A mile and a half after leaving the shelter in the morning halfway through my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I realized I’d forgotten my umbrella. Dark clouds sat low on the horizon, threatening rain. I was tired, and in Pennsylvania, where the rocks made every mile feel like three. The last thing I wanted to do was turn around, hike back, and find my missing gear. I did it anyway, and spent the rest of the day dry but grumpy.
On the PCT, a hiking friend forgot gear so regularly that Shake ‘n Bake joked his plan was to get other people to carry everything in his pack. We’d pick up his trekking poles from hitching spots, then chase him down the trail to try and return them. Almost every hiker has a story about leaving gear behind, and then either having to backtrack miles to find it, or detour to town to replace it.
There’s one simple tip that can help save time and money. Just do a dummy check. A dummy check is simply where you check your spot right before you leave. Get into the habit of doing a dummy check every time you get up after a break, before you get into a car, after you get out of a car, and when leaving camp in the morning. You need to do it every single time, so you build a habit and never forget. People commonly leave items behind while hitching, so pay particular attention then.
Dummy checks also help you practise leave no trace. If you’re busy checking to make sure you haven’t forgotten gear, you’ll also spot any microtrash you’ve left behind.
It may sound obvious to check behind you for forgotten items, but so many hikers learn the importance of the dummy check the hard way. Learn from our mistakes, and you’ll never have to replace lost gear.