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Backpacking epic fails and most common mistakes

July 27, 2017

So we’ve been talking a lot about backpacking, thru-hiking and hiking lately. Indeed, all Apache Pine’s products are designed for these sort of activities (and to remember about them once you are back home).

But where does all this knowledge comes from? From mistakes, of course! Indeed, the best way to get ready for hiking, or for backpacking or thru-hiking is to know what are the most common backpacking mistakes.

Indeed, epic fails are pretty common when you practice these sorts of activities for the first time, but there’s a bright side to it: you can learn a lot and make sure to avoid them the next time.

Of course, we all make mistakes and it is actually very important to share them with other hikers: the hiking community is actually very good at sharing and cooperating with each other. So we thought it was our turn to share some of the most common hiking and backpacking mistakes we came across during our hiking and backpacking apprenticeship. Some are just little things, some others are proper epic fails. So here we go...brace yourselves: blunders are coming!

And always remember: don’t let mistakes stop you! They happen to everyone and they actually are the most common thing of all.

Cooking in your tent

You are tired, it’s raining, or very windy, or it’s simply too cold outside and you don’t really want to be out there waiting for your food to be ready...so you might think that cooking dinner in your tent can be a cozy and nice thing to do to feel more comfortable. But really, it isn’t. Actually it can turn out to be extremely dangerous.

Of course the most common danger is setting fire to your tent and sleeping bag. Some gear is highly inflammable and it catches fire very easily. But it’s not the only risk. Indeed, cooking releases carbon monoxide, which is poisonous, especially inside enclosed areas. Actually, it can kill you, which of course is another very serious risk. 

However, there might me the absolute need to cook in your tent, like for example in winter time when you are camping in the mountains and weather is incredibly bad outside. So how to cook safely in your tent? Do it in the vestibule and not inside the tent and make sure to have plenty of fresh air to come in. Also, make sure to have water handy to extinguish a fire in case of emergency.

If you cannot do these things, even if you are the hungriest person on Earth, don’t cook at all.

Sun and wind

Many backpackers and hikers really underestimate the consequences of sunburns. Also, they underestimate the consequences of a windy day.

Protection from these two elements is absolutely vital when it comes to this outdoor activities. The number one victim is your skin, of course: you should always put sunblock on, no matter the season, the weather and the heat. Just because it is winter, or just because there are clouds in the sky, it doesn’t mean that sun rays are not working and cannot get you burnt. So do always make sure to put sunscreen on. This way you’ll be safe from rashes, swelling and fever even! And in case your sunscreen doesn’t work, bring with you some lotion for sunburns to cool it down and heal it.

You could also get an insolation or in general feel dizzy because of too much sun on your head: wearing a cap or a bandana is the best way to protect your head from the sun and keep you safe. If it’s really hot, you can even get it wet, so it can keep you cool during the hottest hours of the day.

Also, your eyes can be very much harmed by sun and wind. Make sure to always have a good pair of sunglasses with you, so you can shade and shield them. This is true especially when you are surrounded by snow, which reflects the sun and “burns” your eyes.

Lenses are very important when it comes to sunglasses, as it can really make it or break it for the eyes, so always make sure to check what kind of lens they have and don't trust cheap solutions, as they normally ruin the eyes. 

Last but not least, your lips: both sun and wind can get them really dry and they could turn rather sore, so always make sure to have some lip balm with you, that possibly protects you from UV rays too.

Wet sleeping bag

As smart and incredibly careful as you can be, this can happen to you very easily while backpacking. Never underestimate the power of water...and drizzle!

Indeed, a wet sleeping bag can happen for many different reasons: from an unexpected downpour, to a day spent under drizzling (yet wet) rain. It could be because of extremely humid weather, or because your water bottle wasn’t actually sealed properly. Not to mention not-so-waterproof gear. This is one of the reason why it’s so important to have the right backpacking gear, as well as a good waterproof case for your sleeping bag.

The best way to keep a sleeping bag dry is probably to develop some sort of obsession over it: imagine it was a very important electronic item that would break irrevocably if it gets wet. How would you make sure it doesn’t?

A heavy duty trash bag can be extremely handy when it comes to protect this piece of gear, even if your backpack claims to be waterproof...there always is that ziplock or that little air outlet that aren’t.

Blisters

Blisters are the nightmare of all backpackers together with other feet injuries. Indeed, your feet are going to be your most important and used piece of gear, so it is very important that you take good care of them.

The first imaginary step you can take towards that direction is to get a good and really comfortable pair of backpacking shoes. Hiking shoes, as well as trail running shoes are actually very good for that.

Blisters are normally caused by friction, so make sure you don’t get shoes that are too large, or too tight or too rigid. Make sure they are truly comfortable and try them out for a few days before setting off for your backpacking endeavors, so you won’t have bad surprises about it.

Don’t refrain from spending a little more money on your shoes, as they really will be the most important piece of gear right after your body itself. Socks are too very important: if they are too heavy or made of bad fabrics, they could ruin your feet and cause bad reactions from your skin.

So make sure all your foot gear keeps your feet well supported, comfortable and ventilated.

Little tip: the lighter you pack, the less your feet are going to be at risk.

Not thinking ahead

This is particularly true when it comes to two things: packing too much weight and setting up a tent in the wrong place.

When it comes to packing, we are all tempted to bring with us more than what we need...“just in case”. But what feels like a bearable weight when you try it at home or during the first steps of your backpacking trip can actually turn into an extremely heavy nightmare after a couple of hours. Imagine after a couple of days, weeks or months. You might end up throwing away (better donate them at that point!) lots of stuff, or to pay a lot of money to send it back home. Always be very careful about overpacking!

When you pick a place for the night, don’t just go for a random, good-looking one. Ask yourself: if it’s going to rain, will I drown? If the wind starts blowing, will I be right in its way? Indeed, flat, open spaces always look very good and inviting to plant a tent, but they don’t turn out to be a good choice all the times.

Last but not least: your food! When it’s time to stop and build a tent, always make sure to store your food properly, away from wild animals. The amount of backpackers and hikers (even experienced) that don’t think about it is incredible. And of course, when you take it inside with you, make sure it’s well sealed, so animals won’t be tempted to break into the tent to conquer it!