What not to Do Before Hiking? 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Hiking

What not to Do Before Hiking? 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Hiking

What not to Do Before Hiking? Hiking and camping are popular outdoor activities that offer a chance to reconnect with nature, relax and exercise. However, they require careful planning and preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, many hikers and campers make common mistakes that can lead to injury, discomfort, and even tragedy. In this article, we will explore some of the most common mistakes to avoid while hiking and camping, and provide tips on how to stay safe and make the most of your adventure.

What are the most common mistakes first-time hikers make?

Here are 12 common mistakes to avoid while hiking that usually first-time hikers make.

1. Overestimating Your Fitness Level

One of the most common mistakes hikers make is overestimating their fitness level. Hiking can be physically demanding, especially if you’re not used to it. If you attempt a trail that’s beyond your abilities, you’ll quickly find yourself exhausted, dehydrated, and struggling to make it back to safety. To avoid this mistake, start with easier trails and gradually work your way up to more challenging ones. Also, ensure that you are well-hydrated and adequately nourished before hitting the trail.

2. Not Checking the Weather Forecast

Weather can have a significant impact on your hiking experience, and failure to check the forecast can lead to a dangerous situation. Avoid hiking during severe weather conditions, such as thunderstorms or heavy snow, as they can pose serious risks to your safety. Always check the weather forecast before heading out and pack appropriate clothing and gear for the conditions.

3. Not Bringing Enough Water

Dehydration is a significant risk while hiking, and not bringing enough water can quickly turn a pleasant hike into a health hazard. Be sure to pack enough water for the duration of your hike and bring along a water filter or purification tablets if you plan to drink from natural sources.

4. Don’t start off too fast

Keep stress low by hiking near where you live. Start with a shakedown hike that takes two hours or less. Then, if you want a challenge, lace up for a hike with some elevation. Build hiking fitness, and make sure your gear is dialed before you decide to thru-hike Vermont’s Long Trail or start bagging Colorado 14ers.

5. Avoid hiking alone

Having company when you hike can make it more fun. It can also be safer. If you twist an ankle, for example, there’s someone to help. Whether you go solo or with a partner, be sure to let a friend or family member or two know where you’re going and when you expect to return. When you’re back in civilization, make sure you let them know.

6. Don’t overpack

For day hikes, you need the basics, including water, food, a small first aid kit with an emergency blanket, emergency water treatment, a knife, and an extra layer. A heavy pack will weigh you down and make hiking less fun. Plan for a half-liter of water every hour, more if you sweat a lot, or if it’s very hot out.

7. Don’t skip over buying quality hiking boots /shoes and socks

If your feet feel good, there’s a much better chance you’ll have a great time. Wear high-quality merino socks or synthetic hiking socks, not cotton. Buy boots that fit your feet well in the shop. Take a couple of hikes close to home to break them in before you head out for a big trip.

8. Avoid using your cell phone for directions

Deep in the mountains, you may not have cell service, and electronics can run out of juice before you get back to your car. If you want extra security, buy a tracker, like Garmin’s InReach Mini, so you can send a satellite message if you get in trouble.

9. Don’t be afraid to invest in key equipment

For hiking, the most important investments are your socks and shoes. A good backpack will support your load, be sized for your adventure, and fit your body. For day hikes, carry a small pack with a hydration reservoir or easy-access water bottle pocket. Staying hydrated is key to hiking success. Ask your local outdoor shop to help you fit your pack.

If you’ll be out for more than a few hours, buy a water filter or a chemical water treatment and learn how to use it before you leave home. For camping, add a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a tent to your list of gear to buy or borrow. Ask your local shop for recommendations that fit your budget. If you want to cook when you’re camping, you’ll need a camp stove too.

10. Don’t forget to test out equipment before you leave

Don’t wait to get to camp to set up your tent, or try out your stove. Set up everything at home to make sure it works, and that you have all the parts and pieces you need. You’ll figure out what, if anything, you can leave behind, and make sure it all fits in your pack.

11. Know what poison ivy looks like, and what to do if you see a bear

Every area has hazards. Know what they are where you’ll be hiking, and how to deal with them. Avoidance is usually the best strategy. With poison ivy, that’s knowing what it looks like and staying away. With bears, that’s cooking away from your campsite, and hanging your food in a bear bag, as well as having a bear spray on hand for emergencies.

