When I first started hiking, I always hiked solo. I loved the solitude that hiking by myself would provide. I loved immersing myself in nature, setting my own route and pace, hearing no sounds other than nature, starting when I wanted and finishing late into the night if I chose to. When hiking by myself, I felt free.
A few years ago, I was on a holiday in the Grampians Victoria and started searching for hiking trails closer to my home. (This was of course before I built this site, or I would have simply searched her). I stumbled across a guy who was running a group called Geographically Challenged through some online platform called Meetup. Seems strange now but at the time I had no idea what Meetup was, not had I ever considered joining a bushwalking club. So hesitantly, I joined up to see what it was all about. One of the main reasons I decided to join is that there were a handful of hikes that I wanted to explore, some which required overnight or multi-day experience and more effort to plan. Unfortunately, none of my friends hiked and I felt there was safety in numbers, I decided it would be smart to tackle these hikes with others who had more experience than me.
So, I joined and the following weekend and attended my very first Meetup Hiking Group hike. Wow, what an experience. I love hiking alone, but this was a totally different experience. It was so enjoyable to share the passion and enthusiasm of the outdoors with others, to stare into the distance from a stunning viewpoint and know exactly what the smile on other peoples faces meant. I was hooked.
Several years and 1000s of kilometres later, and I look back and reminisce on all the amazing experiences, wonderful memories and great friends I’ve gained thanks to the meetup hiking groups I joined years ago. Now I run six meetup groups across Australia with over 6000 members and am a huge advocate for joining Meetup Hiking Groups and Bushwalking Clubs.
6 Reasons to Join a Meetup Hiking Group or Bushwalking Club
A bushwalking club or hiking meetup group not only allows for socialising but forces socialising. You are immediately thrown into a new circle of people – people who share the same passion for the outdoors as you do. Members of the group or club will make you feel welcome, presenting an opportunity to forge new friendships. Many of the friends I have now been formed through association with meetup groups. Even for introverts, such as myself, it was nice to have someone else make the effort in making me feel welcome, and meetup hiking groups and bushwalking clubs do just that. Maybe you are new to an area and are looking for a group of friends. What better place to find new friends than with a group of people that share similar interests with you?
Perhaps the best part of joining a hiking meetup group or bushwalking club is the lack of planning and preparation required on your end. As a solo hiker, all the planning was my responsibility and it was refreshing to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride for a change. Hiking meetup groups and bushwalking clubs set the route, time, location, number of people who can attend, and sometimes even transportation needs. All you need to do is RSVP and show up on time. Minimal effort exerted and limited stress – what more could you ask for?
Hiking in numbers is always recommended and encouraged. Hiking with people who are familiar with a trail is even better. In a good hiking group or bushwalking club, the leader/s will often be familiar with the trail they are taking you on. They’ve likely hiked it multiple times before and know the easiest/best routes to take. They know what to expect and can help you be adequately prepared beforehand. There will often be other people in the group with loads of great knowledge and experience that you can learn from. There is safety in numbers, and with experience. In case of an accident or emergency the group will be able to handle the situation much better than one or two hikers/bushwalkers on their own.
A meetup hiking group or bushwalking club will open the doors to new hikes you have likely never heard of. Uncharted territory is the best type of territory to venture for new experiences, discoveries, and memories. You may end up finding a hike that you’d never heard of before or maybe a hike you’ve always wanted to try but were too scared to embark on by yourself. You can then share those experiences with other friends once you become familiar with the trail.
5. Minimal Cost
Depending on the structure of the group, joining a meetup hiking group is typically free while bushwalking clubs will often charge a small membership fee. The only costs that are associated with the hike are the personal gear you may need to buy, transport costs to get there, food, and social activities if you stick around after the hike for drink and meal. Hiking is an extremely affordable hobby that doesn’t require loads of expenses. Unless you are a gear junkie like me and buy all the latest things.
Take the plunge. It doesn’t hurt to step outside of your comfort zone once to test the waters to see if it is something you will like. The worst that can happen is you find the group isn’t for you. There is far more to be gained and the advantages may be lifelong gains.
How to Join a Meetup Hiking Group or Bushwalking Club?
As mentioned earlier, I am an organiser in six Hiking Meetup Groups across Australia so of course I am going to recommend joining one of them. Seriously though, there are a host of amazing Meetup groups out there in every state of Australia so have a search for one near you. All you need to do is create a Meetup Account, select your areas of interest and join a group. Some groups may ask you a few joining questions, some a small fee to cover Meetup costs, before approving your membership request.
If you are looking for a Bushwalking Club, search online for a club in your area. You will then be able to click through to the club website to see their walks program and learn how to join. Some clubs may not publish the full program on their website for privacy reasons so you may need to contact the Club Secretary for details.
Remember that the best group or club for you may not necessarily be the closest one. Although some groups/clubs are purely locally based, most hiking groups and bushwalking clubs offer activities throughout the state or region. Contact the Meetup Group Organiser or Club Secretary to discuss your walking experience and the type of walks and activities they conduct. This will help you to determine if their walks are pitched at the right activity level for you.
You can go on test walks with a new group/club to decide if it is the best one for you. All Meetup Groups will require you to join while most bushwalking clubs will allow visitors (non-financial members) to attend one or two walks before deciding whether to join the club. Bushwalking clubs may ask you to join them on trial walks before allowing you to join, so that they can determine if you have the fitness and ability to safely undertake the types of activities they organise.
You will also need to consider whether the group/club members are in the right age group, whether they walk too fast or too slow for your enjoyment, whether the walks are on days that suit your availability, and whether they predominantly organise trips based on public transport or private vehicles. Even if the group/club usually travels by car, many of them can assist you to organise a car pool to the walk starting point.
