• Catherine Dickerman

8 Most Common Mistakes Beginner Backpackers Make

Learn how to prepare for your first trip like a pro (or dust off your knowledge from a few decades ago).


1. Not doing enough research: Sometimes hikes can be deceiving. Many trails only give the heads up on mileage without warning of elevation, rivers, and other important elements. Doing some research ahead of time on apps like AllTrails is crucial before trying out new hikes.


2. Walking too much each day: If you’re planning a longer backpacking trip, it can be easy to be over-ambitious. Not only will over-hiking tire you out much faster, but it also lead to more injuries. A general rule of thumb is to anticipate some rest days for weather and recovery on trips longer than one week.


3. Not wearing the right footwear: Breaking in your shoes is always a good idea, especially before planning to walk A LOT in them. You don’t want your hiking shoes to be too tight also--usually a good rule of thumb is to have a thumbs width of wiggle room in the toe. Also, be sure to pack plenty of blister pads and bandages.



4. Forgetting that nights can be cold: It’s important to pay attention to the temperature markings on your sleeping bag. Even in the summer, temperatures can drop to below freezing at high elevation at night. It’s always better to opt for a warmer sleeping bag if you're unsure.



5. Not investing in a good sleeping pad: Getting a good night’s sleep will dictate the success of your backpacking trip. Not only is the right sleeping pad super comfortable, but it also acts as an insulator between you and the ground and keeps you much warmer. A good sleeping pad can make or break your trip.


6. Overpacking: Overpacking is something that’s super hard to avoid, even as a more experienced backpacker. However, every extra item you bring that isn’t essential is going to make your pack exponentially heavier. Do enough research on weather, elevation, humidity, and more to avoid overpacking and to still make sure you have the essentials. Make sure to repack your food out of its heavy containers when possible to also make your pack more space-efficient!


7. Taking forever to set up your tent: Some pro tips: pack your tent with the footprint at the bottom and the rainfly at the top (this will make setting it up much easier); make sure the tent is waterproof (if working with an older tent that has lost the repellency, coat the seams with a sealer); and set up your tent on a dry, flat surface to avoid waking up in a puddle.


8. Overpaying for gear: New gear can set you back hundreds of dollars. For more expensive items, there's no need to pay full price for camping gear (especially if it's something you'll only use once or twice). You can never go wrong with testing out gear before paying full price. Check out a selection of amazing used gear on Switchbackr!


All photos: Alexa Romano