If you want to see passion, try getting in a simple discussion on pack weight in the BackpackingLight discussion group. Try complaining about cell phone use on the trail in the AT-L mailing list. Claim you have the best alcohol stove design at whiteblaze.net. Show up at a hiker gathering like Trail Days in Damascus, Va.
Or just get out on a trail and talk to another hiker.
There’s a tribe of hikers out there, all right.
Cutter has a point, but so does Steve Outing, the guy I was inviting to build an online business around this tribe of hikers. Steve’s two current sites — one for climbing and one for mountain biking — target a far more Internet-enabled demographic. The running thread though the links Cutter posted is that they all deal with gear-intensive subsets of hiking — thru-hiking and backpacking — while the vast majority of hikers are more apt to be doing Sunday six-milers with their local (and offline) hiking club.
The real question is how to build an audience around people who’d rather be on a trail than online.