Travel Tips

Here’s Why You Suck at Hiking: 30 Most Common Mistakes by Newbie Hikers


So, you finally tried this whole “hiking” thing huh? Maybe once or twice? And realized that you sucked at it.

You’re probably right.

But don’t worry! We’ve all been there. In fact, some of us learned the hard way. Ehem…

NOTE: These are based on my experience, knowledge and observations. Even though I’ve already gone through major climbs and have medical background (registered nurse here) – if you feel like the information isn’t enough or inaccurate, I suggest you consult a qualified health care provider who can assess your condition. 

Avoid doing these 30 things and one day you might just become a hiking pro!


You fail to make a plan.

When you fail to plan then you plan to fail. I get it, being spontaneous is exciting but we’re talking about venturing to unknown places and you don’t want to go out in the wilderness unprepared. By planning a trip you will acquire information about the technical complexity of the trail, predetermined time to finish the hike, expected weather conditions and get an idea of the area where the hike will take place. This information will help you to pack the right equipment (whether if it’s only a day hike or camping), set a turnaround time, as well as avoid problems with the navigation later.

Many parks and hiking areas often publicize the difficulty ratings of trails and it’s important that you don’t ignore them. There are websites such as All Trails, Hiking Project, Traillink and Pinoy Mountaineer that provide these information and if you want to go in-depth, try to visit their websites or search their official page on Facebook.


Here’s a quick guide to choosing a hiking trail.

You choose a trail, that’s above your capability.

If you plan to conquer Mt. Guiting-Guiting (difficulty 9/9, trail class 5) for your first hike, you are surely going to have a bad time. For first time hikers, it is recommended to choose one suited for beginners, also known as a “Minor Climb.” Pick a trail that won’t kill you after the first hour. You don’t want to push yourself to the point of exhaustion or end up feeling discouraged or defeated. There is also a risk of being injured. Start small and I guarantee, you’ll be glad you waited (and prepared) before taking on higher peaks.

Things to consider:

  • This is not always about the distance. A short hike with a big elevation gain can be tougher than a long, flat hike.
  • Gaining elevation can cause altitude sickness which can range from a terrible nuisance or worse, death if you develop fluid on the lungs/brain. Even extremely fit individuals can suffer from altitude sickness. If you are huffing and puffing on regular hikes, it will be worse at high altitudes.

Also, when you choose a mountain, look up dangerous sections and situations, and past accidents of your destination, and make a decision comparing them with your party members’ skills.


You’ll have to climb up there to get to Peak 10 of 12. And this just a is minor climb.

You don’t prepare for the battle.

If you think you can just hop off the couch after a long layoff, slip on your shoes, and hit the trail… Think again. Most trails are uneven and have at least some elevation gain, so even the easiest hike such as Mt. Bikay in Laguna (difficulty 2/9) requires balance and strength to avoid injury. You need to prepare both physically and mentally. Starting with cardio –  swimming, cycling, brisk walking or jogging – all of these are great preparation for an adventure. If you don’t have time to do all these there are tons of good cardio exercises you can do at home that require no special equipment or skill such as jumping jacks, half-jacks, squats, leg raises, hops, and even plank-jacks.

If you have preexisting medical conditions or overweight, have yourself checked first and seek medical advise from a licensed physician.


These speed demons like to eat 12 kilometers for breakfast. And that’s just an appetizer! 

You forgot to pack your first aid kit or packed the entire pharmacy

The most common hiking injuries include blisters, muscle cramping, and scrapes & abrasions so be sure you’re prepared for it.

I had hikes that we’ve invited beginners with us – unfortunately, most of them didn’t carry first aid kits, some didn’t even have rubbing alcohol. First aid is your priority when it comes to packing and it doesn’t have to be over the top. As long as you have the essentials that you can handle any medical situations.

If you have an underlying medical condition please bring your medications with you. There was an incident when one of the hikers started to hyperventilate, good thing I had a paper bag with me (I purchased some items prior to the hike and me being lazy decided to just shove it inside my backpack – including the paperbag).

It is also smart to have first aid and CPR knowledge.

You don’t to test your gear before you hit the trail.

