6 Great Ways to Find a Trail Buddy
Finding a Friend to go Hiking or Backpacking With is Easier Than You'd Think!
Hiking with Friends in Joshua Tree National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
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Hiking solo has a unique appeal, but sometimes we crave a little company. Sharing the challenge of a hike with another person will affect the entire experience. Whether this change is positive or negative rests heavily on the partner.
The good news is that trails are more populated than ever after the massive boom in 2020. Thanks to that, there's an abundant crop of both new and experienced trekkers to pick from for a competent hiking buddy. All that's left is knowing what to look for, and where to find them.
Trail Buddies on Mount Ascutney: Windsor, VT - Photo Credit: Mei-Ling Rosario
How to Find Hiking or Backpacking Buddies
Academics congregate in places like museums or debates. Avid readers choose bookstores or libraries. Like all hobbies, finding fellow enthusiasts is about putting yourself in the right places.
Start by Asking Friends and Family
This tip sounds obvious, but many people tend to skip right over it. New hobbies have us learning new things and visiting new places. The novelty can trick people into believing they also need new people to do it with, rather than asking their already existing social circles.
It's best not to assume what people are and aren't interested in, even if that person is a member of your family or a long-time friend. Perhaps they'll be more interested than you thought they’d be.
Join a Hiking or Backpacking Club
If friends and family are a bust, the next best option is to find a hiking or backpacking club. Clubs are great places to meet like-minded people and share information about gear and routes.
Repeatedly meeting with the same people also raises the odds of getting comfortable and forming stronger relationships. These groups can be found online, on sites such as Meetup.com or OutsideOnline, or joined through a local outdoor shop, like Cabela’s and REI.
Join a Guided Hiking or Backpacking Trip
While clubs make for good company, their events tend to be designed for larger groups. Those looking for a more personal experience with their hiking partners should join a guided hike instead. Rather than trying to integrate with an entire group, one-time excursions provide chances to socialize and bond with an individual.
Buddies on Break in East Texas - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
Join Events at Local Parks
Signing up for the newsletters many of these parks distribute is an ideal way to stay current on their upcoming events. Most newsletter subscriptions now have ways to filter what kind of information you receive. Customizing the subscription will help avoid uninteresting spam news.
Volunteer at a Nearby Natural Area
Meeting people through volunteering in natural areas ensures everyone shares a similar passion for nature. Otherwise, they wouldn't be giving away their time for free!
Not only is this a way to keep the hiking community strong, but it's also a chance to grow your knowledge. Consider tasks like trail maintenance, which can train the eye to recognize hazards and discover new routes. You can also consider cleaning up debris to help people learn about the impact trash has on the environment, or guiding people through local nature preserves to help them learn about the history of your community.
Common volunteer opportunities include:
Visitor and guide services
Outdoor Event planning
You can find local events and opportunities via organizations such as the Bureau of Land Management, State and National Park programs, The Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Each of these programs welcomes volunteers, so if you have the time, you can help several!
Find a Social Media Group
Many communities and clubs use Facebook groups to organize events and meetups. Social media is an easy place to create massive networks on any topic. Each online hiking community has hundreds or even thousands of members posting regularly about events, so there's always something coming up. Forum boards such as BackCountryGear and BackpackingLight are also great options for anyone not on social media who wants to find some company for the trail.
Taking in the View with a Buddy: Paugusset State Forest, CT - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
How to Choose a Hiking or Backpacking Buddy
The right hiking partner should share your passion for the outdoors, but that's just the starting point. Hiking is a versatile experience, and people enjoy different aspects of it.
If one partner enjoys the more physical parts of hiking, then they won't appreciate their partner stopping every 10 minutes to take in a beautiful view. The same goes when one hiker prefers silence and the sounds of nature, while the other prefers to chat during the walk.
Like in every relationship, compatibility is important to ensure that you and your hiking partner are on the same page.
Learn More About Your New Partner
However, even before compatibility, safety is the highest priority. Long trails take us to new and often secluded areas. Being on a hike with a shady person sounds like the backdrop for a slasher film.
A phone lookup is one way to gather information on a person solely through their phone number. It searches through public records to find personal information such as employment, address, and full name. While phone lookups aren't 100 percent accurate, they're effective at determining if someone is lying about their identity. You can also run a quick scan of a person’s social media posts to ensure they align with your beliefs and stances on the environment.
Buddies can come in all shapes and sizes - Photo Credit: Heather Guerrette
Choose Someone Fit Enough for Your Goals
The physical requirements of hiking range across a massive spectrum. There are relaxing half-hour hikes and there are multi-day treks. The hike won't be as enjoyable if one partner can't complete it, or even keep pace with the other.
Now, it's possible to work up to those loftier goals together. However, that scenario requires that both partners have the same end goal in mind, and one isn't forcing the other to overexert themselves.
Start with a Trial Hike
A trial hike is a short test to see if two people's goals, personalities, and values align. Try going on a short hike together, in a similar environment to what you plan on doing during your extended expeditions.
Try to choose a location identical in terrain to where you’d eventually end up wanting to take your new partner. There's no point if the trial hike is on a paved road while the actual hikes include long stints of bouldering.
Create reasonable expectations for how you plan to interact with your partner in the future.
Buddies can help with photo ops too: South Mountain, AZ - Photo Credit: Darryll DiPietro
Depending on your preferences, there are many ways to find a hiking or backpacking buddy. Social media and organized events are great places to build relationships with fellow hikers - but if you are a newbie, you should try to find a skilled professional to take you through your initial hiking experiences. Over time, you'll learn what you like and dislike in a partner.
While it's hard to find a perfect fit right away, the most important thing is to get yourself out there instead of waiting for somebody else to find you!
Author Bio: Patrick Peterson is a content manager at GoodCar. Born and raised in the automotive world, he’s an enthusiastic expert who writes exquisite content pieces about everything related to cars and bikes. When he’s not working on or learning about cars and bikes, he’s out taking advantage of the hiking trails that run along the back of his property.
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