12. Leave no trace

Always follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace. Plan to pack out all your trash. Check local regulations where you plan to hike to see if you also need to bring a system to pack out human waste. Don’t camp close to streams, lakes, or rivers. Don’t cut down trees or vegetation for any reason. Rule of thumb: whatever you’re thinking about doing, imagine if 1000 other people did the same how it would impact the place.

FAQs: What Not and to Do Before, During, and After Hiking

What is the first thing that you should do in hiking?

The first thing you should do in hiking is to plan your route and make sure you are prepared for the trail ahead. This includes researching the trail, checking the weather forecast, bringing adequate water and food, and packing the necessary gear and supplies. You should also inform someone of your hiking plans, including your expected time of return and your route. This way, someone will be aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency. Additionally, it’s important to warm up before starting the hike to prevent injuries and gradually ease into the trail.

What is the first rule of hiking?

The first rule of hiking is to always stay on the designated trail. Straying off the trail can damage the natural environment, disturb wildlife, and put hikers in danger. By sticking to the marked path, you can ensure that you don’t accidentally veer into hazardous terrains, such as steep cliffs, unstable ground, or other potential hazards. Additionally, it’s important to obey any posted signs or instructions from park rangers, as they are there to protect the environment and ensure the safety of hikers.

Do and don’ts of hiking?

Here are some general do’s and don’ts for hiking:


  1. Plan your route and check the weather forecast before heading out.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the terrain and weather conditions.
  3. Carry enough water and snacks to keep yourself hydrated and energized.
  4. Let someone know your route and expected return time.
  5. Stay on designated trails and respect the environment.
  6. Leave no trace by packing out all your trash and avoiding damaging the natural surroundings.
  7. Be aware of your surroundings, keep an eye out for wildlife, and stay on the lookout for any hazards.


  1. Hike alone, especially on unfamiliar trails.
  2. Ignore signs or markers indicating danger or restricted areas.
  3. Litter or disturb the natural environment.
  4. Approach or feed wildlife.
  5. Play music or make loud noises that may disturb others or wildlife.
  6. Ignore symptoms of fatigue, dehydration, or other health issues.
  7. Take unnecessary risks or push beyond your limits.

What are the five precautions to remember before hiking?

Before heading out on a hike, here are five precautions to remember:

  1. Plan your route: Take the time to research your chosen route and make sure it is appropriate for your skill level, physical ability, and experience. Look for maps, reviews, and trail descriptions to get a good idea of what to expect.
  2. Check the weather: Always check the weather forecast before heading out on a hike. If the forecast is for severe weather or thunderstorms, consider postponing your hike until conditions improve.
  3. Pack the essentials: Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, a first-aid kit, and any necessary equipment, such as a compass or map, headlamp, or emergency whistle. Make sure your phone is fully charged and let someone know your route and expected return time.
  4. Dress appropriately: Choose clothing and footwear appropriate for the terrain and weather conditions. Avoid cotton clothing and opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying materials. Wear sturdy, comfortable, and properly fitting footwear with good traction.
  5. Stay alert: Keep an eye out for wildlife, hazards, and any changes in the environment. Take breaks when needed, and don’t push yourself beyond your limits. If you encounter any problems, such as inclement weather or an injury, be prepared to turn back or seek help.

What to Know Before hiking the AT?

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a popular long-distance hiking trail that runs from Georgia to Maine, covering over 2,200 miles of varied terrain. If you’re planning to hike the AT, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Physical fitness: The AT is a challenging trail, and it’s important to be physically fit and prepared for the rigors of hiking long distances over varied terrain. Start training well in advance of your trip to build up your endurance and strength.
  2. Planning and preparation: Thorough planning is essential for a successful AT hike. Research the trail, plan your route and resupply points, and make sure you have all the necessary gear and equipment.
  3. Permits and regulations: Some sections of the AT require permits or have specific regulations, such as no camping or campfires. Check the regulations and obtain any necessary permits before you begin your hike.
  4. Trail etiquette: The AT can be busy, and it’s important to follow trail etiquette to help preserve the trail and ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience. Follow Leave No Trace principles, yield to uphill hikers, and be respectful of other hikers and the natural environment.
  5. Safety: Be aware of the risks of hiking the AT, such as falls, wildlife encounters, and inclement weather. Carry a map, compass, and first-aid kit, and make sure someone knows your planned route and expected return time.
  6. Resupplying: Plan ahead for resupplying food and other necessities on the trail. Many hikers mail packages to post offices along the trail, but there are also options for resupplying at trail towns and stores.
  7. Mental preparedness: AT can be a long and challenging journey, both physically and mentally. Be prepared for the mental and emotional challenges of long-distance hiking, and take time to rest and recharge as needed.