The least you want to do is to bring equipment that you do not know how to use or that do not function which you wont be able to use and can only add weight to your backpack. Before you hit the trail, be sure to thoroughly test your gear and aim to complete a trial run  even if it’s just in your backyard.

Example: You don’t have a backpack for hiking so you “improvised” and went to use whatever you have. Be sure to check the zippers and straps. Try to pack ahead and see if you can carry the weight of your bag or if your backpack can fit everything that you need.

Example 2: For “technical” equipment such as tents, stoves and the like, it might be enough to just learn their handling. Nothing is more annoying than arriving at your camping spot all tired and pulling out your tent for the very first time ever, reading the manual and finding out, that the pegs are not suitable for the kind of ground you’re on. It’s also a good idea to “rain test” your tent.

You don’t review your gears and supplies carefully.

In relation to the above, do a packing check where you fit all your stuff into your backpack some days before you finally pack all your stuff for the journey. If you find out then, that you have too much things to ever fit into your pack, you still have some time left to think about what is not urgently necessary or save to leave at home. Check if your first aid kit has enough supplies and that they’re in good condition.

AFTER THE HIKE: Check your equipment for damages and if it’s wet, wash it first and hang them dry immediately so they’d be ready for your next hike.

You fail to check the weather forecast.

A little rain never hurt anyone, as long as you are prepared with the proper rain gear. Getting caught in a severe thunderstorm is another story. Sadly, common sense is not so common as some newbie hikers ignore this and would still go even if the weather is far less than ideal.

The morning of your hike (and even before you head out), check the local weather and see if thunderstorms are predicted. This will give you valuable information on how to dress and what to pack. If the weather is forecast to be awful, it will give you the chance to change plans instead of getting surprised on the trail.

Some awesome weather websites:

Or you may search if the park/mountain has an official Facebook page or website. They usually post updates regarding the weather or temporary closure/rehabilitation.

You don’t eat breakfast.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Starting the day with a good meal will contribute to improved performance than hitting the trail in while dying of hunger. The meal should be low in fat and fiber, high in carbohydrates and contain some protein. The goal is to eat enough to provide fuel while allowing enough time to digest the food before hiking. Avoiding sugary/sweet foods, which lead to an energy crash during an activity and foods that you know affect your bowels (if you’re lactose intolerance, avoid consuming dairy products).

I suggest eating oatmeal, eggs, fruits, veggies (like carrots, dark leafy greens and beets), nut butters, and lean meats (like poultry or fish, it provide a protein punch without excess fat). And if you’re embarking on a really long day hike, pasta provides excellent energy (this is what I eat before I do marathons or trail runs). Try not to eat too much as too many carbohydrates as it may end up weighing you down instead.


Breaky before the hike. 😀

You don’t let others know of your plans.

This is probably the easiest but most neglected task. At the very least, tell someone (who isn’t hiking with you) where and when you will be hitting the trail. You don’t have to bombard them with text but at least send a message with the hike website and inform them that you’ll be back at a certain time. If something happens, they’ll know when to alert the authorities and increase your chances of being found dramatically.

Is it safe to leave a note in my car? It depends. But leaving a note on a windshield is an open invitation for a break-in.


You started too late in the day.

Set off in the morning so that you have more daylight hours to hike and you won’t be pressured to walk fast. Also you don’t want to go hiking in the middle of the day specially during summer because of the very unforgiving heat. If you’re planning to to camp, you don’t want to arrive at the base camp late and set up your tent when it’s already dark.

You don’t stretch before and after the hike.

One less talked about topic is the importance of stretching. Do some warm-up exercises before the hike. The purpose of this is to “wake up” the muscles by engaging them in a range of motion that does not exceed a person’s stretching abilities. This allows your body to get used to being active gradually.

“Ugh! Why do I need to stretch? I’ll only be walking for the most part.”

Gym rats do cardio before lifting, runners do warm-ups before a marathon, boxers and MMA fighters do drills (and even circuit) before they engage.

We have this thing called “lactic acid” in our body and it accumulates in our muscles whenever we do strenuous activities like hiking. This lactic acid build-up causes muscle pains, cramping and overall body discomfort.

Stretching before engaging in any physical activities not only warms up and loosens the muscles, but also increases circulation (bring more oxygen to your blood stream), heart rate, flexibility, and overall performance.

