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"Meetup" trips - warning
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Meetup" trips - warning on 07/02/2012 12:53:11 MDT Print View

As a Sierra Club member and Outings Chair for the Club's Nevada Chapter I've had many enjoyable backpacks with Club outings leaders.

Recently I joined a Las Vegas Meetup backpackers group and signed up for the Ruby Crest Trail trip. But, 2 weeks before the trip, the leader announces via e-mail that his father was gravely ill but he would be in touch in a few days regarding the trip.

Then silence - nada, e-mails to him unanswered, no phone calls returned, nada. And there's the litle matter of the $40. several of us paid for the shuttle service. Come to find out from the ONLY shuttle service in the area our "leader" had never even made any reservations for the shuttle.

So a bit of a warning for those of you planning to sign up for a Meetup backpack. Get ALL the leader's info., phone numbers, e-mail address, and home address before you commit. Remember, Meetup leaders are NOT certified by any organization connected with Meetup.

On the other hand, all Sierra Club outings leaders absolutely must be current in first aid and their OLT (Outdoor Leadership Training) so that they maintain the Sierra Club's reputation for well led trips and are covered by the Club's liability insurance. The difference is quality of leadership. 'Nuff sed.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
leadership on 07/02/2012 13:15:08 MDT Print View

the quality of leadership in any group varies according to the individual leader IMO ... you can have all the certifications and "training" in the world, but in the end its the person that matters

i posted up an incident about an "official" trip that ran into quite a bit of trouble with bad decisions and needed to be rescued ...

i personally find that meetup or even other "official" groups trips can sometimes be quite questionable ... sometimes its the blind leading the blind ... some of these groups are led by people without common sense, or questionable experience ... and the motives of some of the leaders are sometimes more off a "see how much i know" reasoning ...

the only solution is for you to develop the skills needed yourself and be able to make your own judgement ...

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"The Leader" on 07/03/2012 22:38:40 MDT Print View

Yep, it's true, the character (and experience) of the leader makes or breaks a trip.

My basic idea in trip leadership is "under-promise and over-deliver". That way people usually go home happy.

And when the weather turns bad or a participant turns sour the way you deal with it makes all the difference too. Keeping a good-natured attitude is not always easy and sometimes a trip leader must become "gently firm" in their decisions to protect the group. Turning back from a summit in the face of a thunder storm can disappoint the macho but it protects the ignorant.

a b
As fast as the slowest person on 07/03/2012 22:53:16 MDT Print View

Group travel is Vastly different than solo travel.. obviously.
Less obvious is the way in which different people manifest stress.
The trick of being a good leader is to know when a person is "pushing their limits" a bit or truly being hurt by the experience.
My uncle Wayne taught me that: when in a group, a "leader" must actually "follow" the slowest person at times.
Encouraging and even pushing is okay, but knowing when things are getting seriously dangerous for a person (physically or psychologically) is the difference between a death march and an enjoyable hike-the-woods for everyone involved.
Pulling the plug too early can also be detrimental to the whole point of a wilderness adventure
Been there too... it sucks for everyone.. even more so for the "weakest" memeber of the group.
You have to swallow not only your own ego.. but deal with those of others and strike a balance for the group.
Emotions run high the further you get from the road and it clouds EVERYONES judgement to some degree.
Sorry to hear about the failure of that trips organisation.
The only real failure there was simple communication. (Not on your part!)

Example: Back in the 90's we arranged a May trip to laurel lake. One in the group wore tennis shoes with large holes in them.
We began our hike in to the lake under rain, and later snow.
The poor fellow began to suffer. (Although he never said a word until his feet were dark blue!)
Long story short we cut our trip short because of the condition of his feet upon arrival at the lake.
failed to access the readiness of all the members of the group; equipment to attitude and ability

Group members:
failed to support fellow hiker in distress.
ie. simple duct tape patch or a loan of a pair of socks upon arrival could have prevented distress and the abort of the hike.

We properly acessed the situation and aborted the hike, saving the mans feets and spirit.

Group Trips are fun but that fun comes at a cost.
It is totally worth it.
But, as Leader, you can't lose perspective even for a minute.

Edited by Ice-axe on 07/03/2012 23:15:07 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: "Meetup" trips - warning on 07/09/2012 11:01:55 MDT Print View

That goes for any trip with shared expenses, not just a meetup trip. Anyone can rip you off. The trip you signed up for laid it all out up refunds. I am sorry it happened Eric, and would not sign up for a trip with that person as organizer.

Edited by jshann on 07/09/2012 11:03:45 MDT.

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
Meetup trips on 07/10/2012 15:59:06 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with a Meetup! I am the Organizer of a PCT backpacking Meetup and understand the concerns of potential trip participants regarding trip planning, follow-through, and general organizing responsibility.

