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By Diane Spicer
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.
If you want a few ideas on hiking with a significant other, read this page.
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.
[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 :)
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:
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.
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.
For your own safety and peace of mind, you should be hiking with a male who checks in with you, asking:
Not every five minutes, of course.
But a check-in once in a while is greatly appreciated, and should be reciprocated.
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.
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.
So what keeps an opposite-gender non-romantic hiking relationship strong?
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.
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! Which makes me eager for more challenging hikes.
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.
You can contact me. Looking forward to your thoughts!
Best Male Hiking Partner