How to choose the right hiking buddy

Choosing the right hiking buddy shouldn’t be a problem. If both hikers have the will, and enjoy spending time outdoors, then you’re good to go.

But there are a few considerations you should take into account when making this decision.

Durability & Distance

One of the greatest things about hiking is its infinite variations on distance. From short casual rambles to epic multiday hauls, hikers can easily adjust distance requirements to suit their durability levels.

It’s fairly important to pair up with somebody who’s in the mood to hike the same distance as you. I’ve been on hikes where I felt like I could go on forever, but the person I was with was totally beat. I was a little bummed we had to make camp earlier than expected.

Sometimes your potential buddy will talk a good talk about how rugged he/she is, but when it comes down to it, they just don’t possess the durability it often requires to take on burly routes.

On the other hand, it will work out great if the two of you prefer low-key strolls.

Skills

Skills play into the durability and distance factor. The longer, more technical the hike, the more skills you and your buddy should possess.

You and your buddy can get away with wearing flip flops and T-shirts on those short walks through the woods.

Both of you are going to want to know how to read maps, find water, administer first aid, and much, much more if you plan on staying a few nights out there.

Outdoor skill levels vary greatly. You probably won’t enjoy being the only person on an overnighter who knows how to do everything.

Gear

An equally important consideration, gear also boils down to short casual rambles versus epic multiday hauls.

Relying on cheap gear between the two of you is acceptable if you’re cruising around the woods for the day.

Try using the same subpar gear on longer trips, and you’ll regret every minute of your life.

I’ve been on a few overnighters with hiking buddies whose gear was complete garbage. We’d have to stop often to adjust their faulty pack straps, leaky hydration tubes, and more. It can become frustrating for the one hiker with decent gear.

If your buddy doesn’t have the proper gear, but really wants to spend a few nights in the wild, suggest rentals. It will keep both of you happier in the long run.

What do you look for in a hiking buddy, if anything at all?

My favorite hiking buddy meets all the requirements. She's durable. Her outdoor skills are excellent. She has great gear. And she just so happens to be my wife. High five!

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28 comments

  1. LOL to John…NEVER going hiking with YOU!

    Eric – I say Field Trip!!! I think hiking in the woods with a bunch of nutball different skill level and who knows what kind of equipment as our guide would be good for you and fun for us….no…fun for you and good for us 🙂 FIELD TRIP FIELD TRIP

    1. we are going on a field trip!!! WE ARE GOING ON A FIELD TRIP!!!! yay yay yay….YOU HEAR THAT GUAPMAN????? FIELDTRIP!!!!!! BE AFRAID!!!!

      I really should hold back on the obnoxious til we get to the woods huh… I wouldn;t want him to cancel the trip and I think he got a great discount on the short bus…. you remember the short bus? I do.. not but anyway…I;m excited excited I wanna HIKE. I got really crappy gear in fact I have nothing… when is this again I gotta pencil it in…hey can my kids come? LMGAO just KIDDING…. that would be horrible talking all the time and blah blah blah blah blah blah…….. SO glad they aren;t invited. OK gotta go shopping…

  2. Looks like I was spanked a lot by your considerations. The thing is, I was hit by your commentary on subpar gear. I’m guilty here. Having said that, I agree with what you said: decent/expensive gear should really be the choice. We should not compromise our safety into the wild so we might as well carry decent gear. I’ll put that in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I really do think you can get by with subpar gear. Never let that deter you from an all-out adventure in the woods. But if you’re looking to be comfortable over a long-term period, consider an upgrade if it’s feasible.

  3. Usually preferring to go it alone, I do have a few buddies I enjoy going out with. My friend BJ, mostly because he’s ‘extreme’ and makes me do things I’m unconformable with. I should clarify that, he never intimidates me into anything he knows I can’t handle….but he will expect, and challenge, me to at least try. My gear is pretty decent, could always be better. I do enjoy the company of others, especially those more experienced than I. But any more than 2 others and every single decision about stopping, eating, camping becomes a freaking committee meeting….

    Another excellent post Eric!

    1. I’m glad you mentioned the committee effect! It drives me crazy, too!

      I remember talking with a guy who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail who said he loved being on the trail alone. He decided when to get up, when to stop, when to have lunch, when to do everything!

      You put 4, 5 people on the same trip and sometimes nothing can get done.

  4. Interesting article :). Imo, that would be a buddy that doesn’t overload their bagpack + can carry all of their stuff by their own + responsible + can adapt their speed with the remaining distance and the remaining daylight time so we don’t end up bivouacking on the scary ridge 🙂

    1. Good point on everything, especially carrying all of your own stuff. Nobody wants to be burdened by having to carry somebody’s stuff on the trail.

  5. Amen! Finding another person who hikes just like you is a tough one. Separating from a buddy isn’t the best plan either. You’re a lucky person when you find a good hiking partner!

    1. Finding the right buddy on short trips is no big deal. A few miles of out and back shouldn’t be a problem. It’s those bigger trips that concern me. Your hiking buddy can make or break a trip for you!

  6. I find that my partner is a very different hiker than myself (he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and I just started backpacking with him), but we make it work through dedication. I have excersise-induced asthma that slows me going up hill, but I always stick it out and he knows what motivating words I need when it gets tough. But as we have kept hiking through New Zealand and Australia my stamina and breathing has much improved and now I’m almost pushing him more! So, I found that at least for me, you don’t have to be on the exact same level, as long as you’re close enough and willing to give it a good go.

    1. Great point, Lisa. Talk about a pair of extreme opposite hikers! If you enjoy spending time with your hiking partner, you’re probably going to try to make it work, no matter the difference in skill levels. Thanks for pointing that out!

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