If you’ve spent any time in the woods, you’ve probably made some epic backcountry blunders. We certainly have. In fact, the only reason we’re able to give any “clever” hiking advice is because of all the laughably bad mistakes we’ve made over the years. At one point or another we’ve fallen victim to every one of the blunders listed below (and then some!).
We’ve made every backpacking mistake in the books, but we’ve learned our lessons and we keep coming back for more. Because no matter how bad the slip-ups have been, the good trail times always outweigh the bad.
Have a blunder of your own to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.
1. Cooking In Your Tent
Cooking dinner in your tent might seem like a cozy idea, especially if it’s wet and cold outside. But there are serious consequences to consider before lighting up a stove in an enclosed area. The obvious danger is that you could burn down your tent, which would suck. The less-obvious danger is that the carbon monoxide fumes from your stove are poisonous and they could kill you, which would suck more.
There may be scenarios where you need shelter to cook a meal – like winter camping on a mountain in a snowstorm. So if you MUST, cook in the vestibule of your tent (not inside your tent) and make sure to have lots of ventilation. If you can’t do those things, don’t cook at all.
2. Soaking Your Sleeping Ba
Here’s a surprising pro tip: Sleeping in a wet sleeping bag is the pits. Shocking insight, right? Still, this blunder seems to be a rite of passage for new backpackers. It’s hard to really drill the point home until you’ve actually been forced to climb inside a soggy sleeping bag. That’s when the wisdom really sinks in.
Develop an obsession for keeping your sleeping bag dry. At the first sign of rain, pack your sleeping bag in a waterproof container inside your backpack. Heavy-duty trash bags work great for this. Even if your backpack claims to be waterproof (few actually are), the extra protection is worth it for such a critical piece of gear.
3. Filleting Your Feet
Few things can ruin a backpacking trip as quickly as bad blisters. When you’re traveling by foot and every step hurts, it’s pretty tough to enjoy your surroundings.
Blisters are caused by friction – wearing footwear that is too tight, too rigid, or rubs against a particular area of skin. They can develop easily when your feet are clammy and soft.
That’s one of the reasons we prefer to pack light and wear trail running shoes instead of boots. They keep our feet ventilated, comfortable, and blister free no matter how far we want to hike.
If you do plan to wear hiking boots, take lots of time to break them in well before your hike. Also, whatever footwear you choose, always stop immediately if you feel a hotspot and address it. Hiking through initial blister pain is easy, but you’re doing damage that will be much more painful over the following days.
4. Packing Too Much Crap
There are around 2,200 steps in every mile and nature is rarely flat. Remember that while you’re testing the weight of your pack in the comfort of your home. It won’t take very long for a heavy pack to feel uncomfortable once you get it on the trail.
Cutting weight is a skill that comes from experience and the confidence gained after years on the trail. The more you get out there, the more you’ll see what you need, what you don’t, and what items you can upgrade.
Common pitfalls include bringing too much clothing, too much food, and unnecessary extras like camping chairs, camp shoes, and excess cooking equipment. When it comes to cutting gear weight, start with “The Big 3” – your shelter, backpack, and sleeping bag. Lightweight gear has come a long way in the past few years. For us, a backpack, 2-person tent, and sleeping bag typically weigh just over 4 pounds combined. Packing light will make your hike much more enjoyable.