Top 10 Beginner Hiker Blunders

3. Hiking a trail with a road map

Not all dotted lines are made equal. Thus, the map that helps you find the trailhead parking lot won’t help you navigate a trail. Hyper-detailed USGS topographical maps (called “quads”) are the gold standard for backcountry navigation, but they are often overkill for popular and well-marked trails. Much easier to acquire and use are designated trail maps that include topographical features like rivers, ridges, and peaks, as well as key info like hiking mileage and trailheads.

Book stores and visitor centers often stock maps and guidebooks for local trails, while National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated series is great for U.S. recreation hot spots from Acadia to Zion. And don’t forget Backpacker.com’s new Print & Go weekend planners, which include gear checklists, driving directions, and waypoints for dozens of popular hike

4. Packing a first aid kit as if you’re landing on Omaha Beach

Morphine? Check. Gauze bandages? Check. M1 rifle? What? Most novice hikers either forget to bring a first-aid kit, or pack an entire pharmacy. Neither represents the right approach. You should bring a first-aid kit appropriate for the length of your trip, the size of your group (along with any individual medical needs), and your medical knowledge.

The last one is important: If you don’t know how to use a first-aid item—like a suture kit—you probably shouldn’t be carrying it. Packing obscure supplies you’ll probably never use in place of additional bandages and painkillers doesn’t make sense. Basic first-aid essentials for most outings should be: adhesive bandages (various sizes), medical or duct tape, moleskin, sterile gauze, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment, and alcohol wipes.

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