5 Traits to Consider When Choosing Trail Friends

5 Traits to Consider When Choosing Trail Friends

We all have a story of “that one time, at band camp…” fill in the blank with the most excruciating outdoor wilderness experience because you and your partner were mismatched. You may have realized it from the get-go when your partner was stuffing their bag at the last minute with, um, nothing appropriate for the adventure or you were wildly misaligned on pace. Or maybe you discovered it only when the s*^% hit the proverbial fan and you learned that your partner shut down in the face of stress and needed you to be a leader but you’re a better soldier and also needed someone to take charge. Or you were both leaders and your strong personalities were competing for cosmic energy, getting in the way of any true joy. 

You may like to stop when you hear an interesting bird sound and listen with intent awareness while contemplating your place in the universe while someone else only hears the tick-tock-get-to-the-top of their internal engine. Our intention isn’t to judge one way as the right way, only to point out that finding a match in a good outdoor companion can be as hard as finding a match in love. 

Here are a few things to consider when assessing what makes a great trail partner for you:

  1. Goals - Are you a number cruncher, type A, competitive individual who’s always on the clock or do you like to let the spirit move you and smell the roses along the way? There’s someone for everyone and you’ll be happier if you establish common goals before hitting the trial. 
  2. Pace - Is your pace similar? You don’t want to be chasing someone the entire time or feel like you’re dragging them down.
  3. Vibe - Are you a talker or do you enjoy companionable silence? Hiking with someone who wants to play music while you want to listen to the wind whistle through the trees will be frustrating.
  4. Mentality - do you want to be in charge or are you happy following along?
  5. Tactical Retreats - Are you going to brave everything no matter what or do you have similar conditions where you’d rather turn around

We all fill roles and bring strengths and weaknesses to relationships. A climbing, hiking, biking, and outdoor partner is like any other relationship; it needs to be cultivated and assessed. Good relationships are like good businesses, they don’t thrive without caring attention, honest communication about goals and regular evaluation. You can’t expect amazing results without doing the prep work. Would you hire a babysitter or an employee or (ack) get married, without asking the potential candidate a few questions? Prob not! It takes work and it can mean the difference between exhilarating, life-affirming experiences, and disastrous outcomes.

Perhaps, the perfect trail partner is no one, and your trail time involves peace, solitude, and enjoying your own company.

And sometimes, your amazing, closest friends, no matter how much you enjoy spending time with them, just plain don't make good trail partners. And that's okay! 

    What do you look for when finding hiking or backpacking friends?

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