Things to Look For in a Hiking Partner

I sat there dumbfounded by the text message. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around why he wrote what he wrote, after having told me go on ahead of him and hike at my own pace.

I’d been reluctant letting him come along on this backpacking trip, but my other hiking partner assured me he’d be fine. He is an experienced hiker, having spent many a moon under the open sky, my buddy said. Regardless of me wanting a shakedown hike to gauge his ability, for whatever reason, our schedules seemed to always conflict. With reservation, I agreed to let him come along on the trip anyway. This backpacking trip was more than just getting from point A to point B. There was a deadline involved with no buffer built into place should we fall behind. It was important our individual abilities could meet the demands of the hike.

The day we left was no big deal. We would only be hiking about four miles, due to our late start, then settle in before beginning the big hikes the following morning.

The following morning, we started much later than I would have liked. To add insult to injury, I constantly found myself waiting for him to catch up. It was a continuous process of me moving up ahead about 20 yards then waiting for him to catch up. To say I was overly annoyed is an understatement. This continued for several miles. And at this rate we wouldn’t make it to our first site before dark. Perhaps he was embarrassed, or he sensed my frustration, but at one point he told my friend and I to just go on ahead of him at our own pace and he would meet up with us at the campsite. He assured us it was no big deal and he would be fine. Finally, the permission I needed to hike my own hike. I quickly turned and made my way down the trail at a pace I was comfortable with.

It was perhaps about 230 in the afternoon when I reached the campsite. I had covered about 15 miles and was now just waiting for my buddy and the other guy to show up. Though my buddy eventually showed up, the other guy never did. In fact, I would never see him again.

The next morning we got up bright and early, ready to hit the trail. We tried calling and leaving text messages for the other guy, but we could never connect. My buddy and I would hike together-ish for 20 miles, at which point his hike would come to an end and I would continue on for another 20 miles solo.

It was about 5:30 p.m., or so, and just ending my long 40 mile hike when I received the text message from the other guy. Never had he been subjected to such irresponsibility as I had exhibited, he said. He almost had to call SAR at one point, because he’d lost the trail, he continued. The text went on and on, but that was the gist. I looked at that text mildly amused, but mostly in disbelief. After all, he did tell my buddy and me to hike our own hike, at our own pace, and we would meet up at the campground. A few days later, my buddy tried reminding him what he said to us about hiking our own pace and what not. This guy was completely dismissive about it, insisting it was my fault and I was irresponsible.

That anecdote is the purpose of this article.

It can be tricky hiking with others.

  • Be sure there is an extremely clear understanding of what the expectations are.
  • Be adamant about taking a shakedown hike with the other person. You might find the two, or more, of you may not be a good hiking match for each other. If you’re a fast hiker and your partner is slow, it can be extremely annoying. Know each other’s distance limitations. I like to hike long distances in a day. Make sure your partner is the same, or okay with that.
  • If you’re an early bird, make sure your partner is a good match. I like to leave very early in the morning.—5am, sometimes 4am
  • Make it very clear what to expect from each other should you become separated.
  • A good hiking partner should match your style of hiking as much as possible to avoid any frustration and misunderstandings.

There are other things to consider, but you get the idea.

Personally, I prefer hiking solo. To someone just getting started, however, it can be a bit intimidating, and sometimes not advised. At the same time though, hiking with a bad hiking partner can turn what is supposed a fun time into a miserable experience.

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