By Tee George
Can we just talk about how intimidating the outdoors can be for first timers? I know I had a million questions running through my head. What do I wear? What do I bring? Is it safe? Will I get bit by a bear? and many more!
I've been there, through the thick and thin of it all. I've had a few horrors. Let's dive into these oh so common mistakes, shall we?
1. Not checking the weather beforehand
Two words: wet socks.
Nothing is more annoying than wet socks. I went on a 4-mile hike in the North Georgia mountains during the summer. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I figured I had nothing to worry about!
Wrong. This was my first mistake. Never assume the weather is going to cooperate just because it starts off looking nice.
Halfway through the hike the sky opened up on us and we were soaked from head to toe. It was raining so hard it started to hurt once it hit our skin. We had to do the rest of the hike listening to the rain, birds in the distance, and the squeaking of our wet socks in our boots. *cringes*
The first thing I did when we got back home was drive over to our local store to buy a rain jacket! It now has a forever place in my day bag for all my hikes and it's so convenient because it balls up into a small pocket.
2. Running out of water and food
Picture a movie based somewhere in the desert and the main character is stranded. That's how I feel whenever I run out of water on a hike and still have a few miles left to get back to the car. Maybe it’s not actually that extreme, but you get the gist. Always be sure to pack plenty of snacks and water that will help your body stay fueled on your adventures.
3. Not educating myself on important animal safety
The first time I saw a snake on the trail, it wasn't a big deal to me. The snake was big, but there were a lot of people around and I was able to keep my distance and it never bothered me. Fast forward to a few months later and here I am hiking in North Carolina, and I come across a snake den at the end of the trail. I saw at least 10! I instantly regretted not knowing what to do if I got bit.
Similarly, it's important to know bear safety tips if you’re hiking where they live so you can do everything you can to prevent an unhappy situation.
4. Leaving without headlamps
Who loves a sunset or sunrise hike!? I certainly do! It's amazing to watch the sky light up and turn into cotton candy colors, it's one of those things that will never get old. It's one of my weaknesses, so whenever I'm watching the sunset, I tend to overstay to take it all in and don't hit the trail until the sun is completely down.
Therefore, I'm stuck hiking in the dark in order to make it back to my car. This is where the headlamps come in. They light up the trail so you don’t feel so in the dark and allow you to see where you’re going, what’s on the trail and around you.
5. Not knowing Leave No Trace principles
There are 7 Leave No Trace principles, and they help us keep the outdoors beautiful and enjoyable for the next person. They are:
1. Plan Ahead & Prepare
2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Others
6. Wearing random socks
In case you haven't heard this yet, let me be the first one to tell you. Hiking socks are just as important as your hiking shoes. Socks with the correct materials will help prevent blisters and keep your feet cool during the hot summer months.
You can find a good pair for $25. I know, I know, that's steep but they do last a long time and are definitely worth it. Trust me, your feet will thank you later! My favorite hiking socks are made out of moisture-wicking wool and that’s one of the best materials to have.
7. Not reading the trail reviews beforehand
To prepare for the unexpected, it is always a good idea to do a quick glance at the trail reviews on AllTrails or a similar site. You might have to drive your car through a creek to reach the parking lot, or swim across a river to stay on the trail, or climb a sketchy part of the trail that has no railings. These are real case scenarios that have happened to me and for some of them I didn't have the right gear. Now I always make sure to read a few of the reviews to make sure I know what I'm getting myself into.
8. Wearing cotton
This is a beginner hiking mistake that I wasn't even aware was wrong! Cotton is a thick material that takes a long time to dry and sticks to your skin. The best materials for the trail are wool, nylon, polyester, or anything that is moisture-wicking. This is so helpful for when you start sweating or get in the water so you don't have to worry about your clothes taking forever to dry.
9. Forgetting my bug spray
There were plenty of long day hikes where I couldn't get to some itch cream fast enough! Bug spray will protect you against mosquitoes and other biting pests while you're enjoying your time outdoors.
I hope you find these tips helpful for the next time you go on a hiking adventure! Exploring the outdoors is so much fun and even more rewarding when you're prepared for it.
Tee George is an outdoor content creator and blogger based out of Atlanta, GA. She started hiking 2.5 years ago, but has quickly gained a community of over 200k outdoor lovers by sharing her journey on social media. She loves anything outdoors from hiking to whitewater rafting. You can find her on Instagram or TikTok at @_asipoftee_ and her website is www.asipoftee.com