One thing I'd like to point out is that a Meetup "Organizer" is not a "Leader" in the usual sense. Meetups are a way for like-minded people to meet and organize events together. So, for trips that I "organize", I am not a "Leader" (and my trip disclosures emphasize this fact), but an "Organizer". I make clear that everyone is responsible for themselves. Of course, in the event of a mishap, we would all work together to resolve an issue. But a Meetup event is more like a group of friends getting together than a guided trip.

I require that all trip participants have current first-aid and CPR certifications, bring their own maps, and understand that they must be otherwise self-sufficient in the field. I also require that a participant attend one of our meetings first, before attending an overnight trip. Even with all these precautions, there are occasional problems in the field (participant not physically up to the challenge, etc.) and we deal with this the best we can.

Of course, the Meeup you almost attended was obviously led by a "bad" "Organizer". This sloppy behavior can happen in any setting and with any organization. I just didn't want all Meetups to get a bad rap because you had a bad experience. I've met and hiked with several competent backpackers I've met through Meetup. I never would have met these people in "normal" circumstances.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: "Meetup" trips - warning on 07/10/2012 17:08:24 MDT Print View

Consider getting with others on the failed trip, find out who lost money, find out if he really paid money (lost) and complain about it (or other moves) if he has profited from keeping your money.

Edited by jshann on 07/10/2012 17:09:06 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
UPDATE on 07/11/2012 01:03:27 MDT Print View

Well, all, whether "leader" or "organizer", the culprit, Doug Schmidt, still has my $40. and STILL will not answer my e-mails or phone calls. So I now have to track him down and get my money back - AND make sure he never leads another backpack or hike in a 'Vegas Meetup again.

Believe me, since I have several LE friends in the valley, finding him will be easy.

Edited by Danepacker on 07/11/2012 01:05:03 MDT.

Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Meetup nightmare. on 07/11/2012 18:29:34 MDT Print View

I debated whether or not to share my one experience with a Meetup backpacking group (as it is a truly awful memory), but I will.

Early last summer, boyfriend and I were the only ones at a large lake (extending 3/4-1 mile from end to end), 11 miles from the trailhead, around 8k'. We'd already been there two nights and hadn't seen a soul since we'd left the car. The final 3-4 miles were still mostly under snow and lots of stretches were running streams. On a trial we'd traveled 5-6 times before, we had to check the map a number of times. I digress...

So, sometime mid-afternoon on our 3rd afternoon of having the lake entirely to ourselves and enjoying the peaceful scenery, three people show up. From a distance, they look pooped and drop their packs to sit and take a look around. We make ourselves visible and give a nod/wave. They come over and hiker #1 (who we soon discover is this Meetup's organizer) tells us they are waiting for the other 4 people in their party and then inquires about fishing and good camping spots. We tell him we haven't seen any fish (or people) and mention two different beautiful spots toward the other end of the lake - where we'd camped on all other previous visits. Meanwhile, #2 walks to the water's edge to take a look, and #3 walks by our tent and begins sussing out the area just beyond. As we keep chatting with #1, we can't help but notice #2 has joined #3, and the two of them are now kicking around and leveling the dirt about 50 feet beyond our tent.

At this part of the lake, you're actually sort of on a finger and the land ends about 100 yards beyond where our tent was pitched. This means, anyone camped beyond would have had to walk back past us for catholes, hiking, exploring, etc. Not only that, but there wasn't much (flora) between us and where it appeared #2 and #3 were thinking of setting up camp. We could see them clearly, as they stood around the exact spot where we had enjoyed the previous night's dinner and had spent a bunch of time lounging and reading earlier that very day. We called over... suggesting they check out other spots along the lake... They didn't even look up.

What came next was not pretty. In fact, it was entirely ugly. #2 and #3 retrieved their packs, #1 went over to where they'd been, and most of the rest of their group arrived. Eventually, as we stood dumbfounded... dismayed... while intermittently asking them to please not camp there (and saying some other much less pleasant things), they all made their way back over to the area beyond our tent. I pleaded, no, I BEGGED them to please, please, please, please camp elsewhere. I was practically in tears. I tried explaining we were there for solitude and to enjoy peace, beauty, privacy, each other, wilderness... to get away from "it all" and be alone. To this, the Meetup organizer curtly responded, "if you didn't want to be around people, then why'd you camp right next to a bunch of campsites?" Campsites!?!? What campsites!? We're in the w i l d e r n e s s... over eleven trail miles from the nearest car! This isn't a campground. Those aren't "campsites" - they are old fire-rings people didn't properly dismantle!

I couldn't believe it. We offered to help them move their things. We understood they were tired. We told them again about the other truly beautiful spots toward the other end of the lake. Our desperation was palpable. My boyfriend blew his lid (understatement). Basically, imagine the worst... now imagine something worse than that. No blows, but it was unreal. They were awful. We were awful. By this point, I had already dismantled our tent. We spent the next two nights at the other end of the lake. In the back of our minds, we worried they would come harass us or mess with our gear while we were out day-hiking. We also spent a lot of time trying to find some lightness in a dark experience that had left us with a bad feeling about humanity (ourselves included).

