Don’t Make these 5 Fatal Backpacking Mistakes on the PCT

Safely and successfully hiking the Pacific Crest Trail requires some basic survival skills as well as a keen awareness of your surroundings. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but you can easily prepare yourself with quality gear and enough knowledge to identify dangerous situations. Keep reading to learn the five most common backpacking mistakes that can put trekkers in serious danger.

1. Ignoring poor weather conditions. Hail can seriously injure and lightning kills 40 to 50 people every year. It’s incredibly important that you pay attention to the sky as you hike. If you ignore the weather forecast and don’t watch the clouds forming above you, you may be putting yourself at risk. You should always bring clothing for changing weather, know how to protect yourself from lightning and be prepared to turn around if weather worsens.

2. Ignoring the risks of bears or other wildlife. Many forests and backcountry areas along the PCT require the use of bear canisters or other safety measures. You must secure all food and other scented items (including toothpaste and toiletries) inside the bear canister or properly hang it from a tree to avoid any unwanted visitors. Be sure to check your pockets for random granola bars or wrappers. Not taking care of your food properly will put you and others in your group at risk.

3. Not telling people your plans. The golden rule of outdoor adventure is to tell at least one person where you’re going and when you plan on getting back. Whether this is a spouse, your mother, a friend or a neighbor, make sure they know when to expect you to return and the route you plan on taking. If you don’t make it back on time, this person can alert search and rescue crews and guide them to where you might be found.

4. Not having a dependable plan for drinking water. There’s no way to overstate the importance of having clean drinking water on the trail. Not only do you need to drink plenty of water to stay healthy as you hike, you need it simply to stay alive. Assuming you can’t carry in enough water to survive a multi-day thru-hike on the PCT, you’ll need to purify water. Choose a water purification method and do some test runs before you head to the trail. You should also have a back-up plan. If you are using a battery-operated purification device like a SteriPEN, be sure to bring back-up batteries. It’s also a good idea to bring iodine tablets as a backup in case your purification method doesn’t work out.

5. Not having quality gear that can stand up to extreme weather. Always wear clothes that dry quickly and wick moisture away from your skin to protect yourself from the danger of being wet and cold for an extended amount of time. Hypothermia can set in quickly, so you need to have clothing and other sources of warmth (a sleeping bag) that are warm and dry even if it’s cold and wet outside. You also need to have a tent or some other form of shelter to provide a dry place to stay warm.

As you prepare to hike the Pacific Crest trail, be sure to avoid these common backpacking mistakes to keep yourself safe, healthy and happy during your days on the trail.


This content was provided by our partners at Sierra Trading Post.