What kind of idiot would walk that far? a question most thru-hikers have been asked at one time. It’s not a bad question—but it is not the question that we will be looking into today. Instead, we will be looking deeper into another question, that is arguably somewhat easier to answer: what kind of idiot would walk that far?
Taking a stroll along New Zealand’s 3000-kilometre long Te Araroa is not something you cross off your bucket list in a weekend, which means that only those who have the possibility to head out into the backcountry for an extended time can do it. Therefore, we can expect that the majority of walkers along the long pathway are retirees living out their golden years wearing smiles while crushing miles—right?
Ok, maybe not—but for those of you who are planning to spend your post-work lives sitting by the kitchen table cursing at any kid brave (or stupid!) enough to walk on your lawn I’ll have you know that even old legs will do when it comes to heading out into the bush.
As part of research for proposing a long trail that stretches across Sweden, I put up some questions on the Te Araroa Facebook page to find out more about those who have hiked (sorry, tramped) the New Zealand trail.
In total, 83 individuals, 79 of which who have tramped some part of Te Araroa, took their time to help me figure out what kinds of whackos really would consider walking across an entire nation, and in this article, you will learn more about who those wackos are. In this first part will dig in a bit deeper on the topic of sex on the trail.
Gender distribution along New Zealand’s long pathway
When I completed my thru-hike in the 2015-2016 season the majority of those I met on the trail were men. And I think I’m right in guessing that most of you also think that the majority of those walking the trail are male, and if that is what you are thinking, then SPOILER ALERT: you are right. But the difference is not that big, at least according to the answers given by past TA-graduates on Facebook.
When doing some rounding, it turns out that 52% of the participants were male, and 48% were female. Are you surprised over the not-that-large difference? I surely was. What does other sources say regarding the gender of thru-hikers?
Online magazine The Trek’s 2017 Appalachian Trail survey revealed that that 46% of the respondents were female, while 54% were male, showing that the numbers given by the TA folks may not be too far-off from the truth.
The numbers shown above are of course not the be-all end-all statistics on the topic, but rather it shows the difference in how many men and women have answered two online surveys. On the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 2000-milers page we can see that only about one-third of those who hike the entire trail are female—a number much higher than it once was, but still considerably lower than that given in the Te Araroa Facebook survey. Are women more likely to answer Facebook polls uploaded by random Swedes? Possibly, but until the Te Araroa Trust starts bugging people at Cape Reinga and at Sterling Point down by Bluff, these numbers are as good as any. Maybe.
Sex and finishing times
No, this is not a study regarding those kinds of finishing times—my sample size would be far too small to come to any conclusions on that topic. And seeing how the sample size of my Te Araroa Facebook survey is also limited, you should not draw too many conclusions from the data I’m showing here regarding days to walk the trail for the men and women who have thru-hiked both islands of New Zealand.
As shown in the charts, men are usually finishing their walks somewhere in between day 120 and day 130. Women, in general, enjoy the walk for a just a little bit longer and are expected to finish sometime after day 130.
Avarage time spent walking for men: 127 days
Average time spent walking for women: 133 days
Median time spent walking for men: 125 days
Median time spent walking for women: 140 days
In conclusion, we can say this on the topic of sex and finishing times: men get there faster, and women have it better. At least in the sense of enjoying their adventures for a wee bit longer.
Age and sex on the trail
So we can assume that there are slightly more men than women out on the trail, but is there any difference in how old the men and women are who head out into the backcountry?
The answer is sort of, but not really. Have a look:
As you can see, it is most likely that any smelly tramper you’d stumble upon on the trail will be in their twenties to mid-thirties, regardless of gender. The average female tramper is 32 years old, somewhat younger than the avarage male tramper who is 36 years of age. The median hiker is 29 years old no matter what bits are attached to their nether regions.
In conclusion, we can see that the differences, at least according to the survey sent out in the Te Araroa Facebook group, between the sexes on the trail are small. Most of those who are out walking are men, but the women who do so as well are not few. Men rush just a little bit more to finish their thru-hikes, while both genders generally wait an equal amount of time in their lives to head out on their grand New Zealand adventures.
The topic of gender in relation to hiking is of course much larger than what is shown here, but that’s a story for another day. More interesting and uninteresting trail-statistics will come, so stay tuned for upcoming posts here at sealpoop.com.
P.S: I am writing a book series on my own Te Araroa journey. The first part is available for free on this site, but you can also support me (AKA give me your money) by buying the e-book on Amazon or Apple Books. Happy tramping!