finding hiking partners do's and don'ts

Finding Hiking Partners: 14 Do’s and Don’ts

Hiking and climbing adventures beckon the daring, but the shared experiences offered through partnerships are truly transformative. Finding hiking partners that check off all the right boxes, however, requires a careful balance of multiple factors. Here are some of the most important things to consider when looking for company on your next climb, along with some resources and suggestions on where to find them. 

Table of Contents

Understanding the Importance of Hiking & Climbing Partners

A dependable partner elevates safety and enjoyment in hiking and climbing expeditions. Mutual assistance, emotional support, shared resources, and, most importantly, a double safety net in emergency situations are a few reasons why this relationship is so pivotal. While hiking alone is an option, I always recommend hiking with a partner if possible, especially for more challenging or remote trips and expeditions.

First: Identify Your Hiking and Climbing Goals

Before seeking a partner, introspection is key. Make sure you understand your own goals and priorities or you won’t know how to find someone on the same page.

Personal Goals

Understand your objectives: Are you a peak-bagger chasing summits, or do you prefer a tranquil communion with nature? Do you enjoy hikes or do you want to do some class three and four climbs? Knowing your inclinations helps in seeking a partner with aligned interests.

Partnership Goals

Why are you looking for partners? Shared targets cultivate cohesion and focus in the partnership. Whether it’s tackling specific routes or improving technical skills, clear partnership goals foster mutual growth.

winter hiking layers

Key Qualities to Look for in a Climbing Partner

This is not an endeavor for the impulsive; due diligence ensures longevity and satisfaction in the partnership. Finding hiking partners with these qualities is ideal from a safety perspective.

Reliability and Trustworthiness

Look for partners demonstrating reliability and trustworthiness. In critical situations, you should trust your partner with your life. This isn’t always easy to gauge, so I recommend going on a few easy starter hikes together to see how they react out in the field. Do they show up on time and at the right place? If problems arise, do they stay back or speed ahead? 

Physical Fitness and Stamina

Ensure your partner is physically capable of enduring strenuous hikes and climbs without becoming a liability. At the very least, they should be at or close to your own level of fitness. 

Experience and Skill Level

A partner at a similar skill level ensures a balanced, reciprocal relationship. Inquire about their previous experiences, what kind of training they have, and how skilled they are with hiking and climbing gear and equipment. 

Communication Skills

Clear, assertive communication is essential. A partner who voices concerns, understands hiking and climbing terminology, and respects your input ensures smoother ascents. You shouldn’t feel afraid of speaking your mind to your partner, or you may need to try again.

Colorado Hiking 14ers

Finding Hiking Partners with Potential

Where does one find this elusive ideal partner? Here are some good places to get started.

Outdoor Enthusiast Clubs and Communities

Local outdoor clubs or organizations often have members seeking climbing partners. These established communities offer a safer bet than random encounters:

Online Platforms and Social Media

Various digital platforms connect climbers globally. Websites and apps dedicated to hiking and climbing, and even relevant social media groups, can be invaluable resources. However, when finding hiking partners online, always meet first face-to-face before you go on a climb. Meeting them at a remote trailhead for the first time isn’t the best idea. Here are some groups and platforms to look at:

Climbing Gyms and Outdoor Events

Climbing gyms are excellent places to meet potential partners. Similarly, outdoor events like climbing festivals often attract like-minded individuals. Here are some events in Colorado where finding hiking partners is easy:

Approaching a Potential Partner

When you’ve identified a potential partner, be direct, honest, and respectful in your approach. Openly discuss your goals, expectations, and reservations. Remember, compatibility extends beyond hiking and climbing skills.

Shared Interest and Dedication

Check for shared interest in the type of hiking and climbing you enjoy. Ensure your partner demonstrates equal dedication to safety protocols and skill enhancement.

Assessing Risk Tolerance

Evaluate your potential partner’s risk tolerance. A thrill-seeker paired with a safety-conscious climber may create hazardous tension.

Establishing Ground Rules and Expectations

A successful partnership relies on well-defined ground rules and expectations. Define roles, responsibilities, and emergency procedures, among other things. Prioritize openness, empathy, and mutual respect.

On each trip, always take time to ensure you both agree on important things like your turn-around time, intended route, safety precautions, and risk assessment. For example, you should both discuss the Avalanche Forecast if climbing in winter to ensure you agree on mitigation tactics appropriate for the conditions.

The Value of a Trial Hike or Climb

Before committing to a long-term partnership, engage in a trial climb. This initial adventure provides insights into your potential partner’s habits, decision-making skills, and compatibility with your style.

