I moved away from my family when I headed to college at age 18. Since then I’ve lived in a different time zone than my brother and parents. Over time, when you live away from home, your friends become your new family. A little over a year ago, I realized that my lifestyle, hobbies and interests were drastically different than that of my older friends. Not that this is a bad thing, I have some friendships that I’ve made since moving to Denver that are still just as strong nearly a decade later, however, I needed a few gal pals to go on adventures with. So, I went on a mission, to find some badass wilderness babes that could climb couloirs, scale big walls, and backpack up to remote peaks. It took several years to develop lasting relationships, but here’s how to meet outdoorsy friends.
Join a Meetup, or Three
When I first moved to Denver after college over eight years ago, I was scared. My entire social network had just been forcibly dropped beneath me. I knew no one, and I was alone. In a moment of desperation (and probably too much wine), I Googled, “How to make friends.” That’s when I discovered Meetup.
Meetup is an online network where you can join social groups with a particular interest. Do you collect comic action figures? There’s a meetup for that. Want to network with other small business owners? Meetup. Looking for other women who are interested in the outdoors? There’s a meetup for that too.
I’ve found that Meetups for the outdoors are best for the more beginner crowd. They offer a chance to try something new with a group. Oftentimes, Meetups have a lot of newcomers from out of town. Don’t commit to something huge with a Meetup. For your safety, be sure to take a look at how the organizers run things. Do they cap the Meetup at a small, manageable number? Do they require you to give an emergency contact? If they don’t, tell someone what you’re up to.
Tips: Just be yourself. A lot of people who join hiking an outdoor group are actually new to the state, so you won’t be alone if you too have just moved to a new place. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason, they are all looking to connect with new people just like you.
Make Outdoorsy Friends by Joining Local Outdoors Clubs
It might be a little unfair for me to comment on this in since I’m spoiled here in Colorado. However, outdoor clubs are a fantastic way to meet fellow outdoor enthusiasts. The Colorado Mountain Club, the American Alpine Club, Outdoor Women’s Alliance, Hike Like a Woman and Women Who Hike all provide an awesome platform to meet adventure lovers.
Many of these groups offer classes in outdoor skills, group trips, volunteer opportunities, social events, and even pro deals. I used to be a member of the Colorado Mountain Club. I’ve taken a few courses with them and learned a lot about skills that would otherwise be difficult for me to feel comfortable trying on my own such as snow anchors, self-arresting, even map and compass navigation.
Tips: The more you are involved with these groups, the easier it is to meet people. Try signing up for a class or volunteer opportunity. Classes usually involve a field element, which allows you to go out and practice your skills. This is a great way to meet people who are looking to get involved with activities you’ve always wanted to try.
New to the outdoors? Check out these first-timer guides just for you!
- Ultimate guide to hiking for beginners
- Everything you need to know to rock your climbing career
- First-timers guide to backpacking
- Leave No Trace basics
- Tips for your first 14er
- What to expect on your first snowy hike or snowshoe
Making Real-World Friendships on Social Media
I am the first to admit that social media can be a total time suck. However, I met one of my really good friends through Instagram of all places. It was the first time I had reached out to a total stranger via social media, but it turned out that a silly message with the opening lines “I hope this isn’t creepy” has led to one of the coolest friendships I’ve had. It definitely takes some guts to reach out to a total stranger but it’s a great way to meet adventurous friends.
Facebook, as annoying and almost “dated” as it is, still provides amazing opportunities to meet others. A lot of local adventure groups have their own Facebook groups. If there’s a hobby, there’s a Facebook group for it. Google around to try and find a Facebook group where you can find outdoorsy friends. I have met quite a few people through the Outdoor Women’s Alliance Grassroots Teams and Alpenglow Collective.
Tips: Don’t be a total weirdo, engage with people first. Like and comment on photos and stories as a way to introduce yourself. See someone send a sick route that you’ve always wanted to try? Say so! That way when you message them, they already know you care about what it is they are up to and you seem more approachable.
Find an Online Community
In today’s day and age of social media and blogs information is everywhere. Out of that, there have been a lot of niche-based groups that run meetups, events, clinics or even provide forums to ask questions about outdoor exploits. Most of these outdoor groups have a theme and cater to particular individuals. The list below certainly isn’t comprehensive, but they are a few noteworthy groups aimed at connecting like-minded individuals. I’m sure I’m missing a few here, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments below!
- Outdoor Women’s Alliance: Has various location-based Facebook groups geared towards community, events, and asking outdoor questions. Focuses on human-powered adventures from paddling to climbing.
- Alpenglow Collective: For women and under-represented genders in the climbing community. Create a profile and link up with other climbers across the US. Also has a Facebook Group
- Outdoor Afro: Focuses on African American outdoor connections and leadership in nature. Runs events across the country via local community groups.
- Rising Routes: A Colorado-based meetup group focused on inclusivity in the outdoors. Open to everyone, regardless of identity to get together and get outside.
- Brown Girls Climb: Highlights women of color in the climbing community. Hosts events and meetups throughout the year to promote diversity in climbing
- Unlikely Hikers: An Instagram community that features under-represented people from all walks of life in the outdoor space. Frequently runs local meetup events to encourage everyone to feel welcome in the outdoors space.
- Latino Outdoors: Connecting Latin communities in the outdoors. Frequently hosts hikes and events across the country.
- Women Who Hike: An online community dedicated to getting ladies on the trail. There are various local chapters and Facebook groups where women can connect to hike with other women.
How to Vet Your New Outdoors Friend
I never want to suggest that you get out there and put yourself in an unsafe situation. Getting outside does have its dangers and these are often amplified when going out with a complete stranger. Before you head out, ask your new partner about their experience. Pick something simple and low-key for your first outing, such as a small hike or a simple day on single-pitch rock. That way you can gauge if you will work well as a team. Talk about how you work through outdoor safety, what your experiences are, and what goals you have. If it seems like a match, then head out on a bigger adventure.
Always have a bail-out plan in case things don’t work out. Almost everyone I’ve met online or through friends of friends have been extremely knowledgable and safe, but that’s because I’m always upfront and honest with what I am capable of beforehand. That way, there are no surprises!
I used to be a total curmudgeon when it came to using the internet to find friends. However, it’s not really all that bad. It takes time to develop lasting friendships, but putting yourself out there is the first step. Making outdoorsy friends via the internet has been one of the more rewarding things I’ve ever put myself out there for. My closest companions were all born out of internet friendships and I wouldn’t want it any other way.