3 gear mistakes to avoid when going on a trek

Day one of hiking on the Long Range Traverse, Newfoundland
Day one of hiking on the Long Range Traverse, Newfoundland

If you’re a new player wishing to hit the trails for the first time, it’s best to keep these helpful tips and tricks in mind so you can make your outdoor experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Our friends at Paddy Pallin share their insider know-how on some common trekking mistakes and how not to make them.

#1: Bringing too much luggage

Just because it fits, doesn't mean you should take it. A big thing we notice among first-time trekkers is the overwhelming desire to take everything they own when on the trails.

Planning ahead can mitigate this problem. Ultimately, it is important to remember that whatever you pack you will have to carry. Especially for those who do not have experience carrying large loads for long distances, there is elevated risk of discomfort and potential injury when taking on a hike covering a greater distance.

Consider taking your load on a day hike as preparation before attempting a long-distance or multi-day hike.

The best way to distribute weight

Everyone has his or her own tricks of the trade in terms of packing a backpack. It will vary depending on the pack as well as the gear you put in it.

  •  Avoid putting heavy items near the top, as this will cause imbalance, throwing off your centre of gravity, and create an uncomfortable pull on your shoulders.
  •  Ensure the weight is evenly distributed between the left and right side of your pack. Try to pack heavy items, such as a tent, horizontally to avoid having one side of your pack abnormally heavier than the other.
  •  If you are travelling with a group, consider splitting the load between trekkers. For example, a tent can be split into different loads, with one person carrying the poles and pegs while the other trekker carries the remaining pieces.
  •  Make sure you always pack things you might need often (water bottle, camera, lights, insect repellent, water filtration) in places that are easily accessible, such as the top of main pockets or exterior pockets of the pack. There’s nothing worse than holding up the group unpacking your entire kit on the hunt for mozzie spray!

Staff tip:

I like to pack my bag with medium weight items on the bottom, heavy items in the middle closest to my back, and light items up at the top. This ensures that my centre of gravity isn’t too high and makes for a distributed load between my shoulders and hips.

An organised pack can mean you can focus on the stunning mountainscape on your trek. Photo: Mar Knox

#2: Not testing your pack

When it comes to a pack, we know it can be a big investment, especially for a first-time trekker. We highly recommend a pack that is fitted correctly for your body. Whether it is an old pack you already own or a new purpose-purchased pack, bring it into your local Paddy Pallin store and their staff will fit it for you.

As many first-time trekkers may be borrowing or repurposing a pack, we would highly recommend testing the strength and durability.

When trekking, there is a lot of action that can happen and a lot of time for it to happen in. It would be unfortunate to find yourself halfway through a trek with a broken pack, especially if it impaired your ability to carry all your kit.

RELATED: Beyond Everest Base Camp: 5 sublime treks to get you off the beaten path

Test your pack with your expected load on a trial hike is always a good idea. As an extra precaution, if bringing old gear in which you are unsure of the quality, life expectancy or previous wear and tear on the gear, it’s always a good idea to bring along a repair kit including duct tape, tenacious tape, a sewing kit and any fabrics or materials you would need to patch your gear.

Staff tip:

My first time trekking I used an old pack that had been in my family for ages. I didn’t think much of it, but once I packed it full of all bells and whistles it was busting at the seams. I didn’t think of the way this heavy load might affect an old pack, and it ended up busting in a few places before we even started our first trek.

When braving the elements, it’s important you protect not only yourself, but your gear too! It’s a defeating feeling when you finally arrive to a campsite entirely soaked just to discover that your warm clothing, once dry tent and sleeping system are all soaked too.

To keep your belongings dry on the trails, consider a pack cover to keep your entire bag and its contents dry or a pack liner to ensure your must-be-dry items stay that way.

Bringing a camera onboard to never miss a moment on your first trek? A dry bag will ensure your electronics and other important items that don’t hold their own against rain stay intact on your walk.

#3: Skimping out on trekking poles when you experience joint or muscle pain

Trekking poles can be classified as an absolute necessity for some, whereas for others they can take up precious pack space. Trekking poles help distribute weight, aid with balance, help some people keep pace as well as alleviate joint and muscle pain.

For the less agile or for people prone to joint or muscle pain, we would recommend trekking poles. They can help ease the stress on your hips, leg muscles, ankles and knee joints, and even help correct your posture and thus can reduce back pain and neck strains.

For first time trekkers making hefty investments on new gear, trekking poles could be something you come back for in the future if you don’t classify as someone who needs them for their first trek.

Trekking poles can provide some extra support for your knees when trekking in rough terrains. Photo: Georgia Canning

Quick tips for using trekking poles

  •  Set your trekking pole at the correct height which may depend on the terrain you are walking along. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbows by your side. A general rule is having your pole at a height that your arm forms a 90-degree angle.
  •  Properly adjusting your wrist straps is important to maintain control in case you stumble. Ensure that the strap crosses the palm and wraps beneath the thumb, then tighten or loosen the strap as needed. It shouldn't be too tight that it restricts movement or circulation, just tight enough to support the weight of your hand in the pole.
  •  If unsure, check in with an expert. Find your nearest Paddy Pallin gear store and ask a staff member about specific poles and ideal adjustment recommendations.

If you have any further questions, need a pack fitted or are looking for gear tailored to a specific trip or personal needs, drop by your local Paddy Pallin store or reach out to their Customer Service team by phone, email or social media and Paddy staffers will be more than happy to help you get out there and start exploring.

Happy trekking!

What's a mistake you later learned from when you went trekking? Let us know in the comments below.

camping, daypacks, hiking, outdoors, packing tips, packs, trekking, trekking poles

Comments (2)

Nathan Brayshaw

Hey trekking Guru's,

I'm just shy of 50 and have had both hips replaced. I'm really fit for my age but I'm also pretty heavy, a legacy of a lifetime of lifting things up and putting them down again...

I'm over my injuries, but both hips get really hot and tighten up on big walks to the point that I need to sit down, take a couple of panadol and ibuprofen and wait for the pain to subside.

Do you think it's worth giving trekking poles a try?


3 years ago
World Expeditions

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for reaching out! Yes, trekking poles work wonders for long treks or when walking on difficult terrain, especially if you are expecting a lot of steepness on the trail.

For many of our trekkers, they've found hiking poles take a lot of pressure from the knees and ankles and from the weight of a pack. It also helps with your balance and posture. Once you've gotten the hang of using them on trek, you may end up speeding through the track since it can help with your momentum when walking.

It is also worth looking into the right sort of pack for you as you can find ones that can help better distribute the weight of your backpack so it's not all on your hips. Hit a gear store and give some of their gear a try!

Best of luck on the trails :)

3 years ago
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