Are You Sure You Can Call Yourself a “Hiker”?
So you would like to call yourself a "hiker" but do you have the right to do so? Are you doing all that is required to be able to call yourself that? Not everyone has earned the right to talk about themselves as a hiker or trekker. Like with everything else, there are limitations and requirements one needs to fulfill to have the right to use a particular term.
To make it easier for you, I have created a checklist.
Take a look below and see: are you enough to be a hiker?
Every Sunday you go for a walk on paths around your local lake.
You are absolutely terrified of the idea of camping. You only go for day-hikes or stay in B&Bs and hotels.
You have a hard time to leave your house because of your anxiety. But once in a while, you manage to go for a few days of walking trips in the mountains.
You have walked for miles in National Parks all over the world. You try to do all the famous trails.
You only go walking on flat trails. Because of mobility issues, you can't do inclines or climbing.
Because of your mental health issues, every time you leave your house when you don’t really have to is a huge success. You are proud for each mile you walked in the hills.
You can't do more than 3 miles of a walk at a time. You need to stop often to rest and catch a breath.
You have clearly set goals and work on building your stamina and fitness levels. Your workout is dedicated to helping you complete trails with ever-increasing difficulty.
You know all about orienteering in the Wild and can read a map with no difficulty. You choose only trails that can test and deepen your knowledge of navigating the Wild.
You don’t really care if the trail is easy or not - you are there just for the fresh air and beautiful views.
You find walking by yourself scary. You can only go for a walk in an area that is popular with other walkers and close to villages or towns.
You don't like walking with other people. You seek solitude and enjoy solo adventures. You often go camping by yourself and don't find it unique or terrifying.
You are training for your mountain guide license. You are an experienced walker with the high-level skills needed for surviving even the worst conditions in the mountains.
Your navigational skills are poor, so you only choose trails with distinct markings and clear paths.
You find flat and wide paths boring. You enjoy the challenge of boulder climbing, jumping from to rock, wading streams, and steep climbs.
You go walking by yourself even though your friends keep telling you that kind of activity is dangerous and not suitable for women.
You enjoy spending many days at a time in Nature, even though many people say you are too old to do that.
You go walking in generic gym clothes and grab your kid's school backpack because you can't afford to buy hiking-specific attire.
You are a mother and love taking your small kiddos with you on walks in the Outdoors, even though your family tells you they are too young for that.
Your partner dislikes being in Nature, but you love it and try doing it anyway, even though your friends tell you it's selfish and would ruin your relationship.
You are always the slowest one in any group of walkers, and you can see that some people wonder why you even bother to go walking.
You don't look like the hikers you see in Outdoor companies ads. You often have a hard time finding clothing fitting your body. Some merchants don't even make clothes in your size.
You enjoy walking in Nature but you are not part of the hiking community - you don’t read magazines, online forums, don’t follow Twitter accounts connected to the Outdoor world. You don’t know the lingo and don’t know other people who enjoy what you do.
You can't stand the idea of not taking a shower after a day of activity. You must have a comfortable bed and a proper bathroom. You can't even imagine to stay at a campsite and use shared showers.
Being alone in the Outdoors both scares and excites you - so you learn all you can to feel equipped and well-prepared for your first solo adventure.
You always stay on top of the newest in Outdoor gear. You know all about the technical qualities of fabrics and materials, and love testing them when you spend time in the Wild.
If you were to judge by photos accompanying articles on the Outdoor, members of your ethnic or religious group do not hike or camp. You go into the mountains anyway.
You have never experienced any serious adverse weather during your walks - you avoid walking in rain, snow, heavy winds or fog.
You don't feel safe on a trail by yourself, so you only go in the mountains with organized groups with certified mountain guides.
You find trails below 100 km not even worth leaving your house for. If you go - you go for weeks at a time, crunching long miles each day. You have a few thru-hikes under your belt and already planning another.
You can't or don't feel like carrying anything heavier than 5 kg. You either go on one-day walks or on long trails which offer luggage transportation services.
You have never been on a trail that is more than 50 miles away from your home. You enjoy walking the same paths and don't feel the need to explore more.
You only choose trails which go through pubs or restaurants so you can enjoy a proper meal on the way.
You love to "disappear" from civilization to recharge your batteries. You need the me-time to rest, focus on your own needs, restore energy - and you don't feel guilty that you leave your family alone for that time.
Your health issues make some forms of hiking not feasible for you. You find a way around it to hike anyway focusing on what you body can do instead of what it can’t.
You never look like other hikers in magazines. You look sweaty, puffy, tired, and sometimes dirty.
You put one foot in front of the other on paths away from highly urbanized environment.
So: the moment of truth!
Has any of the above descriptions match what you do?
You are a hiker.
You are OK.
You are enough.
No matter if you do long hikes or short, one-day or month-long thru-hikes, if you have hi-tech hiking equipment or ordinary gym clothes, if you go alone or in groups, if you enjoy wild camping or only accept sleeping in a real bed, if you stroll slowly, or your speed is close to trail running, if you go on easy flat paths or technically challenging steep trails, if you are a beginner sweating your way through first mile or advanced trekker, if you wear size S or size 6XL, if you are young or old, single or partnered, childless or a parent, highly skilled or just learning your first steps…
I hope you didn’t have any doubts. I am sorry for the click-bait style of this article, but I wanted to confront the notion of being “not good enough”. I need the reminder myself - as I write about hiking I feel sometimes I am not qualified enough. I don’t do long thru-hikes, I am pretty average in terms of fitness levels or stamina. Actually, I’m probably below the average. I’m far from the achievements of some fellow hikers I meet on social media. I can’t do technical hikes or trails requiring excellent navigational skills.
But I am a hiker and I hope I can successfully work on the doubting voices in my head, making me feel sometimes like an impostor. My anxiety and other health issues make some kinds of hiking more appropriate or easier than other. There is no one must-do path we all have to take to be recognized as hikers. There is no one style to be a hiker, and definitely not one size, ethnicity, gender, religion, economic background, size, health or fitness level qualifier one needs to fulfill. I want all people to feel free to enjoy hiking. No matter if what they look is what is expected of a “hiker”. Let’s hit the trails and change what people expect when they hear the word “hiking”.