Here in Colorado, I meet a tons of awesome couples where one partner is outdoorsy and the other isn’t. Sometimes, that’s totally cool (and even preferable) to both people. Separate hobbies aren’t always a bad thing!
But if you really would love to spend more time in the outdoors with your indoorsy boo — and want to float the idea without scaring them off or ending up in a puddle of blood — this post is totally for you.
To hear my hard-won wisdom on this topic, play the video above. Or if you’re more of a skimmer, check out the transcript below.
And whatever you do, good luck! May next weekend find the two of you camping under the stars or drinking red wine at a beautiful mountain lake.
Hey guys, it’s Sarah here from Miss Adventure Pants, with your weekly live chat.
This week’s topic is how to get your your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or romantic partner into hiking. Because when you love someone, it’s pretty normal to want them to love the things you love.
(And by the way, a lot of these tips also totally work for kids, parents, siblings, and friends.)
Today’s tips assume your boo is lukewarm about hiking. Maybe they’ve not done it before. Or maybe they did it, and they had a bad experience. But for whatever reason, you’re worried that they won’t do it or won’t like it, and you’re wondering how to ease them into it.
Sadly, there’s not guarantee that if you take them hiking and make it really fun and positive, they’ll fall in love with it. That’s just life.
But I really think you can introduce hiking (or any new activity) in a way that’s fun and welcoming. Your attitude and approach can increase the odds that your loved one will like it and want to do it again and again.
So, how do you get that special person into hiking?
Step 1: Be Enthusiastic, but Don’t Oversell
When you bring up the idea, it’s really important to be positive. Send the message that this will be something really awesome you two could do together.
But at the same time, don’t overdo it. Because if your boo has doubts and you’re super gung-ho, they’re going to feel pressured.
Take a minute to put yourself in his or her shoes. Say someone you care about really, really wants you to do this thing, but you’re not sure you’re going to like it. What if you totally fail and make a fool out of yourself? They’re going to be so disappointed, and that’s totally going to suck.
So be enthusiastic, but don’t push too hard. Just invite them and see what happens.
Step 2: Choose the First Hike Carefully
Don’t take him on an 18-mile sufferfest that leaves him collapsed on the ground panting and exhausted. You need to send the message that hiking is fun and enjoyable. So start with something on the easy side.
Another tip is to choose somewhere really beautiful that gives him lots of bang for his buck. Some examples in Colorado:
- Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Herman Lake near Loveland Pass
- Lake Dorothy near Nederland (especially during wildflower season!)
Another tip is to make the first trip short. In hiking (and many other areas of life), it’s better to leave your audience wanting more! It’s definitely preferable to exhausting your boo to the point of collapse.
Also, a short hike doesn’t prolong the agony if he’s having a hard time. It’s over in a few hours, and then you guys can go eat burgers, drink beer, and move on to the next thing.
Step 3: Involve Him in the Planning
This gives him some power in the process. It also reassures him that you’re not going to just drag him up your favorite mountain, like it or not!
Give him choices about which hike to try, but don’t overwhelm him. Pick out two or three hikes you think he’d like and ask, “Hey, which one of these looks fun to you?” Show him how to research hikes on the internet, or lend him a guidebook.
And when he makes a choice, it’s important to honor it (even if it’s not your choice). That shows him he’s an equal partner in this little hiking project.
Step 4: Resist the Urge to Micromanage
I get so excited when a boyfriend’s going hiking with me for the first time that I want to tell him EVERYTHING he might ever need to know. I barely realize I’m blasting him with the information fire hose. Meanwhile, he’s probably like, “Holy crap, get away from me woman!”
A better way to go about it is to focus on the basics. Does he have appropriate shoes that aren’t going to rip his feet apart? If you’re going in the cold, does he have warm enough clothes? He does? Great, now back off.
On the big day, let him pack his own pack and make his own choices. If he forgets something, it’s not a big deal, because the hike is short, and you’ve packed all the essential survival gear. Just double check that he’s got water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hat and gloves (if it’s going to be cold), and then get on with things.
