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Types Of Hikers:
Which Hiking Category
Are You In?

By Diane Spicer

Hiking trails vary, and so do the types of hikers you'll find on them.

Your approach to a hike will be very different from mine, yet we might find ourselves within the same category of hiking.

A useful way of thinking about how hikers differ?

Focus on the time and energy invested in a hike or hiking trip.

Figure out which type of hiker you are, and how to interact with all the other types of hikers on the trail. #hikingcategories #typesofhikers #hiking #backpacking #hikingtypes #besthiking

Types of hikers according to
time & energy investments

All of us have finite supplies of time and energy.

[And money, but that's a depressing thought so let's press onward.]

Here are the typical designations most hiking websites use to describe the types of hikers:

  • day hiker (also spelled dayhiker)
  • overnight hiker, or overnighter
  • weekend hikers (weekenders)
  • multi day distance backpacker
  • backcountry hiker
  • lightweight or ultralight (UL) hiker
  • section hiker (part of a long trail like AT or PCT)
  • thruhiker, completing a long trail in one go
  • yoyo hiker, hiking a long trail in one direction and then turning around and completing it in the opposite direction

As you work your way down the list, the amount of time and energy you invest will increase in order to achieve your hiking goals.

There's no judgment implied in that statement, just a fact of the hiking life.

What is your true life story as a hiker?

There are plenty of variables involved in the frequency and duration of any one hiker hitting the trail, including job schedules, school and family responsibilities, access to trail heads, lack of hiking buddies, economic realities, seasonal weather patterns, geographic relocation, physical limitations and more.

Which constraints are you under?

For example:

  • A middle aged day hiker might be unable to backpack or explore the backcountry at this stage of life as career obligations increase. 
  • A recently relocated hiker can't find anyone to hike with for multiday trips so resorts to day hikes.
  • A twenty something thruhiker might have only one shot at a long trail, and then reverts back to day hiking.
  • Older hikers begin to explore ultralight hiking or give up backpacking altogether, yet continue to enjoy vigorous day hikes.

And the point is?

What I know to be true about types of hikers is this:

Once you get a little taste of the glories of day hiking, you're going to want to try an overnight backpacking trip at some point.

In other words, don't expect to stay a day hiker forever.

Then you will notice a longing for a week of backpacking (and all the cool gear that comes with it).

From there, it's a long slippery slide into what some non-hikers might call the addiction of scheduling multiple backpacking trips each year.

And then there's thru hiking:

  • wanting needing to cast aside "normal life" to answer the call of the trail for months on end
  • setting up a challenge to see if you can conquer the trail while getting to know yourself on a whole new level

If hiking is addictive, it also heaps benefits on you!

So where are you on the
continuum of hiking types?

Let's put those labels to good use and make some hiking sub-groups.

Use the Hiking For Her hiking tips to locate yourself, or to explore all of them!

Newbie day hikers

If you're a beginner hiker, here are some tips for you:


Getting the itch to do a weekend or an overnight backpacking trip? (told you so!)

Read this advice to make your first trip easier:

here I come!

Once you're hooked on the combination of hiking and camping called backpacking, get yourself organized with these tips:

As your skill level increases, use these intermediate level backpacking tips.

If you're yearning to use a backpacking trip to become a seasoned backcountry explorer, check these out:

Go lighter
to go faster and farther

Lighten your load and reap the rewards:

Long trail hiking

If you're fortunate enough to have the time, money and energy all dialed in, go for it!

Solo or not?

Here's an additional spin on things: whether you hike alone, or with other hikers.

Can't find a trail buddy?

Types of hikers:
preparedness tips

That list we just worked through above?

It also indicates how much time and energy a hiker invests in preparing for her safety and comfort on any hike or hiking trip.

A short day hike requires a modest level of forethought around carrying enough food and water to fit the destination.

A ten day backpacking trip?

  • You're carrying your nutrients, shelter, emergency preparedness, hygiene supplies, camp kitchen and hopefully a few comfort items to keep your motivation level high.

So your best approach is a thoughtful, measured approach to safety and successful hiking, like this one:


Use the blue box with the word TOP in it (over there on the right hand side) to zoom up to the search box on this website.

Pop in the topic or gear you're searching for and discover detailed information to plan your hiking adventures.

A more lighthearted approach
to hiker categories

This is a topic not discussed much in the hiking blogosphere, but it's an interesting way to categorize hikers:

  • according to how much interaction they tolerate on a hiking trail.

Read about Hiking For Her's 6 types of hikers and how to greet them (or not) so you're prepared for anyone on the trail.

You might like to read these tips next

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Types Of Hikers