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Backpacking Partner Compatibility Test

Hiking Break

If you stick with this backpacking thing long enough, there will come a time when everyone in your family and all of your friends refuse to hike with you because you hike too fast or too far in a given day. When that happens you are going to have to go solo or find a new backpacking partner who's compatible with your skill and fitness level.

If you prefer to hike with someone else, here's a set of screening questions that I've devised to determine if someone is a good candidate partner.

How do you protect your food from bears?

  • Wrong Answer: I sleep with a loaded hand gun and scream "Make my Day" if I hear anything moving around camp at night.
  • Right Answer: I hang it from a tree, use a bear canister, or Ursack.

How much do you drink a day?

  • Wrong Answer: About a fifth of vodka.
  • Right Answer: Four to six liters of water per day.

How do you make your water safe to drink?

  • Wrong Answer: I've never done that. Can you do that for me?
  • Wrong Answer: I don't trust that stuff. I carry all of the water I'll need for the entire trip plus a little extra.
  • Right Answer: Chlorine dioxide tablets, bleach, a water filer or water purifier, etc.

What would you do when you get a black toenail?

  • Wrong Answer: I set up an emergency pedicure.
  • Right Answer: Not a problem. Most of my other toenails are already black.
  • Right Answer: I wear black toenail polish, so it doesn't even show.

What the most dangerous thing on a hiking trip?

  • Wrong Answer: Snakes.
  • Right Answer: Hypothermia.
  • Right Answer: Getting a speeding ticket.
  • Right Answer: Setting your shelter on fire with your stove.

How do you screen out the newbies and weirdos?

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30 Responses to Backpacking Partner Compatibility Test

  1. kate July 28, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    love the photo! did you take it?

  2. Earlylite July 28, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    yeah, a couple of years ago while backpacking in the Adirondacks. The guy is an aspiring writer in New York. Perfect shot.

  3. lostalot July 28, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    Aren't we all weirdos? If they can keep up and don't seem like psychos maybe you'll get to know an interesting person.

  4. Earlylite July 28, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    I thought of you when I put together this list. :-)

  5. lostalot July 28, 2010 at 3:37 am #

    Well you would've flunked me out right off.

    Anyway you might add some kind of bladder capacity test; I remember a guy who must have had a bladder the size of a grape and urine the consistency of molasses. I couldn't say anything to his face but if he's out there, GO SEE A DOCTOR DUDE!

    • Mike August 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

      Why was this a problem for you? There’s something I’m missing I guess.

      • bob October 19, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

        Yea you missed real world experience of walking with others. People who stop to pee all the time slow the pace down. Worse, if you don’t wait for them, they usually try and walk stupidly fast to catch up and then need yet another break.

  6. Microzen July 28, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    What a great photo. My wife dragged three of these on an overnight hike.

    They burned really well.

  7. Bill Laidley July 29, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    It's more than that.As we age other limitations come into play-fewer partner possibles,energy levels,strength(go light!),stamina,family commitments,etc.Keep up the good web site work.Do we all become Walter Mitty?-Reading about backpacking at our computers,but not actually hiking?

    • spencie1 January 22, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      Sounds like you are trying to find all the reasons not to hike. The prerequisites for all around healthy lifestyle is to keep it moving. ..get off that couch, I’ll bet you don’t make excuses for watching the tv. Take the family out for a hike I guarantee that not only will the kids love it but it will be a lifetime memorable moment that is priceless.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer August 11, 2015 at 8:24 am #

      That’s what I’m finding – really F’ing depressing. Got money? check. Got time? check. Got someone interested and able to get away? It appears I’ll die before that.

  8. Earlylite July 29, 2010 at 4:22 am #

    Dude – I'm out hiking and you should be too. Just say No to housework, gardening, car washing, shopping, family time, and get out there and pound some miles. You'll be a better Dad/mom/son/daughter, gardener, etc. when you get home.

  9. L. July 29, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    I recently had to bag a trip because my friend, a good hiking partner, wanted to invite her husband – a bad hiking partner who likes to play "one up" even though he's the only one playing. The thought of stepping into the woods with him was shudder-inducing.

    I have since found a good hiking partner without an annoying husband. I actually took her up her first mountain ever. There was something so awesome about rounding the bend that brought us to our first vista and hearing her explain "Oh my gosh, we are above the trees!" She's already asking what our next mountain is.

    • Tina August 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      I would love to find a hiking partner. If you’re interested in seeing if we are compatible please shoot me an email. I’m no expert but can hold my own. Last hike was paintbrush loop in the tetons (amazing), but I’m more about the nature than the challenge now. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

      • j2bond April 2, 2016 at 6:42 am #

        I would to have a hiking buddy’s lol for sum one just to good old mother nature. I’m 27 from Puerto Rico .have abundant of experience. Of the great outdoors. Ex boy scout here

  10. Addy July 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    I'm with L. If you train your own backpackers, you can catch them when they are still impressionable, and bend them to your will.

  11. Earlylite July 30, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    I like to catch them ofter they've returned to the sea. :-)

  12. Addy August 1, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    The more I think about this, the more I like it. I once spent the night with a backpacker who cuddles in her sleep. Not cool.

  13. Earlylite August 2, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    That could be bad.

  14. Timmy Mac August 22, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Wait…you people are anti-vodka and anti-snuggling? What sort of bad crowd have I fallen in with here?

  15. Stephen August 22, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Thank goodness my hiking partner hasn't given up on me yet. If so I'd be learning to like solo hiking.

    Truthfully everyone has a quirk or two that will annoy at the most inopportune time.


  16. RevLee August 22, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    A couple of additional questions:

    Do you snore?

    Wrong answer: No one will sleep close enough to tell me.

    Wrong answer: A ranger mistakenly tried to arrest me for illegal timber harvesting.

    Right answer: no or rarely

    Can you enjoy the quiet?

    Wrong answer: Of course, but let me tell you the story about the time….

    Right answer: Yes.

    • Mike August 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

      My long time backpacking friend and I solved this by each carrying lightweight tents and sleeping 100 yards apart. It’s worked for years. We both snore now.

  17. Mark August 22, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Or alternatively:

    What do you do if you tent mate starts snoring?

    Wrong answer: Spend the rest of the trip moaning about it.

    Right answer: Put the ear plugs in, roll over and go to sleep.

    Love the post, BTW :-)

  18. Alanvalentinus August 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    I try to educate and inspire people into backpacking rather than screen them out.

  19. Mike August 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Someone above said something about a one-up hiker and I agree. I won’t go with a miles-at-all- costs type. I’d rather wander, stop and drink it in, take some photos, and see more side country than I would making backpacking into just another job.
    No thanks to loudmouths too. And no whining.

  20. wvevie August 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    While we are on the subject, does anyone have a link to a website for meeting other backpackers looking for like-minded hikers? For instance, I’m a 61 yr old, (fairly novice) hiker and have trouble finding compatible hiking companions. I’d like to see something like a site divided up into regions or states for matchups to be made. Does something like that exist?

    Maybe this could be a blog subject, Phillip?

    • Mike August 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      WVEveie …. Around here (Portland, OR) has several hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing groups. One has over 3000 members. They go out all the time for hikes as short as a mile or two in a city park to epic week long snowshoeing trip in the dead of winter. You might check

  21. Keith Rayeski August 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    this is why I hike solo… one else could stand to hike with me and I was running out of places to hide bodies! ;>) Phil cured of the snake concern!

  22. Keith Rayeski August 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    That should be “Phil cured ME of the snake concern”…

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