• Free standard US shipping on orders $50 or more

  • Free Returns and Exchanges for U.S. orders

  • Now Shipping Internationally

10 Common Outdoor & Hiking Myths (That Aren't Totally True!)

10 Common Outdoor & Hiking Myths (That Aren't Totally True!)

By: Sylvia Karcz, Contributing Blogger

Hear something enough times and you’re bound to start thinking there’s a bit of truth to it. Recreation in the outdoors is no exception. 

When it comes to hiking and other nature-fueled activities, plenty of adages and myths have made their way into that almighty Adventure 101 handbook; so much so that we accept some without debate. Let’s dive into a handful of popular beliefs that should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. 

1. Getting to the summit is the main goal. 

There’s a misconception that if you haven’t reached the end point of a hike, topped out on a summit, or simply finished what you personally set out to accomplish outdoors, you haven’t “succeeded.” And that’s simply not true! While personal goals and challenges have weight to them and test our willpower in the best of ways, experiences don’t have to be defined by a certain endpoint. Often, we need to turn back because of weather, terrain changes, or because we start feeling off- and that should never be viewed as a failure. If you’re outside, connecting with nature and using the power of your body to get from one point to another —however long that distance is— that in itself should be celebrated. 

2. Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot. 

Simply put, it can and it does. Multiple lightning strikes can for sure happen in the exact same location, both as part of a storm cycle and a future weather event. In the context of hiking, it’s important to remember because if you’re out during a thunderstorm with the potential for (or active) lightning, seeking safe shelter —somewhere away from isolated trees, ideally in a depression in the terrain, like a small gulley— should be a priority. Never lie flat on the ground, and try and make yourself as small as possible. 

3. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. 

Let’s be clear here: having adequate gear for the weather and terrain at hand is super important. That said, you do not need the most expensive or high-tech clothing and equipment to get outdoors or plan a grand adventure. When Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay first summited Everest in 1953, they lugged roughly 45 pounds, wore wool jumpers, and had climbing tools most modern mountaineers wouldn’t dare take on an expedition. Yet, they made it! Not because of the gear they had, but because of their skilled training and perseverance. At day’s end, great gear is a spectrum. While it’s important to take proper precautions to stay safe, and there’s no denying good quality is good quality, having older gear, heavier gear, or off-brand gear shouldn’t be the reason you say no to an adventure! 

4. If you’re lost, always seek higher ground (or a river.) 

It’s often true that reaching higher ground will offer perspective as to where you may be in a certain wilderness area, and that following a river, stream, drainage, or other water source will eventually lead somewhere downstream and “downhill.” Unfortunately, though, both of these recommendations often do far more harm than good if you’re truly lost on a trail. Like with most scenarios in life, it’s all circumstantial and should be viewed as such. If you’ve been lost for days, that’s a whole thing in itself! But if you’re out on a hike and just realized you’ve veered off course, the best action is usually to either methodically retrace your steps (especially if you have a map or GPS source) or, simply, to stop moving. Taking a moment to calm down, group, and heighten your awareness might allow you to notice nearby hikers or trail markers that have been overlooked. 

5. Hiking & coffee don’t mix because it dehydrates you. 

I’m a coffee person, through and through, but I’m also a passionate hiker. Can the two worlds get along without leaving you gasping for water on the trail?! You bet they can. While most regular coffee does contain caffeine and caffeine is indeed a known diuretic —meaning it’ll make you want to pee— research shows that coffee’s water content is more than ample to balance this diuretic effect. So, myth debunked: coffee does not dehydrate you. By no means should you replace all of your water intake with it, but there’s no need to completely avoid your favorite coffee before or during a hike. 

6. You need hiking boots for hiking. 

A quality pair of hiking boots can undeniably add confidence, support, and a certain sense of reliability to an outdoor adventure. Do you need them, though? Not at all. Plenty of hikers have found that using lightweight trail runners, approach shoes, hiking sandals, and heck, sometimes even Crocs, will do the job just fine. The tricky part comes when heading into more technical terrain. If you plan on scrambling rocks, crossing numerous streams, or expect muddy conditions on a hike, hiking boots reign supreme for the all-around durability they provide; especially for those not used to other forms of hiking footwear. They usually also offer more support for those who have a foot/ankle injury or condition to contend with. 

7. Cotton kills. 

Let’s get one thing straight: fabrics do not kill people; circumstances do. Are synthetic hiking clothes typically more sweat-wicking and quick-drying than cotton? Indeed. Is merino wool absolutely wonderful for thermoregulation? You bet it is. Will cotton solely be the reason you don’t finish your adventure or succumb to hypothermia or hyperthermia? No way! While it is true that cotton stops insulating once it becomes wet, if you’re not wearing just one cotton shirt in cold, wet weather, it’s by no means going to be the demise of your trip. Understand the fabric’s limitations, plan ahead, and if anything, bring extra layers- and cotton should perform just fine for most hiking scenarios. 

8. You’ll be warmer in your sleeping bag in the buff. 

This myth has its lovers and haters. Some fiercely stand behind it and others think that “bulking” with layers is the best way to stay warm in your sleeping bag, but the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle (although it’s largely personal preference, too.) Insulation is insulation, there’s no question about that. But unless all of your layers are soaking wet and need to be dried, there’s just no need to strip down completely when camping in cooler weather. A lightweight base layer set usually transfers heat best, since that “loose insulation” regulates your body temperature and allows the needed space for your bag to do its job and form a barrier of warm air around you. 

9. As long as you drink from a fast-flowing water source, you’ll be okay. 

With this myth, it’s a bit of a numbers game. While every water source on your hike is not likely to be contaminated, there’s just no way to know for certain on the spot. And bacteria in water is real, friends, and not something you want to contend with. Even though you may have taken water from a certain stream dozens of times and never gotten sick, that next time might be the one that does it. So, just do it: filter your water! Filtration devices are super lightweight these days and they usually won’t break the bank, so play it safe if refilling from water sources on the trail.

10. Everything in the outdoors wants to kill you. 

Come on now, nature’s not some horror show! While it’s true that the outdoors can often be unpredictable and there’s a level of risk associated with every outing outside- life in itself is risky, no? Sure, animals can get defensive in certain scenarios and potentially cause a negative encounter. Sure, there are plenty of rocks and trees that might give your body a beating if you happen to slip or fall in the wrong spot. Sure, plants do exist with the capability to give your skin wildly uncomfortable rashes and certain insect bites can really, really hurt. But adventuring in the outdoors is not some man versus nature battle. Our prized outdoor spaces offer some of the most inspiring, challenging, stimulating, and humbling experiences available to human beings. There’s no need to fear the unknown within them.