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15 All-Too Common Beginner Backpacking Mistakes

We all start somewhere. We all begin as beginners, as novices. And even for experienced hikers, new gear constantly demands we play catch-up. An experienced backpacker in the early ‘90s might not know all the tricks of the trade in this new decade. I like to think I worked out my beginner kinks during my thru-hike, but I am still learning new hiking hacks. Whenever I hike now, I notice many people making the same beginner mistakes I (and many others) did when first starting out.

The Appalachian Trail community encourages you to hike your own hike, as do I. If you choose to do the things below with the knowledge that there is an easier way, then I applaud you for hiking your own hike. If you do them out of a lack of knowledge, however, then this resource is here to help. Note that this is far from a comprehensive list. Not all beginners make these missteps, and the mistakes listed are far from the only ones I’ve seen on the trail. The beginner backpacking mistakes I’ve chosen to highlight seem to be among the most common and the most easily fixable.

Find Madison Dragna's full list of backpacking mistakes here.


August 14, 2022

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My only complaint is that eventually, backflushing won’t be enough. These can clog up after some time and no amount of back flushing will fix its low flow. I went through 2 on the AT. However, it will attach to Smart Water Bottles and most bladders!

Anna Hamrick


Built for backcountry reliability and portability, the Sawyer Squeeze filter is our pick for the best portable water purifier.

Pete Ortiz


The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
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