In the past year, I have completed around 50 hikes so you can bet your bottom dollar I have made a mistake (or 37). As a follow up to the camping mistakes I made over summer post, I thought I would write about my hiking mistakes so you don’t make the same ones. Though sometimes small mistakes can make for a good story at the end of the day so not all is lost (unless you are).
Again, you are welcome
Not carrying enough water
This is a biiiig no no! Always pack enough water to last through your hike plus a little extra just in case. You may find you need extra if it’s a hot day. You also need to allow if you get sidetracked and take longer than anticipated, get lost or find yourself camping overnight for whatever reason.
I made this mistake on day one of hiking the Waikaremoana Great Walk (and again hiking Wharite Peak. What can I say, I’m a slow learner) Although we packed enough to last a normal day, the sun was soon beating down on us and with the constant steep climbs, we powered through the water in no time.
If you know that there is definitely going to be a water source then you can pack purifiers to save on weight. But only if you know that there will be water there that is safe to drink.
What I learned: Always pack extra water and don’t be lazy! It is worth the extra weight.
Forgetting pieces of kit
Ahh, this is the most common mistake that I make nearly every trip. I have forgotten insect repellant, loo paper, trekking poles, gaiters, extra batteries and more.
The most commonly forgotten piece of item is my trekking pole. When you are wearing a heavy pack and on steep inclines and declines it’s certainly noticeable.
I also realised how useful gaiters are when hiking in snow last year. I forgot my gaiters when I did Deadman’s Track and of course, there happened to be knee-high snow. The snow sat on the tongue of my boots against my leg and consequently had very dry, itchy skin for a couple of weeks afterwards.
What I learned: Now I always have my pack ready with essential bits of kit in it and add things like food and water just before I leave. I also have a hiking checklist that I give a quick scan as I pack.
Not checking kit beforehand
You should regularly check your kit before you go out. Check things like wear and tear, batteries, enough charge or kit running low.
Replace, top up or repair any gear that needs it.
I forgot to check my headtorch before going on an overnight hike. Suffice to say there was no reading snuggled up under my sleeping bag that night.
What I learned: It was tricky going to the loo in the dark without a headtorch
Starting with too many layers
Starting with too many layers, especially if you are going straight into a hill is never a good idea. Unless you like stopping a few minutes into your hike to delayer. Then one day as I kitted up ready to go for a hike with Pa complete with woolly hat, gloves, fleece top and jacket, he looked at me rather strangely.
He then helpfully informed me that we would be stopping in a few minutes which left me puzzled. Sure enough, less than 5 minutes later I asked if we could stop so I could take off my woolly hat, gloves, fleece top and jacket. Lesson learned.
What I learned: Always start a little cold. Not like, shivering cold, but cold enough that you will be at a comfortable temperature while hiking.
Read More: 27 Hiking Hacks
Hiking when under the weather
Last year I planned to hike Field Hut up to Table Top. I knew this was going to be a strenuous hike with 1000m in elevation to climb. I was determined to hike this even though I was feeling rubbish with a cold coming on and very little sleep the night before.
Instead of picking an easier or shorter hike, I ploughed on with my plan. Sure enough, I suffered. I was tired from the lack of sleep and my chest hurt from the cold closing in. I did it, barely, but I didn’t enjoy the hike as much as I would have normally. Which is kind of the opposite of what you want.
What I learned: Listen to your body. It knows more than your head
Not training before a big hike
My friend Ronna (from Five Foot Ronna) and I decided early on last year to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Me being me, laid back and takes it as it comes, had the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Needless to say, I didn’t train. Even once. Unless you count a couple of short hikes with the kids. Going at kid pace.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 19.4km hike in alpine conditions.
What I learned: Don’t be cocky and the she’ll be right attitude isn’t always… right
Not doing research beforehand
I’m known for not reading the backs of books before starting the first chapter. I often go to movies without having the slightest idea of what I am in for. I tend to be quite relaxed, laid back and just go with the flow. However, this isn’t always a good thing. Especially when hiking an unknown hike.
Usually, I just check the distance and time. However, after heading to Atene Skyline Track, my first solo hike in an unknown area, I learned a valuable lesson. Do a bit of research prior.
If I had done my research, at least I would have been forewarned of the track conditions and probably taken along a trekking pole (and maybe would have remembered my wallet for the celebratory mars bar on the way home that I had to miss out on).
Alas, it was not to be and I bumbled along, grabbing tree roots for support and hoping like heck that I wouldn’t fall down a cliff. Good times.
What I learned: When heading to a new hike, a bit more research than ‘how long is my hike’ is needed.
Ignoring the weather forecast
Ah, that ‘she’ll be right attitude’ again. Gosh it gets me into trouble sometimes.
Over the last year, I have
- Gotten soaked so soaked to the bone I could have filled a good sized paddling pool with the water in my boots and clothing
- Hiked in knee deep snow. Well actually, sunk every step in knee deep snow.
- Had a spot of sunburn (I now look like I fell asleep on a tanning bed)
- Gotten so windswept it looked like I had just been thrown out of the backend of a tornado
However, I am not a believer in letting a spot of rain, well, rain on your parade. Yes, there are some instances where you shouldn’t go out (hurricanes and whatnot), but sometimes it can be quite fun stomping in puddles and squelching through mud occasionally having to stop to retrieve a boot or two.
