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Let's Have Your "Lessons Learned...The Hard Way", (Don't Be Shy!)

- Learn how to read a map/navigate

- Keep sharp things away from your air mattress 😞

- Take enough time to acclimatize to high altitude!!!!

- Check the expiration dates on those Hand-warmer packets!

- Don't let your breakfast water freeze.

- Don't pitch your tent in that nice looking low spot.

REI Member Since 1979
21 Replies

What an excellent topic!  Although I am sure all of us read authoritative manuals thoroughly, follow their precepts, and never experience any difficulties, I have strayed occasionally, and can offer a few examples.  Is there a limit to the number of posts one person can make to this topic?

Always carry enough water (especially in southern Arizona).

We were venturing into a range none of us had ever visited before, guided by a 25 year old USGS topo.

On the way toward a ranh shown on the map, our car overheated and we put nearly all our water into the radiator, thinking we could replenish at the ranch.  Arriving at the now deserted ranch, there was no water source we could find.

Being dauntless heroes, we commenced hiking - after all, there were springs shown on our map.   We had a great hike, but soon ran out of water, the springs now also being dry.  Fortunately, clouds were beginning to form, and it soon started sprinkling.  I was walking with my tongue out, trying to catch rain drops.  We finally encountered a check dam in the stream we were following, filled with dark, relatively stagnant, absolutely wonderful water.

I drank my fill, replenished my canteens, and we returned without further incident.  I experienced no after effects from drinking copiously the stagnant water.


2) If you are seriously dehydrated, drink whatever water is available, even if you can't treat it.  Whatever bug you might catch, can be medically treated, once you get back to civilization.  Of course, it is an even better idea to have the means to treat water always with you.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I'd say...keep 'em coming!

REI Member Since 1979

Yup - my lesson learned is to always throw a few purification tablets in a pocket of your pack, even if you're not anticipating being out very long. They weigh almost nothing and can save your butt if you run out of water on a longer-than-anticipated day hike or if your filtration system breaks on an overnight trip! I was hiking a 14er with a friend when our steripen's batteries died. We were borrowing it and had mistakenly brought the wrong batteries (we had AAA but it took AAAA). We had to drink unfiltered water for the rest of that trip. Luckily we were high in the mountains and the water was incredibly clean, but we all would have felt much better if we'd thrown in a few purifcation tablets.

YES! Not having enough water is never a situation you want to find yourself in. Remember, water shortages don't occur in the dry deserts, but in other environments as well - for example, if you are somewhere extremely cold, all of the surrounding "water" may be ice, and trust me, trying to melt blocks of ice for water SUCKS.

I have lived in Tucson, AZ for 4 years and I always have a jug of water in my vehicle when I leave the house. 

After a close call in the middle of the Catalina mountains in summer, when going anywhere in the outdoors, I always make sure to bring more water than I think I will need (last thing you want is to be stuck outside longer than expected and to run out of water!). 

You can also identify natural water sources if you are going to be in the back-country for a while. Just remember that ideally you should treat all water before drinking it. And don't 100% rely on the water from those sources (they might not always be filled with water)- with the increasing ambiguity of the climate, water sources may change year-to-year and season-to-season.

Also remember that while sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you have no way to treat water and your only source is natural, drinking bacteria-infested water may cause diarrhea, which will actually dehydrate you more. If you find yourself in a bind, try to find running water (stagnant water tends to be not as "clean" - i.e. tends to have more dirt/bacteria). Also be wary of where the natural water source originates - last thing you want is to consume water that has been contaminated by a toxin/chemical (or by feces... I learned the hard way not to trust untreated water downstream from an open cattle range)!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Some of these are not directly mine but some of them are...

When planning to used trail runners with some miles on them for a thru hike with sparse resupplies,  consider at least getting new insoles and testing them out before you go.

Don't go on a long day hike the day before a wilderness backpacking trip wearing your cotton everyday socks to "save your good socks for the real stuff"!  Not unless you want to start out with nasty heel blisters anyway.

Weigh your food for a multi-day trip.  Assuming the sort of food people generally take backpacking,  if you have a lot more than 2lb a day for a 3 season trip you are probably taking too much.  If you have a lot less then you are probably not taking enough.  In either case do some further analysis and make sure you are carrying the right amount of calories to get you through comfortably...unless your goal is to be uncomfortable of course. 

Unless your trip is somewhere that freezing cannot occur,  always keep your water filter with your in your sleeping bag at night as a habit.  Freezing can damage it,  there is no way to tell and doubting its efficacy can spoil your trip...not as much as it actually not working might but...




Leave the booze behind when you head outdoors....

I say this partly as a result of personal experience (on a couple of occasions I have woken up in my sleeping bag with a noticeable hangover and no remembrance of how I got into my bag), but also as a result of SAR experience,retrieving mangled victims and the dead bodies of those who have overindulged in alcohol and other substances.

We encountered some many cases where booze was an obvious factor in the incident that I reduced my intake considerably and now drink only occasionally and lightly.  I can only say I wish I had done so sooner.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@hikermor  oh man!  that is a good one, applies broadly!  just say'in.

story time:  we were 'imbibing' adult beverages around the camp fire after dinner, when it was very dark and I was tippsy, I wandered off into the forest to find my bear hang cord, and couldn't find it.  Being loopy didn't help.  From that time on I switched over to a bear cord with reflective properties so my headlamp could actually help me!

REI Member Since 1979

- DON'T IGNORE that hot spot on your foot!! Tape it up ASAP!  Don't try to tough it out to keep up with your group.

- Put you headlamp in the same spot every night in your tent so you can find it when you have to!

- Check your headlamp batteries - before it gets dark!

(telling this one for a friend)

When you gotta do what you gotta do....sometimes it's ok to dig your cat-hole, as your....second step in the 'process' 😂


REI Member Since 1979

A quality headlamp is well worth the money invested.  Don't go cheap on this item....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.