have they again failed to stay together, they didn’t TURN BACK when conditions changed. One member of the group heads back to find the slower friend. Not finding the friend on the trail, this hiker returns to the trail-head and summons help. It’s only been a few hours since this group of friends started out. The weather continues to get worse and it takes many more hours for search and rescue teams to find both the single hiker and the rest to bring them out safely.

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  1. I always bring a map of the trails to the area I am in. I can’t tell you how many times I came across hikers and bikers that were lost and couldn’t find their way out of the park. I study them well before hand so if I have to relinquish my map to someone else who truly needs it more than me I still have a good indication of where I am and can find my way out. People assume they will just follow the trail and it will loop back to the start. What most people don’t realize is most parks have multiple trails that criss cross and they can get stuck looping around and around. I have several books of parks that have maps for my state. Also most of the parks I have visited have maps available for free at or near the entrance or start of the main trail. Some even have their trail maps on-line so you can print your own.

  2. Good article. Research is key to survival. Having maps of the area can be a lifesaver. Bringing with you a “scout bag” is something I do even if I just go fishing. It has clothing, food, water and a small tarp, para cord , fire starter and medical supplies etc. Everything I need to keep myself alive for at LEAST 24hrs in a small bag. Everybody that goes camping, fishing or hiking really needs to get one together and take it with them.

  3. Another item that you should carry is a walking stick. I was walking a trail in a marshy area and came across a raccoon that kept walking in circles on the trail. There was no getting around him as a pond was on one side and very dense brush on the other side. Realizing there was something very wrong with this animal I looked for a stone or stick in case he noticed me and came after me. There was nothing. I had to slowly back away and backtrack. Now I carry a walking stick as well.

  4. You don’t carry a side arm when you venture into the wood? I myself carry a machete, small axe and a pistol, my scout bag and other. I come across a lot of bad snakes and YES they are a living creature but they could kill a child with one bite…So they got to go! I would NOT advise anybody not familiar with a weapon to carry one but I do as well as most of my friends. Sticks and rocks are the oldest known weapons. I myself prefer side arms.

    1. “You don’t carry a side arm when you venture into the wood?”

      Answer: Not unless the law permits you to do so in your area. All bets are off though, post-SHTF.

  5. I would like to carry my side arm, however in my state it is illegal to carry a firearm into the state parks. Carrying a machete or small axe might draw un-wanted attention.

    1. Agreed. Also, before carrying a machete or long blade knife (or, it should go without saying… a firearm), one needs to check their state and local laws.

        1. Sounds like a law I would have to break and hope I would not get caught. As the old saying goes, “I would rather have a gun and not have to use it, than NEED a gun and NOT have it. Of course I would keep my mouth shut and keep the gun hidden out of sight but within quick reach.

  6. You probably should not interact with the wildlife. Things like feeding bears, petting snakes, etc. A lot of them can kill you.

  7. I’m with you, wildbill! Wherever I go, I take a bag with survival supplies and at least one firearm. In my state, if you have a Concealed Weapons Permit, you can bring it in state parks. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  8. When I lived in Colorado I belonged for many years to the Colorado Mountain Club. Great organization. They have all kinds of classes, Wilderness Trekking, Basic Mountaineering, First Aid, Map and Compass, Wilderness Survival, Rock Climbing, etc. etc. etc.

    And they have rules. All hikes must have at least 4 participants. That is so that if one person becomes sick or injured, there is one person to stay with the injured hiker and two to go for help. That way no one is left alone.

    All hikes have a front leader and a rear leader. The rear leader needs to be the strongest hiker because he needs to be able to catch up to the front leader if something bad happens in the rear.

    You always have to carry the “10 essentials” which include extra clothing, map, compass, fire starter, food & water, signal mirror or signal whistle, first aid kit, flashlight or headlamp, knife…

    I always carry extra coats, hats, mittens, matches, flashlight, cans of fruit juice, in the trunk of my car because I was always running into people at the trailhead who were not prepared. I would buy these things at garage sales and thrift stores, so if I didn’t run into these people again I was not out very much money. Though I am past 70 and don’t do much hiking these days, I still carry emergency supplies, which now include supplies for my dog, who is usually with me wherever I go.

  9. I obtained my Eagle Scout back in 1974 and grew up in Montana. I went hiking with my wife and her sister and boy friend in the middle of summer in Montana. My wife wanted to wear her shorts and light T-shirt because her sisters boyfriend told her to. I laughed and got her dressed appropriately. When we reached the top of the peak we were climbing a storm came in and her sister and boy friend were near hypothermia. I had all the tools to start a fire and got everyone warmed back up so we could continue. Nobody argues with me anymore on proper clothes and gear when going into the woods. This article was spot on for information when hiking. It takes only one day or night shivering in the woods to become a believer.

  10. For anyone thinking that this does not happen anymore, think again.

    In April a father and son from Minnesota were reported missing while hiking in Colorado. A spring storm dumped 5 foot of snow in the area they were hiking in. Their big mistake was that they didn’t let anyone know where they were hiking.

    Unfortunately their bodies probably won’t be found till the snow melts.


  11. Another mistake I saw was wearing cotton when it was forecast storms. (And it says that it started to snow as they headed towards the summit) A lovely way to get hypothermia.

  12. Sounds like any spring,summer or fall weekend where I live in the Sierra’s. People always getting lost.Most of the time it’s due to them just being stupid and going off trail,(skiing off trail in the winter) or trying to climb where they shouldn’t be. My county spends hundreds of thousands a year rescuing these folks. As for carrying on the hikes, again where I live you have bear,mountain lion’s and all sorts of small critters.That raccoon that peanut saw most likely had hydrophobia from the description and you definitely don’t want to get near it. I carry a 45 blackhawk with 325 grain bear loads myself.

  13. Trail tape is cheap but priceless. Unless I’m very familiar with the trail I always tape my path within view of the next taping as well as tape it so it points which way I need to go.

  14. The walking stick is a must. Cut a strong sapling with a fork about 4 feet up. sharpen the fork (fork shouldn’t be too long, a snake will be hard to pin if its too long) and sharpen the opposite end for use as a spear.

    1. The walking stick is a good one. Another option for walking sticks is used ski poles from a thrift store.

  15. Good post.
    There’s always a series of mistakes that lead up to this. I try and follow as many articles as possible to learn and teach. I’ve made a few mistakes of my own over the years.
    Every year between 2-9 days I’m alone while hunting so following these rules and not making mistakes ya critical especially as I age.

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