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The Bad Hiking Habits We’re Keeping in 2023

There's no "wrong" way to hike, and this year, we're proving it.

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For some, January is a time for reinvention. We’re all for self-improvement, but this time of year, why not cut ourselves some slack? We’re ditching the resolutions and embracing the “hike your own hike” mentality. Here’s everything we did “wrong” last year that we can’t wait to continue doing in 2023. After all, no one can tell us how to enjoy the trail.

Starting My Day at Noon

Having spent the last few years in the Front Range of Colorado, I became accustomed to setting my Saturday alarm for 4 AM just to beat (OK, join) the dreaded I-70 traffic all winter (and sometimes summer) long. I love ski touring and hiking, but that sucked. Hence why I decided to flee Colorado for a season for somewhere a little less trafficky. And let me tell you, it’s glorious. I’m embracing late starts without any anxiety about hitting gridlock on the roads. Here’s why sleeping in rules: First off, I love breakfast. Maybe more than I love a snowy sunrise. Instead of choking down a lukewarm breakfast burrito before dawn, my adventure days now start with a leisurely meal at my kitchen table. Now, I no longer lay awake at night counting the dwindling hours until I have to be up, but show up to the trailhead well-rested and chipper. Plus, in the early ski season, half a day touring is all it takes to wreck my leg muscles, anyway. I might have some FOMO for those early-morning turns, but I’ll count every late start as insurance against burning out from the activities I love—Zoe Gates, Senior Skills Editor

Person looking at map in forest
(Photo: Aaron McCoy) 

Getting Lost

Whether with a map and compass or GPS, I’m an excellent navigator. I have to be, because my innate sense of direction is abysmal. My wife jokes that I’d get lost less if I did the opposite of what my gut told me—turned left when I thought I should turn right—and to be honest, she’s probably not far off. The backcountry only magnifies that effect: Give me anything to occupy my attention, whether a pretty sunset, an interesting conversation, or a cool spider, and I’ll blow right past my turn. By the time I realize something’s gone wrong, I’ve landed in the middle of a field of cacti or accidentally circumnavigated a mountain.

But is that really so bad? I don’t think so. Assuming you’re healthy, on-trail, and have the knowledge and tools to figure out where you are, being lost is a temporary state of affairs. Once you know that, you can appreciate the benefits. It’s a shortcut to mindfulness: When you’re trying to figure out where you are, you notice everything like it’s brand new to you, from the feeling of the wind against your skin to the shadows on the hillsides to the way the forest spreads out across the lowlands below you. I’ll happily kill an hour or two wandering around, and apologize for the blown deadlines and missed appointments later. —Adam Roy, Executive Editor

Carrying a Heavy Pack

Everyone tells me that I should pack less and be more lightweight. While it may be true that I’ll go faster and farther with that mindset, I prefer packing extra items like a more comfy pillow, flip flops for post hike camping, my backpacking bocce ball set, an over-prepared med kit, and my Big Agnes MtnGlo lights. Items like these really bring the experience of the trek to a whole new level. I don’t need to go far, I just need to enjoy where I am to the fullest extent. Plus, carrying more is making me stronger, or so I tell myself at my low points. —Robs Sawyer, Creative Director

man with yellow hooded down jacket photographing with smartphone
(Photo: massimo colombo/Moment via Getty Images)

Taking Too Many Photos

I’ll be the first to admit I can be a bit of a nuisance during sunrise or sunset. Not because I’m sleepy or sore from the day, but because I can’t resist snapping a photo if the sky above me is any other shade than typical blue. If you scrolled through my phone’s camera roll, you’d see about 80% sunset or landscape pictures and 20% cat pictures. In the backcountry, I’ve frequently trailed behind my less-observant hiking partners because I was taking a picture of the landscape, my favorite tree (the manzanita), the colors of the golden, salmon, or if I’m lucky, lavender sky. Several times on a particularly picturesque hike, I’ll gasp and reach for my phone, saying “Wow, look at this,” as if the view is any different than the one we passed a half-mile back. I don’t care. Being able to pause and experience the flora around me, instead of having it be a blur as I huff and puff my way up the hill, is one of the reasons I love hiking in the first place. Also, my hiking partners benefit from this “problem.” They’ll often ask to post my pictures on their own Instagram pages. So, at least through 2023, I will keep taking photos as a bit of community service for my friends. It’s the least I can do. —Emma Veidt, Assistant Skills Editor

Telling Dad Jokes to Randoms

The freedom to tell dad jokes is a privilege for anyone who becomes a parent, regardless of their gender. I dove headfirst into the blissfully awful world of dad humor the moment my daughter was born back in 2019 (much to my wife’s chagrin). These days I’ll holster my humor in many situations, but there’s one place where I absolutely refuse to chill, and that’s on the trail. So folks, I’m telling you now to prepare. If you’re descending a fourteener and I’m climbing up, I will absolutely ask you if the taco stand at the summit is still serving margaritas. If our positions are reversed, I will tell you that the jacuzzi up there is getting crowded, but there are still a few seats available. If it’s cold, I may ask you to turn up the heat. If it’s windy, I’ll kindly request that you dial the breeze down a few notches. Should you hear someone on the trail say “Boy, I thought the Rocky Mountains would be a bit more Rocky”—yes, that is me. Sorry (not sorry)! —Fred Dreier, Outside Magazine articles editor

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