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I wish I would have known...

What is something that you wish you would have known when you were just getting started in your favorite outdoor activity? 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
6 Replies


I would have liked to have known that I didn't need a thing for every possible trail contingency, like comprehensive repair kits and whatnot. My first backpacking trip way back in the 80s consisted of a massive 50+ lb. load because I had all sorts of stuff I didn't and wouldn't need in my pack. 

As a related thought, it's always great to encourage newcomers by telling them that they don't need any fancy gear or clothing to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the simpler, the better, at least for starting out. Once they develop some experience, they can make more informed choices about what gear they might need to enhance their adventures. 

@Sweet-Tater, I completly agree. After the essentials, so many other items are a matter of personal preference. I wish I would have known how essential a sleeping pad and additional layers were to my warmth and comfort on my first backpacking trip. Like you, I had lots of unnecessary things with me but nothing to keep me warm.

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

yep, they say we 'pack our fears'.

I wished I knew how to read a topo map when I first started out backpacking.  I eventually learned (In the Army, and became quite decent at it, I hope!)

It has occurred to me that many adults don't know how to read a topo map, because there aren't that many resources to learn, unless of course you want to teach yourself, then the material is everywhere.

I was lucky that my high school ROTC and later college ROTC, and infantry training (when I was drafted) was heavy on the topo map skills.!


REI Member Since 1979

I wish I'd known that going solo would be so amazing.  Yes, my pack is heavier because I have no-one to share the weight.  And there are times when I've backed off a mountain because I had no support if I got in trouble.  But the solitude, the time for contemplation, the self-reliance, and the tiny joy of meeting someone after days alone is beautiful.  My voice has occasionally surprised me when I speak again.  But then, I sometimes talk to myself, too.😃

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Man, this is such a good question. Looking back at the last 8 years, I really wish I would have learned to read a Topo map early on. I also wish someone would have told me to pack light. Early on I packed a variety of misccelaneous items and was way too overprepared that at the end of the day I never used even half of what lay inside and ended up giving most of it away.  My first short term trip outside the US (3 Months) my bag was stuffed to the brim, and that was BEFORE I bought additional trinkets). I was about falling over from the weight! Light and easy. Less is more. Wilderness First Aid is a major benefit as well.

@Dee2020 thanks for contributing! Seems like several folks wish they'd known to pack less - I'm still guilty of over-preparing with lots of random items I may need just in case!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.