Back Packing Mistakes (Need some feedback)

2:43 p.m. on April 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Good Afternoon All!

A buddy and I are starting a youtube channel trying to give some advice to those starting to get into backpacking and camping. We recently finished a video talking about the top back packing mistakes. I would really appreciate it if you can take a look at it a let me know what you think and how we can improve.



7:47 p.m. on April 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Hi Brandon

I gave you feedback on another forum, but just to summarize, I don't think these are the five most common or five most dangerous beginner mistakes.  Most dangerous are getting lost, hypothermic, or dehydrated.  Most common is over packing with stuff you don't need, not drinking enough water, getting lost  or "confused."

8:18 p.m. on April 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Bringing too much stuff. 

Trying to go too far. 

Not paying enough attention to people that are struggling. 

These are the common beginner mistakes. 

10:11 p.m. on April 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Good topic, Brandon!

I agree with Charles, over packing is the only item on the list I'd consider among the top five mistakes listed in the tube.  I approached the Top Five, noting what mistakes are responsible for newbies dropping out of the sport prematurely, and secondly what mistakes commonly jeopardize newbies' safety.

My top five would be:

Ignorance of the basics
This causes more newbies to give up the sport after only one outing than any other consideration.  This item could be considered a skill level issue, but beginners by definition lack skills and knowledge!  The tube shared by the OP describes this as a technical or physical factor, but there are myriad skills that are absolutely sundry, that have an accumulative impact on the overall enjoyment/suffering of one's initial backpacking trips.  Proper blister management information could have precluded the OP’s struggle with new boots.  Changing out of sweaty clothing before sleep, proper personal and kitchen hygiene, and similar basic tips all greatly improve comfort and make a huge difference.  My own experience bears this out.  My first hike was with the Boy Scouts, using a borrowed pack that fit poorly, lacked shoulder padding and had no hip belt.  The six mile hike left me with all sorts of sore spots in just about every place a pack can inflict pain.  Furthermore I was not advised on the merits of a sleeping pad, so spent the night on hard ground, tossing and turning all night.  I seriously wondered why anyone in their right mind would find camping worth such discomfort.  If not for pubescent male vanity I would have wimped out and called it quits with that trip.  On later trips I witnessed/experienced dysentery, because people failed to wash their hands after relieving themselves and before handling food.  I have insisted on personally doing or supervising all of the cooking and KP on every trip, ever since.  No one has ever got sick on my trips in almost 60 years of camping.  Another example is starting a campfire.  This topic takes on the reverence and dogma among outdoorsmen similar to the nonsense of good old boys man'splaining around the BBQ how to grill a steak.  I cannot recall how many times I watched experienced campers fail to start a fire using all sorts of survivalist approaches, then have them freeze, gobsmacked in amazement, as they watch me using my canister stove to get a wood fire going.  This is not so much lack of knowledge, we all know stoves create a hot flame; rather it is what psychologists call functional fixation - the phenomena of not realizing objects can fill purposes beyond their intended use. Thus one needs a fair amount of basic skills/knowledge experienced campers take for granted, before even considering a simple overnighter.  A lot of reading up on Camping 101 helps, but conducting the first few outings with experienced campers will greatly compress the learning curve.

Over packing/under packing
This item probably is the second biggest cause for newbies to drop out of the sport.  Pack too much and you may survive the trip, but will have such a bad time as a beast of burden that you'll never go backpacking again.  Likewise fail to bring enough food, and you'll be exhausted; not enough warm stuff and you’ll be miserably chilled; and no rain gear or lack of shelter from rain and you risk a really bad experience.  All of these will discourage any further ventures into the BC.

Rarely this reaches a crisis level, but dehydration saps one's vitality, leading to intense exhaustion, aches and pains.  Beginners often don't even realize they are dehydrated and just think such discomfort is part of this pastime.  If one’s adventures are predominated by coping with exhaustion, no matter how fit they may be, then they are unlikely to stick with the sport.

