5 Common Mistakes Hikers Make On the Trail

5 Common Mistakes Hikers Make On the Trail

5 Common Mistakes Hikers Make On the Trail


Hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, get some exercise and enjoy the company of friends and family. As spring, summer and fall come around, new people are taking to the trail every weekend.

Plenty of hikers, both experienced and novices, tend to over think their hike and pack too much, don’t plan well and pack too little or simply make common beginner mistakes that can turn a great hike in to a nightmare. Understanding the trail and correctly preparing for your hike will make it a much more enjoyable experience. Here are a few mistakes that hikers typically make on the trail.


When you go hiking be sure to pack according to the length of the trail. If you’re going on a day hike, don’t pack as if you’re going on vacation for two weeks. On the other hand, if you’re preparing for a multi-day trip, pack for what you need but no more. Remember anything that you pack will live on your back for the entire time that you’re on the trail.

Many hikers take too much – be it more than one pair of shoes, an extra pair of pants or an extra canister of fuel – and find out later that they didn’t actually need them. On day hikes, a big bag probably won’t be necessary for most trails (although I’ve been on some doosies before).

Before you go out on your hike, assess your trail. Shorter trails typically won’t require you to pack food, just light snacks with water and a bag to carry a first aid kit. On longer hikes (like full day and, of course, multi-day hikes) you’ll probably want to take food with you and a bit more gear but be careful not over burden yourself – hiking is strenuous as it is. Excessive baggage will only wear you down so be sure to only take what you really need.

Not Preparing for Weather

As much fun as hiking can be it can be dangerous if you’re not prepared for weather. Depending on the season and your location, the weather can turn on a dime. What starts out as a blue sky sunny day can turn into a downpour quickly. Remember that rain and snow will slow you down and could possibly leave you stranded in the middle of the trail. Make sure you know the weather before you head out and for longer trails be sure to bring the appropriate weather gear for the season and location.

Not Having the Proper Attire

I’m talking shoes and clothing.

A lot of novice hikers will hit the trail in a pair of sneakers. While your favorite sneakers may be comfortable they’re really not appropriate to go hiking. They don’t offer nearly enough ankle support and aren’t made for all the different terrain the trail can throw your way. A good, well fitted pair of hiking boots should always be worn when you’re out on the trail.

Besides shoes, you should also wear clothes suitable to the weather. In colder temperature be sure to wear enough layers, thermal is also a good option. In warmer weather you can tone down the layers but be sure to cover yourself properly as a precaution from poison ivy or insect bites.

Not Paying Attention to the Trail

It’s way too easy to get distracted on the trail. All the wildlife, plantlife and beautiful, sweeping vistas can grab your attention in amazing ways – it’s one of the reasons we hike into the backcountry. Unfortunately it also makes it all too easy to miss trail signs and other important markers that will keep you from getting lost. Be sure to pack a map of the trail with you to help if you do happen to get lost. Also, make sure to pay attention to the trail and your surroundings so you can easily find your way back.

Forgetting Important Gear

Before packing, review your hiking and backpacking checklist of items that are important for you to carry on your hike. When packing double check with the checklist to ensure you have packed everything and do not miss out on vital gear.

Ian Campbell Ian Campbell is the founder of Love the Backcountry and a long time lover of adventure travel. When not writing about the backcountry, he can typically be found hiking, backpacking and camping in the mountains and looking to lay his head beneath as many trees as he can find.