It takes one to know one

After I mentioned the startup of and, Tom Mangan at Two-Heel Drive took note and decided to ask the sites’ founder, Steve Outing, if there were plans to launch “”

Mangan says Outing replied, but questioned the viability of such a site.

“I’m a bit dubious about hiking, but maybe you can convince me I shouldn’t be. With MTB and climbing, people who are passionate about the sport really identify themselves with being part of a tribe, so they seem willing to join a community of people who share a common obsession.”

I find that response startling. Are hikers less passionate about their sport than climbers and mountain bikers?

They are if your sport is climbing or mountain biking and not hiking.

But take it from someone who’s been hiking and backpacking for more than 35 years, and who’s also been involved in mountain biking, climbing, road biking, whitewater kayaking, flatwater canoeing, and assorted other outdoor pursuits — there are people in every one of these sports who are equally passionate.

Mangan apparently doesn’t agree.

“Hiking doesn’t seem sexy compared to those extreme sports with their extreme hype. Not complicated enough, not difficult enough, not expensive enough.”

Yeah, it does have something to do with the money, doesn’t it.

But still, if you want to see passion, try getting in a simple discussion on pack weight in the BackpackingLight discussion group. Try complaining about cell phone use on the trail in the AT-L mailing list. Claim you have the best alcohol stove design at Show up at a hiker gathering like Trail Days in Damascus, Va.

Or just get out on a trail and talk to another hiker.

There’s a tribe of hikers out there, all right.


8 Responses to It takes one to know one

  1. Steve Outing says:

    I thought Tom and I were having a private e-mail exchange, but that’s OK. Happy to chat this up publicly. I’m not opposed to thinking about applying the model to hiking. With Tom I was just raising my concerns. If we can be convinced that hiking has the potential to form a passionate community — and if we can find the right person to be the site’s “enthusiast-in-chief” — then I’m all for creating such a site/online community. I think our model is different and more community/passion focused than most other outdoors online stuff to be of interest and use to people.

    A question I have for you is the appropriate scope. Purely “hiking,” or should it combine hiking and backpacking?

    For me, raising the question was logical because I’m a weekend/vacation hiker. Haven’t backpacked in years, and my hiking is usually on vacations or once in a blue moon I might do a 14er here in Colorado. But I’d like to hear more from people who are as passionate about hiking as I am, personally, about mountain biking.

  2. tom says:

    Steve: First, my apologies for not checking w/you before posting an excerpt from your e-mail. Should’ve asked first.

    Second: I do suspect you’re generalizing your own experience onto hiking — which doesn’t rile me all that much, but it did get Cutter’s dander up. (Cutter’s Dander: great rock band name!). The tone of his objection suggests a community of true believers is out there; the trick is to get them to come together online.

    Third: As to backpacking, you can’t do it without hiking, so it has to be considered a subset of hiking.

    Fourth: HIking is a bridge activity which enables a host of activities, each of which has its passionate believers, whether it’s outdoor photography, geocaching, astronomy, birdwatching or blogging.

    Fifth: Hiking is much bigger outside the United States. I would bet that fully a quarter of all the hikers I meet on trails in Northern California are here from overseas, either for work or for pleasure. With the global reach of the Web this cannot be ignored. (The language issue is a hurdle but hardly insurmountable.)

    One poster on my blog noted that most hikers don’t bother coming online to find hiking-related content because they’re already in hiking clubs that are common across the United States (and, again, overseas). This, too, suggests there’s a community of hikers, though admittedly an offline community is not much help to an online entrepreneur.

  3. tom says:

    Cutter, by the way: You’re now nominated to be the host of Outdoor Blogger Ho Down No. 2 — what say we have it at next year’s Trail Days?

  4. winehiker says:

    The passion is out there, and for different reasons. Some would rather get their workouts outdoors than be in the gym; others find Nature to be their solace and prefer to be out walking in it often. I’m a fan of doing both, plus regularly organizing others to come along with me. While my hikes are often oversubscribed, very rarely am I finding people who write about hiking. Some, however, are reading about it online, if not regularly. Nearly all, however, fall into the 35-55 y.o. age range.

    We must admit that, more or less, the tools of the Internet are the tools of the young and that hiking is an activity pursued by an older demographic that is not necessarily Internet-savvy or (gasp!) reads blogs. This situation, however, will change; more and more hikers will have been online before they became hikers, as opposed to much of the preceding generation. But feel free to disagree with me on this point if you feel the compulsion.

    Nevertheless, if our passion to hike stirs new generations toward a greater awareness of our cherished outdoor heritage, applying sound ethics to wilderness pursuits, and to using the Internet as a means to this end, then we as passionate bloggers will surely succeed in our current efforts.

  5. cutter says:

    Cutter, by the way: You’re now nominated to be the host of Outdoor Blogger Ho Down No. 2 — what say we have it at next year’s Trail Days?

    Hmmm. You might be able to talk me into that.

  6. […] In a reply to my post, Outing explains a little more what he meant. “I think our model is different and more community/passion focused than most other outdoors online stuff to be of interest and use to people.” […]

  7. DSD says:

    Interesting discussions…
    Two quotes come to mind I’ve mused over:
    “Comparing adventures is like comparing artists; who is to say which is more aesthetically pleasing” Anon
    “The best, most succesful adventurer, is the one having the most fun” Anon
    As for passion and motivation… it seems we all eb and flow in our enthusiasms, particularly if we have been out there for years…regardless of the adventure chosen…
    Another interesting perspective is that isn’t this more about how we each create and then re-create our own motiavtion and passion time and time again…..
    “Summit-Stones” by DSD

  8. DSD says:

    Love the Thoreau quote! Just visited again.
    “Summit-Stones & Adventure Musings” by DSD

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