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MBTI & Leisure Time: Hiking and Backpacking

 

Page 2.

MBTI - The impact of Personality Type on interest in Hiking, Canoeing, & Kayaking
By Ross Reinhold, INTJ

Nature of Outdoor Recreation & Type

The following five tables of data examine how type may influence participation in some of the specific kinds of outdoor recreation.

Top Five Types who enjoy
Day Hiking as a Favorite Outdoor Recreatio
n

TABLE 3.

Top 5 types

%#1
or #2

ISFP

50.0%

ESFP

45.5%

ENFP

38.8%

INTJ

37.3%

ISTJ

35.4%

   

Of the five specific activity choices in the survey, Day Hiking was the most favorite activity of all the people who took this survey.

Those who most enjoy it, share the FP letters (Feeling & Perceiving) which fits the nature of a personality type who is most likely to stop and take some time to smell the roses. Day hikes and walks get a person outside, allow time to enjoy nature, simultaneously carry on a conversation with a hiking /walking companion, set whatever pace suits your whims, have no deadlines or particular goals, and require a minimum of advance planning to enjoy. Such an activity lends itself to the sensitive, open-ended FP personality.

The two types who were in 4th and 5th position would seem somewhat at odds with the above rationale as they are commonly depicted as the polar opposite of an FP nature.

TJ types are reputed to be well organized, disciplined, results-oriented, and in-control people. They are frequently found in managerial positions and naturally gravitate to such roles. In contrast, FP personalities are much less often found in managerial positions and when they do occupy them often experience internal tension with carrying out what are perceived to be the expectations of the job (i.e. TJ flavored prescriptions). Organizing, directing, controlling, managing people and processes runs against the inherent nature of the FP personality. As adults, they have to learn skills in this realm that the xxTJ folks have been honing since they were 5 years old!

So how do these organized TJ types find themselves being fellow travelers with the more laid-back sensitive FP types?

I think the answer might be in how difficult it can be to take a break from our generally busy lives. For the xxTJ personality who feels the need for some regular exercise, to get outside, or escape briefly from work or other demands, a short hike or a walk is easy to program in the daily routine. It is an activity that lends itself to being organized into one's schedule. And while an FP personality might like the activity because it doesn't demand following a schedule or goals, the TJ personality finds that if she wants, she can measure distances, time her journey, set goals and targets. And then there is the TJ who finds this activity is appealing for all the FP reasons as it is the perfect counter-point to get some relief from one's driven nature.

And I believe introverted (IxTJ) types are more likely (than ExTJ) to want to have to a break from an overly busy or regulated extraverted existence. Extraverted TJ personalities as a rule are energized by this organized and managed busyness; Introverts are eventually worn down by it.

~~~~~~

This plasticity of day hiking to suit opposite natures may be why across most personality types it was a favorite outdoor recreation.

Top Five Types who enjoy
Overnight Backpacking as a Favorite Outdoor Recreation

TABLE 4.

Top 5 types

%#1
or #2

ENTP

37.5%

INTJ

37.3%

ENTJ

32.1%

ENFP

30.6%

ISFP

29.2%

   

Overnight Backpacking trips seem particularly attractive to those who prefer Intuition. In fact, the top two personality types are those whose dominant mental function is Intuition and auxiliary function Thinking. This particular NT combination confers a mental perspective that matches the situation of many backpacking expeditions.

Backpacking trips are frequently taken in the mountains or hilly terrain, often traversing through woods, and crossing rivers and streams. A number of people who indicated Backpacking as a favorite activity also mentioned they regularly enjoyed rock and mountain climbing. The situation requires a good sense of spatial organization to know "where" you are and "where" you are going at any given time. Unlike driving in a city street with oodles of markers and a road map, backpacking requires navigating in an unstructured wild environment with a "map" that is at best a general guide.

Another characteristic of those who prefer Intuition supported by Thinking is how this type values an overview. When problem-solving or approaching a situation they need to manage, this personality type - by nature - seeks to get an aerial view or overview of the situation. Details without this overview to knit them together are loose threads. Many of the favorite long distance hiking trails scale mountains and hills and consequently one of the pleasures enjoyed by hikers is the "scenic overlook." This scenic overlook (an overview), regardless of the innate attractiveness of the scene, would have an innate attractiveness to those whose dominant mental perspective is Intuition.

Another element that appeals to the Intuitive mind is that trekking along most of the trail is done on automatic pilot - cruising along with little need to attend to details. One can listen to the music of the mind or attune to the sights and sounds along the trail while the feet navigate on their own.

As an athletic endeavor in a quasi wilderness environment, the backpacking trip offers as sense of challenge and adventure that seems to match the nature of NT types.