After the hike, allow your body to cool down – this helps bring more oxygen to your muscles, which can reduce lactic acid production.

“Whatever, Polly. It’s a waste of time. Walking is already an exercise.”

You may not feel it while you’re hiking but you’ll be sore all over and too tired to function (or even get up) the next day.

You over pack or under pack.

Packing too heavily will weigh you down, slow you down, and exhaust you early. You can avoid early fatigue and muscle strain by just packing what you need. Think about how long and difficult your hike will be, and try to pack accordingly.

On the other end of things, some beginner hikers set out with nothing at all – that’s a huge mistake. At the very least, a hiker should have water with them.

Try not to get tempted when packing, some tend to shove unnecessary things in their backpacks “just in case” they’d need it. Again, this is why you need a plan.

You went solo.

Group hiking or being outdoors with others is usually much safer than hiking alone. Imagine being in the wilderness, miles from civilization and twisting an ankle, or hurting yourself in another way. That would turn a fun and recreational experience into a life-threatening one. If you are hiking in a group, someone can always go get help, or at least help carry your backpack so that it is easier for you to get back to civilization and get help or treatment.

You wear new footwear on your hike.

“What a stupid idea. Who the hell does that?” you ask.

*Slowly raises hand*

In my defense, I had another hike just 4 days after my old hiking shoes got ruined so I had no choice but to wear the new one and didn’t have enough time to break it in. 😛

You finally purchased a new pair of hiking shoes but before venturing be sure to get acquainted with it. You’ve fitted them in the store, walked it a few meters/minutes and didn’t feel any discomfort at that time.

Right after purchasing them, try using them around the house (give it an hour or two), climb up and down the stairs, or stand on them for awhile. Use the same pair of socks that you will be using when you hike. This way, you can better identify sources of pressure, uncomfortable friction or pain (if any). Be sure to keep the receipt if in case you need to return it.

No friction or pain? That’s great! Now try them around your neighborhood for a short walk and identify if there are issues. It’ll also help soften and stretch the shoes’ materials, and conform to the shape of your foot and your walking style.

Trust me, doing a six-hour hike with shoes fresh from the box will be an experience you won’t forget – and not in a good way.

***TIP: When shoe-fitting, bring a pair of socks that you will be using on your hike preferably made of wool or synthetic fibers as they wick away moisture from your feet and thus help prevent blisters.

You wear inappropriate footwear.

Blisters, blackened/loss toenails, sprained arches, bone spurs, plantar fasciitis –  are actually entirely preventable in most cases, even if you plan to hike a long distance.

Comfort is the key to an enjoyable hiking experience but unfortunately many new hikers do not invest in shoes or boots that are designed specially to offer comfort, prevent injury and that lasts. Your shoes should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere and offer room to wiggle your toes. If your foot is sliding around too much, either front to back or side to side, you’ll have friction, which leads to blisters. If your boots are too tight, your toes will be curled and possibly smashed, especially on downward sections of the trail.

Aside from comfort, you may also want a pair that’s durable. Hiking shoes or boots are made from different materials compared to your regular street/rubber shoes.

I highly suggest to go to outdoor shops like Merrell, Salomon, The North Face or if you’re in the Philippines, R.O.X. Department stores may offer a variety but the clerk selling it may not have an experience or enough knowledge. And quite frankly, their focus is to sell you shoes.

***TIP: Cut your toe nails (too long can rub against your shoes which can cause serious discomfort, too short do not provide enough support for the ends of your toes).


My first hiking shoes didn’t survive my third hike. It was comfortable alright but like I said, you’d want a pair that could take a beating.

You wear inappropriate outfit.

The goal here is to be comfortable in uncomfortable situation. Again, this is why you need a plan. If you’re hiking on a hot weather, you need to wear clothes that are breathable, moisture-wicking and quick-drying like drifit. Avoid cotton if you can – any cotton clothing touching your skin will only absorb your sweat like a sponge and it wont dry quickly. Same goes with wearing denim, when it gets wet it doesn’t dry quickly. Plus it’s not ‘stretchy’ enough.

If you’re hiking on a rainy day, be sure to bring extra clothes as ‘layers’. Hypothermia is your enemy here.

You went off trail – for whatever reasons.

