Backpacking with a partner

When you’re hiking solo, the world is yours. You go out, do whatever you want, and there is not a soul, minus the occasional park ranger, to consider.

Ah, but alas. Stuff another being inside your tent, especially that of a dissimilar sexual orientation, and suddenly your care free jaunt into the great beyond becomes something that demands consideration, thought, and throughput, or suffer consequences only bound by the creativity of said being.

For those of you who dare drag another living creature outside of their comfort zone, be it a significant other or just a friend, this is how you make it work, or at least make it tolerable.

Backpacking Grayson Highlands

 

Plan ahead

Before you ever leave, make sure to stop and figure out where you want to go, together. This will also influence how you pack.

Knowing of your differences in abilities, you realize that you will eventually disperse.  Knowing that you will spread apart, discuss ahead of time what to do in that situation. You shouldn’t ever loose ear shot, or eyesight for that matter, of each other. Instead, make sure to take breaks and wait on the other person to catch up. Always carry a signal whistle, and know how to use it. Know the route, what to do in case of an emergency, and always try to stick together.

Consider preference

Everyone likes to have it their way, and everyone craves something different. I love climbing mountains, busting my hips and working up a sweat. My hiking partner, not so much. As you can see, there is a steep and sudden line of dissimilar taste that directly conflicts between us. This is where you start putting some thought and research into your trip.

Find a compromise. Perhaps you can find a camping spot that offers up and easy entrance to a base camp, and from there you can set up shop and day hike alone up that steep mountain you’ve been craving, while the other can stay at camp and relax. Perhaps you can find a long gentle climb, that while offering a fair challenge to you both, won’t be quite difficult enough to destroy your partners enjoyment. You can always get your work out in after you find camp by gathering wood.

group top 2

Perhaps you like the heat of the day, but your other likes it cool.  There really is no way to meet in the middle here. However, you can compromise in other ways. Perhaps one can choose the location, while another chooses the meal or time of day. This way, each person gets to choose something, and everyone feels like they were part of the planning process. Inclusion is key. Sure, no one got everything they wanted, but you each had a choice.

In the end, it’s all about finding a way that everyone gets something they want, because rarely will everything meet both members tastes.

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Pack together

Before you ever leave, you’ll need to know what you need. Make a list, and figure out in entirety what you want to take. Get together, and pack your bags together, making sure that the weight is distributed evenly, or in a way that fits both hikers. Make sure to check a pack list to ensure you have all the necessities, and agree together that you have everything you need. This way, if something is missing, it’s not someone’s fault, it was a group effort. Win together, fail together.

Adapt

You’ll eventually have to accept the fact that you’ll have to, at least to an extent, mold to fit the abilities of another if you’re not hiking alone. By nature, two individuals will inherently have different preferences, and abilities to their hiking. You may be able to hike entire mountains without so much as a water break. Most others; however, require frequent breaks for hydration, fueling, and rest. Take these differences into account. You can’t expect, nor should you, that anyone else will be able to reach your ability. Conversely, you can’t expect them to slow to your rate either. Up front, you’ll have to accept that they most likely will not hike at your speed or level. If you’re the fast hiker, you’ll have to learn to slow down, or even stop often. If you’re the slow hiker, you may want to work on getting in shape so you can better fit the natural pace of the faster one. Both take considerable effort and patience. It’s as much of a challenge for a fast hiker to slow down, as it is for a slow hiker to speed up.

Update

Always take the time to check in on whoever you’re hiking with. Just because they seem, that’s no indication of how well they’re doing. I’ve had hikers with bloody feet, dizziness, nausea, and much worse trotting along like nothing was wrong. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known until I had a serious issue on my hands. Take a moment every once in a while, and just politely check in. If nothing else, it brings the group closer together and builds positive connections.

Linville Gorge

 

Take time to enjoy your time together

You can’t spend the entire trip hiking, or camping. Decide on what each of you like, and focus at least half the trip on what each person enjoys. If you both just want to throw down miles, that’s great! If one wants to camp, while another wants to hike all day, you’ll have to compromise. Make the trip so that you both get what you want to an extent, and find things you both want to experience together.

Here are some good ideas of activities you can do together:

Find a swimming hole.

Go fishing.

Bring card games or dice games.

Pack in a tablet, with a movie pre-loaded (with headphones and a splitter!) for downtime

Fire watching

Scavenger hunts

Bird watching

Foraging

Photography

Get creative. There are ideas out there.

Gourmet cooking

Big Agnes Entertainment Loft

Groups

This is a tricky one. If you’re bringing many people into the mix, the best thing you can do it come up with a plan, a route, miles, and have a full trip detail before you start. Message everyone involved, asking if they would like to come along. Make sure they realize this is the plan, and we’ll be sticking to it, assuming nothing goes sideways of course. Know when to give in. One struggling hiker will drag the whole group down, and that’s o.k. It’s about being flexible, and making it work for everyone. Just because everyone else can handle it, don’t expect that last hiker to be able to perform. Even a great hiker can have an off day.

Calloways peak

Final words

At the end of the day, it’s about spending time together. It’s not about doing what you want to do, and dragging someone along for company.

Find a way to make it enjoyable for both of you. If you can’t, you might be better off going solo, or finding a hiking buddy.

But, whatever you do, make the best of it. You only get so many foot steps, and you only get so many nights by the campfire. Enjoy it.

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