Look at the picture above. A good trail path, easy to follow, right? But say it’s mid-day and overcast, and you’re not paying attention. You stop to break and remove your backpack. You void on the right side of the trail, come back over the trail and snack on the other side. You grab your camera, cross back over again and take a picture. Back and forth you go, cropping pictures, poking around, and when you pack up to leave, you head off in the opposite direction from which you came.
Happens more than you might think. Especially when everything looks the same, as in this picture.
Tip: Pick the same side-always-and lay your poles, or something, on that side. I’m right-handed, so I always lay my poles on the right. When I pack up, I’m never confused about direction.
And the most important time to do this–when you tent at night. Have one pole tip pointing in the direction you want to head out in the morning. Twice, on thru-hikes, in the morning, I saw another thru-hiker poling to me, as I hiked toward him. We both knew one of us was heading wrong, because both times we knew each other and our mutual goal. One of those times I was wrong. Not anymore.