Curiosity? Need to shortcut? For bragging rights and ego boost after the hike?

For the sake of your own safety, the environment, your  fellow hikers and potential search party – it is wise to stay on the trail especially if you are new. The goal of having an established trail system is for the people to enjoy nature and at the same time minimize the effects of human-induced damage on the environment.

Wandering off to an unfamiliar territory especially on the wilderness is too risky and it requires a lot of careful preparation – I’m taking about solid navigation and survival skills. You could get lost and not find your way back before the dark, you could encounter wildlife and get attacked, or find yourself wandering off to some switchbacks and narrow trails. I would be lying if I say we don’t go off-trail sometimes but trust me, there are paths and trails out there that even the fittest person isn’t ready for.

It’s only me and my hike buds, how much harm can it do? It may be true that there’s only minimal impact but keep in mind that there are also those who want to take on unbeaten path. Repeated trampling and scuffing can cause large-scale erosion, damage on  vegetation, disruption of wildlife and increased muddiness of trails.

Even if you’ve hiked this trail a gazillion times, it is still best to take the road more traveled. Most experienced mountaineers acknowledge the added dangers that comes with it.

Or you enter closed off trails.

These trails are closed to public for a reason and it is best to not enter it. If you hike on a closed section of trail without permission you may be trespassing. Second, it could be unsafe. Be a good “guest” and practice these:

  • Stay on the trail.
  • Leave all gates open or closed the way you found them.
  • Hike quietly; respect landowner privacy.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
  • Remove any litter you find.
  • If you bump onto the landowner or family members, greet them and thank them for hosting the trail.


Bryan entered a private property. Don’t be Bryan.

You step carelessly.

Be careful and watch where you are walking, especially on slippery areas or near cliffs. Stick to dry paths and solid rock areas with good footing. If you want to take pictures, do it on trails with even terrain.

There was an incident in Mt. Batulao when a newbie hiker slipped to her death on one of the cliffs.

Stay away from rapid waters and slippery slopes. Do not attempt to cross streams during flooding, moving or white water, or any time you cannot be certain of the water depth. If you plan to cross any rivers, plan and prepare to do so safely.

6 students died while crossing Pangasaan Creek in San Jose, Bulacan while 9 hikers were injured with cuts and bruises.

Watch your step, especially if you are stepping over logs and around rocks where snakes may be hidden. If you do come upon a snake, keep your distance and go around it. Don’t attempt to kill it or move it from the trail.

You don’t drinking enough water or eat enough food.

Drink before you get thirsty. It might sound counter-intuitive, but thirst suggests that you’re already behind in the hydration game. Bring water that could sustain you through out the hike.

Eat before you get hungry. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop and cook on the spot. TRAIL FOOD guys, TRAIL FOOD! Bring something that’s easy to unpack and at the same time can help sustaining energy. There are tons of trail food to choose from such as mixed nuts and seeds, chocolates, dried fruits and granola bars. I love jelly ace and trail mix!

How much food and water should I bring with me? Ideally, you should carry at least 2 liters of water. For trail food, I’d say it depends on your consumption.

How about our meals? This is actually your preference but I’d suggest you bring something that’s easy to prepare and clean up. And it should be enjoyable too!

In one of  my trips, we had a low key party up in the base camp – we had Spanish-style pasta, burgers, donuts, pizza, booze and one of my buddies brought a whole roasted chicken which to be honest, I’m still wondering how he manage to. #mindblown

You ignore storm signs.

Here in the Philippines, even during the dry season, weather can be unpredictable so it’s best to keep monitoring the weather. Early-morning starts are best. Most thunderstorms tend to happen in the heat of the afternoon. Avoid hiking under adverse weather condition. If possible, turn back as soon as you can. The mountains won’t go anywhere, you can explore it when the weather is better.

If you’re stuck in heavy rain, leave the water course immediately. If it starts thundering and lightening, don’t stand on hill tops or near any highly conductive objects. Keep away from trees and masts which are likely to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter immediately. And you should not lie down especially when the ground is wet. Instead you should crouch down to minimize the area of contact between you and the ground. Don’t touch water or wet objects.


The weather was fine that day but mid-afternoon fog started to form.

You continued up when you’re lost.

