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

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

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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2 responses to “Top 5 Backpacking & Trekking Mistakes

  • Remco

    5 June 2018

    Great tips! My mistakes indeed were:
    Underestimating the distance. I plan my multi-day trips in a GPS program and put it on my GPS as well as my phone. This one time I had stitched together separate parts, but forgot to notice the overnight location that the poster used and also the trip data didn’t show the full length. So at my 2pm check, thinking I was super far, remaining time wasn’t 2 hours but 9 hours! I managed to find a great bivak place before sunset though and made the best photo of the whole trip there!
    Poor weather. Another time I packed light relying on my “waterproof” trousers which started to get soaked after 2+ hours in rain and high grass. Luckily it was a day-trip! Waxed the trousers and bringing extra rain pants for the next multi-day!

    • Osprey Europe

      6 June 2018

      Hi Remco,
      Sometimes, how you react to these situations is just as important as the preparation (mistakes will always happen). You kept track of your time and found a good camp. And, as you said, sometimes it can lead to pleasant surprises!
      Sometimes you just get wet on a multi-day trip you definitely appreciate dry legs and spare socks at the end of the day. I’ve definitely made that mistake before…
      Happy adventuring!

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