Top 5 Backpacking & Trekking Mistakes


A wise man once said that a mistake is merely an opportunity to learn. Well why not learn from other’s mistakes too? We’ve compiled the 5 most common beginner backpacking and trekking slip-ups so you can avoid them on your next big adventure.

1. Not bringing a hard copy map (A.K.A, I got lost)

Many of the great European trails are well marked and sign posted, many are not. Regardless of the trail you are hiking you should always bring a hard copy map of the area. You may go a whole trip without using it once, but for your safety and for your convenience it’s a ‘must have’. It can be used to:

  • Get you back on track if you miss a signpost or turning, potentially saving you hours
  • Help you calculate how much time you have left on the trail. Do you need a water refill now or is your destination only round the corner? Is it going to be getting dark soon, should you stop at a closer location?
  • Help you find the nearest source of help in an emergency

2. The Kitchen Sink (A.K.A, I brought too much)

One of the single most notorious mistakes made by beginners (and often experienced hikers) is over-packing. The temptation to scratch that ‘what if’ itch in the back of your mind is a hard one to avoid. There is a solution though! We’ve compiled a useful Backpacking Checklist of the essential gear you will need. There’s also some simple questions you can ask yourself to help slim your kit down:

  • If I leave this behind will this negatively affect my safety while I’m outdoors?
  • How often am I likely to actually use this piece of kit?
  • What is the value of this piece of kit versus how much it weighs?

3. There’s no such thing as poor weather (A.K.A, I didn’t prepare)

So you’ve slimmed down your kit, it’s light and you’re going to be super comfortable carrying your new backpacking pack. Well maybe now you need to add some kit. The essentials you need to pack include the right gear to protect you from the weather conditions in your chosen hiking or backpacking location. You can read our Bad Weather Hiking Guide and check out the suggestions below:

  • Raining? Then look at a raincoat with a decent hydrostatic rating, some waterproof trousers, a pack raincover, some drysacks to separate your wet clothes and some spare socks
  • Cold and windy? Pack a hat, a decent windbreak, a fleece (or other midlayer) and maybe some gloves

Pack featured in this image: Aether AG 70

4. Aches and Pains (A.K.A, I picked the wrong pack)

Multiday backpacking comes with its own unique challenges. You inevitably will need to carry a certain amount of weight to reach your destination. It’s how you carry this weight that’s important. Your pack should be designed to handle your required carry weight and distribute it effectively over your hips, lumbar, back and shoulders. You can use our PackFinder to find the right pack for you but here’s some general advice to follow:

  • Our Backpacking category has a range of volumes that are perfect for the sort of gear you will need on a multi-day backpacking trip
  • The Backsystem is like the engine of the pack. The AirSpeed™ trampoline mesh provides ventilation while the AirScape™ backpanel provides a closer fit for comfort. For premium comfort and ventilation our award winning AG AntiGravity™ backsystem which combines three-dimensional suspension with a tensioned lumbar support

5. Underestimating the distance (A.K.A, I overestimated my ability)

Hiking and backpacking routes are often broken down into chunks of distance that factor in time and convenient stopping locations. These are a recommendation, not a rule. If you feel you will enjoy your trip more by walking a 20km day rather than a 30km, then do it. It’s better to have too much time and enjoy the journey rather than race through at a tiring pace and ignore your surroundings. To help with this you can:

  • Grab a guide book. Guide books often offer multiple lengths/ segments for a route. This allows you to plot your course at your pace
  • Plot your own route. You can grab a map, Google facilities along the way and tailor the route exactly to your own abilities and needs

Pack featured in this image: Kestrel 58

What mistakes have you learned from your hiking and backpacking trips? If you had to give one piece of advice, what would it be? Comment below!

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12 responses to “Top 5 Backpacking & Trekking Mistakes

  • Phil Morris

    5 June 2018

    Guilty on all 5 charges !

    • Osprey Europe

      6 June 2018

      Hi Phil,
      Aren’t we all?
      Sometimes, how you react to these situations is just as important as the preparation (mistakes will always happen).

  • David Blair

    15 June 2018

    Some short cuts can shorten your life

    • Osprey Europe

      18 June 2018

      Hi David,
      Agreed, but so long as you are prepared then should anything happen you are equipped to react appropriately.
      We believe preparation is key, mistakes happen to the best of us. A bad situation can be made 100 times worse because of poor preparation.

  • Molly

    19 June 2018

    My worst mistake is definitely overestimating my ability and underestimating the difficulty of the terrain. Twice I have set challenges too far ahead of whats possible – the worst being a hike up a mountain which should have taken 7 hours – it actually took 13, the weather closed in and the light started failing and the last 2 hours were a massive stress as we realised if we totally lost the light there was no way we would get back down. It meant a horrendous pace at the end of an extremely long hike – just what you don’t need when your exhausted is to realise you have to go even faster or else you will be stranded in the middle of nothing much.

    Experience is the best teacher I find – when I started all this hiking lark 3 years ago I would overpack, under pack – kind of oscillated between taking too much and taking too little (the taking too little included not bothering with maps ) These days its rare for me to get caught out – I like the odd mistake though is it keeps self confidence safely short of smugness.

    • Osprey Europe

      19 June 2018

      Great comment!
      You’re totally right about experience. The best we can do is over-prepare (not necessarily over pack though) so as to be safe and then reign in our kit once we know what, how and where we need certain items. You’re totally right about self-confidence versus smugness too. It’s good to occasionally be reminded that we’re not all-knowing masters of nature
      Happy adventuring

      • Ivor Barclay

        22 June 2018

        Plan carefully, think twice about the kit you will need and keep a watchful eye on the weather forecasts.

      • Osprey Europe

        25 June 2018

        Thanks Ivor,
        This is exactly right, one can never be too prepared; prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

  • Olly Parry-Jones

    8 August 2018

    I’m guilty of taking The Kitchen Sink along The Ridgeway, which I think in turn led to aches and pains with my Atmos rucksack; experienced down my left leg. A harsh lesson in the necessity of packing only what you’ll actually use. If you’re in pain or discomfort, you’ll enjoy the experience less. If you’re not enjoying it, you’ll question the point in moving forward.

    • Osprey Europe

      8 August 2018

      Hi Olly,

      It can be difficult sometimes to gauge what you’ll be needing for the trip, sometimes that “what if” plays on your mind making you feel like you need to take more. This kind of mistake is one that everyone makes. The best piece of advice that we can offer is to answer the questions from above:

      • If I leave this behind will this negatively affect my safety while I’m outdoors?
      • How often am I likely to actually use this piece of kit?
      • What is the value of this piece of kit versus how much it weighs?

      To help, we have written a Backpacking Checklist that (on the flip side!) will make sure you do not forget the essentials.

  • Michael Dewsbury

    9 November 2018

    Underestimating the terrain / route! A walking day in the alps began with the ascent of a ‘hill’ which took me several hours, which I found quite demoralising. It was only afterwards I realized that the ‘hill’ was 300 metres higher than Ben Nevis…

    • Osprey Europe

      16 November 2018

      I’ve definitely been there Michael!

      After doing this very same thing I vowed to always check terrain height on maps ahead of time. Better to get the shock of the day’s altitude out the way with a map in front of you and a good breakfast in your belly.

      Happy hiking!

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