Top Mistakes New Backpackers Make With Surprising Regularity
We all go through a learning curve when we start getting serious about backpacking and camping, and most of the skills and instincts that we develop come from experience. However, there are some common mistakes that beginners make that are worth mentioning in order to hopefully prevent others from doing the same things. Let's take a look at a few examples of things not to do when you are just starting out.
Cooking in Your Tent
Never cook inside of your tent, period. Even if you have a burner that is easy to control, grease, spills, heat and flame can all lead to the destruction of your shelter. Tent material is designed to withstand a certain level of abuse. However, this doesn't include inflammability, and it only takes a little bit of heat or a small flame to melt or set your tent on fire. Cook outside. If you need cover while cooking, consider hanging a tarp a few feet above your fire to shield it from rain, or find an outcropping to cook beneath instead.
Getting Your Shelter Submerged
Another common mistake among new campers involves choosing sites that are in bowls or depressions in the ground that can trap water. Runoff from rain or flooding from tides can turn what was a dry campsite into a lake without a lot of warning. Make sure to evaluate the surrounding terrain, and set up camp at a spot that is unlikely to trap water, and never trust weather forecasts. Plan for rain even if none is expected. The last thing you need is to spend a day drying out all of your gear or trying to salvage what's left of your food if you inadvertently find yourself in the middle of a lagoon.
Bringing too Much Stuff
You will quickly discover that a lot of what you initially pack is either unnecessary or redundant, and this adds up to dead weight along with wasted money. Remember that good backpacking involves taking a minimalist approach and bringing only what you need based on the conditions that you will encounter. Take some time to plan what you pack, and keep revising and whittling things down so that you end up with only what you need. Your load will be lighter and your trip will be much more enjoyable once you've learned how to pack practical essentials instead of frivolous accessories.
Test Gear Beforehand
Once you've decided what to bring, you want to make sure that your gear works, and it produces the results you're looking for. If not, you have a chance during your planning to make changes and adapt as necessary. It's important to have all of this worked out before you are out on the trail, otherwise you will have limited alternatives to fall back on.
These are just a few examples of dozens of common mistakes people make early on, and a lot of them stem from poor planning or situational awareness. Take time to think through your trip, plan accordingly and don't forget to bring your common-sense with you. By doing so, you will increase your chances of having an enjoyable and relatively-uneventful trip instead of dealing with the ramifications of a little mistake that can create big headaches.