Don’t Make These Mistakes While Hiking


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.


Don’t Run

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.

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  1. I would add just 2 things. Fire starting materials, and a whistle in case you do get lost.

  2. Good pointers.I never go hiking alone even if I walked the trail a thousand times I still have somebody with me. If you get snake bit you have ONE hour to get to a hospital for the anti venom and that is IF you bring the snake. I have in my Bug Out Bag the Henry Survival .22lr with a few extra clips. This is a very reliable weapon and has served in our services before I was born, I believe 1959 is when they designed the AR-7 for Air Force pilots in case they had to eject. I don’t leave home without mine.

  3. Rule No. 1: Always let someone know where you are going (5 W’s), so you do not wind up as Coyote bait…

  4. In addition to the small fire kit and whistle aleady mentioned, I would add the LifeStraw. It is light weight and dependable.

    1. Yes…definitely a lifestraw. I have mine ready at all times. You never know what weather conditions may arise and you may not always be able to start a fire…the lifestraw may keep you hydrated and save your life if you get lost or turned around.

  5. I would add one of those light weight space blankets. We did a search once for a birdwatcher in the NC mtns and he started out in flip flops and shorts, with weather in the high 60’s, dropped down to low 30’s that night. We found him ok, but he was pretty uncomfortable.

  6. Paracord I have a friend who was hiking with his son. He has been hiking all over for years. Anyway he tripped over a log and bent his leg at the knee so his toes were touching his belt, Ouch. He is a MD and he checked his pulse at his foot and there wasn’t a pulse. He had to tie a rope to his ankle around a tree and with the help of his son pull his leg back down so that the blood would start flowing again. (i found that part very informative) It took hours for his son to hike out and get a helicopter. If he didn’t have that rope to pull his leg back in place he would have had to have it amputated. I went for a walk once in a remote place and came across a rock face and decided to climb it. After I was up a ways I realized that if i fell nobody would know where to look and they would probably find me dead. I learned my lesson. Very stupid on my part,in many ways.

  7. All have written in good suggestions. To this list I would like to add: a layer of insulation to keep body parts warm when the sun goes down. This is because I worked in an Alpine zone in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the temperature extremes can go from 70+ degrees to 19 degrees above the treeline. Better yet, as the sun goes down, go to a camping spot below and within the treeline. (it will be at least 20 degrees warmer, the trees block some of the wind and you have plenty of wood to burn.)

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