What to look for in a hiking partner

Love walking but don’t want to go alone? Here’s what to look for in a hiking partner.

Avid outdoor enthusiasts love lacing up a durable pair of hiking boots for a day hike or longer excursion. Hiking in the wilderness or national park allows you to unplug from our technology-driven world and enjoy nature. 

But maybe you don’t want to hike alone, and you’re looking for the perfect partner to share your adventure with. Perhaps you have a friend who loves hiking, or maybe you’re looking for a new partner because no one close to you shares your love of hiking.

There are certainly good partners, and then there are the worst hiking partners ever. Here are some tips for finding the right hiking partner as well as what to look for in one.

Your partner’s fitness level should be similar to yours

Since your hiking partner hikes with you, you must have a similar fitness level. If you’re healthy and have a lot of endurance, you don’t want someone who hikes much slower or can’t keep up. It defeats the purpose of having a hiking partner in the first place. 

If you hike with someone faster than you, your days on the trail can be grueling, and you risk injuries from exertion and overuse. If you hike with a slower partner, you may get frustrated.

The perfect hiking partner has complementary skills

Find a partner who has skills that complement yours. Maybe you’re the cook and she’s the planner and strategist. Or you may have excellent fire- and shelter-building skills and she’s the navigator. Maybe one of you has a medical background and can teach the other how to use the items in your first aid kit

Finding a hiking partner with skills that complement yours allows you to learn from each other. 

Look for a hiker who shares your expectations

Matching expectations is a critical element of any hiking duo. Making sure you’re in tune with each other’s goals for the hike and what you each expect along the way is important. 

If one of you strolls leisurely to pick wildflowers or to fish, but the other one wants to hike four miles each day, then your expectations aren’t in sync. Finding someone with similar goals allows you to support each other to achieve them. 

Someone willing to work on weaknesses makes a great partner

Everyone has weaknesses, but you and your partner must be willing to work on them to create a strong partnership and strengthen your skills. Maybe you need to take a first aid class so you can take care of your partner on the trail. 

Or perhaps she is just a little less fit and going to the gym would make her a better hiking partner. Are you afraid of spiders or is she afraid of heights? Being willing to work on your weaknesses means you’ll go the extra mile for your partner.

The right hiking partner is trustworthy

Trust is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a hiking partner. If things turn bad, you want someone you can trust. If the weather turns bad or one of you gets injured, you’ll need to rely on each other to survive. 

Trust your instincts when it comes to picking a great hiking partner. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut. Partners place their hike and lives in each other’s hands, so it’s incredibly important to heed the warning signs.

Find someone you enjoy spending time with

Whether it’s a day hike or one that lasts a weekend, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your hiking partner. So, you really need to find someone you enjoy spending time with. Whether you want some quiet time or someone you can talk with for hours at a time, make sure you enjoy hanging out with your partner.

Tips for finding the right hiking partner

Now that you know some of the things to look for in a hiking partner, here are some tips on finding the right one.

Ask the right questions

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person so don’t be afraid to ask the right questions to learn the things you need to know before you go on your first hike. You can find out the critical information you need to see if they have similar experiences and goals.  

Vet candidates

When you think you’ve found an ideal hiking partner, it’s time to vet them. Being as much invested in the hike as you are is one key element of a good hiking partner. 

Partners who are family members, partners or friends may just be there to support your dream hike, but a good hiking partner shares that dream. 

One of the best ways to meet hiking partners is to find them along the way. The people that you meet on other hikes have the initiative and drive to get themselves out on the trail without someone else motivating them.

Take a short test hike

Before you make the final decision on your hiking partner, go on a short test hike. Choose an area you know well and one that ensures there are other people around. A test hike allows you to see how fast or slow they hike, how prepared they are and if they truly have the skills they say they do. You don’t want to find out it’s not a good match on your epic hiking adventure.

Resist looking for a hiking partner in an online forum

It’s really hard to vet a hiking partner you meet on an online forum. You may have that dream hike in common, but that may be it. The perfect hiking partner has many of the above things in common, has complementary skills and ticks all the boxes above. 

Heed the red flags

Before you get into a long-term hiking partnership, make sure you understand the warning signs. For example, hiking with someone who avoids camp chores or walks too close behind you. If they take more supplies than they contribute or the inconsiderate behavior adds up, these are warning signs they may not be the right partner.

These are just a few tips for finding the right hiking partner and some things to look for in that partnership. Sharing goals and finding someone who is trustworthy is vital, as well as someone whose skills complement yours. 

There truly is the right partner out there for you who communicates well and will bond with you to achieve those common goals. Just don’t be too hasty in making that decision without knowing all there is to know.