My Hiking Mistakes: 2018

We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human and part of a greater learning experience. Inspired by a post from Becky the Traveller on 6 Stupid Hiking Mistakes she has made this year, I’ve decided to create my own list of personal errors.

In no order of importance (these are purely written based on how and when they came to mind), here are the seven items on my list for 2018.

  • Backpacking Overload

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I completed The Ridgeway National Trail earlier this year. My long-time plan had been to walk the route in five days… But. I set off in June with far too much weight in my rucksack – somewhere between 18kg and 20kg, depending on the accuracy of my luggage scales – and I was in physical pain, less than four miles in to the eighty-seven mile trek.

Coming home the next morning, I felt I had learnt a harsh lesson in the realities of backpacking. Other than that, the weather had been glorious and, with less of a load to carry, I could’ve gone all the way to Ivinghoe Beacon much sooner than early September.

In 2019, I’m aiming to walk my second National Trail – and then, possibly a third long-distance path. Preparations for this are underway and I’m gradually making refinements to reduce the weight and size of my 65 litre rucksack.

  • New Shoes

For as long as I’ve been walking, I’ve often favoured mid or full-height walking boots. Many sources will tell you that ankle support is essential and necessary for a day’s hiking… Inspired by a growing number of long-distance hikers, I’ve begun to challenge this belief. So, while I do reserve my boots for challenging terrain, I’ll often wear low-cut walking shoes in the summer.

My mistake here was that I probably bought the wrong pair of shoes…

These are the Columbia Mens’s Terrebonne Shoe. I liked the fact that they’re waterproof, I liked the colour, they had a Vibram sole and I didn’t know anyone else who owned them (I will often try and avoid purchasing the most popular kit and colours).

Even though I completed every step of The Ridgeway with these on my feet, I’m grown-up enough to be able to admit that they’re probably not the best fit for my feet. I have slightly narrow feet, with an elongated big toe on either foot. Salomon have been my preferred brand until now, for both fit and comfort. I’ve also tried Scarpa boots on in store and found they also fit me well, even if they’re not quite as snug and comforting.

Will I be looking for a replacement pair in 2019???

Don’t bet against it!

  • What is waterproof?

Some people may agree with this one, others may not. Two-years ago now, I bought a “waterproof” jacket by Vaude which was retailing for around £120. I saw it as an overdue step-up from my heavy, sweat-tastic £30 Karrimor coat.

Every time I have walked in the rain this year, wearing my Vaude Lierne jacket, I’ve found the water quickly gets through to my mid and base layers. It’s not nearly as waterproof as I’d hoped and I’ve been falsely ‘relying’ upon this item for too long, I fear.

I feel some may disagree with this point because truly waterproof jackets may be hard to find and uncomfortably expensive when you do encounter one. I’ve tried reproofing and treating this jacket four times in 2018… But the rain still soaks through.

Most recently, I suffered for four-days on Dartmoor with this situation. Thankfully, I was staying in four-walled accommodation and could dry out each evening. For a wet wild camp or backpacking experience… It wouldn’t be much fun.

An upgrade is potentially on the cards. Watch this space!

  • ‘Oh, it’s raining…’

In a near-contradiction to my previous point, I know that I’ve spent a number of days indoors because of bad weather, when I had otherwise hoped and intended to go for a walk somewhere. This applies to both walks on my own and with others.

You know that feeling, when you spend all weekend indoors and, before you know it, you’re back at work on a Monday morning and  far away from your next taste of freedom?

Try to avoid that!!

I’ve learnt that, by forcing myself out on a rainy day, I can still feel like I’ve achieved something on my day. Worst case scenario: I shorten my intended route and come home with wet clothes. But I’ll have experienced something I do benefit from and clothes can always dry out. So, moving in to 2019, I’d like to make a better effort to get out one day each week, even when the dark clouds have risen overhead. Waterproof or not, it’s only for one day.

  • Carrying My Poles

Perhaps only a few years ago, I was known as someone who would often carry a single walking pole but rarely ever use it. I see others doing this. As of almost two years ago, I now own a pair of poles to carry… But I also try to use them more frequently.

For the crime of carrying my poles on my backpack and not actually using them, I have paid the price on three occasions this year.

Twice now, in East Somerset, I have caught the pointed end of my poles as I climbed over a stile and wire fence; prying the rubber cap away, never to be seen again!

Even more of a concern, was the time I hoped over a stile with a pair of poles affixed to my pack and a steep drop on the other side… One of the pole tips caught the top rail of the stile on my way down. I hear a snap and later discover a small hole in my rucksack.

Walking poles are good. They’re essential knee-saving aids on a descent and make lesser work of an uphill struggle. Let’s challenge the stigma that only older people need sticks!

  • I Like Cake

A brief admission. As a regular walker leader, I will often bake a box of something (cake, cookies or biscuits) to compliment those who attend my group walks. On one or two occasions, I’ve know too well that I didn’t have enough goods to supply everyone who turned out…

On one or two occasions this year, I’ve carried a box of sweet stuff for anything from ten to seventeen miles but without sharing this secret with any others. After the walk and back in the confines of home, I’m free to dig-in and feast!

Sharing is caring, they say… I’ll try to remind myself of that through the next year.

  • Water Shortage

Here in the UK, we experience a heatwave through the summer of 2018, when it felt like it was never going to end. Reservoirs, lakes and rivers began to run low. A great importance was placed upon the need to take on fluids, whether you were at work or wherever.

I remember a walk I did back in May, in the Black Mountains of South Wales. I think I’ve packed my usual 2 litres of liquid for a day’s sixteen miles of hiking… But towards the end of my walk, I was running very low, to the point where my hydration bladder was making a sound similar to a drinking straw that’s discovered the dry bottom of a cup.

I was in no great danger of dehydration that day but, ever since, I’ve made an effort to implement two ideas:

  1. Whenever I’m to drive somewhere, I keep a spare 700ml bottle of water in the boot of my car, for post-walk refreshment – whether that’s for me or my car.
  2.  I purchased an Aquapure Traveller. This drinking bottle has a filter on the underside of the lid, meaning you can safely drink water from any number of sources. As the bottle itself can be squeezed (unlike another popular model that otherwise does the same), you could use this as a method of water filtration to fill larger devices (hydration bladders, saucepans, etc.).

There’s an opportunity here, for you to learn from my mistakes (or just consider your own stance) and for me to improve through 2019! Thanks again to Becky for her post and the inspiration I found within that.

Thanks for reading.

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