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5 Mistakes Beginner Backpackers Make


Hey y’all! Dixie here. Today I wanna talk to you about five common mistakes that beginning backpackers often make. Now, I’m not knocking the beginners, but, any professional just wasn’t born a professional. I mean, Michael Jordan didn’t pop out of the womb, start taking his first steps while perfectly dribbling a basketball. It takes time to learn things, and that’s normal, but I’m hoping that maybe this video will help some of the beginners to learn from the mistakes of others and I’m willing to bet even some of you experienced backpackers who are watching can admit to probably making one or more of these mistakes yourself For this video, I took some input from my fellow backpackers and I also considered my own mistakes. So let’s get started. Before starting my AT thru hike, I did a lot of research about what gear is actually necessary and, you know, common mistakes and probably the 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 luxury items You know I think that most backpackers except maybe like the serious, serious ultralighters and probably even them, have some kind of luxury item But taking things like a hatchet, an axe, extra boots Several changes of clothes, like not just a cold and , you know, warm outfit but like literally almost a change of clothes for seven days or something Or a family photo album. Those things are a little excessive. But they are things that people have done Maybe some things that seem like you might need them but are a little excessive are like extra batteries and I’m not talking about one set of extra batteries but like several Also extra headlamps, you know things like that Those are all things that you can get by if something happens to you for a few days, you know Even on a thru hike, on the AT and the PCT 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 Some people take extra filters, you know 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 you know, hopefully they have some kind of multipurpose And if you’re really put your mind into it and think about it you can probably get by and improvise without a certain piece of gear for, you know a three to seven day stretch 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 is it’s not like you’re going out to setup You know, a little bunker in the woods to survive the zombie apocalypse you know, it’s not like that at all You’re literally just carrying things that you need Like necessities for a three to seven day stretch between two towns. And that’s it. And when you get 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 had to go three days without it, could I make it’ and if the answer is ‘yes’ then you probably don’t need it If you’re pack is extremely heavy, you’re gonna be uncomfortable especially while you’re breaking in your body and getting use to the idea of toting a heavy load for several days on end I really suggest if you’re new to backpacking checkout some of the people who have thru hikes gear lists, you know I got mine up on my website and just look through and if you have an item that’s not on their list. I mean of course every person is different I’m just saying, you know It’s a good benchmark at least to look at somebody else who has successfully done what you’re aiming to do in the backpacking world 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. And what I mean by that is shoes that don’t fit properly or they don’t work well with your feet. And you’re like ‘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, you know, 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 And that you know, when you’re walking downhill you don’t want it, the shoe 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 So 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 loose toe nails and not feel good while hiking Also for those of you who think that you absolutely need to have boots while thru hiking or section hiking You don’t I mean I can’t say that YOU don’t. but a lot of people don’t need big, sturdy, bulky, clunky boots to successfully backpack I thought that I needed ankle support when I started the AT. So I started with boots because I thought that’s what you do when you go hiking. You wear hiking boots Right. Uh, well, 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 and I have never looked back They’re very lightweight. They dry out a lot faster But I’m not going to go into a whole video preaching why I prefer trail runners over boots You do have to find out what works for you But I’m just saying, unless you, you know, know that you need the ankle support , you might not But just 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. And on this one, uh, I can say that I didn’t practice what I preached when I started the PCT. I just started with the same sized shoes that I finished with on the AT thinking ‘Oh yeah my feet are the same size’ Well, I didn’t do the toe test and I didn’t do the thumb width test and um, I ended up having to swap shoes while on the PCT and go up a size. And I did lose both of my big toe nails So take my advise and just make sure your shoes are big enough Alright! So you’re starting your thru hike and you hear that everybody who’s starts out goes fifteen to twenty miles their first day and you’re like, ‘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 the PCT I was determined, you know, everyone does more miles on the PCT. So I can’t do what I did starting out on the AT I have to do more! Well I did three 15-mile days, like 13 to 15-miles actually And I ended up having to take two zeros because I had t-rex knees. My knees were so swollen that it felt like if I extended my leg that just fluid was going to bust out the back of it. So I had to walk around on little bent knees And it did not feel good And I already knew not to make this mistake because I had read about it and I had , you know known from the AT that it takes a while for your body to to get acclimated to backpacking. So… You know 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 You know. So luckily I was smart enough to not continue to push myself and ruining my PCT thru hike But, you know, I should’ve never been in the position