Hiking With Friends vs. Hiking Solo: Pros And Cons
Recently I decided to make an experiment.
I created a poll in a Facebook group entitled ‘’Hiking with Friends vs. Hiking Alone”. I was curious to learn what the majority of the people would answer. The first thing that happened genuinely amused me. A member added a third option to the poll “I like Hotdogs”. Then the fun started, and the poll got huge engagement.
The comments and the replies showed that many people prefer hiking alone and a good number of folks enjoy being in a company (a buddy or a family member). The participants also revealed the reasons behind their decision. There were plenty of intriguing comments in favor of trekking solo and trekking in a small group.
Overall, the poll split the hikers. That’s why when a member added another option – ‘I Like Both’ that turned out to be the most preferred one. To be honest, I also voted for that. On one hand, I enjoy being all by myself out in the mountains without feeling the need to speak with anybody or to share the experience with.
On another hand, some of my best memories are from hikes I’ve done with my friends. These stories are so wild, fun, and adventurous that they inspired one of my best friends who is a stand-up comedian. I’ll just say he’s selling venues in a matter of hours.
Anyway, this got me thinking about the most common pros and cons when choosing whether to hike alone or in a gang of like-minded people. What’s best? Is there a straightforward answer in the first place?
In the rest of this article, I will share some popular opinions, inspired by both the Facebook poll I created and my own experience. Here we go.
Hiking With Friends
Here by friends I mean a group of people, usually 3-10 hikers. It also might be just a single buddy or a family member.
The More, The Merrier
Like mentioned above, some of my best memories were made while mountaineering and camping with a bunch of friends. It’s just fun. Being able to talk and to laugh while hiking reduces fatigue, and it’s good for the spirit of the entire group. This has a calming effect on people.
It is also great for those who love beer hiking. It’s always better when you can say ‘Cheers’ to somebody you know and to greet each other for the small feat that you’ve accomplished together.
Another thing I like when being out in nature with friends is that there are better opportunities for making pictures. There is always this fella who brings a fancy camera and has the skill needed to create a perfect group photo. Plus, group pics are fun to make because you can ‘direct’ a better scene without being obliged to take selfies that are often difficult (and dangerous) to take.
It Creates A Bond
This is true especially when done in a small group (usually 2-4 persons). That’s because often when you are hiking with a big bunch of people there are always folks you don’t even talk to during the entire journey. It just happens that way. While when you hike with a single friend, for instance, this is highly unlikely.
Recently I started trekking with my wife, or to put it correctly she finally made the leap and decided to come with me. We both find this mutual experience bonding and healthy for our relationship. Being out there in the beautiful wilderness far from the hustle and bustle of the city, surrounded by the majestic calmness of nature creates a brand new world.
On a side note, if you are wondering where to hike next, watch the video below which describes ten of world's most mesmerizing trails.
It’s just easier to converse and reflect when there’s no one else around except the birds and the sounds of nature. That’s why one of the benefits of hiking is that it has therapeutic effects on one’s mind.
This is arguably the most important advantage of hiking with friends. That’s true especially for beginners who don’t have experience with trekking or mountaineering. Moreover, they should avoid hiking solo because being inexperienced out in nature hides many risks.
Going in the mountains with friends or just in a group creates security. There’s always people who are more experienced than you. They know how to orientate better, how to choose and follow trails, and how to react adequately when unusual circumstances arise.
Having someone to rely on is crucial also for those who suffer from chronic diseases such as bad knees, for instance. In fact, one of the members of the Facebook group in which I created the poll admitted that she used to hike alone. However, after she suffered a severe knee injury, she began trekking with her husband. Now she never goes alone. That’s a pure example of responsibility and good common sense.
Now let’s see the negatives of group trekking.
You Have To Conform To The Group
People are different. That’s why they have different opinions and different perceptions. When you hike in a group, it’s difficult to neglect that. Often, your hiking buddies may all have contrasting visions for the journey that completely differ from yours.
However, for the sake of togetherness and safety you have to make an effort and adjust your needs to those of the others. Based on personal experience, sometimes that can be nerve-racking. Imagine Johnny is hungry and need to stop and have a snack when you least want that.
You don’t have a choice but to wait him peacefully while he has a break and eat his sandwiches. You don’t want to be impolite by leaving him there alone. Besides, it’s not a good practice to have someone far behind the others in the wilderness.
