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Hardass Hikers
& The Havoc They Wreak

By Diane Spicer

Hardass hikers.

Sounds like a bad song title, doesn't it?

Yet hiking with these types of folks can give you a pain in more places than one!

Many women find themselves with hiking companions who are a bad fit for them - and yet they continue to hike with these trail bullies.

Think this sounds far fetched?

Consider this letter I received from a woman who was clearly traumatized by investing trail time into the wrong hiking partners.

"I am looking into solo hiking these days because I am single once again, and have some bitterness about being deprived of fun hiking experiences for over a decade.

My experience falls more into "hiking with a hard-ass"...who is also my now ex-husband.

He is an ex-rower, competitive and inherently strong/sturdy, and it was pretty rapidly apparent we were mismatched in physical endeavors - hiking, road or mountain biking, etc. - and on the off chance that we were not, or that I was better at something like, say, soccer or skiing, he couldn't handle it so we just wouldn't do those activities.

Hiking with him in groups was no better - you would hope an SO would be the most supportive and stick with you if the group is different paces, but it was almost completely the opposite.

I'm scared to hike with groups now because of this issue - I feel bad, ashamed and embarrassed to be the "slow hiker".

I can try to avoid those "type" of people, or try to plan shorter/lighter trips... what else? Any suggestions on what to say or do if I find myself in the company of hard-ass hikers in the future??"

This letter brings up several issues which can make women on the trail feel uncomfortable.

  • Competition.
  • Expectations about behavior.
  • Performance pressure.
  • Self doubt.
  • Loss of self esteem.

The part that tugged at my heart was this line: "I'm scared to hike with groups now because of this issue - I feel bad, ashamed and embarrassed to be the "slow hiker".

Hiking trails should never be associated with these emotions!!

I think of a hiking trail as a source of freedom and joy and beauty. And I want every woman to share those emotions.

So here are some suggestions for those of you who resonate with this woman's experience.

Please feel free to contact me if none of these suggestions makes sense for your situation. I have a few more up my sleeve!

Yellow maple leaf perched on top of red maple leavesAn example of hiking inspiration you can find at HFH's Facebook page. It's an antidote to hardass hikers.

My response: "You have been traumatized, and I am going to say this in all caps because it's important to believe it:


No one should make you feel bad for being the slowest, or for having blisters. Please don't ALLOW anyone to take away your power as a female hiker!

OK, now that we have that little rant out of the way (I feel better, thanks), let's outline some strategies to get you back out onto the trail with a smile on your face!

Idea #1: Try a half day hike near your home, after self massage on your tight IT bands, pre-hike stretches, and some well placed duct tape on blister prone foot areas.

Go as slow or fast as you'd like.

Bring something delicious for lunch.

Add a camera, sketch pad, field guide, or whatever says "fun" to you.

What you're doing is finding your comfort zone, without anyone giving you feedback about how fast/slow you "should" be going.

Give yourself permission to enjoy your time outside!

Idea #2: Borrow a dog to hike with, or invite yours along on your next dayhike.

Watch how the dog enjoys simply moving through space, sniffing and stretching and looking and just being in its physical body.

Try to move with that amount of unselfconscious grace and enjoyment.

Sometimes the dog goes fast, sometimes slowly.

And if my dogs are an indication of the canine species, they like to rest, too!

Take their good advice and apply it to your trail time.

Idea #3: Start a woman's hiking group in your area.

Again, my website has ideas for figuring out who you'd like to hike with.

Or if you send me your location, I'll send a few links you can try.

I've had success with putting up signs in coffee shops and bookstores, being very clear about what type of hiking companions I'm looking for. You can even specify "no hard cores"! (They pride themselves on the label.)

Idea #4: Dump your residual anger toward your ex and ALL hard ass hikers! I'm serious!

Otherwise, they will be with you on every hike you take regardless of how much time passes. They don't deserve one more second of your time.

Idea #5: Consider this an opportunity to learn how to stand up to the hardass hikers.

If you find yourself hiking with hard core folks again, remind yourself that you have every right to hike the hike that's right for you, not someone else's idea of the hike.

I know it's painful, but sometimes getting shoved out of a comfort zone (which is what you described) is a splendid chance to set up boundaries."

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