If you find yourself lost and you can’t your way back to the trail or camp, remember the acronym: STOP

  • STOP – Stop, stay put and stay calm. Don’t go anywhere chances are you might be heading off to the wrong direction. Sit down and try to breathe from your belly – this turns off the overactive sympathetic nervous system (a.k.a fight or flight, or the “stress response”), which helps you relax and think clearly.
  • THINK – Retrace your steps in your head. Look around if you see any notable landmarks or trails that look familiar.
  • OBSERVE – Take out your compass or GPS. Figure out which direction you need to go.
  • PLAN – Based on the three points above, you’ll be able to make a plan. Again, don’t wander aimlessly if you aren’t sure.

This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t go off-trail specially, if you’re new to hiking. You need a solid navigational and survival skills to make it out safe.


You don’t stay together.

Letting the Mamaws (fast walkers/hikers) speed ahead while letting the slower ones fall behind is a recipe for disaster. You could get separated and communications while visiting remote areas can be a struggle.

  • Encourage the speed freaks to slow down, or assign a leader in front who sets a moderate pace.
  • Designate an experienced hiker as a “sweeper” to keep any slower hikers from following too far behind the rest of the group.
  • Stop and wait for the entire group to catch up at all trail junctions, turns, or confusing sections.


Among the group, Cliff and I are the only marathoners it’s why we volunteer to be “sweepers.”

You don’t set a turnaround time.

How long will it take us to finish the hike? That actually depends on so many factors that include your fitness level, how heavy is your pack, pace of your walk or hike, experience  you want and how much time do you have left. Regardless, you should stick to your predetermined time to ensure you finish hiking before the sun goes down hence it’s important to start early.

You have so many things dangling off your body or backpack.

Gears or items that don’t fit inside the backpack can be attached to the outside with carabiners but as much as possible, try to avoid it. Hiking poles, reusable water bottles, or other items dangling off or swinging back and forth on your pack can pull you off balance, get caught on branches along the trail, hit other things or people and in general, it’s just sort of annoying. Remember, the more “compact” you make your pack the more comfortable you can carry it.

You don’t hike at your own pace.

This is a hike not a race so there’s no need to rush. The slow and steady hikers typically collect more miles during the day than the those who race down the trail. And if you do want to pick up the pace, then focus on hiking quickly on flat and uphill parts of the mountain. When you walk downhill, take your time and do not strain yourself. Instead, walk in small steps, and do not run down the hill. Speeding downhill puts a huge amount of stress on your knees. Been there, done that. Regretted it.

Besides, the main goal of any hike is to enjoy the beautiful scenery, walk in a serene environment and of course, the company of fellow hikers.

Some miss the whole point of the adventure and focus on the destination. There’s no need to rush provided the weather is great and you started early, this isn’t a race so just enjoy the journey.


After scrambling my way up to the peak, I was rewarded with an absolutely stunning view. #TrailClass3 #HappyHiker

You don’t listen to your body.

Rule of thumb – You should always be able to comfortably carry on a conversation as you hike. If you’re tired, “take five” (take five minutes of hiatus from what every you’re doing) to replenish the energy store of the body and relax the muscles.  Use this break to grab a snack and remove your backpack to rest your back. Don’t push yourself too hard specially if you’re in the beginning of the journey. If something is aching, take advantage of your breaks and check what is causing it.

I couldn’t climb with them on that day, so my hike buddies greeted me on my birthday while they’re resting somewhere in Mt. Marami. Thank you guys! <3

You neglect your feet.

Developing blisters is such a bummer! Not only it is painful but it can prevent you from continuing your adventure. Some newbie hikers are embarrassed to take their shoes off around people during breaks even if it has been hurting for some time. Trust me, it’s okay. We don’t mind. You can ignore the pain for a bit but if you don’t prevent it, you’ll end up feeling miserable through out the hike.

Your foot can move around quite a bit when hiking, especially if you’re wearing the wrong type of shoes. As you walk, the movements generates friction which eventually causes your skin to break and blister.

Sweaty feet can increase your chances of getting blisters, or even worse, an infection. Make sure you take time to periodically let your feet air out in the open air, and make sure you carry an extra pair of socks to swap out those nasty sweaty ones. Slap an adhesive bandage (or some duct tape) on the hotspot. When it’s sunny, hang the used socks behind your backpack and they will dry, assuming it’s sunny. Really, it’s okay.