How to prepare for a hike physically?

Preparing for a hike physically is important to ensure you can handle the demands of the trail and reduce the risk of injury. Here are some tips to help you prepare physically for a hike:

  1. Start training well in advance: Don’t wait until a few days before your hike to start preparing physically. Ideally, you should start training several weeks or even months in advance. This will give your body time to build endurance and strength.
  2. Build up endurance: Hiking is a cardiovascular activity that requires endurance. Start by going on regular walks or hikes, gradually increasing the distance and intensity. Aim to build up to the length and intensity of the hike you’re planning.
  3. Strength training: Hiking also requires muscular strength, particularly in your legs, core, and upper body. Incorporate strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, and push-ups into your workout routine.
  4. Flexibility: Hiking requires a range of motion in your joints, particularly your hips, knees, and ankles. Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your workout routine to improve your flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
  5. Practice with a weighted backpack: As you get closer to your hike, practice hiking with a weighted backpack to simulate the weight you’ll be carrying on the trail. Start with a light weight and gradually increase it over time.
  6. Rest and recovery: Rest is just as important as training. Make sure to take rest days to allow your body to recover and repair. Get plenty of sleep and eat a nutritious diet to fuel your body for your hiking adventure.
  7. Seek medical clearance: If you have any medical conditions or concerns, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine or embarking on a hike.

What to eat before hiking?

Eating the right foods before hiking is important to fuel your body for the physical demands of the trail. Here are some tips on what to eat before hiking:

  1. Complex carbohydrates: Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates provide a slow and steady source of energy, which is important for sustained energy during a hike. Examples include oatmeal, whole-grain bread, sweet potatoes, and brown rice.
  2. Protein: Protein is important for muscle repair and recovery, and can also help keep you feeling full and satisfied. Good sources of protein include eggs, yogurt, nuts, and lean meats.
  3. Healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, can help provide sustained energy and keep you feeling full.
  4. Fiber: Fiber can help keep you feeling full and satisfied, as well as help regulate digestion. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  5. Hydration: It’s important to stay hydrated before a hike, so be sure to drink plenty of water or other hydrating fluids. Avoid sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol, as these can dehydrate you.
  6. Timing: It’s best to eat a meal or snack that’s high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein about 2-3 hours before your hike. This gives your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients. If you’re short on time, a smaller snack that’s high in carbohydrates and easy to digest, such as a banana or energy bar, can be eaten 30 minutes to an hour before your hike.
  7. Personal preferences: Ultimately, what to eat before hiking depends on your personal preferences and what works best for your body. Experiment with different foods and meal timing to find what works best for you.

Things to do after hiking?

After a long hike, it’s important to take some time to properly recover and care for your body. Here are some things you can do after hiking to help your body recover:

  1. Stretch: Take some time to stretch your muscles, focusing on the areas that worked the hardest during your hike, such as your legs, hips, and back. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.
  2. Hydrate: Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate your body after your hike. Water is best, but you may also want to drink electrolyte-rich beverages to replace lost minerals and help with rehydration.
  3. Refuel: Eat a nutritious meal or snack to help replenish your body’s energy stores. Choose foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as whole-grain bread, vegetables, and lean protein.
  4. Rest: Take some time to rest and allow your body to recover. This may include taking a nap or simply relaxing for a while. It’s also important to get a good night’s sleep after your hike.
  5. Ice sore muscles: If you have sore or swollen muscles after your hike, consider applying ice or a cold pack to the affected area to help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  6. Self-care: Treat yourself to some self-care, such as a hot bath, massage, or yoga. This can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
  7. Reflect: Take some time to reflect on your hiking experience, and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Whether it was a challenging or easy hike, be proud of what you accomplished and plan for your next adventure!


Hiking is a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and clear your mind. By following these essential tips on what to do before, during, and after hiking, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Remember to plan your route, pack essentials, stay on the trail, take breaks, and clean up after yourself. By doing so, you’ll be able to make a conclusion from the title “What to Do Before, During, and After Hiking” and have an unforgettable adventure in the great outdoors.

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About the Author: Darrell Morris

A passionate traveler and adventurer who has explored some of the most beautiful and remote corners of the world. From hiking through the misty mountains of Machu Picchu to diving with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef, Darry Morris has a thirst for new experiences and a deep appreciation for the natural wonders of our planet.

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