By Diana Wills
After you’ve been on a hike once, you will keep coming back to it. This is because hiking is such a unique activity that combines all the best that nature has to offer. On one hand, you can do it alone, or with a group of friends, you can pick different terrains that you want to go through and you can go at your own pace, so it’s something that is accessible to almost everyone. However, there are some things that you need to be aware of before you set off. We’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Here are the more common Hiking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
Not knowing where you’re going
It might seem a romantic fairytale, or an exciting adventure: setting off into the mountains, with no clear direction or path, seeing where the wind will take you. However, this can also be dangerous, as some directions could not have a clear path or be inhabited by dangerous animals. Unless you are a professional or going in a large group, you should stick to pre-set hiking tracks – I promise it will still feel like an adventure. Additionally, if you’re going to be hiking for a long time, you will need to be on a path with fresh water and shelter if you need to sleep. On a lighter note, but still important, an unknown track could take you across private land, making you turn back, or lead you through a scenery less beautiful than the one surrounding the tracks. Always research your route beforehand and have a map and compass with you when you set off.
Setting unrealistic goals
Hiking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them point 2: As mentioned, hiking is an activity that you can tailor to your level of stamina and strength, by taking it as slow or as fast as you’d like. This means that the same track could be great for several different people, but some will take longer to complete it than others. However, you still need to set realistic goals. If you have low stamina, you don’t want to give yourself the goal of reaching the top of a mountain, because you’ll be disappointed when you don’t make it up there. Most tracks are marked with how difficult they are, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to choose one you think best matches your stamina level.
Not being properly dressed
Hiking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them point 3: You cannot start a hike in short shorts and flip flops, no matter how hot it is outside. When hiking, the rule is to be comfortable, practical and layer your clothing. You want to protect your head with a cap and put sunscreen on your face. On top, you want to have a comfortable T-shirt and a light, waterproof jacket. Looking at bottoms, something long and light like cargo pants or compression leggings are the perfect thing. You want it to be long enough to protect you from any plants or bugs that might want to cut you or bite you. And then, the most important one: a comfortable pair of shoes. I’ve made the mistake too many times of going on a hike – no matter how short – in shoes that aren’t comfortable, broken in or waterproof, each time ending in going back after only going up half of the trail.
Not having the proper gear
Hiking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them point 4: When you go hiking, you want to make sure you have enough food and water to last you throughout the hike. If it’s a long hike, then a refillable water container with water purifying tablets and dehydrated food need to be in your bag. If it’s a long hike in an area that doesn’t have a lot of hikers, then you want to have a satellite phone, flare and tell people the exact route you’re going to take. In any way, you should have a fire starter and first aid kits in case of any unpredicted circumstances. If you’re going to be camping, then a tent and sleeping bags are a must, and if you’re able to carry more, a light, roll-up mattress will make a world of a difference and help you get the much-needed rest for the hike the next day.
If it is your first time going on a hike, or if hiking is something that you are just considering, you shouldn’t be afraid! Find a group or a friend who likes doing it and start slow, with an easy hike so that you can get used to the pace. The first time you go alone, go on a familiar track to make sure you can find your way without help.