Today we’ll be talking about the 5 common mistakes that budget backpackers often make. The list is based on personnel experiences from my backpacking though Europe (One time “Cinque Terre” and two times “Tour du Mont Blanc“.
Everything depends on your backpacking checklist, another point if you’re using cheap backpacks it will be harder to make your backpacking checklist than when using professional backpacks.
5 Mistakes Budget Backpackers Make
For this article, I took tips from some fellow budget backpackers and I also considered my own mistakes. So let’s get started:
1. Your Backpacking Gear List contains everything in the house:
Before starting my first hike, I did a lot of research about what backpacking gear is actually necessary. I found out that the common mistake and probably Top One was packing way too much stuff.
Now this might be like extra gear or just like unnecessary items completely. There’s nothing wrong with having extra items, most budget backpackers except maybe like the serious ultralighters, have some kind of an extra item or two.
Taking things like a hatchet, an axe, extra boots, and several changes of clothes, not just a cold and warm outfit. Some budget backpackers pack a change of clothes for seven days. One time a friend packed a family photo album, true story.
Those things are a little excessive. But those are things that people have already packed on their backpacking trips. Maybe some things seem like you might need them, but are a little excessive; like extra batteries and I’m not talking about one set of extra batteries but like several sets.
Those are all things that you can get by if something happens to you for a few days even on a thru hike, on the AT (Appalachian Trail) and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) You’re not gonna be out in the wilderness for probably more than seven days at most. I mean there might be a section that will be a little bit longer, but most of the time you’re looking at three to seven days.
The bad Backpacking Gear List can ruin the Trip:
Some people take extra filters in case theirs fails and again while it sounds like it makes sense if you’re cooking, you can always boil your water as a backup. So you want to make sure that you only take the true things that are necessities and have multipurpose.
I think a lot of people have the idea that thru hiking is like survival situation and obviously you’re trying to survive, but what I mean it’s not like you’re going out to setup a little bunker in the woods to survive the zombie apocalypse, it’s just carrying the backpacking essentials for a three to seven day stretch between two towns.
And that’s it. When you get to town if you realize you need something else you can always get it there. It’s just important to really second guess yourself on every item like ‘Do I absolutely need this?‘ and ‘If I had to go 3 days without it, could I make it‘ and if the answer is ‘Yes‘ then leave it home.
If you’re travel backpack is extremely heavy, you’re gonna be uncomfortable especially while you’re breaking your body and getting use to the idea of toting a heavy load for several days.
I really suggest if you’re new to backpacking checkout some of the people who already made a backpacking gear list, just look through and make your own backpacking list.
It’s a good benchmark at least to look at somebody else who has successfully done what you’re aiming to do in the Budget Backpackers World.
2. Foot Abuse Due to Improper Footwear
Yes, while you’re backpacking and especially while thru hiking you are going to be abusing your feet. So you definitely don’t need to pour salt in the wounds by wearing the improper footwear. Check if your shoes don’t fit properly or they don’t work well with your feet.
‘Well how do I know if it’s gonna work properly, if it works well with my feet’ the best thing that you can do is to try them out before you get out on a backpacking trip.
But still you’re not gonna have all the same conditions of course. In the normal world that you will have out on the trail.
So you want to make sure that the shoe is big enough because your feet are going to swell when you’re walking downhill, the shoes can be so tight that your toes are hitting the front of your shoes unless you don’t like keeping your toe nails around.
The two tests that I recommend doing is, the thumb test by just making sure that when you put your thumb down in front of your big toe, that you have at least a thumbs space between the tip of your big toe and the front of your shoe.
Now also I recommend when you tie your shoe up tap your toe on the ground. And if your foot is hitting the front of your shoe, it’s probably going to do that while you’re descending mountains and you’re probably going to lose toe nails and not feel good while hiking.
Do I need Boots for thru Hiking or just pick Lightweight Shoes?
Also for those of you who think that you absolutely need to have boots while thru hiking or section hiking: You don’t. A lot of people don’t need big, sturdy, bulky, clunky boots to successfully backpack.
The first time I started hiking, I though Boots are the best choice, after few miles and long hours the boots ended up drumming on my Achilles even though they were properly sized. They caused me tendinitis in the Achilles and it did not feel very good.
So I ended up swapping to trail runners shoes and I have never looked back they’re very lightweight. They dry out a lot faster. You do have to find out what works for you, unless you need the ankle support, try to figure out what works for you when it comes to shoes and insoles and all of that stuff before you get out on the trail. Because if you mess your feet up real bad, it could be a trip ender.
Don’t be like me, a bad shoe choice ended with losing both of my big toe nails. So take my advice and just make sure your shoes are big enough.
3. Overly Ambitious Mileage Plan by the Budget Backpackers
Alright! So you’re starting your thru hike and you hear that everybody who’s starts out goes 15 to 20 miles their first day and you’re saying, ‘I can’t let anyone think that I am weak so I am going to go fifteen to twenty miles if it kills me!’
