I'm planning a backpacking trip with a well-established partner. I would like to invite a third person along, but he has not met the second, and I do not want to extend an invitation to the third until the second meets him and approves the invitation. My question is, how do I arrange this vetting without potential hard feelings on the part of the third?

I came up with a couple of options, neither of which I really like:

  1. Invite both the second and the third to a vetting meeting over coffee or something, and be clear with the third what the purpose of the meeting is. If the second approves, this would work fine, but if not, then the third will be understandably hurt. Further, because of this, the second may feel pressured to approve when he would prefer not to.

  2. Invite both to a vetting meeting, but do not tell the third what the purpose of the meeting is. The issue here is either the lack of a purpose will be suspicious, or a fake purpose will be difficult to produce without seeming fake.

I am sure this situation comes up for others, so I am wondering what the best practice is.

Edit: While we all work at the same place, we commute from different cities. For this reason and others, the logistics of gathering outside working hours may not be practical in the time available.

  • 1
    We did this with a friends new partner prior to climbing a mountain, what we did was go for a long walk (As Olin has already appropriately suggested) and sat in a pub for a few hours and chatted - I see nothing wrong with your suggestion for coffee, but I'd recommend not going into the situation aiming to vet - just go casual, it'll work or it won't :)
    – Aravona
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 8:13

5 Answers 5


Invite them both on a day hike. That's a end onto itself, so no need to pretend anything else. You can watch the interaction between #2 and #3, and talk about experiences to find out what #3's qualifications are. If after that you still think #3 is a good fit with you and #2, then suggest to #2 to invite #3 along on your backpacking trip. If he agrees, then fine. If not, #3 will never need to know you considered this.

If you see that #2 and #3 don't get along or you realize that #3 isn't sufficiently qualified, you don't ever have to mention what you were considering to #2.

  • +1. However, I'm not 100% sure it will apply to my immediate situation. I've edited the question accordingly.
    – Reid
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 21:16

IMHO, up to a certain level in mountaineering, friends that you make in mountains or at a base camp are likely to be good/close friends for life. So, If I were the guy with the lesser experience in mountaineering and being set up in a meeting for an approval sort of a thing from a veteran, that might go wrong, because the veteran guy on the other end can have a cut-throat approach, and its likely that I may panic to face such an informal test. In such a case, I'd rather prefer to have a short hike with the person as an opportunity to prove myself, and also that would allow me to see if I am fit/good enough for the kind of an agenda the veteran guy is having.

On the other hand, If I am the veteran guy in the picture and if I am supposed to decide if I should take someone with me or not, I'd rather like to meet him/her on an easy one-day hike where I can get to know him/her, gauge the skill-set he/she possess and the habits and then make a decision on what I see on field rather than listening him/her in a coffee-shop or a bar.

Go for a short hike with them, let them interact, they'll both get answers to their questions, and mainly you remain unbiased, and nobody's ego gets hurt.


Don't waste time vetting- just do it... Putting things in perspective - you are not arranging a marriage, a round the world sailing trip on an 8 meter sail boat, or a climbing trip into remote Patagonia. You said its 3-4 days - not that long, certainly short enough they can work out how to tolerate each other if the worst happens. I have done many trips of that length with complete strangers -a few guys I would never go into the hills with again, and some were never going to be best mates, but overall I made many more friends and had much more fun than if I had stayed at home vetting every one of them.

Ask your #2 if he minds if you invite a #3. If he does, no problem #3 need not know. If #2 does not mind, invite #3. If you have any doubts that they will get along, discuss with #2....


What kind of trip are you planning for? It makes a big difference if you are going for a multi-pitch climb on an alpine route, a long distance trekking trip maybe even in high altitude or a sporty one day hike.

For a simpler hiking trip I would say if you are used to each other already from work, just go for your trip and enjoy it. Requirements are small for those kind of trips and if the new guy really drops out after 30 minutes hiking you are most likely not going to hike with him again. There should be a similar level so he won't ask you again to take you for a strenuous hike.

For anything more demanding: Do a smaller version of the tour you are planning, you will see if the groups chemistry works and if the skill levels are appropriate. Don't hesitate to invest some time for your preparation. You are working at the same place so you can't live that far away from each other. If you are planning to go climbing on your trip, at least go climbing in the gym. If you are going for strenuous multi-day hikes, test your condition on a shorter hike. You naturally will get used to each other and notice if it works. And you get some idea of the fitness level.

  • It is a 3- or 4-day backpacking trip. The second and third do not know each other already.
    – Reid
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 23:36

You should arrange a "trial heat." Olin had a very good suggestion for a day hike. Alternatives might be a one mile run, or a tennis match, etc. Either one of these followed by a cup of coffee or a quick lunch.

Basically you need to have the other two get to know each other, both in a social setting, and "athletically." You need to invest a certain amount of time, not necessarily a whole day, to find out if they are reasonably well matched on both counts. This investment will save you the loss of a "whole trip."

If they pass this "first test," then you might want to talk to your close friend about taking the other one along. And since you've done a "test run," he can reasonably refuse just on this basis. If the second agrees, then approach the third; otherwise, just "let sleeping dogs lie."

  • 2
    Imo, running or a tennis match are not very good options compared to a day hike. These activities require no constructive interaction between the partners and won't indicate any problems besides general fitness. Maybe a session in a climbing gym will be better?
    – Steed
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 21:02
  • @Steed: I added a new paragraph to indicate that this was just an "icebreaker." Even a simple test is better than none. I knew a college professor who could identify his better calculus students just by giving an algebra test on day one.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 21:08

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