Rookie hiking mistakes that can ruin your hiking adventure

Rookie hiking mistakes that can ruin your hiking adventure post thumbnail image

So you have finally decided to take the leap of faith to start a new hobby and get out into nature more often. Hiking is an incredible way to immerse yourself in nature, challenge your fitness, and create lasting memories with friends and family. Even the most experienced outdoors enthusiasts were once newbie hikers, and hiking mistakes are nothing new. Here is a list of rookie hiking mistakes to avoid as a beginner hiker to help ensure your next hiking trip is successful.

Not breaking in your shoes

One of the biggest mistakes new hikers make is hitting the trails in new shoes. Wearing untested footwear, especially on longer trails, can lead to painful blisters and even injuries. Ensure to break in your hiking boots or shoes well before any longer hiking trip by wearing them on shorter training hikes. This allows your feet to mould to the shoes and prevents unexpected discomfort on the trail.

Hiking shoes up close.
Break your new shoes in properly before hiking longer routes. Photo by Alina Zahorulko, Pexels

Wearing inappropriate shoes

The second beginner hiking mistake is hiking in the wrong shoes. This can lead to blisters, discomfort, and even injuries. Invest in good hiking boots or shoes appropriate for the terrain. Do not arrive in flip-flops or sandals, even if the hike is supposed to be flat and easy. There are still rocks and sharp objects, which could lead to injuries. You don’t want a bleeding toe because you accidentally kicked something, or a thorn straight through your soft soles.

Failing to read up on routes

Knowing the hiking route is essential for a safe and enjoyable trip. We are all eager and many of us love living in the moment. Before heading out (especially if it is a more remote trail), thoroughly research the trail, check trail maps and conditions, and familiarise yourself with the terrain. To prepare accordingly, understand the distance, elevation gain, and estimated hiking time. Hikers share their experiences on social media these days, so join some hiking groups and read before you go. Knowing that a trail is badly marked in certain sections will help you concentrate harder and focus on the trail.

Starting your hike too late

Hikers at dusk
Hikers as dusk falls. Tirachard Kumtanom, Pexels

Another common rookie hiking mistake is leaving for a hike too late in the day. Unexpected delays, getting lost, or a slow hiking pace can quickly eat up daylight, potentially leaving you finishing the trail in the dark, or rushing to make it in time. Start your hike early to ensure you have ample time to complete the route safely. This way, you will have enough time to mess around and take photos of every bug or flower if you want to. I am no longer a beginner hiker, but I stop frequently for photos. Starting your hike earlier means the temperatures will be cooler too and you will finish as it gets warm.

Underestimating your hydration needs

It’s easy to underestimate how much water (and food) you’ll need on the trail, especially for longer or more strenuous hikes. But the same is true for shorter hikes too. You might think you do not need water for a quick 5km trail because you can run this distance without water but never underestimate a trail or the conditions. Pack more than you think you will require, as dehydration and hunger can quickly sap your energy and damper your hiking experience. Bring snacks, plenty of water, and a way to purify additional water if needed. The last is especially applicable on overnight or multi-day wilderness hiking trails.

Bring sufficient water when hiking. The picture shows someone holding a water bottle with liquid in it.
Bring sufficient water when hiking. Photo: Kamaji Ogino, Pexels

Neglecting to prepare for weather conditions

Failing to prepare for changing weather conditions is a common misstep for new hikers just starting. Always check the forecast before your hike and pack appropriate layers, rain gear, and sun protection, even if the weather seems mild. Unexpected temperature shifts, precipitation, or wind can become an unpleasant or dangerous hiking experience. You would not want to be stuck in an unknown place, cold and wet because you failed to plan properly.

Not telling anyone where you are

Before setting out on your hike, let someone know your plans. Share your route, expected return time, and any other relevant details. If you encounter an emergency or fail to return as scheduled, someone will at least know where you went. Informing others of your hiking plans is a simple but crucial safety measure, especially in wilderness or quieter areas.

Hiking provides an excellent opportunity to explore the great outdoors, challenge yourself physically, and connect with nature. Avoid these six common rookie mistakes, and you will be on your way to an unforgettable and safe hiking adventure.

Main image: Oleh Bartkiv, Pexels

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