This was actually a trail run, and my first too! I asked if we could rest because man my feet were throwing profanities already. We’re at 3/4 of the 25 km (15.5 miles) trail.

You eat wild plants and drink untreated water.

Unless you can positively identify them, try not to eat anything that looks edible. Not all plants are edible, and some edible and poisonous plants look similar. Never drink untreated water.  Unfortunately, most sources of water in the wild aren’t necessarily safe to drink without treatment, no matter how clean and clear they may appear. Water sources in the wild often contain harmful microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

Waterborne diseases symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after infection and cease after 1 to 3 days with a competent immune system.

Should you need to refill your bottles, you can ‘treat’ water through:

  • Boiling (though no amount of boiling will remove chemical contaminants like pesticides or chemical spills)
  • Iodine treatment – Liquid 2% Tincture of Iodine (add 5 drops per quart when the water is clear. Add 10 drops per quart when the water is cloudy). Some people are allergic to iodine and cannot use it as a form of water treatment.
  • Portable water filters like Katadyn or Lifestaraw

Too much hassle, just bring your own darn water.

You do not follow LNT principle.

Whatever you bring to a place, make sure to bring all of it back home with you. Do not leave any garbage while outdoors: wet wipes, leftover food, tin cans, plastic containers, and so on. Leave what you find, meaning not picking flowers or collecting rocks. Do not vandalize on the rocks or write words on the trees.

Never approach wildlife and keep your distance. That close up photo is not worth the risk.

hiking-101-hiking-tips-014 Not your trash you see on the ground? Doesn’t matter. Pick it up!


You don’t reward yourself.

Conquering a mountain is no joke and for me, I consider it an achievement. Filipinos love to eat. I don’t know. It’s just part of our culture, I guess? After each hikes, we celebrate by stopping at any nearby restaurants to eat, rest and socialize before we head home.


#TeamOrayt post-hike early dinner in Batangas (that time we were  craving for bulalo)


I’m a smoker but I want to try hiking, when can I start? 

You can start as soon as you want no one is stopping you but you’ll find it difficult specially if your fitness level is relatively low. Most of the mountains here in the Philippines is not just a “walk in the park”, you need strength and a bit of endurance. And building endurance, you need to learn how to breathe more efficiently. But to answer the question, I used to smoke cigarettes and I was able to survive the ordeal – only because I’m active (and that time, I was in the process of kicking the habit). Comparing it to when I was a smoker and after I stopped, I wish I quit sooner. 🙂

I’m drunk, can I still climb tomorrow?

If you find it difficult to find balance – don’t. Geez! Stay home and get some sleep. I was slightly tipsy when I first climbed Mt. Gulugod-Baboy. We also had a few shots at the campsite the night before we climbed the peaks of Mt. Batulao. Oh boy, it was a bit of a struggle. Alcohol affects mental function and cognition. Drinking prior to a climb is risky and dangerous as it will interfere with concentration, judgement, and behavior. You need to be aware and alert of your surroundings during the hike. Avoid drinking alcohol before the hike or if you can’t, limit your intake.


Hiking itself is already risky but this shouldn’t stop you from exploring beautiful destinations! After climbing and running on 15 mountains in the Philippines – some twice and thrice – most hiking-related accidents are due to hiker’s lack of knowledge, poor decision-making, over confidence, or negligence but this can be avoided by equipping yourself with basic hiking skills and knowledge, right attitude and… Common sense.

How was your first hiking experience? Did you encounter any of these? Is there anything that I’ve missed? Do you have any more suggestions? I’d like to know by leaving a comment below!


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Polly Amora

Polly Amora is a Filipina businessperson based in Manila, Philippines. She's a life-long learner who is extroverted to the nth degree, speaks 4 languages, loud & talkative, loves adventure: mountains, beach, and the city. Throw her anywhere and she'll manage life like a pro. Ice cream and beer are her weaknesses.

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  1. Adventures with Shelby says:

    Sometimes I forget about the trek back and go to far!

  2. Here winter has already begun. I will remember these tips for next summer:)

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