Let me give you another personal example. I like to keep a slow to moderate walking pace. I enjoy nature better that way. However, I have two friends who always think of hiking as a marathon. They like to walk very fast to the point where it’s difficult for me to follow. Still, I have to because otherwise, what’s the point of going with them in the first place?
In brief, hiking in a group more or less deprives you from doing what you want and often that’s not comfortable.
This point is a direct continuation of the above-mentioned arguments.
In brief, hiking in a group more or less deprives you from doing what you want. Often that’s not comfortable. You cannot keep your own pace and it’s difficult to stop and take as many photos as you wish.
It’s easy to find yourself lost in everybody’s needs, desires, and complications.
Conflicts May Arise
If I were to name this paragraph differently, it would be Clash Of Egos. We all have been in a situation when someone wanted to solidify himself as a leader in certain situations. And not everybody agrees with the ‘boss’. Then people start to argue and the peace in the pack is jeopardized.
Since I already gave some personal examples, I don’t see a reason why not give another one.
Few years ago I was hiking in Rila Mountain with a group of 10 friends. We were following an unmarked trail leading to a picturesque hut, and it was about to get dark. We were off-schedule because of many reasons occurred during the day. We had two choices ahead of us – either to continue walking until we reach our final destination (it was clear we would have to walk for about two hours in full darkness) or to go back to the shack from where we left.
The first option was the adventurous one while the second was the safer since we had small children in the group and we weren’t prepared for night trekking. We all started arguing and everybody had their own motives and reasoning. Two of my friends with more experience of the local surroundings and with polar opinions exchanged some harsh remarks and soon it all turned into a group quarrel.
We ended up going back in awkward silence. You get the point.
Walking all by yourself in backcountry also has its advantages and drawbacks.
Your Hike, Your Rules
That’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s also one of the reasons why so many people are keen on hiking solo. You decide when and where to go and what risks to take. You are the boss and no one can take this responsibility from you.
I like trekking alone because I can keep my own pace, stop whenever I want, and set the itinerary as I wish.
Easy To Coordinate
Often, your friends can’t afford to go with you or they just can’t get away from the craziness of the everyday hustle. Then the only friend that remains is your best friend – you. Hiking solo is so much easier to arrange. You decide, pack your backpack and go. No need to wait for anybody or to deal with the annoying complications that occur when a group have to be organized.
Sometimes simplicity is all you need.
You Feel Closer To Nature
Being all by yourself when trekking has a profound calming effect. Some call it walking meditation. One of the reasons I like hiking alone is because it clears my wandering mind.
When you talk to no one, you better immerse yourself in nature.
You pay more attention to its vivid sounds and specific smells. It all feels differently.
This is harder to achieve when you have a company unless it’s just your dog.
You Can’t Count On Anyone
Make sure you have a certain trekking experience and good gear when deciding to hike solo. When you are in a group, you always have someone to rely on. If you run out of food, if you need an extra jacket or you get injured, you can count on your best buddy for help.
When you hit the trail alone, this is not the case. You are all by yourself. That’s why it’s crucial to be over-prepared and expect anything. Many people, especially newbies don’t like that burden and prefer hiking with friends. And that’s the smart choice.
It May Become Boring
It really depends on what kind of person you are. Also, it’s important to observe your mood. Walking alone for hours and being alone for days can be great for someone who enjoys that. It’s good for those who need a break.
However, if you are one of those ultra-social and highly extroverted people, hiking solo might become boring at some point.
Loneliness is boring. You have no one to talk to and no one to share the experience with. Which brings us to the next point.
You Can’t Feel The Joy of Shared Experience
As the American philosopher John Dewey once said – “Things gain meaning by being used in a shared experience or joint action.” Sometimes, what we do makes much more sense and brings us more joy when we share it with somebody. Hiking alone leaves you no options for that.
You have no one to share the breathtaking views with and no one with whom to reflect on the gorgeousness of the surrounding landscapes. Sometimes this leaves us with a sense of disappointment and lack of fulfillment.
What’s better – hiking alone or hiking in a group, be it big or small? Now we know there’s no straight answer. I like both. It all depends on how you feel and what your inner self is telling you. Both can be great and both can be unsatisfactory. Just make sure you know what to expect and be well prepared. In that way you can’t go wrong with either of both options.
Do you prefer hiking with a bunch of friends or alone? Leave a comment below!