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July 2022 Issue
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Fire up your matches in the wilderness

In the too-busy modern age, how does a single tramper find another single tramper? Wilderness’s agony aunt explains how to hack Tinder to find your adventure buddy-slash-life partner. 

Their eyes met over the line of wet socks hanging in the hut. What were his intentions, she wondered, as he wrote his next destination in the hut book. When she whipped out a bag of marshmallows to toast over the fire, he knew she’d kindled the flame. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, gentle reader, that any tramper in possession of a pack and boots is also desirous of a partner in crime with whom to explore the bush. 

Dating for trampers in the pre-internet age seems simple in retrospect. Join a club, eye up the offerings and pick one from the herd. But now, with younger people less inclined to join tramping clubs and a plethora of dating apps on offer, it can be hard to form lasting connections with fellow outdoors lovers. 

Welcome, then, the internet. Since Tinder rose to prominence in 2012, its reputation has gone from casual hookups to incorporating users looking for a relationship. But it’s still the Wild West out there, and we all know it rains a lot on the West Coast. However, there is a way to hack your use of the app to weed out the couch-dwellers and find your next belaytionship. Here’s how. 

First, a quick run-down for those not familiar with Tinder. You create a bio for yourself (photos, text) and enter your preferences (proximity, age, gender). Then you flip through the stack of profiles, swiping left for ‘no thanks’ and right for ‘yes please’. You can only chat if you both swipe right. (Other functionality exists but you have to pay for it, and that’s hard-earned money that could go towards your next sleeping bag – maybe a double one for snuggling, if this works out.) 

The next step is to filter out the common ruck. For women looking at men, that means guys who have profile photos with a serious facial expression (type-two fun requires some sort of humour, after all); guys with their middle finger up; and any men with photos of fish (fishing addicts generally don’t overlap with tramping addicts – it’s an either-or). For men looking at women’s profiles, swipe left on any with filters that add bunny ears/cats noses/sparkles, and any bios stating they’re looking for ‘hectares and Hiluxes’ (sorry, Country Calendar is down the hallway). 

Trampers of any gender should instantly swipe left on those mentioning ‘420’ (this is code for marijuana enthusiasts; sorry, being judgy, but stoners may not be that motivated to don boots and pack and get into the hills) or the acronym ‘DTF’ (this doesn’t stand for ‘Dehy Tramping Food’ but rather that the user seeks a casual liaison only in language that would make most readers blush). Be wary also of photos of headless men wearing women’s lingerie – each to their own, but a lace g-string and suspender belt combo will chafe terribly on the track, and nobody is at their best when they’re chafing. 

From there it’s a case of sorting through photos to pick up outdoorsy signals. Jason, 42, who has what he calls a ‘high conversion rate’ on Tinder, seeks an all-rounder lady who looks like she enjoys tramping and the wilderness but would equally enjoy a wine on a weekend. “I’m averse to women who have endless action pics – like, I don’t want her to outdo me. On the other hand, you’ve got to be wary of the people who put up a pic of something they did in the hills but it was a oncer,” Jason says. “Careful filtering is needed.”

He’s right. Look for photos of people in a wilderness location that isn’t a Great Walk or the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Bonus points for any photos featuring an ice axe, climbing gear or a cooker in the wild, and double bonus points for purple and green Macpac gear from the 1990s and/or a Mountain Mule (for the, ahem, older generation – you deserve love, too). Swipe left on anyone wearing cotton rather than polypro or merino – a sure sign of a noob. 

Kelly, 35, reckons certain areas of the country yield better for trampers looking for other trampers. “Christchurch is one of the best spots – big enough to have lots of profiles to look through, and generally has a lot of outdoorsy types to connect with. Watch out for small towns, though – places like Wānaka and Ohakune where all the singles already know each other.”

Jason admits he’s still looking, but reckons he’s close to finding his perfect woman. “She’s out there, looking for me – a middle-aged, bald, dad-bod father of two. She loves the outdoors but she’s not more hardcore than I am, and she’s also really flexible and great at yoga.” 

Don’t settle, Jason. 

If Tinder doesn’t yield the results you want, the next step is to delete the app entirely and try Hinge, which kicks Tinder’s cotton-clad butt. Thank us later.