There are lots of good reasons to look for a hiking partner – company, safety and some new ideas for hiking snacks, just to name a few. But chances are, you don’t want to go hiking with just anyone who’s available. In fact, some of the people you love the most might be the last people on earth you’d want to be in a challenging mountain environment with. But is there such a thing as the perfect hiking partner?
Truth be told, there isn’t a certified list of criteria for what makes a good hiking partner, though owning a good pair of hiking boots is a good start. In fact, finding the right hiking partner has a lot more to do with you than it does the other person, as in, what is it that you actually want to get out of hiking with someone else? Figure that out, and you'll be on track to find the perfect trail buddy.
Whether you’ve moved to a new area and are seeking new trail mates, your old hiking partner has moved away or perhaps you’re just plain tired of hiking alone, we walk you through some factors to consider when choosing a hiking partner for your next ramble, scramble or trek.
1. Similar goals
First, it’s helpful to find someone who has similar goals to you when it comes to hiking. Let’s say you love to bag peaks, sometimes multiples in a day – you’re probably not going to enjoy hiking with someone who prefers a leisurely stroll and isn’t too bothered about the destination when it’s all about the journey anyway. Clearly, the opposite is also true. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, they just don’t align very well when it comes to enjoyment or making sure that no hiker is left behind. You’ll both be happier if you find someone who’s more in harmony with your approach than if you try to bring the other person around to your ways of doing things.
2. Shared values
In addition to shared goals, shared values are going to come in super handy when it comes to hiking with someone else. Naturally, we hope your hiking values are largely in line with general hiking etiquette, and rules such as leave no trace, wildlife safety, not cutting switchbacks and understanding who has the right of way. Obviously, a potential hiking partner might just not be aware of the dos and don’ts of hiking, and you should consider it your duty as a steward of nature to teach them, but if after a few hikes they’re still tossing their orange peels in the bushes or blasting music on the trail, it might be time to move on.
Seeking out trustworthy people to spend time with is a good idea for many walks of life, but the consequences of playing pool with someone unreliable are a bit different from those of adventuring in the wild, where a wrong turn can be deadly. You want to be sure that your hiking partner will show up at the allotted time, work together with you if you get lost and bring all the hiking essentials such as water, snacks and a first aid kit so they’re not draining your resources unnecessarily. Even if things get a little hairy, this means you’ll both be able to stay calm and confident. Most importantly, if you get sick or injured, you want your partner to stick with you or know how to get help.
No, your hiking partner doesn’t have to be the fittest person on the planet, but you want to make sure their fitness is comparable to yours, unless one of you is really willing to slow it down (which indeed, you might be). If you like to keep a brisk pace, you might not want to have to stop every 10 minutes to let your partner catch up, and they probably won’t feel very good about being left in your dust either. Similarly, if you’re the slow hiker, don’t beat yourself up running after a gazelle, just find someone whose pace matches yours.
A bit like fitness, there isn’t a perfect experience level for a hiking partner, but rather you need to understand your partner’s experience level. Are they a beginner? That’s no problem, as long as you’re willing to show them the ropes and don’t plan on leading them into a situation they can’t handle. Are they more experienced than you? That could be great if you’re looking to push your boundaries, but again, you want to make sure that they’re trustworthy and won’t lead you into danger, and that their hiking goals match yours.
6. Complementary skills
It might seem like finding someone whose hiking style and approach is similar to yours is the safest bet, but that’s not always true. In fact, it can be really awesome to find someone whose skills complement yours and fill any gaps in your knowledge or expertise. Let’s say your navigation skills could use a little work – finding someone who can teach you a thing or two about how to read a map and how to use a compass would be brilliant. This doesn't just come down to the survival stuff either – if you tend to hit every trail with the same old cheese sandwich and apple in your backpack, a hiking buddy who lays lunch on gourmet style could literally change your life in the hills.
7. Good company
Last, but certainly not least, you want to find someone who you actually enjoy spending time with and again, that’s a really subjective qualifier. If you love chatting on a walk, find someone you can establish a really great rapport with. Are you pretty comfortable with a friendly silence on the uphill (or prefer just trying to breathe while hiking)? Then someone a little more taciturn might be less annoying. Again, there’s no right approach, just the right person for you.
How to find a hiking partner
So you know what you’re looking for in the perfect hiking partner, but how do you actually find one? Well, hiking groups are a great place to start and chances are you’ll find at least one nearby if you search social media. You can start out with the group and if you find you gel with someone, perhaps make separate plans with them for a duet hike another day. In the US, the website Meetup.com is a social media platform designed for finding friends to explore common interests with. Another option, if you have the funds, is to go hiking with a guide who may then be able to introduce you to other clients they think you’d get on well with.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.