~~~~~~

There is also an element of backpacking that appeals to the FP mind set. It is an extension of the pleasure at being in harmony with nature that one frequently finds in a day hike. Yet as a few FP types explained in their comments, there is a zen-like state of pleasure, calm and oneness that can only be attained on a multi-day hike. It just seems to take a few days to break loose from the bindings of everyday life. These folks look for and are positively energized by this transformation.

Think about what types might go on a religious retreat or escape to the mountains for meditation? For those who seek this kind of experience, a backpacking trip provides a mobile version of this meditative setting.

Underscoring the above reasoning are the facts that the two personality types who are *least* interested in overnight backpack tripping (of the five outdoor recreational alternatives offered) are ISTP and ESTP. The personality configuration of these two practical "just do it" types make them unlikely practitioners of meditation and are not energized by a meditative environment. The cruising-on-autopilot trekking experience that appeals to the Intuitive and FP mind may lack sufficient external stimulation for the STP personality.

Top Five Types who enjoy
Overnight Canoe Tripping as a Favorite Outdoor Recreation

TABLE 5.

Top 5 types

%#1
or #2

ISTP

31.8%

ISFJ

21.9%

ESTP

20.0%

ISTJ

16.7%

INFP

15.0%

   

Here is a really interesting finding. While Overnight Backpacking trips seemed to be particularly attractive to those who prefer Intuition, Overnight Canoe Tripping strongly attracts those who prefer Sensing, including the two types (ISTP and ESTP) who were least likely to go on an Overnight Backpacking trip.

Another emerging factoid is that compared to Backpacking, Overnight Canoe Trips more strongly appeal to Introverts. The five types *least* likely to enjoy an Overnight Canoe Trip were all Extraverted types.

This difference is interesting because the two experiences share a great deal.

  • Each involves camping in the wilderness or semi-wilderness

  • Each involves physically active and strenuous daily activity

  • Each involves a multi-day commitment to the endeavor

  • Each involves living for a time without modern conveniences

  • Each involves being subject to vagaries of the weather

  • Each involves employing similar gear

Yet there must be subtleties of the two experiences that cause this sharp divide along the Intuition-Sensing scales of perception and of attitude (energy source). As someone who has done and enjoys both canoeing and hiking, I'll hazard some guesses.

From a Sensing perspective, there's a certain tactile pleasure in having a paddle in your hand, sensing the movement against the water, reacting to it and to the canoe. There's an art and grace to this movement . . . yet it is simple, direct, efficient. Then there's the fact that you are "operating" a canoe whereas in hiking and backpacking you aren't operating a vehicle - you are the vehicle! Operating a canoe, keeping it in balance and on course, with varying wind, waves, current and doing it in partnership with another person requires a greater degree of sensory attention than cruising down the trail.

I think the camping part of canoeing can be a bit more sensory rich than the camping part of backpacking. With backpacking, you have to go minimal - after all you can only bring with you what you can carry. With canoeing, it is possible to bring a lot more stuff - on a relative scale. There are canoe trippers who bring folding chairs, bring steaks for the grill, beer coolers, and other enhancements to the camping experience. Some shudder at the thought of eating freeze-dried food, whereas for the backpacker food-in-a-bag is almost essential.

A number of canoe trippers favor pushing hard on the first day or two of the trip in order to set up a base camp to enjoy for a few days. Compared to a backpacking overnight camp, this allows for allot more putzing around the camp, getting it set up for maximal convenience, creating a little homesite for a short period of time. I submit this feathering and enjoying the campsite nest appeals to both the Sensing and Introverted natures more than it does the Intuitive and Extraverted sides of personality.

