Want to go on an outdoor adventure but don’t know who to go with?
Using the internet to search for clubs & courses can be a great way to get yourself out on more hikes.
1. Start searching
Here are a few different types of groups I’ve found online:
Informal Facebook groups: Searching the name of your city and words like “hiking” or “outdoors” should turn up a number of groups on Facebook.
Members are usually encouraged to post a specific time and place they want to meet for a hike. This usually gets more responses than “I’m new to town, anyone want to hike sometime?”
Meetup.com: Meetup is a great website to meet people in your city with similar interests. The site sends out quite a lot of email reminders, so join groups sparingly!
Some Meetup groups are very informal and allow anyone to host an event, much like Facebook groups. Others only allow approved experienced leaders to host a hike.
Meetup charges organizers an annual fee, so you may be asked for a small donation to offset their costs.
Clubs: And of course some clubs were formed long before Facebook, such as the Alpine Club of Canada.
Trip organizers on these events will likely be very experienced and well-organized. You’ll probably have to pay an annual fee to join the club as well as sign an insurance waiver before going on trips. Signing up for a trip is usually done at least a week in advance.
These organizers get a lot of emails and phone calls, so send any questions in one concise email & respect their time by not asking questions you can easily Google.
2. Choose a hike well within your comfort range.
“Beginner-friendly” means very different things to different people.
Instead of relying on subjective ratings, look for information about how far the hike will be and be and how long it will take. Don’t be afraid to ask!
If you aren’t sure how fast you are, try going on a test walk around your neighbourhood. Use a map & watch or an app like Runkeeper to get a sense of your pace.
Resist the urge to slip into magical thinking and tell yourself that your knee isn’t bugging you as much as it is or you’ve been going to the gym a lot more than you have.
If you’re much slower than the rest of group, a novice group leader may lose track of you. Experienced leaders will keep the group together, but let’s just say this is not a good way to make new hiking friends!
3. Decide if the trip seems safe
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on carpooling, length of time you’ll be gone and contingency plans.
If the trip seems to be led by less-experienced hosts, I tend to only go if I would feel comfortable taking out a group of my friends on the same trip. If an adventure is a bit out of my comfort zone, I save it for a group or a trip leader that I know and trust.
Of course women, queer folk and/or people of colour are often concerned with more than just logistics. No one wants to end up in the middle of nowhere with a stranger saying offensive things or behaving in a threatening way.
For me, I only go on a trip if there appears to be several women in the group. Even better if it is led by another woman! If it seems like I’ll be the only woman on a trip, I will still go if it’s organized by a well-known group like NOLS or the Alpine Club of Canada.
Everyone develops a different sense of what makes a trip seem safe for them, and I’d always err on the side of caution. Just because someone is organizing a trip doesn’t mean they have any idea how to deal with jerks or what to do if someone gets lost.
3. Take the plunge!
Sign up to join a trip using whatever method is required. Some trips will require quite a lot of advance notice and others will take anyone who shows up.
I think a lot of people get a bit nervous before the trip, just from the number of no-shows always seem to happen. Sometimes getting out the door is the hardest part.
4. Be prepared
The 10 essentials are just that, essentials.
If you can, bring extras (especially food and water) for others in you group who will not be so well prepared.
5. Enjoy and share
If you have a good time, share photos with the group and say thanks to the trip host. Sharing information on Facebook or in Meetup.com will help others see if the group is right for them.
Resources near Victoria, BC
- Take a Hike Vancouver Island (Facebook group)
- Victoria Outdoor Club on Meetup.com
- Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island & on Facebook
- Vancouver Island Climbing and Mountaineering (Facebook group)
- MB Guiding (Vancouver Island based hiking guide)
- Island Alpine Guides (Vancouver Island based climbing, alpine & hiking guides)
- NOLS Pacific Northwest (US outdoor leadership school)
What are some of your favourite groups or tips? Let me know in the comments!