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Backpacker Magazine – May 2013

First Night Out: Top 10 Rookie Mistakes

Dodge these common errors with our prevention primer.

by: Sarah L. Stewart and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

PAGE 1 2
Top 10 Rookie Mistakes (Photo by Jeffrey Dmytrowich)
Top 10 Rookie Mistakes (Photo by Jeffrey Dmytrowich)

Rookie Mistakes

»1. Overestimating your pace It’s all too easy to miscalculate how many miles you can cover in a day. Plan on an average hiking speed of 1 to 2 mph, then add 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

»2. Not checking the forecast Frontcountry weather reports often don’t apply to the backcountry. Contact rangers for targeted updates and/or get a pinpoint forecast at

»3. Not checking trail conditions Lingering snowpack or high water levels can render an otherwise-simple trail difficult to impassable. Call rangers a few days before your trip for the latest news.

»4. Forgetting key gear Got your sleeping pad? Double-check that list one more time.

»5. Getting separated Don’t let hikers with different paces get too far ahead or behind. Put the slower hikers up front and agree to stop at every trail junction to prevent wrong turns.

PAGE 1 2

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Star Star Star Star Star
Mar 07, 2014

One of our early learning experiences involved pitching our tent in what turned out to be a bowl. The ground looked flat and level in the dusky evening light, but later that night it rained. We awoke in the dark with big bubbles pushed up in the tent floor. The floor did not leak, but if another inch of water had gathered in the bowl, water would have spilled in through the door turning the learning experience into a crisis as temps were near freezing.

Star Star Star
Feb 08, 2014

#6 packing extras, #8 not packing extras, lol

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Jun 11, 2013

Avoid most Rookie Mistakes by reading "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon). The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. Stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. A compass doesn't need a signal or batteries and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it and "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon) makes learning how to use a compass easy. Orient yourself day or night by using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. This book is for all ages. It's only 34 pages and illustrated.


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