Two of the seven Meetup people were a couple who looked to be in their 50s. They were quiet the whole time and seemed uncomfortable throughout the entire ordeal. Even before they realized there was an "issue," they had hesitated to take their packs and walk by our tent. Eventually they did, but even then they sort of stood around as if they were contemplating not staying. My guess is that they shared our sense of wilderness "etiquette" and didn't want to camp there. Besides all the rest, at this point they understood how unhappy we were, and who wants to camp right by an angry man and a whiny woman begging you not to? It seemed to us this couple did not want to be a part of their Meetup any longer, but they were stuck... not realizing until then that their organizer was a jacka** or the temperament of others in the group.

So, be forewarned. You never know who's going to be in your Meetup group, so you might want to have an escape plan in place. And I would advise against carpooling with/to join a bunch of strangers for a multi-night backpacking trip; you could end up between a real rock and a hard place.

Edited by eileensd on 07/11/2012 19:02:43 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Meetup nightmare. on 07/11/2012 18:55:20 MDT Print View

Wow! That is so incredibly rude! You were wise to move to the other side of the lake.

Another solution: Back in the day, you could buy skunk scent in hunting stores - the idea was to cover you human scent while bow hunting. Now if you carried a little bottle of skunk scent, carefully wrapped of course, and just walked through their camp as they were beginning to set up, I'll bet it wouldn't take too much to convince them to set up elsewhere! "Oh yeah, there was a skunk came through last night. I think he got scared by a coyote or something..."


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: re: Meetup nightmare. on 07/11/2012 19:23:20 MDT Print View
There is a lot not being said publicly I can tell you.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
"Organized groups" on 07/11/2012 23:18:30 MDT Print View

Back in the day, I used to be an active organizer in a similar grass-roots type group here in Boulder. (That, appropriately enough, has since transitioned to meet up)

Like Meet Up, we did not have "leaders", but "organizers".

Some organizers were great...others, not so much.

When I organized trips, I kept a trip limit, screened people heavily and frankly was a stickler about the conditions of the trips and what was allowed.

I'd organize some beginner friendly trips (full moon hikes with food!) but also some strenuous hikes that (20+ MPD w/5000' with a chunk off trail for example) where I flat out told people "You may want consider a different trip".

(Guys were the worst about being told no! )

So, it all depends on the organizers with Meetups and similar groups. The best bet may be to look at past trips and randomly ask people on the trips what they thought of a certain organizer. You'll learn who is full of crap, who means well but can UNDER-exaggerate the difficulty of a trip and who is hard-#ss about meeting/leaving on time and screening trips heavily (short and sarcastic guy originally from the Northeast I understand. ;) )

Finally, as an aside, I met my soon-to-be-wife on a full moon hike I organized. The only reason she went on the trip is because someone said I am at least somewhat qualified in the outdoors. So asking the rep of an organizer CAN be helpful. At least for me... ;D

Edited by PaulMags on 07/11/2012 23:21:38 MDT.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Organinzed trips on 07/12/2012 11:16:07 MDT Print View

I inquired into a Alaska trip a few years ago, talked to the organizer by phone for a few minutes. Asked about my experience, so forth. Easily accepted, even though most of my trips had been solo over my life, maybe that helped. I asked some questions months before the trip, some of the group going was concerned that I was asking questions. All I was doing was trying to find out about conditions we might expect so I could be properly prepared, after all, this was Alaska, once in a life time trip maybe. Turns out, some of the others were not in shape and complained about too short of rests, terrain. We still made it and all got along fine. My biggest concern was making the switch in the airport to the next leg, little did they know my travel experience by jet was very little for this small town boy. All ya gotta be able to do is read signs and be patient for the flight out.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
internet group trips (long) on 07/13/2012 06:32:44 MDT Print View

in 2005 i started to go backpacking after a 6 year hiatus. i found an internet based group that did all manner of outdoor activities and each activity had an organizer or two. i only did the backpacking trips but the entire group was pretty cool. there was a weekend trip nearly every month, sometimes twice a month, mainly organized by the same guy. quickly it morphed into a core group of four with others coming in and out. we eventually dropped the pretense of the internet group and would do our own thing. the downside to that was the internet group no longer had backpacking trips.

those were some great times and sadly only lasted about 2 years. two guys relocated, one got married, and my wife had our second son in the fall of 2007. fun times that i look back on fondly and i learned a great deal, it was a great group.

fast forward to 2010 and i'm looking to find a group like i found in 2005. i came across Meetup and signed up with a group that sounded pretty much like the backpacking arm of the internet group i was a member of in 2005-2007. i never made it on a single trip with that Meetup group - the organizer kicked me out for not going on any trips. i never signed up for any trips because i had schedule conflicts or the trip didn't float my boat.

in 2011 i found another Meetup group and went on a winter trip with them. it was an eye opener to say the least. we all met at a Park and Ride and carpooled to the trail head. i drove and during the drive the group i was kicked out of came up. apparently others had some trouble with that group as well. it seems the lady running the group was counting on the income from the group members to fund the group. each Meetup group has to pay Meetup an "organizer fee" which ranges from $12-19/month, depending on the payment plan. it makes sense in hindsight why she trimmed the "dead wood", she needed to keep the group alive and that meant paying members.

