5 Things You Should Not Do While Hiking

Whether you’re just getting into hiking or you’ve been hiking a long time it’s easy to agree that there’s a lot of information to know before hitting the trail. Whether it’s safety tips, leave no trace principles, hiking essentials, or even where to go hiking – it’s important to be knowledgeable on the trail. But, what about the things you shouldn’t do while hiking?

It’s incredibly important to know about the 5 things you should not do while hiking. These include hiking without a plan, not bringing enough water, improperly handling waste, being unaware of weather, and damaging your surroundings. 

Learning more about each of these 5 things you should not do while hiking will ensure you have a better and safer, hiking trip. 

people hiking together - 5 things you should not do while hiking

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You Should Not Hike Without a Plan

Hiking without a plan is the most common error I see new hikers make, and it often leads to them never hiking again. It’s so common for new hikers to pick of a place they’ve heard of from someone more experienced or seen cool pictures of online without doing any research on where they’re going and what to expect. This typically leads to disaster, or at least a terrible hike. 

But you may ask, how bad can it be, really, to hike without a plan? It can be bad (some people have even died), and I’m assuming that’s not really how you want to spend your day. 

So, before heading out on a hike make a plan. Your hiking plan should consist of: 

  • Knowing the Trail

    Before heading out make sure you know the mileage and elevation of the trail, and only undertake a trail that is suited to your hiking abilities. Just because a trail has a beautiful view doesn't mean you are ready to hike it.

  • Estimating Time on the Trail

    Hikers measure time on the trail by minutes per mile - so, how long does it take you to hike a mile? A fast hiker on an easy trail can do a mile in about 20 minutes. On a mile with a lot of elevation gain, it can take more than an hour to hike a mile. So, you'll need to know the elevation/mile and provide a fair estimate to your fitness level. Knowing the time on the trail is essential for bringing a proper amount of supplies for the trek.

  • Telling Someone Where You're Going

    Hiking can always be dangerous, even with the best laid plans. Someone who isn't hiking with you should always know where you're going and when you expect to be back. Otherwise, if something happens in a remote part of the trail, you may be stuck out there without anyone knowing about it.

  • Bringing Safety Gear

    As stated above, hikers should always be prepared for the worst case scenario. At the very least this involves carrying a first aid kit on every hike, no matter how easy. If in bear country, be prepared with bear spray and know how to protect against bear attacks.

You Should Not Hike Without Bringing Enough Water and Food

Being prepared for a hike means knowing the amount of supplies you’ll need to bring with you. Beyond safety gear, this means ensuring you have enough water and food for whatever hike you’re taking. 

Regarding water, adults will need between 0.5 – 1.0 liters (17-33 ounces) for every hour hiking, and children will need 0.25-0.5 liters (8-16 ounces) per hour. If it’s a hotter day or a hike with more elevation, expect to require more than that.

In order to carry that much water, I’d recommend getting a backpack with a hydration pack. This is so helpful when hiking so you don’t have to carry around a bulky, heavy water bottle. The hydration pack also has a mouthpiece that threads through the pack’s straps – meaning you can drink water at all times without having to stop and get it out of the pack. Extremely useful! 

Regarding food, you’ll always want to carry it with you – even if you think you wont need it. Sometimes emergencies happen, and if they do you’ll be thrilled that you brought something to eat on the trail. A typical hike will burn 300-600 calories an hour depending on speed, elevation, and temperature. So, if you’ll be out for more than an hour be sure you have enough caloric-rich snacks or food to carry you through the hike. 

Things you should not do while hiking - leave trash. A Starbucks cup in the woods

You Should Not Improperly Handle Waste While Hiking

Waste produced while hiking comes in two forms: trash and bodily fluids. Each of these can cause serious harm to the environment if not handled properly. 

For trash, the motto pack out what you pack in should always be followed. This means that if you bring waste in you should also make sure that you take it out. This even includes what people consider natural waste – fruit peels, dropped snacks, or biodegradable items. I often see fruit peels on the trail placed there by people who likely believe that these will degrade naturally. It actually can take decades for peels to degrade in the forest and can cause harm to animals that eat them in the meantime. So, if you bring it in – take it out. 

For bodily waste, this should always be handled at least 200 ft away from any water source. If urinating – try to do so on an exposed rock so you aren’t disturbing any ground flora near the trail. If defecating, be sure to dig a hole and bury it. As for toilet paper – if you bring it in, pack it out. Some people will say to bury it, but animals can dig it up or heavy rains can cause it to be exposed. And trust me, nothing is worse than seeing used toilet paper on the trail. Yuck! 

If you want more information on how to handle waste in the woods, check out our Leave No Trace article that walks you through everything you should know to protect the environment while using it. 

You Should Not Hike Without Knowing the Weather

Knowing the weather on the day you are hiking is an essential part of having a proper hiking plan. Hiking in the rain is completely different than hiking on a sunny, cool day, which is different from hiking on a day with a massive heat index. You should prepare for each type of hike differently. 

I’ve seen so many hikers unprepared for a sudden rain storm, which can be frequent in spring/summer months depending on where you are. And, if you’ve never hiked in the rain before, it’s not that enjoyable of an experience. Especially hiking in the rain without the proper gear. 

Not only that, it can be dangerous to be unprepared for the weather. On hot days you should have electrolytes with you. On cool days, you’ll need to wear layers. With a chance of rain you’ll want to have rain gear. Without these things you can get dehydrated, experience hypothermia, get massive blisters with wet clothing and footwear, or just lose track of your surroundings due to feeling terrible. 

So, check the forecast and don’t head out on a hike unprepared. 

hiking tip - You Should Not Hike without checking the forecast

You Should Not Damage Your Surroundings While Hiking

Now, this one might seem obvious – of course you shouldn’t damage your surroundings while hiking. But, I find that people usually damage their surroundings without even realizing it. 

By damage, what I really mean is changing the environment in any way. This could mean picking flowers, or moving rocks around, or even stepping off trail when you don’t need to. 

There’s a hiking motto, take only photos and it means that if you like something – snap a picture of it and leave it where it is for all (including the creatures living in the forest) to enjoy. Your love of that flower isn’t more important than the ecosystems need for that flower, and even little changes can add up to cause a lot of harm to the environment over time.

So, pack in a camera and leave nature the way you found it. 

This guide of 5 things you should not do while hiking will help you get on the trail entirely prepared for your next adventure. If you’re looking for more tips like these check out our hiking tips page for helpful tips for all your outdoor adventures. 

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