Food provisioning errors 
Many folks consider food a big part of the experience.  It doesn't need be fancy, but if it is unappetizing you will quickly grow to regret mealtime, when it all tastes like cardboard.  Another error is choosing food unsuitable for backpacking.  This is not the place to diet.  Backpacking burns a lot of calories.  Most people lose weight on hiking trips even when they provision with high calorie meals.  A somewhat less serious issue is bringing food that cannot be properly prepared, given the venue.  A funny yet tragic example of this was an early Denali expedition.  A subsequent expedition discovered a colander, among the trash heap abandoned by the earlier expedition high on the flanks of the mountain.  I cannot imagine how much fuel it would take to support any cooking technique that utilizes a colander at such altitude.

Traveling in the dark
Most people cannot competently travel in unfamiliar backcountry after sunset.  Even the experts risk getting disoriented while attempting to travel in the dark.  Novice hikers  facing disorientation will often aggravate the situation by attempting to continue their travels, and end up wandering off the map or into dangerous terrain.

I include a sixth item because it is a fundamental credo, albeit doesn't pose a hazard or discomfort to the newbie camper:

Failure to conform to LNT principles
While this will not result in newbies giving up the sport or getting in danger, it affects others experiences.  Negligent practices will degrade the ecology, sometime with consequences that last generations.  And that in turn will intrude on the prized illusion we are traipsing around a pristine wilderness.  On a recent trip to Joshua Tree NP, I noted some vehicle tracks had finally all but vanished that I discovered forty years ago in the park, miles from any established trail.  Yet they were still noticeable, if you were looking for them.   Amazing, how fragile nature can be.  I cannot tell how many times I have stepped off trail to pee, only to realize dozens of women also choose that spot to relive themselves, leaving their wads of tissues to mark the occasion.  Many folks have no idea their practices have a consequence, until they revisit old stomping grounds and find their previously discarded rusty tin cans and other camp flotsam among the flora next to their camp.


7:59 a.m. on April 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Ed, Thats a great approach to the top mistakes. I didn't think of it that way. Thanks for the feed back>

10:49 a.m. on April 30, 2019 (EDT)
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funny that no one mentioned adapting your plans to the weather. Bad weather can magnify many of the other errors people listed here - sometimes to the point of turning an annoying or uncomfortable situation into a life-threatening one.  

1:31 p.m. on April 30, 2019 (EDT)
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funny that no one mentioned adapting your plans to the weather. Bad weather can magnify many of the other errors people listed here - sometimes to the point of turning an annoying or uncomfortable situation into a life-threatening one.  

10:41 p.m. on April 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Why emphasize the negative?  Discuss the correct procedures to follow in planning a backpack and convey a positive tone....

5:39 a.m. on May 1, 2019 (EDT)
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I watched the video and think it's all good advice. In the planning for contingencies section I would emphasize that you should always be ready to bail if things get bad (i.e. Andrew's comment on weather), and on long trips think ahead about your bail out options. Here on TS I have often repeated one of the Norwegian Mountain Code rules: "Det er ingen skam å snu", "There is no shame in turning back" is the literal translation. Simple but good advice! You might take a look at the Code and see if you can use any of it in an edit of this or another video.

9:02 a.m. on May 1, 2019 (EDT)
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Hikermor, We're not looking to emphasize the negative, just to give a heads up on what things most people don't think about when going to the outdoors. Mostly things that are overseen. But given your comment I think its a good idea to make a video talking about the correct procedures in planning a trip. 

Thanks for the feed back!

9:53 a.m. on May 1, 2019 (EDT)
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The way to have a great backpacking trip is to eliminate the negatives.  You have to be aware of them.  Beginning solo backpackers often have the worst time if they don;t get some advice.  They bring way too much, then they compound the issue by trying to reach their "goals."  When their bodies tell them to slow down or stop they keep going. 

November 17, 2019
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