Bonus prepping tip: if he needs to buy any gear for his first hike, don’t make big investments. Because if you go out and buy him a $400 Arc’teryx jacket, it’s just going to create pressure. In the early stages, it’s better to borrow, thrift, and keep things cheap.
Step 5: Pack a Few Luxuries
Your boyfriend’s first hike is an occasion for celebration! So treat it like a special date. Pack some Lindt chocolate, fancy cheese, hot cider (if it’s cold), or bring wine in a Nalgene bottle.
As you hit the trail, celebrate early and often. This is an easy hike, so you don’t have to get to the lake or the top of the mountain before the booze and gourmet food come out!
Another idea is to bring your nice camera and selfie stick. Take some high-quality photos you can frame and share on social media. And if you’re guy is into Instagram, definitely offer to play phone photographer for the day.
Step 6: Offer Lots of Positive Encouragement
So let’s say things don’t go as well as you hoped. Maybe he wants to stop every five minutes, or he’s complaining that his knees hurt. And to be honest, you’re disappointed and getting a little frustrated.
Whoa. Take a deep breath. Because the last thing you want to do is get pushy or judgy.
Don’t minimize his struggle. (You’ll feel so much better when we’re at the lake!)
And whatever you do, don’t try to guilt or shame him up the mountain. (C’mon, it’s only two miles! My seven year old cousin can do it on snowshoes!)
Because here’s the thing. Coming out of your comfort zone takes courage. It feels scary. And in this case, he’s doing it for you.
Also, he’s probably putting pressure on himself. He might be even more disappointed than you!
So here’s the right message. Whatever he can manage to do — even if it isn’t much — is AWESOME. The end.
If he’s the kind of person who thrives on encouragement, tell him things like:
- You got this!
- You’re totally killing it!
- I’m so proud of you!
Or if he’s not into that, offer quite support by showing patience, walking at his pace, making as many stops as he wants, and not making a big deal out of any difficulties.
And if he wants to turn around? That should be cool. It’s all about the journey. Be proud of him for giving it a try and making it this far.
A caveat: If you know him really well (as in this is a committed relationship and not a dating situation), and you suspect that he will appreciate a bit of a push in the long run, go for it. But know that this can be a fine line to walk!
Step 7: Enjoy Yourself
Even though you’re totally stoked to have your boo on the trail with you, don’t focus on him TOO MUCH. Because that probably feels weird to both of you.
Instead, take a few minutes to disengage and do your normal hikey things. Take pics. Climb rocks. Poke bear poo with a stick. Play.
Above all, let him have some space to experience the outdoors without worrying about you and your feelings. Because that’s how people fall in love with hiking.
Step 8: Celebrate
Always celebrate, no matter what. Go out to eat afterwards. Toast your first hike together.
Even if he barely made it a mile up the trail, you ask? Sure. Keep in mind that what seemed routine to you may be epic and even quite exciting to him.
For example, a few years ago I took my mom snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were headed for Dream Lake, which is a totally spectacular Colorado classic.
After about 30 minutes, she was getting cold and wanted to head back. Just then we came to Nymph Lake, which (to me) is not particularly exciting. But for her, it was like summiting Mount Everest. She was just super excited to walk on the ice and see the mountains rising above the trees.
And that’s actually my favorite part of hiking with beginners. They’re so excited over little things. They reopen my eyes to the wonder all around and remind me to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
So those are tips really on getting your romantic partner (or your kids, parents, siblings, friends, whoever) into hiking.
You can’t force someone to like something. But you can make it a welcoming experience. They key is to keep things fun and low pressure and to really honor them for taking a risk.
If you do these things, and even if the first hike isn’t a raging success, they may be willing to give it another try!
By the way, I get that it’s hard sometimes.
I actually have a degree in counseling, and a lot of these tips come directly from research in psychology. But that’s not to say that I’m good at practicing them in real life!
I’ve totally said things on trail like, “You can do this, do better!” and “You just need to do it this way.” So pretty much everything I’ve shared in this post, I’ve learned from my own mistakes.
Anyway, thanks so much for tuning in! And if you decide to put these ideas into practice, best of luck. I’ll be sending all my good juju your way!
Last updated Sept. 5, 2017.