Not planning your hike
Planning is an essential part of your hiking trip. Not just picking your destination but many other things that happen between the time you leave your home to the time you return. Guidebooks and maps are important parts of your planning process use them. Read more about this here.
Unless you live in the area you’re hiking in you’ll most likely need to travel some distance. So planning begins before you hit the trail. Your plan should include travel to and from the trailhead, checking your car for readiness, your time frame, meals, gear which is right for the season, weather forecast, and lodging if needed.
Also, what is the backup plan? In the mountains, you may find roads or trails closed for many reasons, check with your DOT or land managers during your planning process.
Planning equals being ready and not being ready is the number one reason people need to be rescued. If you are just getting started here are some things to think about.
Not using a checklist
We have checklists for hiking and backpacking. Gear lists for all seasons and environments. The 10 essentials and so on. Use them. Your memory is not as good as you think. Using checklist will significantly increase the likelihood that you have what you need.
Don’t do this the day of your hike only to find out that your snowshoe straps are broken. Which leads to the next aspect of using checklists. Checking – not only that what you have is there but that it is in good working order.
Having a solid plan is great. Congrats! However, you must share the plan with someone you trust. I do my plans in writing. They tend to be specific. What trailhead(s), trails, time, mountains, general routes on bushwhacks, campsites, etc. Keeping your plan to yourself helps nobody, it makes getting help to you that much harder.
I email it to whomever I left the plan with and print a copy and leave it in my car for quick access for any rescue crew. Most likely a search will be initiated because the person I left my plan with will call and can tell them the plan is “in the car” or since it was emailed it simply can be forwarded to the person heading up the search.
Forgetting to sign in
Sign in and out at ALL registers. There are many reasons why people don’t sign. None of them good. You may come upon several points where you come across registers during a hike, sign them all. Signing helps in a few ways. First, it tells any rescue crew you were there. Second, it provides land managers valuable information on usage which may equal improved assets in the area. Finally, it tells other hikers how crowded a trail may be and they may decide to change a plan. Read more about trail registers.
Going it alone
Yes, I’ve done it and if you are a seasoned hiker you have probably done it too. Hiking or backpacking alone. If you are new to hiking (or seasoned) it is better to hike with at least one other person and in reality probably more. Let’s face it if you are alone and seriously injured your chances of survival are greatly reduced.