Even the most experienced and careful hikers tumble off a cliff, but the careless ones are more prone to poking a diamondback rattler or finding themselves in trouble's mouth. And frankly speaking, we need more careful hikers than the careless ones.
I am not an Everest-scaling or bear-wrestling man, but I have spent enough years hiking through the woods and peaks to identify the common mistakes first-time hikers make. And here are 10 of them most frequently repeated:
1. Wearing Inappropriate Clothes:
Your stylish denims may look cool, but not comfortable when you are on a hike. Unlike wool or polyester, cotton is a better conductor to moisture and once it gets wet, it doesn’t get dry for a long time. Now think about the situation when this moisture playing around with your skin and taking out your body heat. The situation gets worsen in rainy or cold weather. I have experienced the same experience during my early hiking days, and since then, have kissed a permanent good-by to cotton fabrics.
2. Buying Cheap Gears:
I know you want to spend as little as possible on your outdoor activities, and a friend of yours has suggested you a place to find cheap gears. But trust me, this is the worst thing you could do. More often than not, cheap means poor quality. So if you are planning to buy that Ozark Trails sleeping bag for $10, think twice. There are many places to save your money, but uncheck your important gears from that list.
3. Following a Trail map:
You are hiking as per your trail map, and suddenly you find a cliff or a chasm blocking your way ahead. Be careful, because not all maps are not good enough to show you all the forest paths. Now you have four choices – one, accompany an experienced hiker. Two, buy a quality trail map, three download a trail map on your mobile device and four, focus more on your trails than your trail map.
By the way, there are some standard maps you may follow. Topographical maps are the best in the category. And if you are wandering across the United States, National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated series is all you need.
4. Packing the wrong Survival Kit:
You are on a hike, not in a battleground. And again, you are on a hike, not at your home. So while packing your survival kit, eliminate all those items that you otherwise need in a battleground, but remember to include those which you will need there. Keep the duration of your trip and size of your group in mind. Some items to include are – bandages of different sizes, medical tape, moleskin, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotics, sterile gauze, alcohol wipes, a knife, head lamp, fire starter and stuff to treat water.
5. Going Ultra-light:
You may feel like you are brave enough to skip the extra safety equipment. Or you may feel the food and drink you have is enough for your journey. So throwing out some extra pounds from your bag seems a good idea. But truth is – an ultra-experienced becoming ultra-light is like a vegetarian becoming vegan. I have personally seen that the more experienced hikers have more weight in their day pack. Reason – they know it's never a wise idea to put your safety on threat just to cut a few pounds.
So if you are on a hike, first evaluate your duration and then add a couple of days to it. Now pack food and drinks accordingly. An adult needs 2 litres of water a day. Consider the weather (heat), thirst of the people in your group and length of your trip to pack sufficient water with you.
Also ensure adequate amount of food with you and carry some extra supplies and clothes because it may take longer than you plan, and it can be chillier than you have seen in weather reports.
6. Wearing Brand New Boots:
As a popular proverb goes – If your feet are happy, the rest of you is happy. Your feet are the guys doing most of the hard work, so keeping them happy and comfortable should be your top priority.
Yes, we love shopping and we love showing-off. So it's perfectly justified to buy a new pair of shoes for your hiking trip. But it may also end up putting you in deep trouble. A fresh pair of boots is neither comfortable nor ideal to have on those tricky trails. It is better to carry your old boots that your feet are already equitant with.
7. Starting too late in Morning:
By the time a first-time hiker starts his journey, an experienced one would complete half the journey. Starting too late is a mistake most of the inexperienced hikers make. I have seen many hikers falling in deep trouble just because they started an hour or two late. So unless you and everyone in your group are speedy walkers, cut that extra hour from your sleeping habit and start as early as you can.
8. Ignoring the Weather Reports:
Weather reports are not always correct, but more often than not, they are. So if you are someone who believes more on what he sees and ignores the forecasts, this could lead to big trouble. Take the weather forecasts very seriously and be prepared for what's predicted. Even if it’s a sunny day and weather reports predict nothing about snow fall in night, consider carrying an extra jacket with you.
9. Leaving the Traces:
People get excited when they see something for the first time, and try to leave a footmark of their presence. Be it plucking-off the flowers to disturbing the wildlife or anything else, it becomes a fun activity for novice hikers. However, it's HIGHLY recommended to leave no traces behind and leave the wildlife and environment as you found it. Avoid disturbing the wildlife, collect your garbage & deposit it to a suited place and maintain harmony. Let the nature be as beautiful as it was before your arrival.
10. Travelling Alone:
This is one of the biggest mistakes most of the inexperienced hikers make. They are way too confident and passionate about their journey and start believing they can do everything alone. But remember, if you are lost somewhere, it may be difficult to find your way out. You cannot rely on your mobile phone to call for help as in many cases, you will get no signal. Why not have company a few friends? It's always pleasant to have your best buddies with you, and it's safe too.
So these are 10 silly mistakes novice hikers make and which you should surely avoid. Have something to add in the list? Feel free to comment below.