First Night Out: Top 10 Rookie Mistakes

Dodge these common errors with our prevention primer.

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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.

»6. Overpacking Resist the urge to haul extra pants or excess meals and fuel, “just in case.”

»7. Taking a shortcut It’s too easy to get lost when you leave the trail, and cutting switchbacks causes erosion.

»8. Not packing spares Always stash extra batteries (for headlamp, GPS) and a firestarter (like waterproof matches) in your pack.

»9. Getting gear wet In the rain, keep essentials dry by packing items inside waterproof stuffsacks. Open your pack only if absolutely necessary.

»10. Storing gear incorecctly Stuffing a wet tent in its stuffsack is an invitation for fabric-ruining mildew. Always thoroughly air-dry at home before storing. Get more tips in our Complete Guide to to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair ($20;

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