An essential guide to some of the unique characters you'll come across when walking in the outdoors
For Issue Two of our print magazine, we partnered up with talented illustrator Olivia Jørgensen for a look at some classic hiking stereotypes. This is a version of that piece. Below you’ll find our guide to five types of hikers that are almost completely unavoidable when you’re walking the UK’s trails.
Illustrations: Olivia Jørgensen
The outdoors, we’re told, has never been more popular. When lockdown limited our ability to travel, we, the human beings of Great Britain, adapted and got our fix for adventure in a different way. Instead of heading to the airport, and an all-inclusive resort somewhere hotter than Arrakis (but less sand-wormy to be fair), newcomers to the UK’s outdoor scene embraced the green and pleasant hills of home. And, what’s more, they liked what they found when they did.
Demand for waterproof jackets and hiking boots went through the roof, and people of all ilks suddenly didn’t mind being rained on a bit if it meant they could just get a bit of fresh air in their lungs. Sure, our time on furlough was spent bingeing Netflix (“Hey all you cool cats and kittens. It’s Carole Baskin here”) but it was also spent getting acquainted more with our local green spaces.
As these fresh recruits to the ‘get outside’ cause widen their reach this summer, and begin to feel increasingly confident about going further afield and deeper into the countryside, we thought now was as good a time as any for a beginner’s visual guide to some of the people you’ll meet on every single hike you go on this summer. And so, without further ado…
The ‘All The Gear, And No Idea’
“I don’t know what this is, or why it’s good, but it looks cool. I’ve bought seven.”
It’s a cliche as old as time itself but wherever you go in the outdoors, you’ll always find someone who’s overcompensating for their lack of knowledge with stuff; loads and loads of stuff. Crampons for a mid-summer stroll in the South Downs? Go on. Why the hell not? Flare gun for Epping Forest? Er… ok. Bit much, but sure. Alright. Machete-sized survival knife for a pub walk near Windermere? OK. Steady on, Crocodile Dundee. Calm yourself. Yes, there’s being prepared, being overly prepared, and then, right in the end zone of preparedness, there’s a hiker who look like they’ve walked into their local branch of Mountain Warehouse and told them they’ll ‘take the lot’. Totally cleared them out; shop signs, and all.
The ‘No Gear, And No Idea’
“Hello. Is that Mountain Rescue? Yes, it happened again.”
Right at the other end of the ‘being prepared in the outdoors’ spectrum, there’s this type of hiker. They are, in short, a master in disaster; a trip to the emergency room that’s waiting to happen. The outdoors are for everyone, of course, and there is truly nothing on earth more annoying than a gear snob who thinks everyone needs to own a £450 jacket from Arc’teryx before they even think about setting off into the hills. That being said, flip flops, a vest, and no way of tracking where you’re going might not be the greatest option when you’re going for a big walk in Scotland (with its wildly changing weather).
“Veni, vidi, vici Instagram”
Getting upwards of 78 likes from their follower count of approximately 1,027, and melting the internet in the process, is the hiker that’s all about ‘the socials’. Every summit reached comes accompanied by a, let’s be honest, pretty indulgent caption about overcoming adversity (yet again). The tiny hooks for engagement, disguised as thought-provoking questions, they’ve used the move a dozen times already this week. Selfies, sunsets, and sponsored posts (#ad); in this life, you either get busy influencing or you get busy dying. Content needs to be consumed and so it must be endlessly created; fuel for the fires at the follower factory which must never be extinguished. Don’t hate the players, hate the game.
The Old Timer
“I first started walking these hills in 1952, and I’ve had the same metal-frame backpack since my interrailing trip in ‘81. Things were different in my day.”
This type of hiker has seen it all (twice). Nobody on earth knows how old they are exactly, but they do talk about the legendary Kinder Trespass of 1932 like someone who almost certainly witnessed this act of civil disobedience firsthand. These elderly outdoor enthusiasts are advocates for the way kit used to be, are surprisingly vocal on Twitter, and have some of the most impressive hillside stamina you’ve ever seen in your life. They’re so at one with the terrain, so interconnected with it and the codes around it, that it can be hard to know where the ground ends and these ancient walking wizards begin.
“Beans in a bathtub? Completed it, mate. Three Peaks Challenge? Smashing that one out as we speak. Marathon des Sables? Sign me up, pal.”
Combining a love of getting outdoors with a love of raising considerable amounts of money for good causes, these are the hikers who relish the opportunity to make the world an ever so slightly nicer place with every stomp of their walking boot. Sure, they could go for a walk anytime but where’s the sense of noble endeavour in that? This person has got the guys at JustGiving saved on their speed dial, and will take on any challenge you can think of so long as you’re willing to pop £20 up on their fundraising page (and tick that sweet Gift Aid box while you’re at it).
The Fundraiser is also, we think, physically incapable of not smiling. Blisters, sprained ankles, severe muscle aches, gangrene, total amputation of the leg; you name it, if they’re in the outdoors and it’s for charity this hiker will always look happy to be doing what they’re doing. ‘Some people… ,’ they’ll tell you, as they stop to briefly rehydrate during their mission to walk 100 consecutive miles without sleep, ‘aren’t as lucky as we are.’ Whatever they’re having for breakfast, my word, you want some.
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