Yeah, I made that mistake on my second trail, I heard everyone does more miles on their second trail. So I can’t do what I did starting out my hiking journey, I have to do more!
Well I did 15-mile for three consecutive days, I ended up having to take two zeros because I had t-rex knees. So I had to walk around on little bent knees and it did not feel good.
I Knew I Shouldn’t but I did it!
The problem was I already knew this will happen, because I had read about it, but I committed the same mistake I read about. It’s known that from your first hike till the second one your body need time to get acclimated to be one of the best Budget Backpackers.
So… you just have to take it slow. You have to listen to your body. When your body is tired you stop, When something hurts, you take a break.
So when you get out there and you start off, you got to hike your own hike. You have got to listen to your body If that means losing the people that you’ve been around for a couple of days. You’ll probably catch up with them eventually, Don’t worry about that. You’re out there for your own experience And you don’t want that to be cut short because you got Overly ambitious on your mileage plan.
4. Too Much Food on the Backpacking Supplies
A lot of the Budget Backpackers I know where talking about ‘Hiker Hunger‘ one of my friends said, and I quote “I was so hungry I can eat like five hamburgers in town” Yes, but that doesn’t happen right away. It’s different for everybody but that happens later on. It will not happen on your first week of backpacking or anything like that.
So for those who do weekend or week-long trips, you may not ever really experience the full-on hiker hunger. I mean I’m sure once you get back to town you’re pretty hungry and food tastes amazing, you’ll go through that, I’m sure.
Again when you’re planning your first stretch keep in mind that you might not be as hungry as you think you will, In fact you might not be hungry at all and you might have to make yourself eat.
When I left out on my first hike, I had never been backpacking before. And I didn’t really have any idea what to expect. So I packed what I thought I would need if I was hungry for six days which I’m not exactly sure why I packed six days of food for less than 40-miles.
I can’t be out in the woods and hungry!
But that doesn’t matter. I just didn’t want to be out in the woods and hungry. It turns out I wasn’t really hungry at all when I first started and I had a lot extra weight in food. So just pack enough food and don’t be afraid you’ll be starving while you are out there.
They do recommend that you have about two pounds per day of food. Honestly I’m not sure if that’s like when you’re first out there or after the hiker hunger hits, but regardless you’ll learn real quick and you’ll probably make this mistake.
I can’t tell you exactly how much is right for you, but keep in mind while you’re planning your first stretch. Budget Backpackers usually pack too much food.
5. Overplanning your Budget Backpackers Trips
Now you decided you’re going on this trip; you’re sitting down there and you know exactly where you’re going to stay every night. Where you’re going to eat lunch and where you’re going to use the bathroom and how much food you’re going to eat. And you’ve already sent yourself resupply boxes. WoW BravO !!!
Sure, if you are going on a section hike and it’s only for a weekend and you need to get from Point A to Point B over that weekend, you might estimate a certain mileage per day in your mind.
And for thru hiking you need to get from Mexico to Canada, Italy to France. Or whatever in a certain amount of time. However, just allow yourself the freedom to do what you want. And to eat what you want. And enjoy yourself along the way.
Backpacking is not a job, Just enjoy it
I know people who have started the first hike and already have tickets for their flight home; once they hit the finish line. So the whole time there, they’ve got this date in their mind like “I must be on plane on this date” so please never do that to yourself.
Backpacking is not a job. It does not have to be a wake up at 7am and go to bed before the sunsets or as its setting. It can be whatever you want it to be. So if you really do enjoy a set schedule, then that’s fine.
Ask this question: “When else in life you’re allowed that freedom?” So don’t rob it from yourself as soon as you get it.
When it comes to planning for food a lot of Budget Backpackers will send themselves packages the whole way. They already have their food sitting there at a post office in the towns they marked as checkpoints along the way.
But that’s robbing yourself the luxury of deciding what you want to eat. Let me ask you, do you know what to eat for dinner three weeks and two nights from now? Probably not. I mean I don’t even know what I want to eat for dinner like three days from now.
So, just don’t limit yourself, I mean sure if you have some type of dietary restriction you have to do that. But otherwise, you might not make it to town before the post office closes on Friday. And now you’re stuck there til Monday to eat. So just allow yourself the experience of freedom during your Budget Backpackers trip. Because you have made it happen and you’ve earned it and you’ve taken the opportunity to experience it. Just enjoy it.
Those are probably the five most common mistakes made by Budget Backpackers. But there are certainly plenty that can be made. I think the important thing to remember is that the way that you learn is by getting out there and making mistakes.
And I would much rather Budget Backpackers be getting out there and making mistakes and laughing at themselves than to be sitting on the couch, not experiencing nature at all.
If you made one of the five mistakes that I’ve mentioned or any other mistake during your beginning stages of any budget backpackers’ trips; please feel free to share that in the comments below. Because I think we can all learn from each other here.