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A sign pointing to a hiking trail

10 mistakes to avoid on your next hike

Hikers of all experience levels take the wrong approach from time to time. Avoid these common blunders to keep yourself out of trouble on the trail.

Hiking is a relatively simple activity to prepare for and enjoy. But it only takes one small oversight or misjudgment to discover the pitfalls of hiking.

Take note of these common mistakes made by hikers so you can help be safer, comfortable, and ready for anything when you're out there.

1. Trying to do too much

Eagerness is a wonderful thing. But taking on a 19-kilometre (12-mile) trek when you’re not ready for it may leave you discouraged, or even hurting. Be realistic about your fitness level. Haven’t hiked in a while? Stick to short and simple. You can build up the difficulty and distance over time.

2. Hiking a trail without a road map

Carrying a map on your hike is a good idea—as long as it’s a map of the trail. A road map may give you a picture of the area, but it’s not going to be very effective in helping you navigate through the mountains or woods.

3. Ignoring the forecast

Just because the skies are clear right now doesn’t mean they will be in a few hours. Always check the forecast.

4. Packing your backpack incorrectly

The wrong distribution of weight in your backpack can do a number on your back. If you have an internal-frame pack (the current hiking standard), pack the lightest stuff at the bottom, the heaviest right against your back, and medium-weight material on the outer and top sections.

5. Wearing the wrong footwear

Be it boots fresh out of the box or flat-soled tennis shoes with no traction, wearing footwear unfit for hiking is a recipe for pain. Make sure your footwear is broken in and fit for the terrain to help protect yourself from blisters and injury.

6. Wearing denim and cotton

Denim is cotton. And wearing cotton on hikes is a poor choice because it retains moisture, keeping you wet and cold. Moisture-wicking fabric is your best bet for staying comfortable in any conditions.

7. Not accounting for aches and pains

Going on a hike puts strain on your body. Rather than wait to feel the pain later, be proactive and prevent it. Wearing a knee brace or ankle support can help provide stability and comfort throughout your trek.

8. Not wearing sun protection

If you go hiking for a few hours without sunscreen, especially during spring and summer, you'll probably regret it. Wear sunblock on your exposed skin, even if the skies are overcast.

9. Starting too late in the day

If you embark on a long trek a few hours later than planned, you’re going to be rushed. But there’s a limit to the pace you can cover ground—especially if there’s rough terrain or elevation changes. Stick to a reasonable schedule so you can finish before night falls. And bring a flashlight just in case.

10. Relying too heavily on your smartphone

Your smartphone likely has tools you use for hiking, from a compass to a trail map app. But if you run out of juice or can’t get reception, those tools will be useless. Be sure to pack analog tools you can rely on.