Hiring a backcountry guide is a great idea for all sorts of reasons, but that is for another article. In short, if you’re looking to go backpacking in an area that you have never been or unfamiliar, hiring a guide can cut the learning curve substantially. Guides provide the latest and greatest in backpacking intel, show guests the ropes, and some of the lesser known sites guests would never find on their own.
Regardless of your backpacking skill level, some guests provide guides with moments that make us cringe. And so that you stay on your guide's good side (no one wants to be that guy), here are some cringe-worthy things you can do to ensure you will be left out for the bears.
Not being physically prepared for your hike - We can never stress this enough - not taking the initiative to ensure your physical ability to complete the backpacking trip you signed up for is a burden on your guide, the other members of the group and yourself. Do everyone a HUGE favor, believe us when we say you need to train and actually do it! Your guide does not want to carry your gear, hike you out early or slow the entire group down to turtle speed because you decided walking the dog 3 days a week is enough to backpack Yosemite or Grand Canyon for 4+ days. Here are some ways to know if you are not ready to go on a backpacking trip.
Bringing improper gear and clothing - I don't know how many times I have told people NOT to wear denim on a backpacking trip and guess what? They have the entire denim outfit in tow - shirt, pants and jacket. Sweats are no better. They are bulky and either have "Juicy" across the butt or should be worn with gold chains. Having the proper clothing and gear is essential for a backpacking trip. But it varies depending upon season and location. Hiking in the desert in June? - wear cotton. Hiking in Yosemite in the middle of December? - better have a lot of warm but lightweight clothing to keep you warm. Just be certain you follow all the gear lists and recommendations provided to you for your trip. Guide services do not hide this information from you - unless they love to make their own lives miserable. Here are some other mistakes backpackers make.
Asking how much longer, every five minutes - What can I say? It is annoying. You'll get there when you get there and constantly asking will not get you there any faster.
Not listening to your guide - Your guide is a wealth of information. You paid good money for a guide service for a reason, so why do you now not listen to her? She knows the area and how to manage the backcountry better than most seasoned hikers, understands the climate, terrain and so much more. Yet, you insist that your dress wearing cat is way more important and interesting than the dangers you might encounter on your hike.
Being a know it all - This goes with the not listening part. But instead of just being pre-occupied with everything that has nothing to do with your trip, you know everything your guide knows - and then some, even though you have never been there. Here is a tip - you cannot learn how to hike a place like Grand Canyon through YouTube videos. Hands on experience is the best way to learn and that is what your guide is giving you. If you already know everything, keep it to yourself or don't go on a guided trip - no one else cares and it is a distraction. Besides, how many times do you hear about the "experienced" hiker that got lost in the backcountry?
Asking about your guide's sex life - Seriously!! This happens a lot so just knock it off. It's also a bit creepy.
Second guessing your guide's decisions - Every trip a guide leads has a new challenge, whether it is the weather, an injured hiker, difficult guest (like the guests this article is referring to), trail closure, etc. Your guide has a lot on his mind already and will have to make a choice that works for the entire group but that you may not like. Your guide has experienced issues on the trail - trust me - and if they make a decision, it is based on prior experiences. If it is hot, you may have to get up before dawn to hike, or if a trail is closed, you may end up hiking more mileage or missing part of the planned trip. But, the encountering the unexpected is part and parcel of going out in the great outdoors. Let your guide make the decision and stick with his plan. The intent is always in the best interest of the group.
Not eating or staying hydrated - Do you want to have a fun and safe trip? Eat food (salty and sweet). Drink water. None of this, "I don't eat carbs or I hate the taste of water." What!?? That makes no sense and is not a valid excuse to not make certain you are keeping your body properly fueled.
Adding the element of surprise - I don't mean a surprise with cake, balloons and confetti. I mean the surprises like "Hey, I forgot to mention to anyone that I am a type I diabetic" or "in the middle if chemotherapy treatments" after you have hiked all the way to the bottom of Grand Canyon. You must be forth coming and fully disclose any and all medical issues you have - before you go on the hike - preferably when you are asked weeks to months before the hike even starts. If something happens in the backcountry, your guide needs to know what to expect and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Not following the rules - Whether you are on a guided trip or not, there are many rules set forth by Park Services, Forest Services, and BLM on what is allowed on the land you are visiting. There is also standard etiquette and Leave No Trace Principles to follow. Then, when on a guided trip, there are even more rules. Regardless of how ridiculous they may seem to you, rules are rules and they are in place for excellent reasons. If your guide says you need to carry out your TP, please do it. If she tells the group to stay together, please do that too. Rules don't detract from the fun. They are pretty basic, easy to follow and mostly based on common sense.
Being a diva - Making demands or complaining is not going to make your guide your best bud. It may even result in you getting less attention. OK, so you need your coffee, we all do. But your guide may have some other things to do first. Let him take care of what is necessary before placing all your demands. Complaining about bugs, weather, pack weight, sore muscles, trail conditions, lack of 900 thread count sheets or anything else outside of anyone's control does no one any good, so just don't do it. If you are inclined to complain about trivial things or have unachievable expectations, don't go on the trip - super simple.
I am sure there are more, but these are unfortunately all too common, but also avoidable. Just be a good follower, do your part and enjoy the ride!