There is nothing like the exhilaration of being able to carry everything you need on your back and explore this amazing planet we live on. There is a beauty in the simplicity of getting up every morning, putting on your backpack and boots, and just walking. However, if you’re ill prepared, nothing could be more miserable. Take note of these ten ways to insure a miserable trip and do your best to avoid them.
1. Don’t bring enough socks.
Nothing is worse than arriving at camp for the night and not having a dry pair of socks to put on. Your night will truly be cold and miserable. Make sure you bring enough socks so that you always have a dry pair handy. I even dedicate a pair simply for camp socks, so I know they are always warm and dry.
2. Bring boots that don’t fit – or that you haven’t already broken in.
You are depending on your feet to carry you across long distances, and if you don’t properly take care of them your trek is going to be much shorter than you planned. Make sure that you talk with a knowledgable person when fitting the right shoes to your feet, and try many different styles. You never know which boot is going to be the perfect fit. Also, you need to break them in before starting on a long journey. This means spending some real time walking in them – around the house, around your town, and on training hikes. I even wear my boots in the shower a few times to really see how they handle when wet (it sounds weird, but trust me, it helps).
This is the best way to make the miles seem long and to make your body seriously hurt. Learn how to pack a bag properly and your life will get much better. Learn what you actually need and let go what you don’t. When it comes time to pack them in your backpack, keep the heavier things towards the bottom and lighter things towards the top – also make sure the weight is distributed properly so your bag isn’t heavier on one side.
This one kind of goes without saying, but you might surprise yourself. It takes a lot of experience to know how to pack just the right amount of food for your body. Packing too little means going to bed hungry, while packing too much means you are carrying far more weight than you need to. When you’re walking long distances, every ounce matters. Of course, err on more rather than less, but you need to acknowledge that there is a balance to find.
Yes, it’s been pouring rain on you for hours, and you are fighting your way through mud almost up to your knees. Your attitude is going to make a big difference in both your and everyone else’s experience. Maybe take a minute and think, “Wow, when was the last chance I had to spend the day walking in the rain – doesn’t happen very much in California these days!” Always try to find the positive side.
OK, it doesn’t have to be a trash bag, but in case you meet wet weather you are going to need something to protect your bag and keep it dry. I use a trash bag because it is cheap and light, but many people buy a bag cover. They are great because they are durable, though expensive. Whatever you choose, make sure you have one with you.
Let’s say the worst scenario plays out and you are unable to get yourself out. If you don’t tell anyone where you are and how long you are planning to be gone, no one will know when to start getting worried and no one will know where to begin looking for you. Be smart. Make sure you have a backup plan.
I like walking in the rain more than most people, but putting on wet gear the next day is never fun. In fact, it often leads to bad rubbing or blisters. If your gear or clothes do get wet, try and dry it as well as possible – you will thank yourself later.
9. Don’t like who you are hiking with.
Spending time with someone you don’t fancy is difficult anywhere, but on the trail the irritation is amplified. You are going to be spending a lot of time together. Pick your trail partners carefully – otherwise, you might be pulling your hair later.
10. Not OK with being quiet.
The person you are going to spend the greatest amount of your life with is yourself. If you’re not OK being quiet and in your own head, you might find long distance walking difficult. Challenge yourself to use your time to think – you might surprise yourself with the changes you see in the way you process the world around you.