What I learned: Take heed of the weather forecast, especially if your skills don’t quite match.
Starting too late in the day
This is generally fine in the summer when the sun hangs around for a bit longer. In winter, however, it disappears pretty darn fast leaving you to wonder why it is suddenly pitch black and you weren’t ready for it yet.
Kenny and I hiked Rangiwahia Hut and back down via Deadman’s track last year. We hadn’t accounted for the knee-deep snow slowing us down so much and consequently exited the trees just as dusk had finished displaying its magical golden hour.
All was not lost, the golden hour provided a beautiful glow and surrounded us in muted golds and reds.
What I learned: Always start early in the day. Now, if I sleep through my alarm (happens more often than I am willing to admit), I change plans and either go for a shorter hike or a closer to home hike. Just in case.
Who else hates eating breakfast so early in the day? However, skipping breakfast before a strenuous hike is never a good idea. Force that food down, baby. You’re going to need it later. Unless of course, you like feeling light-headed and Hangry. If so, skip away.
What I have learned: Eat the damn porridge. Even if you don’t feel like it.
Having McDonald’s for brekkie
Once, after skipping breakfast, as I made my way through town, I decided I was rather peckish after all so I did a quick detour through the McDonald’s drive-thru. Not such a smart idea. I should have eaten the apple out of my pack instead.
I felt so greasy, bloated and just uggghhhh after that, it was a struggle to get up that first hill.
What I learned: Even if McDonald’s seems like a good idea, it isn’t.
Not packing enough food
I don’t eat an awful lot during a normal day, however, I can eat a horse (not literally, ew) when I hike. When I first started doing longer hikes I assumed that I would be ok with just packing what I would normally eat during the day. Nuh uh.
When Joe and I hiked Waikaremoana, I packed more food than we both normally eat. This still wasn’t enough and we nearly cleaned out the dairy (corner shop for those non-kiwi’s) once we made it back to our car.
What I learned: Burning all those calories means that you need to replenish them rather quickly. Hangry and lightheadedness come on quick once you start ascending hills.
Packing too much food
While this is never really a bad thing. It always pays to be prepared and all that, sometimes if you pack waaaaay too much food, your pack ends up being waaaaaay too heavy. You don’t really need three sandwiches, a packet of Oreos, two apples, a Le Snack, two packets of chips and a mandarin for a three-hour hike. True story.
What I learned: A little bit of extra food is just smart preparedness, too much extra food is a little OTT
Too many noodles
Variety is the spice of life. Having noodles every day on a four day hike, is not. So instead of thinking, ‘hell yeah, noodles are cheap and light. I’ll take one for every day!’ Think, ‘noodles are ok once in a while, but I might pack other kinds of food as well. You know, to mix it up a bit’
What I learned: Pack a variety of food. Noodles don’t taste nice 4 days in a row.
Ignoring hot spots
Hot spots are those fun wee things that form on your heels, toes and pretty much anywhere on your feet. Ignore these bad boys and you are in for a world of Blister Pain.
It is much better to stop and annoy your hiking buddies for a few minutes than carry on and annoy them even more later on when you complain with every step. Trust me on this one.
What I learned: Stop as soon as you feel hot spots starting to form and deal with them straight away.
Read More: How to look after your feet on a hike
Wearing the wrong gear
See through cheap leggings that get holes in the bum very quickly: check!
Slightly too small boots: check!
Really thin socks: check!
Uncomfy knickers: check! Look away lads: One time it was washing day, I decided to go for a hike anyway, ignoring the fact that I only had my… pretty… underwear not built for comfort. Let’s just say, my hiking granny panties were sorely (literally) missed.
I’ve done it all and thankfully learned some lessons along the way. It really does pay to invest in the proper gear or else you will have an uncomfortable trek.
Lesson Learned: Always wear the proper gear. The wrong gear can make for a highly uncomfortable hike.
Not doing a check before nature calls
When nature calls in, well, nature sometimes you just gotta go. Once when nature called I was up a hill so I figured I’d just hold onto a branch to keep me stable. Unfortunately, the branch was rotten. You can image what happened next. Let’s just say, sitting down was a bit uncomfortable for a few days afterwards.
What I learned: Always check branches for stableness before your pants are around your ankles.
Not paying attention to the track markers
Oh boy, this happens more than I would like to admit. Who else just lets their mind wander as they meander along under the trees? Yep. Thought so.
Unfortunately, when hiking a lot of the intermediate and advanced tracks you kinda need to pay attention. The lovely wide tracks disappear behind overgrown shrubs, grass, tree roots and creeks. Although these are my favourite kinds of tracks, I have been known suddenly find myself rather off course after a wee daydream.
What I have learned: Pay attention, missus, not only to the trail markers but to the actual track so that if I do get lost, I can reposition myself amongst familiar surroundings.
Read More: What to do if you get lost on a hike
Writing this I have realised what a drongo I sound like *facepalm*. What mistakes have you made hiking that when you look back you think, ‘why the heck did I do that?’ Chuck ’em in the comments and boost my self-esteem a bit.
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