This second Meetup group i have been a member of charges $1.00 per trip, it's not a big deal and there are enough trips each month that the overage is used to fund a monthly happy hour. this group is doing it right in that respect, nothing transparent about.


the second eyeopener on that first trip was two-fold. there were clearly people on the trip that lacked the skills, equipment, and physical ability to do the pretty demanding route. i realized how lucky i was to find that core group back in 2005, we all shared the same trail ethos. instead of being up early and out on the trail, this group liked to wake up late, eat a big breakfast, and stop every 5 feet for a picture or snack break. i felt like a dog on a leash.

i have since gone on 4 other trips with this group in two years. there is a core group but the dynamic isn't the same as it was in 2005, and each trip seems to always be rotating people, it's hard to get to know people when there are always 6-8 new people. i have relaxed my expectations on these trips and use them to shakedown new gear or methods or to scout out new places.

the Meetup experience for me has been interesting. the only reason i stay with the Meetup group is the hope that i'll find like minded backpackers and we can form a group of our own. i have met one guy who is like minded but he is thru-hiking the AT right now (and having a great time).

i had no idea at the time, but that core group in 2005 was something special.

Edited by asciibaron on 07/13/2012 06:42:52 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
"Meetup" trips - warning on 07/13/2012 07:04:00 MDT Print View

Wow. I have been incredibly lucky. Had the same partner for a decade. My son-in-law. Very handy. We'd go off and the girls stayed home. Both parties had a great time. 2005, we moved, they had kids.

BPL to the rescue. The first GGG went great. Met some people there who I now consider friends. Been on multiple trips now with others from here. All have gone good. Now with me setting up trips and events I have been having a great time. Hopefully the others have too.

At least with the forums here you can get an idea of what you may get yourself into beforehand.

People bring up Meetup as a way to promote the GGG. I will continue to say no.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
trip friends on 07/13/2012 08:40:26 MDT Print View

"Luckly it morphed into a core group of four with others coming in and out. we eventually dropped the pretense of the internet group and would do our own thing."

Think that is what happens with many outdoor groups. From my own time active with a group, I met the bulk of my friends here in Colorado. Many of us did indeed start doing our own thing. My trip partners are from friends met in that group as well. (In fact, the person officiating at my wedding is a friend I met from the outdoor group)

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: trip friends on 07/13/2012 09:20:20 MDT Print View

We had that as well - we all met in the period between 2002 and 2007. Life got in the way, some moved, others had too much work, etc. It was fun while it lasted. We were a very core group though. Went on a lot of great trips. We met from various forums. The key was I had the time and desire to plan, plan and bug people. I don't anymore so everyone flittered away the past few years. I still hike with some of them - they are friends after all but the super trips are a thing of the past for me for a few years. Ah well.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: "Meetup" trips - warning on 07/13/2012 09:52:18 MDT Print View

Meetup is lame.


I'm not sure why people keep encouraging you to use the Meetup channel to promote the GGG, ignore the suggestions.

Angus A.
(mangus7175) - F

Re: Re: "Meetup" trips - warning on 07/13/2012 10:18:18 MDT Print View

I was one that actually suggested meetup to Ken on a past thread - it but because if my lack of bad experiences about meetup groups.

I've been very fortunate with the meetup trips I've participated it so far. Every single one I've attended have been positive and got along with everyone.

Main reason why I started joining meetup events specifically geared to backpacking, was to find other people to backpack with. Having only begun backpacking in 2011, I didn't feel safe doing trips alone (due to lack of skills) and felt the need to find hiking partners to show me to ropes so to speak.

Personally, I do avoid trips involving a payment to an organizer only because I feel more comfortable acquiring the necessary permits myself and organizing my own transportation.

I do feel bad about some of the bad experiences that I have read here...again, I've been really lucky.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Meetup trips on 07/13/2012 10:19:58 MDT Print View

Eric: If you paid with credit card, maybe you could dispute the charges?

Eileen: That group sounds insane! It's like they brought their big city road rage along with them into the wilderness. :/

Steven: I'm interested in finding or forming a good group for trips in WV, especially winter trips.

My experience with Meetup trips have been mostly very positive.