While backpacking trips often on purpose seek the highest point on the landscape as a destination to enjoy a scenic overlook, canoe trippers follow portage trails that attempt to traverse as low in elevation as possible. [Whenever I've been forced by circumstances to portage over a high hill, the last thing on my mind when I get to the zenith with a canoe on my shoulders or a heavy pack on my back is stopping for a scenic view!]

Fishing often accompany's canoeing - which provides another set of sensory experiences and demands. And for the lucky fisher, the catch provides a richer food preparation, cooking and eating experience than what is obtained by the backpacking cousin who is more likely to dine on food-in-a-bag (that my skeptical ISTP wife finally admitted doesn't really taste that bad!).

Canoe tripping and canoeing in general is a more solitary experience, usually done with only one other person, occasionally two or three others and only infrequently (except for scouting or outward bound organizations) in larger groups. While backpacking can also be solitary, it is a bit more feasible to enjoy the experience with a slightly larger group of people. To an extravert, going from 1or 2 other companions to 5 other companions may seem insignificant, but to an introverted preference person that little increase can easily move from pleasurable company to simply too much companionship for too long a period of time.

In our part of the country (upper midwest) the lore of canoeing is filled with sentient pleasures for the introverted personality: listening to the call of the loon at night, watching a beautiful sunset unfold over the water, gliding along on a mirror surface of the lake, smelling the campfire with walleye fillets grilling in the pan, drinking in physically and metaphorically the cool, clean, water. Enjoying these treasures with well chosen companions I suspect is part of the appeal of this experience to ISFJs and INFPs.

Canoe tripping can also involve a degree of risk, encountering the unknown and adventure not necessarily equaled in backpacking. To a degree this risk can be controlled by the choice of route and decisions made while en-route. Yet for the adventurous, it is *easy* to plan into the experience the desired elements. You have rapids, whitewater and waterfalls for the thrill seeker and routes that are largely uncharted appealing to the voyageur-explorer (two components that often appeal to xxSP personalities). While risk and adventure is certainly available in mountain climbing and backpacking, my point here it is much more easily attainable in canoe tripping (and happens regularly by accident!).

Top Five Types who enjoy
Day Canoe Trips as a Favorite Outdoor Recreation

TABLE 6.

Top 5 types

%#1
or #2

ISFJ

18.8%

ISFP

16.7%

INFJ

16.1%

ISTJ

14.6%

ENTJ

14.3%

   

As I mentioned under Overnight Canoe Tripping, canoeing in general is a more solitary experience - often done with one other partner. And the lore of canoeing extols pleasures that best appeal to the introverted side of personality. So it follows that the top 4 types who favor Day Canoeing prefer Introversion. (6 of the top 7 favor Introversion; INTP and INFP follow closely behind ENTJ)

I also referred above to the "sentient pleasures" pleasures of canoeing. This notion of "sentient" actually can involve both Sensing and Feeling. Day canoeing allows one to much more easily obtain these built in sentient pleasures of canoeing without the downside of risk and sometimes pain that can be part of an overnight expedition.

Day canoeing allows a person to better control the variables that may dampen an experience that is of longer duration and frequently in the wilderness. So it follows that 4 of the 5 top types prefer "J" (judging) as a life style approach to the outside world. This control issue is well illustrated by ENTJ appearing among those types who enjoy Day Canoe trips. This type, of all the eight "J" personality types, probably best symbolizes being in control of a situation. Thus they see Day Canoe trips as appealing from a control perspective, yet have quite the opposite view of Overnight Canoe Trips as this type is among the two least likely types to go on an Overnight Canoe Tripping excursion.

Another J attractor may be that Day Canoe trips are easier to program into one's activities than overnight expeditions. And in contrast to Day Hiking (that also appeals to FP personalities), there's a bit more "stuff" and gear to organize for a day canoe outing and thus this organizing and maintaining of canoe and gear has inherent appeal to the J personality.

Top Five Types who enjoy
Kayaking as a Favorite Outdoor Recreation

TABLE 7.

