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The Wrong Way: Top 52 Hiker Mistakes

Your guide to 52 common mistakes hikers make--and how to avoid them.
wrong wayDon't get caught in the dark with these tips. (Supercorn)

MAKING CAMP

28. PITCHING YOUR TENT IN A PUDDLE
Waking up in a soggy sleeping bag is a definite buzzkill. To stay dry:

1. Pitch your shelter on dry, flat, well-draining surfaces, like pine needles, rock slabs, or bare dirt. The leakiest part of a tent isn’t the ceiling or walls, but the floor. When rain collects under the tent, the pressure of your gear and body lets it seep through the fabric. So avoid shallow depressions, spongy turf, and runoff zones, which pool water. If you’re using a footprint (a plastic tarp beneath the tent), tuck the outer edges under the rainfly to keep water from inundating it.

2. Waterproof the seams. If the tent or rainfly seams have lost their repellency, coat them (inside and outside) with a sealer like McNett Seam Grip, then reapply once a year.

3. Orient your tent so the smallest cross-section—usually the rear—faces into the wind. That tactic, along with staking out guy-lines, stops rain gusts from blowing droplets underneath the rainfly.

4. Pack the tent in this order: rainfly, canopy, footprint. So if you’re pitching it in rain and wind, the footprint comes out first, then you stake the canopy, and lastly you set up the canopy with the fly draped over it.

29. PACKING ONLY ONE BIC
If it fails, no stove or fire. And don’t forget good tinder, like dryer lint.

30. NOT GAZING UP
Widowmakers kill. Pitch your tent away from dead trees and limbs.

31. RANDOMLY ARRANGING YOUR CAMPSITE
For max comfort and convenience, follow these organizational tips:

>> To warm up fast on chilly mornings, pick a site with southern exposure, and avoid low spots since cold air flows downhill.
>> Evade mosquitoes by picking open areas with breezes, sun, and no standing water.

>> At campgrounds, grab a spot near the latrine and water spigot, but not so close (or on the main thoroughfare) that constant traffic—and odors—will bother you.

>> Locate campfires and kitchen areas downwind from the tent to keep smoke and smells away from your sleeping spot. Hang bear bags 100 yards downwind from both.

>> Site backcountry camps 200 feet (40 adult paces) from any trails, rivers, or lakes. This is also the distance catholes should be from campsite, trail, water, or drainage.

32. BAD GEAR DRYING
>> Don’t hang damp clothes inside your tent. They won’t dry. Place them inside your sleeping bag.
>> Putting boots near the fire will crack the leather and melt the soles. Air-dry them upside-down.
>> Don’t store a wet tent unless you want mildew. Hang to air-dry.

33. NOT STAKING YOUR TENT
Sudden strong winds can carry it afar; one editor lost his shelter over a cliff in Glen Canyon. On snow or sand, bury deadmen (guylined logs or rocks) instead of staking.

34. NOT BUYING A WARM ENOUGH SLEEPING BAG
If you sleep cold, you might need a bag rated 10°F below the nighttime low. An insulated mat also helps. Note: Bags lose loft with use, so launder yours every 40 nights or so.
alaska arctic
35. LAZY FOOD STORAGE
A bear’s sense of smell is seven times better than a bloodhound’s—and the odor of jerky carries for miles. Ergo, hang a bear bag. Even if bruins aren’t present, proper technique will protect food from marauding varmints.

1. Before sunset, locate a suitable tree with a sturdy branch 15 to 20 feet off the ground. It should be at least 100 yards downwind from your campsite. Typically, deciduous trees offer longer, stronger branches than conifers.

2. Put a fist-size rock in a sock or glove. Attach it to a 50-foot nylon rope. Toss the cord over the branch. It should rest at least five feet from the tree trunk. 3. Tie or clip the bear bag to the rope and hoist away. Make sure the bottom of the bag is at least 10 feet off the ground. For more security, add a mouse hanger (p. 34); you can also throw the rope over a second branch on a nearby tree and tie the bag to the middle of the rope.

4. Wrap the rope end around the trunk several times. Tie it off with several overhand knots or hitches.

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