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Male Hiking Partner:
Choose Yours Wisely

Rushing mountain river surrounded by rocky outcrops with two hikers exploring the banksExploring with a male hiking partner could tempt you out of your comfort zone.

If you're in the process of choosing a male hiking partner for an upcoming backpacking trip, or even for a few day hikes, let's get one thing right out into the open.

This potential trail guy falls squarely into the "no romance or possibility thereof" category.

There's no sexual chemistry, no undercurrent, no daydreaming along the lines of "what if?" on either side of the equation.

  • This is a friends-buddies-brother type of guy.

If you want a few ideas on hiking with a significant other, read this page.

  • 'Cuz that's a whole different universe!

So let's get down to the nitty gritty

Expect anatomical differences between you to affect your own hiking pace.

A guy trail buddy, who has a bigger testosterone:estrogen ratio than you do, therefore has stronger muscles and a larger body mass.

That means he can probably out-hike you in terms of elevation gain, but not necessarily in terms of endurance.

  • His stride length is longer.
  • His pack is heavier.
  • His muscles can keep going while yours are exhausted from a long pull uphill.

[Please forgive me if your male hiking partner is not up to your physical prowess on the trail. I'm only speaking of the most likely anatomical scenario here. Blame the damn testosterone!]

This means you may find him waiting for you at a switchback, raising his eyebrows at your slower pace.

Or charging ahead to find a prime camping spot at the lake :)


Varying levels of ability on the trail

There are varying levels of ability on the trail, that's just a fact.

Two women hiking together may be wildly mismatched.

But when you're hiking with a guy, at least in my experience, you should EXPECT to be a bit mismatched.

I can only speak for myself, but I've noticed that my gifts lie along these lines:

  • I have better balance and more endurance over the course of a long day, especially on steep snowy slopes, than my male hiking partners.

While the guys I've hiked with can charge up the trail much more quickly, and can log double digit miles each day without complaint for days on end.

They also seem more impervious to mosquito assaults, lack of personal hygiene, and cold weather.

With a new male hiking partner, watch for these differences and then decide if they're deal breakers, or if they could make you a strong hiking team.


Male hiking partner expectations

Your expectations for a male hiking partner might go something like this:

You want a clear-headed, experienced, enthusiastic, and reliable hiking partner with a strong skill set.

But be prepared for the fact that a guy's version of enthusiasm and yours might not sync up on every hike. It just goes with the gender territory.

Which brings up the delicate matter of communication

For your own safety and peace of mind, you should be hiking with a male who checks in with you, asking:

  • how you're doing when conditions get tough,
  • if you're ready for a rest break,
  • if the steep slope you're hanging onto by your ankles is getting a bit tedious (ha! don't count on that one).

Not every five minutes, of course.

But a check-in once in a while is greatly appreciated, and should be reciprocated.

Unnecessary risks: just say no

You should also be hiking with a guy who won't take unnecessary risks, as in:

"The water is only up to my thighs, let's go!"

Or my all-time favorite: "It's only thundering a little bit."

If you can't squeeze the word NO out of your lips, practice in the mirror at home until it glides out easily in the face of danger.

No room for inflated egos on the trail

And should it even have to be mentioned?

You should be on the trail with a man who is not out to prove anything in terms of how quickly he can gain the summit, how far he can hike in one day, how long he can last without a water break.

Those types of hikers, male or female, are just not worth your trail time.

Ways to make it work

So what keeps an opposite-gender non-romantic hiking relationship strong?

  • a good sense of humor when the hail pours down on your heads,
  • cooperation to reach a common goal,
  • ability to see things from a different perspective,
  • willingness to lead or be led,
  • the freedom to speak your mind without feeling stupid or wimpy,
  • acknowledging each other's strengths and working together to overcome or compensate for deficits,
  • and taking turns bringing cookies.

Bonus pay-off!

Here's the bonus pay-off in hiking with a guy trail buddy: there's ample opportunity to push yourself just a little bit, or a lot.

  • A guy may be more willing to go off-trail and work on backwoods navigation skills.
  • Or he may see things along the trail that escaped your notice entirely.
  • Or may have a bit more gas left in his legs at turn around time, and can entice you to ramble over "just one more" boulder pile to see what you can see.

What I'm getting at here is that it's nice to stay within your comfort zone, but it's also nice to be challenged.

But make it clear that you get to define the limits of the challenge, and there should be no loss of face, or squashed ego, if you say "No thanks!" to the suggestion of taking a few dicey steps of exposure in order to gain a summit.

I'm not suggesting that females can't challenge each other on the trail.

That's not the point here.

Sharing trail time with a guy can open doors to new skills, new ways of seeing, new meaning to your mental definition of "long hike", "hard hike", "normal elevation gain", and other hiking benchmarks which define you as a hiker.

My strength and endurance have improved a lot from hiking with guys. And I've bagged a few peaks I didn't think I could!

Bright blue sky highlighting unnamed mountain peaks with a female hiker in the foreground


Different experience?

If your experience with a male hiking partner differs from mine, I'd love to hear about it.

I'm also interested in your examples of male/female disconnect on the trail.

  • I've already shared 2 of mine: different tolerance levels for water crossings and lightning.

You can contact me using this bright green form. Looking forward to your thoughts!

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