One of the best things about the great outdoors are the people. This community is filled with so many amazing souls. But just like with anything, people don’t always align.
When I started hiking and backpacking in college and shortly after graduation, I didn’t have any friends that wanted to run around and do the crazy stuff I wanted to do. To go backpacking, and peak bagging, and spend days at a time in the backcountry. All of those things we’re all itching to get out and do. So I made hiking friends (here’s my full blog on how to make hiking friends).
But I quickly learned that just because we all love hiking, doesn’t mean you always align with the person. Especially if you’re carpooling, backpacking, and so forth with someone, if you find out you two don’t really get along or your hiking styles are different, it can ruin any trip really quickly.
Choosing hiking friends is like choosing a partner. You need to make sure you agree on important points before getting serious together.
Which is why in this blog post, I’m going to outline important conversations you should be having with potential hiking partners. Especially if you’re planning multi-day backpacking trips, or multi-day camping and hiking adventures.
1. Make Sure You Actually Like The Person
First and foremost, you need to make sure you actually like the person as a person. It’s like going on a first date with someone you met on Tinder and quickly realizing you don’t actually like this person but now you’re stuck with them for 2 to 3 days.
That’s no fun.
FaceTime or video chat with them first. Meet up for coffee, drinks or even lunch – do this one especially if you’re going on a multi-day trip.
Yes this is a bit like dating, but it’s important. Finding good hiking friends is just like finding a partner in life and dating. A bit frustrating at first, but amazing once you finally find your crowd.
2. Hiking Speed
You want to make sure that you and the other person have the same hiking speed. Otherwise, everyone ends up frustrated. The faster person is frustrated because they need to wait or are taking longer. While the slower person ends up feeling bad that they’re holding someone back, or spend the whole hike feeling like they’re playing catch up instead of enjoying themselves. Basically, it’s not a fun situation.
This is why this conversation is so important.
If you have a fear of being too slow and holding the group back, this conversation is even more important. Because instead of torturing yourself with worry or playing catch up when hiking, find people who hike at the same speed as you.
3. Start Time
You also want to have a conversation with the other person about what time they like to start hiking.
Personally, I’m a get up, take sunrise photos (since I’m a photographer, I usually shoot during sunset and sunrise on trips), make breakfast quickly, pack up, and get out of camp kind of person. Depending on the trail, I’ve even gotten up and started hiking at 3am. I don’t like hiking when it feels like it’s a million degrees outside. Especially if there is a steep and exposed section. So I like to get an early start. This is why when I’m planning trips with others, I always talk about the starting time. I’ve hiked with people who enjoy getting out of camp at 10-11am. They feel rushed in the morning and I’m miserable mid-day. Again, no fun.
Whether you’re like me or like to spend more time in the mornings, just make sure to address this early on so you’re both on the same page.
4. Experience Level
You also want to talk about their experience level and yours. How much hiking and backpacking experience do you have? What about them?
This conversation is important because you should know if they’re a complete newbie, or if you are, they should know. It’s just one of those things that you should learn about the other person to see where you both level up. Especially if this is a more challenging trail.
If you’re worried that no one will hike with you because you’re a complete newbie, this isn’t true. There are plenty of experienced hikers who don’t mind going with someone newer. Or you can find someone who is also at your experience level.
Discuss how many miles you’re both comfortable hiking or backpacking in a day. What about elevation gain. You don’t want to get there and find out that the other person has never done more than 2 miles and you just signed up for 10 miles.
6. Camping Styles
This point piggybacks off of some of the earlier points, but your camping style is basically how do you like to camp? Do you like to make a fire when there is no fire ban (here’s how to build a responsible campfire) and hang out at night? Do you like going to bed right after sunset? Do you like getting up early?
Find someone who likes to do similar things as you. Otherwise, if you like building a campfire and staying up later and they like going to bed right after sunset, this might not be a well aligned partnership.
7. Hobbies Along the Trail
Before I dive into this one, I want to share a story. So I’m an outdoor/adventure photographer, and when I go hiking, camping, backpacking, or any other outdoor activity, I like to take my camera and take photos. I enjoy it, and I get to come home and write blogs, and use those photos to inspire you to get outdoors.
I originally never thought of this as an issue. But it did become one quite a few times. If I want to stop at a cool view point and take photos, sometimes people who aren’t into it, get impatient and unhappy about it. Which is fair, but this is something that’s important to me. Which is why I always talk about my hobby while hiking… photography. Because I want to make sure I’m hiking with people who are cool with me taking photos.
So if you have any hobbies like this, address it.
Like I said, finding hiking buddies is like dating and finding a partner. You need to align. And if you don’t, that’s cool. There are so many people out there who are into hiking and who have similar styles as you do, that would love to go with you. You just need to take the time to find them and not be afraid to have these important conversations.