Beginner Hiking Mistakes to Avoid
I get it. You’re ready to hit the trail. But you also want to make sure you have an enjoyable experience. That’s why you need to make sure you don’t make one of these top hiking mistakes to avoid.
By taking a little extra time to make sure you’re truly prepared for your hike, you can ensure you have a safe, comfortable, and delightful hike.
1. Not Breaking in Hiking Boots
Some of the best hiking boots for women and the ultimate hiking boots for men are so comfortable it feels like you can wear them straight out of the box, but you still shouldn’t make that hiking mistake.
Your boots are one of the most important pieces of hiking gear you wear because you’ll be spending a lot of time in them. While nothing can ruin a hiking trip faster than blisters, there are simple steps you can take to prevent blisters when hiking, such as breaking in your new boots.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to break in new hiking boots. You can wear them when you’re running errands, wear them when you’re walking the dog, or even wear them around the house. It doesn’t matter where you wear them, as long as you break them in.
Related: The Best Hiking Socks for Every Type of Hiker
2. Not Bringing a Map
I know you’re not planning on getting lost, but it can happen. This is why you should always bring a map. More importantly, make sure you bring the right map!
Many beginner hikers grab a road map they find at the gas station. Even worse, they might think they can rely on the map on their phone. But cell service is unreliable on the trail, and road maps don’t provide the detail and landmarks you need on a hiking trail.
Related: The Best Trekking Poles for Beginner Hikers
Instead, make sure you have a trail map. Trail maps often include topographical features, like rivers and mountain peaks, as well as essential information such as trailheads and trail mileage, which can all help you find your way.
When you’re packing your trail map, don’t forget to pack your compass as well! These two items are things you should bring on every hiking trip — no matter how long or how short it might be!
3. Leaving Too Late
Sure, it’s nice to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning, except when you’re hiking. Leaving too late is one of those hiking mistakes you want to avoid for a variety of reasons.
If you’re doing an out-and-back trail, keep in mind that it will likely take you longer to hike back because you’re tired and don’t have as much energy. The last thing you want is to be stumbling around on the trail after the sun goes down!
Leaving early in the morning also helps you avoid some of the worst of the sun’s afternoon heat.
4. Not Packing the Right Gear
Don’t pick an item simply because of its brand name or its price tag. Instead, consider what type of hike you’ll be doing so you know exactly what type of gear you need to pack.
It might seem like having a well-packed backpack is something you’ll only be able to figure out after a ton of trail and error, but it actually just comes down to planning.
By far the most important item you should always have in your backpack is a first aid kit. While you hope you never need it, you’ll be thankful you have this important survival item for hikers if you or someone in your hiking group gets injured.
Related: The Best Hiking Backpacks for Every Type of Hiker
5. Wearing Cotton
Hikers have a saying: Cotton kills. Yes, it’s a little morbid, but there’s a reason for that. Cotton might be comfortable, but it absorbs sweat and water incredibly well.
The last thing you want on the trail is wet clothing. Not only is it highly uncomfortable and can cause chafing, but it will also absorb your body heat and leave you shivering.
Related: The Best Hiking Pants for Men
So leave that cotton clothing at home (yes, that includes those denim jeans) and instead wear clothes that are designed to wick moisture away from your body and help regulate your body temperature. The best hiking clothes are those made from polyester and wool.
Related: The Most Comfortable Hiking Pants for Women
Also, consider either wearing or packing layers. The weather can be dramatically different at the trailhead versus the top of the mountain. Having layers means you can peel off clothes when you get warm and put them back on when you cool down.
6. Not Paying Attention to the Weather
Not paying attention to the weather forecast is one of the most dangerous hiking mistakes you can make.
While it would be great if you could take every hike on a beautiful day with bright, sunny skies, weather is one of the most unpredictable things you’ll have to deal with.
Start checking the forecast on the days leading up to your hike so you know what to expect.
Getting a little bit of rain doesn’t mean you have to cancel your hiking trip. However, make sure you know whether the forecast is calling for a drizzle or a downpour. After all, the last place you want to be during heavy rains is next to a river that has the potential for a flash flood.
Related: Important Tips for Hiking in the Rain
Just keep in mind that no forecast is 100% perfect, so make sure you know what to do if you run into a storm while you’re hiking.
7. Not Packing Enough Food and Water
The last thing you want to do is run out of food or water while you’re hiking. It’s easy to underestimate just how much food and water you’ll need.
Remember, your body will be burning a lot of calories when you’re hiking. So even if you don’t snack much at home, you’ll likely get ravenous on the trail.
It’s best to pack snacks that have a good mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. This is why granola bars and trail mix are such popular choices for trail snacks. They’ll provide the energy you need and they’re easy to snack on while you’re hiking.
Even if you think you’re packing enough water, you’re probably not. One bottle of water for an afternoon of hiking isn’t enough.
A good rule of thumb is that you want 16 ounces of water for every hour you’re on the trail. If you’ll be hiking in warm weather, pack more because you’ll be sweating more.
Related: The Best Water Filters for Hiking
8. Skipping Breakfast
You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why in the world would you think about starting a hike without having a decent breakfast?
Just like you want to make sure you pack enough food and water to keep up your energy during your hike, you also want to be sure you have a filling breakfast so you have the energy you need to get going.
The best breakfasts are high in fiber and protein. Some great options include eggs, smoothies, and yogurt with fruit and granola.
9. Trying to Do Too Much
I know you’re excited to get out on the trail, but you want to make sure your first few hikes are realistic. The whole idea of hiking is to have fun, and that won’t be possible if you’re suffering on a trail that’s too difficult.
When you’re first starting out and deciding which trails to hike, make sure you pay attention to total elevation gain and total distance. As a beginner, look for trails that have an easy to moderate elevation gain.
Remember, if you’re on a trail and realize it’s more than you can handle, it’s OK to turn around and head back.
Related: Trail Etiquette: Understanding the Basic Rules of Hiking
Not the following the Leave No Trace principles is one of the worst hiking mistakes you can make. In short, Leave No Trace means leaving the environment exactly (or even better) as you found it.
Don’t leave discarded food wrappers or empty water bottles on the trail. When you’re hiking, stay on the trail. If you’re camping, make sure you camp on durable surfaces and properly douse campfires.
Pictures are the only thing you should take when you’re on the trail. Also, for your own safety and the safety of animals, be sure you respect wildlife.
Related: Wildlife Safety Tips for Hikers
Hiking Mistakes to Avoid
Hiking is a wonderful pastime that offers so many incredible benefits. If you’re just getting started, you can ensure a more enjoyable experience when you have a plan to avoid these important hiking mistakes.
More Hiking Tips to Check Out
Now that you know the hiking mistakes to avoid, are ready to plan your next hike? Here are a few excellent resources you’ll want to explore: