by Diane Spicer
Only 6 types of hikers in all the world?
But play along with me here to spot which of these broad categories you call your own.
You can find lists of types of hikers everywhere in the hiking blogosphere, and maybe even on Wikipedia, but not a 6 types of hikers list like this one.
That's because it's based on an interesting way to approach hiker categories:
True trail fact:
Every hiker has a set point for the amount of interaction they will welcome (and sometimes tolerate is the right word) from oncoming hikers.
Some might call this trail etiquette, or social norms.
You know how outgoing you are in social settings.
Geez, all those labels!!
So if you've been on the trail awhile, you probably already know how much interaction with other hikers you will encourage when you're (pick a few):
hot, sweaty, thirsty, tired, bug bitten, sore and hungry on the way back to the trail head.
When you're just starting out as a hiker, it's important to know a few things about who might be on the trail, and more importantly:
Thus, the 6 types of hikers list was written to help you avoid feeling awkward or rejected on a hiking trail.
First up on our list of 6 types of hikers:
A short greeting, something along the lines of "Hi, good day to be on the trail!" is what you can expect from many hikers on a hiking trail.
You may also hear "how's it going", which is a rhetorical question you can safely ignore.
If the hiker looks unrushed and approachable, and you have a question about the trail conditions, go ahead and ask.
They'll be willing to tell you important trail facts, like "there's a big patch of stinging nettle up ahead on the left side where you cross the creek."
Just in case you do find yourself in a patch, here are some stinging nettle treatments for you.
And now you know which category I fall into - the helpful hikers who will share trail beta when you need it ;)
Ever meet a hiker who glides along the trail, seemingly without effort and not one drop of sweat to be seen?
Those are the hikers who have it dialed in!
And if you checked their backpacks, odds are pretty good that they would have every one of the Hiking Ten Essentials.
A friendly nod and a "howdy" is sufficient for these hikers as they respond in kind.
If you have a chance to catch which backpack, jacket, poles and boots they're wearing, you'll have some good trail data for future purchasing decisions.
You're hiking along, humming a tune and enjoying the scenery, when you round a corner.
And there s/he is, a big friendly smile beaming like sunlight off a metal water bottle.
There is no way you're going to hike past this hiker without stopping for a chat.
Expect either a barrage of questions, or a full description of the trail.
You can turn this chat to your advantage when the greeter is coming from the direction you're going in.
And in my experience, greeters really do care about your well being and enjoyment of the trail, so enjoy their friendliness (and sometimes they offer to share snacks, for which I heart greeters).
When the greeter is simply taking a rest break in the direction you're headed, you can plead a strict turn around time if you'd like to avoid a long conversation.
Definition of a grunter: a hiker who responds to any verbal interaction with a one syllable non-word easily recognized as a grunt.
Caution: Hikers may be situational grunters.
I turn into a grunter during a long uphill slog with a fully loaded backpack.
Other hikers are grunters every day, all day long: no hello, no "how's it going?", just a grunt to acknowledge your existence.
Learn to not take this personally (especially if you're a greeter).
You hike for your own personal reasons, as does everyone else on the trail.
A person whose bread winning job or family obligations require high amounts of social interaction every week day might be craving some silence while hiking on a weekend.
The advantage of meeting grunters along the trail?
You'll have only the sound of bird calls and rustling leaves to distract you from your hiking goals!
I mention this group simply to give you a warning: spot these hikers, and then ignore them.
There is no judgment implied in using the word "grump" - or in your decision to ignore them.
Meeting grumpiness in oncoming hikers is just a fact of trail life, so let it go and keep going. Don't take it personally.
And some folks?
Genuine grumps. The Stinging Nettle Hikers of the trail.
Watch for body language cues so you don't make the mistake of trying to engage with someone who just wants to stride past you:
The beauty of these types of hikers?
Grumpy hikers will absolutely respect your personal boundaries, and give you all the solitude and silence you crave.
Be sure to return the favor.
Groups of hikers along a trail can be a mixed blessing, and usually a mixture of the 6 types of hikers.
It's great to get a vicarious lift from high spirits and obvious camaraderie in a hiking group as you pass by.
It's great to hear so many greetings from happy hikers as you skirt the group.
If the group has a leader, and you have a question about the trail up ahead, that's the person to ask.
Hint: The leader usually stands out in some way through posture, clothing, or location within the group.
If you can't spot the hike organizer, just pick the friendliest face!
Which categories did I miss in this lighthearted and unique categorization of hikers?
If you've got more questions about trail etiquette, like who has the right of way on a steep slope or what to do when you meet mountain bikers, this free Hiking For Her pdf will get you sorted out!
And if you were looking for a more traditional description of types of hikers, this is for you.
Happy Trails to you, regardless of which of the 6 types of hikers you identify with!
There's room for all of us on the trail,
and that's one of the best parts of hiking
Celebrate being one of the 6 types of hikers!
And be content in the knowledge that you now know
how to handle human encounters on a hike.
6 Types Of Hikers
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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