Meetup Groups are somewhat less structured than clubs and will not often have regular formal meetings. If you are thinking of joining a bushwalking club, if possible, attend a club meeting. Some clubs have regular club meetings where you can meet the members and committee, listen to a talk, or watch a slideshow on recent activities.
Once you have joined a group/club, plan to attend a regular walk each week or month so that other members get to know you. You shouldn’t worry if you don’t know anyone else on the activity and hikers and bushwalkers are generally friendly people. Introduce yourself and start a conversation with other members. You will quickly get to know people, establish friendships and feel welcome on any walk.
Groups or Clubs You Should Not Join
In terms of heading out on a walk, there is not a lot of difference between a Meetup Hiking Group and a Bushwalking Club. Both organise walks that members are invited to attend. The main differences surface when we start talking about structure. Bushwalking Clubs are often established using a legal structure as a not-for-profit club. Without going into all the legal reasons for this structure or the structures available, one of the purposes of the legal structure is to better manage risk by allowing the club to obtain insurance. Cover may be available in the form of Personal Accident Insurance, Public Liability Insurance and if the club is an Incorporate Association, Associations Liability Insurance. Meetup Hiking Groups on the other hand may find it more challenging to obtain insurance, protecting its trip organisers, and will very rarely be able to provide personal accident insurance. The premise for this is that all people attending a meetup hike are doing so as self-reliant walkers and assume all the risk.
Bushwalking Clubs have a duty of care and as such are vigilant in accepting members into the club. This provides you with assurance (but no guarantee) that the people you are walking with are safe to be around. With Meetup Hiking Groups on the other hand, members are not often vetted so you never really know who you will be walking with.
During my time around Meetup groups I have seen a lot of groups come and go and have met a handful of ‘interesting’ people. Following are a few suggestions that come to mind when considering joining a Meetup Hiking Group.
The names I have used are fictitious so please don’t be offended if I have used your name.
Singles Hiking Group
So, are you single? So are we! And we’re always looking for more attractive, fit, single folks to join our weekly hiking group. We wouldn’t call our hikes a dating or matchmaking opportunity—but we are always looking for more attractive, single, attractive folks who want to have a good time! If you’re looking for a fun bunch of hikers to hit the trails with, please email a head-shot and a brief bio to Baz, our group leader, who is single by the way, and the only member of the group right now. If you don’t like hiking but are single, Baz is also on Tinder.
The Big Group Hiking Meetup
We love hiking, and we love hiking in a big group, despite the principles of Leave No Trace which clearly state we should walk in a small group to protect the environment. Ooops! Every Saturday, we meet at a trail-head at 8:45am to completely take over the place. If it’s your first time joining us, you’ll never remember everyone’s names—there are anywhere from 30 to 60 of us, depending on the weekend. But we’re loads of fun! Unless you’re not part of our group and you happen to pick the same trail head, in which case you’ll have to step off the trail for just a minute (or ten) as we all clamber noisily past you. Hope you can join us some weekend and experience our total domination of the environment and every other meetup group in the area!
Wayne’s Alpine Hiking Meetup
We are an elite group, unlike any other meetup hiking group, as we do things that they can’t. We meet every other Saturday at a different trail to listen to Wayne tell the same 25 stories about all the cool things he’s done in life. Sometimes Wayne talks about hiking and climbing trips he did a few years ago, sometimes he talks about how many committees and boards he has sat on and how poorly they performed, forcing him to leave and become an entrepreneur of alpine groups. Sometimes Wayne talks about how many groups he has been a prolific leader for, and sometimes he tells stories that are designed to illustrate how much more of an alpha male he is than other men, but the central theme is always the same: Wayne is cool, Wayne is an expert, Wayne should always be listened to and never questioned. Wayne is by no way humble so if you do dare to question him or suggest a better way to do things, he’ll probably kick you out of the group then block you just before sending a message that your experience, skills, leadership qualities, social characteristics and thinking does not align with his. If you’re at the back of the group, you may get to talk to other members of our group, but if you’re within 20 or so metres of Wayne, you will have a great opportunity to hear a lot about Wayne. Wayne will almost never tell the same story twice in the same weekend, but stories will be repeated from week to week. If you’re new here, Wayne will ask a couple brief questions about your life, not to learn more about you, but to provide a jumping-off point to talk about himself and to educate you through his wealth of experience. What you won’t find in the groups welcome message is that our group does not have a corporate structure, nor do we hold liability or indemnity insurance, despite offering technical trips, training and high-risk activities. But that’s OK, Wayne is careful and has so many years of experience in everything that nothing could possibly go wrong. You’ll be fine, trust Wayne. Oh, and if you want to be a trip leader Wayne is not going to make it easy for you to become a trip leader as you will never be as qualified or as super cool as him. Welcome to the group though.
She’ll Be Right Hikers
If you’re not much of a planner, you’ll love our group—we never decide anything until the last minute, lol! We meet up every other Sunday, and don’t pick a trail, a meeting place, or a meeting time, until sometime on Sunday morning, when someone starts a mass text between all our current group members. And then, all 23 of us collectively hash out a plan via text messages. Since we have so many trails nearby, it can be hard to decide! But don’t worry, we can usually agree on something within an hour and a half or so of texting back and forth. And then, most of us show up and hike!
Those were just a few examples, but I hope they illustrate my point.
If you are looking to join a meetup hiking group or bushwalking club, do your homework, select the right club, group or groups that are a match for you and enjoy getting into the wilderness.
There are literally thousands of places to explore and a whole heap of new people to meet.
Written by Darren Edwards | Executive Director | Adventure Advocates Ltd
The Trail Hiking Australia Meetup Groups are not-for-profit clubs of Adventure Advocates Ltd