Among the many mistakes made in hiking, I have selected two that are rather made by beginners on big hikes (several days minimum).
Why these two mistakes? Because it’s probably the two main ones I would have liked to avoid during my first big hikes. And also because I saw a lot of people doing them.
If you have already done a few day hikes, and are tempted to try several days hike, then I can guarantee that you will surely make these mistakes. Or at least one of them.
If you consider yourself experienced, this article may also interest you. Almost all beginners make these mistakes, but many experienced hikers do these too.
I would say that 99% of newbies make these mistakes. They are not easily avoidable when you do not have much experience. Of course, I’ve made this mistakes too, not once.
Both of these mistakes can be expensive. Many people give up or get hurt because of them. Many people ruin their great hikes because of them.
In the following, I help you to be part of those 1% who do not make these mistakes and enjoy their treks.
Backpack too heavy
This is probably the most common mistake found in beginners taking a multi-day hike – but also in many experienced hikers.
During the preparation of your hike, when you put your bag on your backpack, you will probably say “oh it’s heavy, but it’ll do it” and like many, your backpack will become your worst enemy during your hike. And it will be too late to regret taking too much and not thinking too much about the weight of your bag.
Believe me, hiking with a heavy backpack is not fun.
For a long time, a big bag has been associated with a security pledge, because one has everything just in case. And it still is for some. But it is possible to leave with a lightweight backpack safely. It takes a bit of experience. It is for example possible to go below 22 lbs for a week of hiking in complete autonomy.
This myth is maintained by all the people who tell you that you absolutely need a backpack of 60-70 liters minimum to make a hike of one week in complete autonomy. It is also by some sellers who want you to buy a lot of useless accessories.
It’s easy to fall into the trap and say, “I take this just in case” without really thinking about the usefulness and weight of every item you put in your bag. It’s much easier to put an item in your backpack, thinking that it can serve – rather than removing an object from it, thinking that you can do without it.
Some people fill a big backpack to have more comfort, but for me, the comfort is to be able to walk freely without having backache, the shoulder straps that shear the shoulders and the impression of losing its balance with each step.
It’s up for everyone to find the right balance between comfort at camp and comfort during the walk.
How to avoid it?
If you are a beginner there is a lot of chance that your backpack is too heavy. It’s normal, you have no experience, you’re not sure how many pants to take so you take 3 just in case; a salesman made you buy a pillow and told you that you will sleep better at the bivouac; you bought a sleeping bag without really thinking about its weight; etc.
For starters, what is a too heavy backpack? You will sometimes hear that you should not have a backpack heavier than a quarter or even a third of your weight. I prefer to talk about a backpack that is too heavy when the weight of the backpack is not optimized – that is, it is possible to have a much lighter backpack without compromising safety.
It depends on the type of hike and the conditions. A hiker can for example have a 26 lbs backpack much better optimized than the bag of another hiker weighing 17 lbs. The first one for example it’s a trek in total autonomy for 2 weeks and the second starting for 3 days in the middle mountain and sleeping in shelters. It is therefore difficult to designate a maximum weight that should not be exceeded. I would say that the lighter the bag, the better.
To avoid having a too heavy backpack, I think it is necessary to change your state of mind : do not say to yourself : ” I can fill my backpack up to 33 lbs – because my friend told me that beyond 33 lbs I will have back pain” rather than that “what is the minimum weight that I can carry without compromising my safety and having a good compromise of comfort? “
The solutions to try to have the lightest backpack possible are:
- Reflect on the usefulness of each object. What is the essential material and what can be done without?
- Reflect on the weight of each object. How to replace each indispensable object with something lighter?
If you are a beginner, the first point is the most important because once you have got rid of a superfluous object, you do not need to try to lighten the object. No need to go extreme – especially for your first big hikes – and buy expensive ultralight equipment. There is no point in spending a fortune in an ultralight tent to gain 1 pound if it is to get 4 lbs of extra food and 6 lbs of excess clothing.
Do not buy unnecessary material, which is not essential, and you will save money. You can then use these savings to buy lightweight equipment.
All this lightening process takes time, requires experience and constantly questioning yourself. Sometimes you have to overcome certain psychological barriers – some hikers bivouac for example without tent or stove.
I will come back in more detail on light and ultralight hiking in future articles. For the moment, I especially want to avoid the too heavy backpack hike.
For the people interested, BackpackingLight Forum is also a good source of information on the subject.
Walking too fast
A school lesson
Remember sports at school and especially endurance sessions that have traumatized some.
How many of us were panting and getting tired even before we had done a quarter of the distance we were asked. Remember the remaining three quarters who were pure suffering. Except for the clever ones who feigned discomfort and spent the rest of the session on the bench …
The problem was that many of us were leaving far too fast. Do you want to feel the same way on a hike?
How to avoid it?
Do not go too fast
On a hike – as in school – many beginners walk too fast from the start and pay dearly later. It should be known that for most endurance sports, it is better to leave slowly and then accelerate if you have the desire and opportunity. If you start too fast, you will lose a lot of energy and get tired quickly – even if you slow down afterwards.
Do not walk too fast and adopt a steady pace
The regularity and pace of walking are very important to get tired as little as possible. That’s why in endurance at school you were noted on it!
It is especially in climb that one realizes it. A classic scenario : you start fast, you go over slower hikers. After 10 minutes, you pause because you are short of breath and your calves are burning. After 30 minutes, you have already made 3-4 breaks and you are overtaken by “slow” hikers that you had exceeded at the start. In the end, these hikers arrive before you on a climb of 2-3 hours.
You will say, “Where is the problem, it’s not a race? “. And you are right ! But these “slower” hikers who manage their efforts have not only arrived well before you, but especially much less tired. The only differences: the pace of walking and regularity.
By being regular you will be more efficient and you will get much less tired . It’s better than walking too fast and having to take breaks every 10 minutes. It’s as if some marathoners start sprinting, pausing, sprinting, pausing, etc. … all this on 26 miles.
Be careful, this does not mean that you should not take breaks. Take breaks to allow your body to recover. And to take the time to enjoy what’s around you and take your snack.
How do you know if you are walking too fast?
Take a rhythm that allows you to not run out of breath. Base your maximum pace on your breath. If you run out of breath more and more, it is because you are walking too fast. Ideally, you should not have to stop to catch your breath. Some people even like having a rhythm with which they can have a discussion.
It is the same for the muscles. It is normal for you to feel bad – especially during climbs and descents – but this does not get too much faster. Otherwise it means that you are walking too fast. Adopt a rhythm with which your muscular pains do not increase.
The pace of walking does not only apply to a climb or a descent, but also to longer hikes. On a hike of 5 days, for example, if you go too fast the first day, you may suffer the 2nd and 3rd day, you feel tired and without energy. Take care of your body! Managing your effort requires experience and knowing your body, but if you leave slowly, you will make the most of your hikes.
Sometimes, it is better to do a step in 8 hours and feel fresh enough to leave the next day, rather than do it in 6 hours and not appreciate the next day because you are too tired.
If you’re interested in physical performance, you’ll have time to do this once you’re more experienced.
Congratulations, you have read this article to the end. So you are part of a minority that is ready to hike avoiding these mistakes.
Now you have to apply what you learned in this article because many will not do it. In the end they will be part of the 99% who make these mistakes.
If I can make you avoid these mistakes halfway, I will already be very satisfied. Because it is always possible to lighten his backpack and optimize his walking pace. And this is not only learned by reading articles, but by hiking and gaining experience. So keep visiting this blog and go out to apply what you have learned .
If you liked this article, you will probably like my “How to choose your hiking boots” guide, which you can download for free.