Yesou thought hiking was just a simple way to disconnect and connect with nature, but no! It’s a lifestyle rages with controversy and bubbling with outrageous misinformation. OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but still.
Almost every backpacker cringed at these pervasive misunderstandings about how we do things here. (“No, Helen, I not I think I should bring a Bowie knife to Half Dome this time, but thanks for the suggestion. Here are six of the most infuriating hiking myths that we would love to kill by fire.
6 all-too-common myths about backpacks that have to die
1. “You’re killing your joints with all that walking!”
When I talk about my passion for long-distance hiking, people sometimes worry about my health. Surely all that walking – with a heavy bag on top of that! – is hell for your joints, they worry. About three minutes into the conversation, they’ll start making subtle hints that I should probably drop the whole hike schtick. For my health. Maybe take up a safer hobby, like knitting*.
In backpack box be hard on your muscles and joints (injuries were the most common reason hikers left the AT in our 2021 hiker survey), modern ultralight equipment and judicious use of trekking poles help to reduce the pressure. The key is to get into the hike easily and listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to slow down, take a break, or shift gears if you’re in pain. And for the love of the god you pray to, be careful on steep descents.
Hiking is great exercise that, contrary to popular belief, is actually good for your health. Studies suggest that weight-bearing exercises like backpacking improve your long-term bone density, not to mention the muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness you’ll develop.
With proper footwear, trekking poles, light gear, regular stretching, and the ability to exercise restraint, there’s no reason hiking should be detrimental to your long-term health. Quite the opposite, in fact.
*Disclaimer: No infringement on knitting! I like a good clean stockinette stitch as much as the next guy.
2. The trail is dangerous for single women.
The other day I read a list of safety tips for single women hiking that half-convinced me that my next solo endeavor would lead to my inevitable, bloody death and brutal ax murder. Could something terrible happen to a woman alone on the track? Of course it could. Unfortunately, that possibility still exists, so situational awareness is vital.
Even so, I feel much safer hiking alone than walking the streets of a crowded city alone at night. When people talk about the dangers for solo hikers, they often talk about the dangers of other humans. In fact, most of us come into more frequent contact with two-legged vermin in our day-to-day lives. Meeting fewer people on the trail means you are statistically much less at risk.
And while the dangers of getting lost or injured or running into wildlife are real (often exaggerated, but certainly real), single women are no more at risk in this department than any other single hiker.
Moral of the story: Sure you need to weigh the risks to your safety when considering solo hiking, regardless of gender. But I encourage you not to let fear keep you from living the life you want. Put your fears into reasonable context, take steps to properly plan and prepare for your trip, get your pepper spray ready, and have the best time of your life.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a great list of sound hiking safety tipsmost of which can be applied to any trail.
3. You have to be rich to backpack.
So here is. Hiking gear is expensive, and even if you have it, you probably need a car, plane ticket, or some other way to get to the trailhead. Not to mention free time to rest in the woods. There is definitely a certain privilege in being able to hike in the first place, and it shows in the demographics of most long trails (e.g. our Respondents to the AT 2021 survey were predominantly white and college educated).
That being said, backpacking on a budget is very much possible by buying used gear, opting for a minimalist setup that forgoes expensive luxury items, making full use of backpacker boxes, and avoiding the expensive “city vortex” of hotels and restaurants. . It’s not easy and it’s not the hike everyone would choose, but it can definitely be done.
If you don’t have the ability to take six months off, you may still be able to fit in a few overnight stays and long weekends around your work schedule. For those without a car, accessibility to remote trailheads is a major issue for which I cannot offer a perfect solution. Many communities have outdoor clubs that sometimes carpool to trailheads in exchange for gas money – far from ideal, but a place to start looking if you’re determined to go out.
Interestingly, the people who often have the hardest time affording a long-distance hike are actually often the most resourceful in the civilized world. If you have few possessions or financial entanglements, it’s relatively easy to get away to nature for a few months. The challenges multiply if you have a mortgage and a car payment to make while you’re out of work for six months.
4. All backpackers are minimalists.
In direct counterpoint to everything I have just said in the paragraphs above, it must be admitted that backpackers box be more materialistic. I’m a self-proclaimed minimalist who takes aggressive pleasure in judging people who like to shop and hoard stuff. I’m also someone who owns three of every Big Three item, four different sun shirts, and burns two to five pairs of trail runners a year. But who counts?
I’m not saying all backpackers are locked-in consumers like me, but there’s no denying that the outdoor industry is an unstoppable money-making machine, so I can’t be the only one. And in light of the ultralight gear craze, backpackers are spending more money than ever on gear designed to save you crazy weight for a few years before it breaks, tears, melts or breaks. disintegrate and go to the landfill.
What can we (Okay, okay, what can we I) do about it? Stop obsessing over the latest and greatest gear upgrades, take better care of the gear I have, and when I need to replace it, go for brands that balance weight savings with durability (because UL doesn’t need to be fragile).
READ NEXT – Zero Waste Hike on the Appalachian Trail
5. Backpacking is so much better than car camping
But is it so? I remember hiking in Lewis Mountain Campground, a forecountry campground in Shenandoah National Park, on my AT hike and aching for the spacious tents, elaborate meals, and good food. general hygiene of car campers there.
I love hiking, but honestly car camping is pretty amazing too. You can still sleep under the stars and take a day hike every day if you wish, but you can also change into clean clothes occasionally and eat a hot dinner including real fresh vegetables. When you wake up in the morning, you can linger over breakfast, and if you don’t feel like hiking that day, you don’t have to! Surprising.
I will never give up hiking, but to all hikers and day campers: I applaud you. You have clearly cracked the code.
READ NEXT – Motorhome equipment for all budgets
6. Hiking is a vacation.
I mean, yes, the hike offers an extended break from the working world for those lucky enough to try it. But while it’s definitely a voluntary activity, I don’t think “vacation” really captures the spirit of the company.
OK, sure, it’s hard to argue with the holiday BBQ vibes of a really good backpacker meal, and anything other than laundry that happens within the city limits is usually a party, and yes, the are some hostels on the AT that offer massages and the like. But other than that, it’s pretty grueling stuff, honestly.
Completing a long trail is a major undertaking. It requires planning, commitment and a high level of courage. It’s hard work and not always fun at the time.
Many hikers list their long accomplishments on their resume when applying for a job. Not only does this explain long absences from the world of paid work, but it says a lot about the character of the person.
So while hiking is (for many) a unique chance to take a step back from the routines of the working world, “holiday” is a bit of a misnomer. Maybe we should invent a new term. “Trek cation? “Endurance sabbatical?” “Character building ride?” I think I’ll stick with “through the hike” and let the term speak for itself.
READ NEXT – Why “Embrace the Suck” has to die
Until you hit the trail for your first backpacking trip, it’s hard to know what it will actually be like. And once you do go out, it could be completely different from what you expected. Ultimately, everyone’s experience will be unique: the only way to truly separate backpack myth from reality is to get out there and try it for yourself.
Featured Image: Graphic Design by Chris Helm.