Top 5 types

%#1
or #2

ENTJ

14.3%

ISTP

13.6%

ESFP

13.6%

ENTP

12.5%

INTJ

11.8%

   

Kayaking offers some of the same sensing attractors as canoeing, yet seems to appeal equally strong to some Intuitive types. While canoes, canoe building, and canoe expeditions are part of the fabric and traditions of North American outdoor life since Plymouth Rock, kayaks are relatively new (to non-artic peoples) and non-traditional. Sensing folk frequently gravitate towards traditions and traditional; Intuitive folk seem drawn to new, different, and non-traditional. This combination of sensing pleasure in the operation of a kayak and in kayaking itself being really cool and sort of upscale brings us this mixed Sensing-Intuitive bag of adherents.

Most often kayakers go solo, but what this means is each person has total control over his/her craft - a fact ENTJs and INTJs would like. Yet, kayakers can and do travel in packs; in general larger groups I'd say than canoeists. Unless solo canoeing, the need to form groups of two seems to keep outings smaller and more intimate. So kayaking, compared to canoeing, is more a sport of extraverts.

I might mention one other element in this canoe-kayak deal that differentially affects Es and Is. While we all can get stuck with a paddling/traveling partner who drives us crazy, Extraverted people seem to instinctively avoid situations where they get stuck with any *one* person for an extended period of time; just the thought of it can make them "itchy." The independence of the Kayak allows the extraverted personality the kind of freedom in social interaction they need.

Another point about Kayaking that weighs more towards E is it is not as well suited to many kinds of long distance wilderness trips (that offer the solitude often valued by introversion). So trips and outings tend to be of shorter duration and less in the outback, isolated from civilization.

Note 4 out of the top 5 types who are attracted to Kayaking are Thinking types. Easy explaination. Gear and Gear Heads. There's a set of specialized clothing and gear one needs for kayaking. My impression is kayakers are much like serious road bikers who are always properly outfitted for their sport with several hundred dollars worth of clothing, shoes, gloves, headgear, etc. So think T for Things as well as Thinking. Another T word would be Training; my sense is kayaking requires more training and skill mastery to safely enjoy. Thinking people frequently enjoy mastering skill's for its own sake; whereas Feeling folks like to have an attachment to the endeavor (or to people) that then encourages the development of the skill.

As with the other life sports covered by this survey, kayaking is malleable to fit many personality types and interests. True, it appears not the craft of choice for ISTJs and ISFJs. These traditionalists by a large margin prefer canoeing. Yet just because you are one of these two types doesn't mean you'll hate kayaking; some of these two types actually find it very enjoyable.

 

Data on Individual Types

Curious about the interests of INFPs, ESTJs, and the rest of the 16 types? Go here to explore what kinds of outdoor recreation each prefers.

 

Concluding Remarks

Over 200 additional responses await tabulation & incorporation into the results. It will be interesting to see whether these more recent results alter the patterns reported here.

A cursory review of this additional data suggests a higher rate of participation for ISTJ, ISTP, ENFP, & ENFJ than the presently reported results indicate. The main impact of this change will be to increase the confidence in the specific leisure time data for these types, particularly ENFJ since the sample for this type had previously been quite small. The samples remain small for ESTJ and ESFJ and I believe this serves to underscore the conclusion that the five outdoor recreational activities studied here have little appeal to these two types.

One outcome of this study that surprised me was the degree of interest that Feeling types had in the more physically rigorous life sports of overnight backpacking and overnight canoe tripping. There is a tendancy to equate "Thinking" with "toughness" and "Feeling" with "softness" (as in "soft" people skills). This dichotomy isn't well supported by this data. However, I think looking at some of the comments made by respondents one can see that in these more rigorous sports are aspects that appeal to "Feeling" perspectives. Comments made by respondents offer some examples of this appeal: having the opportunity to meditate in a peaceful, natural surrounding; being spiritually in tune with nature; able to transition to living more simply; having fun with others, reinforcing bonds with others through shared experience; and escaping from the stress and conflict that our normal lives sometimes brings. While it is true that when the going gets "tough" the "tough" get going, you'll also find "Feeling" preference people among those "tough" folks. While they may not court the tough circumstances to the degree of some of their "Thinking" preference cohorts, neither do they wither when chance brings it on.

While the casual nature of this study recommends caution in interpretting results, as more data is accumulated any patterns that persist will take on more significance.

If anyone wishes the raw data or has a question or comment, please contact me at ross@personalitypathways.com

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