Maintaining the Partnership

Partnership maintenance is a continuous process. If you hike with someone once or twice but then don’t call them for a year, you will likely need to do some work before heading out together again. Work to cultivate mutual respect and trust by demonstrating reliability and appreciation for your partnership. Keep communication open, both during climbs and with periodic check-ins over time between them. Be supportive and motivate your partner – and share the burden of planning trips.

Finding Hiking Partners: Red Flags to Watch For

Warning signs like frequent disregard for safety, showing up late repeatedly, selfishness, poor communication, or untrustworthiness indicate potential problems. Acknowledge these red flags and address them promptly. Additionally, if your partner does not reciprocate with things like food and gas money or help with planning – and they do not respond when you request for more help, you might want to rethink your partnership.

When It’s Time to Part Ways

All partnerships may not last forever. Recognize when it’s time to part ways. Continued conflict, incompatible climbing styles, or changing interests might necessitate a split. It is better to find another partner in the long run than put yourself at risk to maintain a relationship. Your life is worth any awkwardness that may result.

Mountain Safety

Conclusion: The Joy of Shared Ascents

Finding a compatible hiking or climbing partner is a challenge worth undertaking. Shared vistas from lofty peaks and the indelible camaraderie formed amidst the wilderness render this quest incredibly rewarding. With the tips and information above, you should be well on your way to finding hiking partners that are the perfect fit for your goals and experience level. Enjoy your hiking and climbing adventures; safe travels on the trails!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A: Finding a hiking partner involves several steps:

  1. Identify Your Hiking Goals: Know your personal hiking style, desired difficulty of trails, frequency of hikes, and what you aim to achieve through this partnership.

  2. Explore Local Hiking Clubs: Join local outdoor adventure clubs or organizations. Attend their meetups and events to meet like-minded individuals.

  3. Use Online Platforms: Websites and apps like Meetup, Hiking Project, and REI Co-op’s community feature can connect you with fellow hikers in your area or those planning hikes in your preferred locations.

  4. Visit Outdoor Equipment Stores and Climbing Gyms: These places often have community boards with posts from people seeking hiking partners or groups to join.

  5. Networking: Let your friends, family, and colleagues know that you’re looking for a hiking partner. They may have recommendations or might be interested themselves.

Always remember safety first. Before heading out for a hike, ensure you’ve thoroughly vetted your new hiking partner and feel comfortable with them.

A: Yes, there are several apps available that connect outdoor enthusiasts. Apps such as Meetup, REI Co-op, Mountain Hub, and Gaia GPS are popular platforms to find like-minded individuals interested in hiking and climbing.

A: Approach the person directly and respectfully. Share your interest in hiking, and suggest an upcoming trek you think they might enjoy. Be open about your goals and expectations to ensure you both align in your hiking ambitions.

A: A good hiking partner is reliable, trustworthy, and physically capable. They share your hiking goals, risk tolerance, and enthusiasm. Effective communication and mutual respect are also key attributes of a strong partnership.

A: A hiking partner is typically just called a “hiking partner” or “climbing partner.” In more specific climbing contexts, the person might be referred to as your “belayer,” referring to the person who controls the safety rope in certain types of climbing.

A: Similar to finding hiking partners, you can find camping partners through local outdoor clubs, digital platforms like Meetup, social media groups dedicated to camping, or at camping events and festivals. Always ensure your camping partner aligns with your camping style and safety consciousness.

A: Backpacking communities are present both online and offline. You can join backpacking forums, social media groups, or local clubs. Participating in backpacking events and expeditions can also help you connect with potential backpacking friends.

A: Hikers often adopt nicknames, or “trail names,” as a fun tradition and a nod to the sense of community within hiking culture. These names often stem from memorable events, personal traits, or specific stories related to their hiking adventures.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

Enjoy this Article? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join 4,000+ other subscribers and receive mountain news updates, route guides, gear reviews, and other articles in our twice-monthly email newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

Learn more about how we protect public lands and prevent SAR calls through education & advocacy.

Join 5K Subscribers!

Get the latest mountain news, hear about training opportunities and gear discounts, receive new resources, and learn to advocate for public lands as a Next Summit Newsletter subscriber.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber and download my spreadsheet planner with all 58 peaks listed in the best order to climb them.

We keep your data secure; Unsubscribe anytime at the bottom of our emails.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a newsletter subscriber and get my free spreadsheet planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect order to climb them.

We keep your data secure; Unsubscribe anytime at the bottom of our emails.