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Hiking Groups:
How To Select The Right One

If you're a social animal, you're instinctively drawn to hiking groups.

Why?

Let me count the ways...

Hiking trail along ridgetopThe trail feels a little less lonely in hiking groups.


  • You like to chat while you hike.
  • Solo hiking doesn't interest you - too much planning and decision making.
  • You want to meet new people.
  • You feel safer on the trail with lots of people around.
  • You want to pick up some new hiking skills from more seasoned hikers.
  • You'd rather just show up and let someone else take the lead while you enjoy the hike.
  • You like to carpool to a trail head, reducing your carbon foot print.
  • You're new to the area, and don't know the best hiking trails yet.

Any or all of these reasons make finding a group to hike with a great idea for you!


But here's the thing...

Before you jump into a group, consider your answers to these questions:

*How much structure can I tolerate before, during, and after a hike?

*How flexible am I with my available hiking time?

*Do I want a mixed gender group? A mixed age group?

*How far am I willing to drive to meet up with my hiking group?

*How much input do I want into hiking destinations, types of trails, and other decisions?

*Are there fees for joining the hiking group? If so, what are the fees used for?

*Can I afford new gear, clothing, or gadgets in order to fit in with a particular mind set?

Once you know exactly what type of group hiking arrangement you're looking for, it's time to find the perfect set of hikers for your hiking style.


Types of hiking groups

As you read through these descriptions, try to picture yourself hiking with these folks. Would they make ideal hiking companions for you?

Hard core mountaineering groups

The attributes of this type of social group include:

  • highly structured and regimented approach,
  • focused on attaining a goal,
  • leader-dominated,
  • may require taking classes to build skills before being allowed in.

Serious hikers only in this hiking group!

Informal, casual groups

This type usually springs up organically from a cluster of hiking friends/families. You may be invited by knowing a member of the group, or a friend of a friend.

Expect this type of hiking:

  • light hearted, companionable trail time with revolving members,
  • may be dog and kid friendly, or not - be sure to ask before your first hike with them.

Organized regional groups

These tend to be loose collections of hikers of all different skill and interest levels. Hikes are arranged at various times of the year, and whomever shows up is "the" group that day.

Membership "rules" are very relaxed.

Attributes:

  • various skill levels, so you may end up mentoring others, or learning new trail skills,
  • friendly, non-competitive hiking,
  • may not hike in less than ideal weather conditions,
  • may run a forum and post invitations for new members,
  • may allow you to join the forum and post without actually being a member (see below for why that's helpful).

Theme groups

Hikers who self identify in various ways often get together to day hike or plan backpacking trips.

Examples:

  • LGBT,
  • seniors,
  • females,
  • photographers,
  • training for a long trail,
  • peak baggers,
  • trail maintenance junkies.


Advantages of hiking in a group

Many hikers love the benefits of hiking in a group, for these reasons:

  • safety against predators,
  • first aid help if needed,
  • camaraderie,
  • new friends,
  • potential romance,
  • broadening of hiking horizons,
  • skill building,
  • building a shared set of memories,
  • not waiting on the sidelines to get out there and explore.


And the flip side: disadvantages

Being a member of a hiking group might not be for you due to:

  • loss of control over hiking pace and decisions,
  • inflexible scheduling,
  • scheduling conflicts,
  • personality conflicts or friction,
  • cancellation due to weather which may not seem all that bad to you,
  • divergent hiking philosophies,
  • bullying in terms of hiking pace or expectations.

  Finding the perfect match for you

The perfect group is not going to fall into your lap.

In fact, you're going to have to do a bit of leg work (which should prepare you for some tough hikes) to find them.

Here are ways to do just that.

Electronic searches

One option is to look for MeetUp groups in your area, using key words such as "hiking" and "outdoors".

Keep your eyes open for local websites and forums that publish trail reports.

  • If you join the online community, you can ask for companions on your upcoming hikes.

Low tech approaches

I've had luck with posting my quest for trail buddies on bulletin boards in local book stores and coffee shops.

  • Be sure to create a free email address that you use only for this purpose. You can always delete it if it's spammed.
  • And having little tear off stickers with that address on it makes it easy for others to contact you.


Take a class at a gear store or community college related to the type of hiking you like best. There are bound to be other hikers looking for trail buddies.

  • Related class topics like local botany, wildlife tracking, outdoor photography and birding may also connect you with hikers.


Go on a few low risk solo hikes and chat with any solo hikers you meet on the trail.

  • Maybe next time you can team up.

Spread the word that you're on the lookout for a hiking group to all of your friends and co-workers.

  • You never know who knows another hiker who can open that door for you!

The easiest way to find
ideal hiking partners

I've saved the best suggestion for last!

You can use HFH's Hike With Me database to find a trail partner, and that can form the nucleus of your new hiking group.

Read all of the details here.


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Hiking Groups



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