where in the first week I had to take two zeros because I had overexerted my body So when you get out there and you start off, you got to hike your own hike and I normally hate that overused saying. But literally, 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’e out there for your experience And you don’t want that to be cut short because you got Overly ambitious on your mileage plan Everyone here is about ‘Oh hiker hunger’ ‘Oh I was so hungry I can eat like five hamburgers in town’ Yes, but that doesn’t happen right away That happens…well, I don’t know. It’s different for everybody But that happens later on. It’s not, you know You’re first week of backpacking or anything like that So for those of y’all who section and, you know You do weekend or week-long trips, you may not ever really experience the full-on hiker hunger. I mean I’m sure, you know, once you get back to town you’re pretty hungry and you know, food tastes amazing You do go through that. Im sure But as far as the true hiker hunger where you could You know, literally down like everything McDonald’s has in stock That takes awhile to kick in So when you’re planning your first stretch just know 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 AT thru hike, you know, I had never been backpacking before. And I didn’t really have any idea what to expect. So I packed , you know, 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 But that doesn’t matter. Uh, I just didn’t want to be out in the woods and hungry. Um, turns out I wasn’t really hungry at all when I first started and uh, I had a lot extra weight in food I’m just saying you might not need, you know as much as you think you would if you were, like starving while you were out there. They do recommend that you have about two pounds per day of food, uh 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. But…um…you know It’s not the worst thing in the world. You can always barter with food on trail. So it’s not terrible to have a little bit too much of it. I can’t tell you exactly, you know, how much is right for you But, I’m just saying, keep in mind while you’re planning your first stretch of food that folks do generally pack to much So you decided you’re going on this trip and 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. Whoa! Whoa!! Whoa! Whoa!! One of the greatest things about a backpacking trip is just allowing yourself the freedom to do what you want when you feel like doing it Sure, if you are going on a section hike and it’s only for a weekend and you know, you need to get from Point A to Point B over that weekend and, yeah, you might estimate a certain mileage per day in your mind. And for thru hiking you know, you need to get from Mexico to Canada. Or Georgia to Maine. 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 I know people who have started their thru hike and they already have tickets for their flight home once they finish And so the whole time their, their gong on their trip They’ve got this date in their mind like ‘I must be on plane on this date’ And it’s like ‘Why do that to yourself’ you know Even if you know that you have to be done at a certain time And you know, you got a wedding or whatever You might end up finishing a week before that with some of the best friends will have for the rest of your life that you made while you were on trail and they just happen to be road-tripping the way you’re going to go and you could’ve had the best road-tripping experience with a week as a grande finale to a thru hike Instead you’re going to be sitting there waiting in town for a week, you know, at a campground or at a hotel for a flight that you planned six months ago when you don’t even know who that person is six months ago that planned that flight for you Because you will have changed so much and you know What you thought you wanted for the end of your journey might not be what you want anymore Backpacking is not a job. It does not have to be a wakeup at 7am or 5am or whatever And go to bed before, you know the sunsets or as its setting It…it can be whatever you want it to be. So you know, if you really do enjoy a set schedule, then then that’s fine. But I challenge you to try To just go with the flow I challenge you to say ‘yes’ and take side adventures And…and to let it be what it becomes Because when else in life are you allowed that freedoms So don’t rob it from yourself as soon as you get it When it comes to planning for food A lot of folks, you know want to send themselves packages the whole way and already have their food sitting there at a post office and the towns they decided their going stop in along the way. But 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 yet. So, just don’t limit yourself I mean sure if you have some type of dietary restriction You know where you…you have to do that Then I understand. But otherwise, you know, you might not make it to town before the post office closes on Friday And now you’re stuck there til Monday So just allow yourself the experience of freedom during your backpacking trip. Because you have made it happen And you’ve earned it and you’ve taken the opportunity to experience it. So just enjoy it Those are probably the five most common mistakes made by beginning backpackers But there are certainly plenty that can be made And 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 folks be getting out there and making mistakes and laughing at themselves than to be sitting on the couch, you know not experiencing nature at all If you made one of the five mistakes that I’ve mentioned today or any mistake during your beginning stages of backpacking please feel free to share that in the comments below. Because I think we can all learn from each other here And I want this channel to be a place where we can share knowledge and experience and things like that Remember if you like this channel and you want to support the work I do here The easiest way to do so at no additional cost to you is to go to DixieAZ.com before doing your Amazon shopping. It goes to my affiliate link doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support what I do. And with that we will see y’all next time

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