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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)

HEALTH AND FIRST AID

36. IGNORING HOT SPOTS
When heel pain flares up five minutes into the hike, do you keep moving? Many hikers are too rushed to stop, and most regret it later. The earlier you treat a hot spot—a skin irritation caused by excessive friction—the better your chances for a blister-free day. Stop and do the following:

1. Clean the skin around the hot spot with a damp, clean cloth.

2. Apply a self-adhesive, cushioned bandage like moleskin or 2nd Skin over the affected area and the surrounding skin.

3. Secure it with strips of tape or adhesive bandages. Real blister prevention starts at home: Wear new boots around the house and on short hikes. If hot spots develop during break-in, apply bandages and continue the process of toughening up skin and molding the boot. Also, experiment with different socks, insoles, and less-rigid trail shoes.

37 STRESSING KNEES BY…
>> Not using poles. Kinesiology studies show they cut posthike soreness.

>> Setting poles too long. Your elbows should bend 90 degrees. (Lengthen for descents so you can lean on them.)

38. HIKING IN WET SOCKS
Soggy skin blisters faster; change into dry socks asap.

39. BUYING TOO SMALL BOOTS
Feet swell a ½ size by afternoon. Size shoes accordingly.

40. TOUCHING POISON IVY
Learn how to identify it at backpacker.com/poisonivy.

41. STEPPING CARELESSLY
About 77 percent of the 306 injuries recorded in Yellowstone in 2003-04 were leg sprains, strains, abrasions, and lacerations. Takeaway: Watch your step. To prevent a stumble, wear high boots, use poles, and cinch balanceskewing gear dangling from your pack (see #14, p.41). And scan the trail for rain-slick tree roots, wet leaves, and ice patches. Improve balance by doing proprioception (sensing your body’s movement and orientation) exercises, like standing on one leg for five minutes (bonus points for eyes closed).

42. TREATING A CELL PHONE AS A LIFELINE
Though mobiles can save your bacon, they can also encourage risk-taking. So drop it in a zip-top bag and forget you have it until an emergency. For best reception, head to high ground and hold the phone away from your body, which can block the signal. If you get a signal, return to the same spot for calls; your phone will remember the tower locations. Save battery life by texting, and keeping it turned off and warm; for smartphones, also dim the screen and disable syncs and apps.

43. LUGGING A GIANT FIRST-AID KIT
For weekend hikes, a wallet-size kit—that you know how to use—suffices, while a toiletry bag-size pouch works for longer trips or larger groups. To downsize, replace supplies you can improvise (like triangular bandages) with essentials like more adhesive bandages, duct tape, ibuprofen, moleskin, sterile gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, antihistamines, antidiarrheal medication, tweezers, safety pins, hand sanitizer, and sugar.

44. BURNING TICKS
Don’t touch a match to the tick’s butt, like the old wives’ tale suggests. That burns the body while leaving the head embedded (and putting you at risk for a burn). Rather, use tweezers flush against the skin, and grasp the bugger perpendicular to the long-axis of its body, then gently pull straight out.

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