The Philosophy of Hiking


I have a tendency to over-think things.  At times this has caused me a lot of grief.  When a problem comes my way, or I’m offered some type of challenge, I tend to amplify that situation by excessive thinking.  I can over-analyze something to death.

In-depth analysis, however, has not always been burdensome.  Sometimes it has been helpful.  It has allowed me to sometimes find what lies beneath a subject matter.  Learning why something ticks has brought me joy.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I would consider questions, like: what drives me to hike? what lies behind my own desires to go to the woods? to sleep in a hammock between two trees? to walk with a pack on my back?

The Philosophy of Hiking isn’t just about why we are in the woods, it may also be a description of the manner in which we hike.  Whether we realize it or not, I believe that most of us belong to different philosophical “schools of thought” when it comes to hiking.  Sometimes we vacillate between these different approaches.

What follows are descriptions of various types of hikers whom I have encountered on the trail over the years.  It is not a complete list of hiking types.  However, these broad categories encompass a lot of people.  Of which hiking philosophy do you belong?

Big Miles

Big Miles

Those who belong to this “camp” feel greatest satisfaction when they look at the map at the end of the day and see how many miles they’ve put behind them.  When someone tells them it will take them six hours to walk to camp, they try to do it in five.  When they do hit camp, they wonder if they have enough daylight to reach the next shelter.

The Big Miles Hiker is often the Ultralight Guy, too.  Hitting big miles may necessitate shedding extra weight.  This hiker will own a kitchen scale and will measure everything.  If he hasn’t drilled holes in his toothbrush, he’s thought about it.

Pack Mule

Pack Mule

This hiker doesn’t care about pack weight because he’s not after distance.  Just like the Big Miles Hiker, he loves his gear – and he takes all of it with him every trip.  You will always overtake him during the day, but he’s the kind of guy you want in your camp at night, because he has everything with him.

Pack Mule will produce a frying pan from the bowels of his backpack and soon you’ll hear something sizzling from his fire.   If you forgot something, Pack Mule has it.  If you need some extra food; he’s got it. He can be your best friend when the day is done.



The Bushwacker doesn’t care about miles.  If he finds a good spot to camp, he may spend days there without moving.  He has gear, but it is minimal.  He will spend three hours trying to get a fire going from two pieces of gear that he’s rubbing together even though he has a lighter in his pocket.  He’d rather build a shelter than carry one.  If he offers you a drink of water, remember that he may have filtered it from his own sock.

Smellin Roses

Smellin’ Roses

This hiker has little concept of time, distance, or gear.  The Smellin’ Roses Hiker is all about absorbing the woods.  He is identifiable by the camera swinging from his neck.  There is little thought about tonight’s camp or dinner. This hiker is purely in the moment.  His steps are slow. His pack is usually light, and his eyes are always wide.

Mr. Sketchy

Mr. Sketchy

We don’t know much about Mr. Sketchy.  He’s out there, we just don’t know why.  He carries gear, and he can put on miles or he may also have several zero days in a row.  He doesn’t really belong to any known group of hikers, and his destination is always a little unclear.  He shows up at the oddest times, makes everyone feel awkward, and passes a lot of gas.  Among social outcasts he is considered an outcast.

Our own hiking philosophy is not wrong or right.  It is simply who we are.  Comparing the way we hike to someone else’s style is apples and oranges.  It isn’t even necessary to realize our own philosophy.  What is important, however, is that we hike.



Dane Cramer is a Christian blogger, backpacker, amateur filmmaker, volunteer jail chaplain and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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