Stellar conversation, a compatible pace, someone who won't hog the Oreos--that's our idea of good hiking company. But for newcomers, finding suitable trailmates can be challenging. Try these techniques.
Talk it up
Enthusiastically mention a recent trek to family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. You'll be surprised at how many people-and sometimes, which people-share your interest.
Find a group
Hiking clubs and conservation groups are a deep well of potential partners. Most organize group hikes led by experienced volunteers. Contact your local Sierra Club chapter; log onto www.americanhiking.org for a nationwide list of clubs; or check out camping stores, regional outdoors magazines, or the Web for other resources.
Many cities now have community boards online like www.craigslist.org that let you post a call for trailmates. At www.backpacker.com/community, you can send a dispatch to other readers in your area. Or pin up a flyer on your gym's community board.
When you meet people, avoid mismatches by being honest about your experience level, stamina, and preferred hiking pace.
Test them first
If you're looking for company on multiday outings, go for dayhikes before committing to a longer trip. It'll give you a chance to test compatibility and see if your goals, priorities, fitness, and skill levels match.