5 Backpacking Blunders And How To Avoid Them

Don't make these rookie mistakes on your first backpacking trip.

By: Anna Cohen
March 28, 2016

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There are plenty of mistakes to be made when going backpacking, especially if you are a newbie. Luckily for you, there are many of us who have gone before you and who have learned the hard way. Take note from our experiences and save yourself a load of grief. These tips will make your backpacking experience a lot more enjoyable, and will save you a lot of discomfort along the way.

Hike to Grassy Ridge Bald in the Roan Highlands | Photo: Steve Yocom

Here are 5 common backpacking blunders and how you can avoid them:

1. Packing more than you need.

It’s so easy to end up with way more in your pack than is necessary. For your first few times going backpacking, you will inevitably think that you need certain items that, in fact, you simply do not. For example, ladies, you do not need makeup. I lugged around makeup with me into the backcountry for quite awhile. I soon realized that that was stupid and once I ditched it, my pack became much lighter. You also do not need a giant first aid kit. Some duct tape will do the trick. Another common packing mistake is packing way too much clothing. The very nature of backpacking is to get a little dirty. You will sweat, you will smell, and that’s OK. Pack just enough underwear to get you through your trip, and for the rest of your apparel, think layers. Get used to wearing the same shirt and pants for multiple days in a row. It’s not so bad, honest! Especially if you master the baby-wipe bath.

2. Going too “ultra-light”.

While packing more than you need can lead to back aches, packing too little can be downright miserable too. You need layers, food (and a way to cook your food), water (or water filtration), headlamp, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shelter, boots… seriously, don’t slack on the essentials. Going ultra-light is great - if you have the right experience. Going too ultra-light is just plain silly.

Backpack Mount Timpanogos | Photo: Lindsay Daniels

3. Buying cheap gear.

Buying your sleeping bag at Walmart is guaranteed to leave you shivering in the night. There are certain pieces of gear that it is just crucial that you spend some money on. Boots, shelter, and a sleeping bag are some such items. Do a little research before making your purchases and remember, cheap gear is cheap for a reason.

4. Not breaking in your boots.

Speaking of boots, one of the WORST mistakes that you can make is not breaking in your boots before going backpacking. There are few things more horrible than getting blisters on your feet when you’re miles into the backcountry on day one of a trip. Do yourself a BIG favor and wear your boots around the house, around town, or on some shorter hikes before taking them on their maiden backpacking voyage.

5. Not paying attention to the weather forecast.

I can’t say this enough: check the weather. Check it again. Make sure that you are really familiar with the weather forecast for the area that you are going to be in and pack accordingly. If there is even a slight chance of rain, bring rain gear. Being wet is uncomfortable, and in the backcountry it can be downright dangerous. Be smart and take note of what the weatherman is predicting. It’s way better to be safe than sorry.

Cover photo: Kathleen Morton

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.