I suck at hiking. Don’t make the same mistakes as me. If you are new to hiking, or just suck at it like I do, take note of these common mistakes.


1) Not wearing in your boots before your hike

Your feet are your tools when it comes to hiking, happy feet = happy hiking. Not wearing in your new hiking boots before you embark on your big hike can lead to unhappy feet.  More importantly, is choosing the right footwear to begin, street shoes and flip-flops are not appropriate for hiking. I once hiked to the Lake Agnes Tea House in Banff National with a couple of Aussies, it was early June and there was still snow on the ground, they wore thongs (Aussie for flip-flops).

2) Packing too much for your hike

This point could easily be flipped and be called ‘not packing enough for your hike’. But I generally overpack when it comes to hiking. I don’t even overpack the important things, like extra clothing, water or food.  I overpack my camera gear, I take all the lenses I own, corresponding filters and holders. This adds weight to my pack and breaks that golden rule, only pack what you need. It is also very important that you have the best backpack for hiking that you can find, it can make or break your hike. 


3) Not taking enough food and water

This common mistake I make hiking corresponds with the above point about packing too much. Not packing enough food and water for your hike can be deadly. Hiking is not an easy task, your body needs to be prepared; food and drink is your fuel.

4) Using low-grade hiking gear

Using cheap hiking equipment is often the only way some of us can afford to get into the backcountry. Yet while using cheap hiking gear may save money it can have unintended consequences. If you are on a multi-day backpacking trip, a poor quality tent can lead to sleepless nights, while a waterproof jacket which fails to do its job will lead to a miserable hike. Check out this post on camping equipment you don’t need.

5) Not wearing appropriate clothing

This means not wearing cotton, cotton is not your friend as a hiker. Cotton traps moisture and once your clothes are wet it will take a long time to dry. Wet clothing while hiking can lead to hypothermia. Appropriate clothing for hiking should include quick drying and breathable material.


6) Hiking alone

Hiking alone, especially in a mountainous environment, is not advisable. If you do want to travel alone, make sure you tell a friend where you are going and when you expect to be back.

7) Checking the weather

Ignoring the weather forecast is irresponsible. Always check the weather to make you are fully prepared for whatever mother nature may throw at you. Remember, just because the skies are clear when you leave for your hike, it does not mean they will be in a  few hours. Mountain weather can change in a blink of an eye.

8) Not practising the Leave No Trace mantra

If you don’t follow the Leave No Trace rules, i.e. pack out everything you pack in, you shouldn’t be on the trails. Check out this website for the Leave No Trace principles.


9) Overestimating your fitness

Trying to hike too far and failing will leave you hurting and discouraged. I discovered this on the first day of my multi-day hike along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The first day was brutal because I tried to walk too far. My fitness was not up to scratch and the rest of my hike suffered as a result.

10) Not being proactive and protecting your knees

This is the mistake I make most often. Hiking uphill is hard on your body but nowhere near as hard as going down. The pressure hiking downhill puts on your lower body is intense. So if you don’t want to end up walking like an 80-year-old man, like I was after a hike in the Lake District, take hiking poles with you. They will help mitigate the pressure on your knees.


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  • Rhonda Albom says

    Great tips and love #8, which I have seen as leave only footprints. Also love the photo under it.

    • Mike Cotton says

      Thank you for the comment, Rhonda. Yep, leave only footprints is another saying which basically means leave no trace, pack-in-pack-out. Nothing infuriates me more than seeing garbage in the backcountry.

  • John Armes says

    Another basic which might seem obvious but still worth a mention is, ‘don’t just have the right gear, but make sure you know how to actually use it before setting off’. I remember on one occasion whilst hiking the Suffolk Coastal Path in England, meeting three blokes in a forest who were totally lost even though they had a good map and compass. You don’t want to be hiking in Canada and decide you need your bear spray to then start reading the instructions on the back of the can as Yogi is bearing down on you.

    • Mike Cotton says

      Haha too right John. Saying that, I often went hiking without bear spray in BC, but was very aware of the need to make a shit-ton of noise when out on the trails. But I’m heading back for a visit this month, I think bear spray will be one of my purchases.

  • Kreete says

    I have just started hiking a lot more seriously in preparation to my Everest Base Camp hike next April and I love all the points you make. Great photos too! I will be exploring what more you have on hiking on this fab blog! Thanks for sharing!

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