Top 10 Beginner Hiker Blunders

-"I've made the mistakes so you don't have to."
trekker struggle

May 5, 2018

Shreyas Kulkarni

1. Wearing jeans or cotton

News flash: Denim/Jeans is cotton, so wearing jeans is a poor choice for any hike, especially in rainy or cold weather. Cotton: It retains moisture. It doesn’t let moisture just flow out like polyester/synthetic fabric. Once cotton gets wet, it does not dry out easily. The moisture on your clothes gets absorbed by skin. This reduces body heat. Not a great idea to reduce body heat when its already freezing outside. This can lead to hypothermia in an extreme case. Probably thats why it is said “Cotton Kills”. Now jeans are a different kind of monster. They freeze up in below-freezing weather. Jeans literary become hard !! The best clothes you can wear are proper trekking clothes.

2. Packing a first aid kit as if you’re landing on war zone

Most novice hikers either forget to bring a first-aid kit, or pack an entire pharmacy. Both are wrong approaches. Get medical kit as per 

  • number of days:
  • size of your inner circle-  friends going on a trek can share the medical kit. (Basic medical kit should be with everyone)
  • 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. Basic medical kit includes: 

  • Altitude Sickness: Diamox 250mg
  • Motion Sickness/Vomiting: Avomine
  • Diarrhoea: O2
  • Allergy: Allegra
  • Physical Pain/ Head Pain: Combiflam
  • Energy: ORS (5 sachets – Orange and Lemon flavour based on availability)
  • Crape Bandage
  • Pain Relief Spray
  • Band-Aid
  • Sunscreen
  • Wet wipes

3. “Lightning can’t strike me—I’m not carrying anything metallic.”

If you are going on a monsoon trek, you are probably going to experience some awesome thundershowers along with lot of ligthning. If you think lightning only strikes metal objects, ruminate on this ancient Chinese proverb: “The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the scythe.”

And you are on a peak. That seems like a tall body to me !

It is advisable to descend from exposed peaks and ridgelines during a thunderstorm. Lightning is attracted to tall, isolated objects, which could be anything from a clueless hiker standing on a summit to a lone tree. And even if you’re not touching that lone tree, the lightning might strike the ground right next to it, or the ground current may surge up you. Secondary strikes can be just as deadly. So, get into a forest or the lower point. 


4. Going ultra-light without ultra-experience 

We have all heard, “you should carry as less weight as possible”.  The “as possible” part is pretty important though. Definitions vary, but ultra-light hiking generally means having a base pack weight (your gear minus food and water) of 2kg. The advantage, of course, is that you have less weight on your back. Con: you are compromising on safety & backup. When you reduce the items you are carrying, you have fewer backup options. You ten to usually compromise on food, warm clothes. Things can go wrong in unexpected way. One common thing that I have observed: During river crossing, atleast one person falls into the river and completely gets wet. The more trekking experience you have, the more safely you can go ultra-light simply because you’re better equipped with skills to, one, avoid such mishaps and, two, improvise if they do occur. That’s why ultra-light hiking should be a gradual goal and not a first-time objective. Reducing pack weight is a skill you hone after much experimentation. If you are going with an organised trekking organization such as Indiahikes, Renok, TTH, etc. then 

            1. carry just your daypack and give the heavier backpack to the porter
            2. ask your trek leaders what kind of terrain are we going to face tomorrow and how should                  we pack for tomorrow. 


5. Wearing boots fresh from the box

I’m not a fan of hiking proverbs, but there’s one that I consider gospel: “If your feet are happy, the rest of you is happy.”  Trust me, neither you nor your feet will be happy if you begin a big trip with untested shoes or boots. Starting weeks ahead of time, you need to break them in while going to a mall, walking the dog, or running errands around town. Trekking shoes are tall and rigid. So, taller, rigid trekking boots require more break-in time. Wear recently purchased shoes indoors at first, since most outdoor stores have return policies that exclude those worn outside. If your feet hurt or develop hotspots or blisters, apply bandages, experiment with different socks, and keep at it. Remember also that most people’s feet swell a half size or more by the afternoon.

Or you can rent trekking shoes here. They have been properly broke in and very comfortable


6. Starting too late in the day 

We all have that friend who says “i am reaching in 5 min bro”- put that meme
But on a trek it is advisable to be up and walking as quickly as possible. Usually the rule followed is
        6- Get up at 6 and do your morning business. Drink tea. Pack your sleeping bag
        7- Get your breakfast. Pack your backpack. Get ready

        8- Leave! Leave! Leave!

It is best to cover the difficult portion of the trek in the beginning of the day. Your body is fresh and weather is good. As the day goes by, the temperature increases. The surrounding heat really sucks in your energy. Trust me, even if your going on a trek where there is snow all around you, directly sunlight on your head does feed on your energy levels.


7. Ignoring the weather forecast 

Now there is no google or accuweather on the mountains to tell how the weather is going to be. But you have your experienced trek leaders and local guide with you. Trust their instincts. Usually when a trek lead says “We cannot go ahead with the trek. It can be dangerous”, I have seen a group of people usually the once who are new to trekking trying to reason out with the trek lead to not stop but carry on. I get your feelings. You have come all the way from different part of the country. At that moment you feel you won’t get this chance again, etc. But even life doesn’t give lot of chances. We are all new to the mountains. Only the trek lead and local guide have the required understanding. So, if they are strongly saying, its a bad idea to continue, then its a bad idea to continue. 

8. Not keeping backpack covered at night

It was during my 1st trek. I was told by the trek lead to keep the backpack outside of the tent( but inside the outer flap) while sleeping. I obliged. It rained that night. I was safe inside the tent. My backpack was safe as it was inside the outerflap. So rain couldn’t reach it. Little did i imagine, that rain water can still reach my backpack via ground. So, water seeped into my backpack from the side that was on the ground and all my clothes became wet. So, always cover your backpack with the rain cover and then keep it outside. Similarly, keep your shoes upright, else water can enter them from the top. What i have started doing is keep shoes in a plastic bag( But don’t forget the LNT principle).  

9. Pull out the complete bag every time

Packing and repacking is a task for few trekkers. I was myself the one who would wake up quite early but leave the tent quite late person. Why did I spend soo much time inside the tent? To search for one item, I used to remove all the items from my backpack. Then repack everything. I used to be late for breakfast. Then, i used to be late for briefing, then i used to be the last person to start the trek. This is just inefficient packing. Learn how to pack your backpack here 

10. Wearing too many clothes

You wake up to find there is snow outside of your tent. You are already wearing multiple layers. What should you do? Trek lead must have advised you that that remove your bulky jackets and thermal. Just wear a fleece and continue. But everyone is different right. You believe you are the kind of person who feels cold. So you should add a layer or two to the fleece while trekking. Well, when you walk you generate soo much heat, that it is enough to keep you warm on the snowy path. But then how much layering should be done? I follow a simple rule. Wear that many layers in which you feel cold but you are not shivering. So when you start walking, you don’t enter the too hot or too cold stage. You are comfortable.

11. Bonus: Leave No Trace (LNT Principle)

This is one of the most important thing that one should follow while trekking.

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