Hiking: Myths and prejudices


I often encounter prejudices, myths, misunderstandings, ignorance and fears about hiking. So here’s a collection of various things I’ve heard about with my opinion on them. I constantly update and expand this list.

There are many preconceptions, misinformation and myths about hiking.
There are many preconceptions, misinformation and myths about hiking. (0.24MB)

General

Walking is boring.

In fact, the brain has a lot to do when walking . This is the reason why we don’t get bored while running, walking, jogging or hiking.

Apart from that, there is plenty to see on a hike, especially in beautiful scenery. Together with great hiking partners, boredom is impossible.

Hiking is easy, you just walk around.

No.
As soon as you look to the side in the forest and keep walking, you’ll be on the ground in no time. Hiking requires – depending on the terrain – full attention.

Hiking? I have too little experience for such expeditions.

Not all hiking is the same. In my experience, most official hiking trails are relatively easy and suitable for beginners. Specially marked trails or trails with a SAC grade above T1 (= normal hiking) are more advanced, exciting and challenging.

A hike does not have to last several days – one-day hikes are hikes, too.

Hiking is only for old people.

Quite the opposite! Not only do kids have fun outdoors, hiking is also for young adults.

I am too old to hike.

That’s not true, either. In addition to many young people, families and hiking groups, I repeatedly encounter retirees who complete challenging tours.

I am too unathletic/untrained to hike.

You don’t have to be an athlete to hike. As mentioned above, most marked trails are relatively easy and there are definitely trails of suitable difficulty and lengths in your area, too.

Hiking is relaxing/meditative.

No.
In nice weather, on a moderately-easy trail through beautiful scenery – maybe. However, this is rarely the case, especially if you hike more often and for longer periods (over several days).

If you approach the subject of (multi-day) hiking seriously, you should get used to suffering a bit and learn to love it. Personally, I now prefer to go hiking when it’s raining and less than 10 °C / 50 °F – there are hardly any other people out there and its a bit more challenging.

There are a lot of psychopaths out there.

I came across this on Reddit. In the US, it seems to be a classic prejudice. There are weird people out there, of course, and maybe more in the US than here (just a guess based on Reddit reactions), but I’ve never heard of it off Reddit.

Today, the weather is too bad for hiking.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing! Still, it might not be a good idea to hike during a hurricane ;)

Never go hiking alone!

Depends on a few factors: Experience, area, emergency accessibility, equipment quality and preparation. If you dare to do a (longer) hike alone and have prepared yourself accordingly, you can go hiking alone. But of course, hiking in a group is safer.

Sleeping in a tent sucks.

If you had such an experience, you did something wrong. A tent is not a 5-star hotel but a wonderful accommodation in its own way.

Equipment

Usually, you do not need much for a simple hike.
Usually, you do not need much for a simple hike. (0.27MB)

Hiking is free.

Theoretically, that’s true. Theoretically.
But: Not only do you have to get there and back somehow, but you may also need appropriate equipment. In addition, there are all kinds of unnecessary expenses for restaurants, cafes, souvenirs, swimming pool, sauna, …

Only beginners and sick people use walking sticks.

Especially experienced hikers appreciate the advantages (improved surefootedness/stability, distribution of weight, protection of joints, etc.) … even if it sometimes looks a bit stupid.

Quality has its price: The 850 € for this winter jacket are definitely justified.

No joke, the Therme SV Parka winter jacket for men from Arc’teryx cost €849.95 at Globetrotter (German outdoor store) at the time of this writing.

High-quality equipment is overrated.

Many think of expensive equipment when saying this. The higher the quality of equipment, the better, but it can still be inexpensive. Most brands are overrated and overpriced.

Without professional equipment, you do not need to start at all.

Many people confuse hiking with mountaineering or expeditions. You can hike even with regular clothes and little equipment. For example, I make day trips in everyday clothes, only my hiking boots with appropriate socks are a must-have.

Food

It does not always have to be (as here) special trekking food.
It does not always have to be (as here) special trekking food. (0.40MB)

Oh, the small bottle of water will surely do.

No.
Whether winter or summer, take more water with you – especially in summer!

Special outdoor food is overrated.

Ready-made food packed in plastic bags? Maybe. Food generally tailored to outdoor activities? Definitely not.

Instant noodles are enough for me.

Maybe for one day, but especially on longer tours, you want to eat real food.

On longer tours, you get deficiency symptoms.

If at all, a lack of magnesium can lead to cramps, but that’s about it and can be easily treated/prevented.

Clothing

I have my rain jacket with me, so I won’t get wet.

Haha, yes, you will get wet.

The term “waterproof” suggests that the material is indeed completely waterproof – but it’s not! Clothing with the tag “waterproof” has a minimum water-column it can withstand, but if you hike in the rain for a whole day, you’ll be wet afterward. Not everywhere, and maybe just a little bit at the jacket’s seams, but wet.

Sheep, merino, alpaca wool or cottom? There’s no real difference.

Yes there is!
The saying cotton kills has its justification. Compared to real wool, cotton doesn’t provide any insulation when wet. There are also differences between the other types of wool, which should be preferred over cotton.

I don’t leave the house without my functional breathable merino viscose shirt.

All materials have advantages and disadvantages, but most functional clothing mainly has great marketing effects and is not always necessary.

A good map and some basic navigational skills are enough in most situations.
A good map and some basic navigational skills are enough in most situations. (0.06MB)

A paper map? I have my hiking app.

Only as long as you have electricity, but unfortunately not every tree has a power socket.

Moss always grows to the north and rivers always flow to the south.

The thing about moss is partly true, but only in the northern hemisphere, only further away from the equator and only because moss likes a humid climate. Rivers always flowing south is nonsense.

Animals and plants

Pretty much everything out there wants to kill you.

On the contrary, most of the stuff out there is afraid you are about to kill it.

There are wolves/bears out there, I don’t go outside one meter more.

In Germany, the wolf returned in around 2000/2001 and there hasn’t been any fatal attack on humans since then, according to the WWF . Most people will never get to see a wild wolf in their life.

Similar story with bears, snow lions and whatnot: Don’t approach wild animals, know how to behave (when to run, scream, etc.) and likely nothing will happen.

Safety

There are plenty of dangerous situations out there, but you don’t need to be afraid if you prepare accordingly
.
There are plenty of dangerous situations out there, but you don’t need to be afraid if you prepare accordingly . (0.29MB)

Nothing can actually happen on a marked trail.

Prepare yourself, even for easy hikes. You should at least know the area roughly, how to get back and where difficult places are. Knowing where (managed) huts, farms, roads or settlements are can also be helpful in an emergency.

Surely I don’t need a first aid kit when hiking?

Hopefully not, but who knows. But what does it cost to have at least a small first aid kit with you? Most of the time, it also comes with tick tongs, which can be helpful.

You can just call 911 and they will save you.

The emergency call is not a cab service!
An automatic transmission of the cell phone location is also not guaranteed, especially rescues from not passable areas are associated with a tremendous effort (and costs!). Prevent an emergency with careful planning and attentiveness!

Without pepper spray / bear bells / shotgun / … I do not go out.

Don’t exaggerate. Especially bear bells can have the opposite effect and make animals curious. Wild animals usually notice people very early and disappear even before we notice them.

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