Hiking as a Couple



Written by: Andy Dischekanyan, Manager at Berkeley

In my twenties, my mom would always tell me, “find someone who shares your passion for the outdoors and you’ll have a partner for life.”

 

As luck would have it, I met my wife on top of Mt. Whitney at the end of our respective John Muir Trail thru hikes. We started in Yosemite Valley on different days, but after 220 miles of hiking, we stood on top of the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at the same time. We hit it off immediately and hiked the last 11 miles down to civilization together, lost in conversation.

 

Fast forward seven years and we’ve explored more than 3,500 miles on foot together in some of the most scenic landscapes – including the Pacific Crest Trail. Needless to say we’ve learned a few things about hiking as a couple.

 

Some people believe couples who spend almost 6 months in a tent together would rip one another to pieces, but that wasn’t the case for us. We felt fortunate to spend meaningful time together doing what we loved. Below is what we have learned thus far and what has worked for us on extended backpacking trips.

SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

Fortunately for us, Laurie and I hike at a similar speed (unless Laurie is listening to an audiobook and a regatta takes place, in which case she flies up the trail). If one person hikes faster or can hike farther, compromises need to be made and expectations need to be set before stepping onto the trail. 

SEPARATE YOUR FOOD

Long hiking days make for hungry hikers. This hunger is amplified the longer you are out on the trail. We quickly realized that in order for us to succeed, we needed to carry our own food.

Knowing we had enough food for ourselves eliminated feelings of scarcity and made it easier to share our food with each other.

CLEAR COMMUNICATION

Open and honest communication is vital in the backcountry. Being vulnerable is not easy. But if something hurts, you’re hungry, you need to rest, or you need your partner to carry some of your water or gear, it’s important to be able to express that and know you will be heard, not ridiculed. It’s also important to hear your partner. Truly listening to what they are going through, what they need, and creating a new plan if necessary.

BE WILLING TO ADAPT

For goal oriented people this can be really hard. But ultimately, keeping in mind the greater goal and the health of yourself and your partner are paramount. All decisions should be made with this perspective. 

MAKE DECISIONS TOGETHER

Fortunately for us, Laurie and I hike at a similar speed (unless Laurie is listening to an audiobook and a regatta takes place, in which case she flies up the trail). If one person hikes faster or can hike farther, compromises need to be made and expectations need to be set before stepping onto the trail. 

CHEESE AND CANDY

Long days on the trail can be physically challenging, mentally draining, frustrating and even mundane. Having something tasty to look forward to is a great way to get through the monotony.

Pack your favorite foods and have them when you feel your funk creeping in.

 

Bonus points if you know your partner well enough and can give her candy right before grumpy hour strikes. I mean, it’s a win-win for both of you right?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sharing a tent with someone you love can be wonderful. It may not be for everyone but we have found a way to explore our natural world with just the contents in our packs and our two feet. It’s brought us closer together and allowed us to see many beautiful places. For that we are grateful.

 

2 comments

  • Andy Naegeli says...

    Thanks for the advice. Great stuff.
    In situations where my partner does not have as much experience or is slower than I am, I have found it useful to always let her go first on the trail. Going first allows her to set a sustainable pace without worrying about being left behind. It also builds confidence and reduces arguments about speed, although it can be trying at times if the pace becomes uncomfortably slow. Exceptions to my rule are few — generally only when route finding is difficult or when tackling a dangerous spot. Rule #1 – she goes first. Rule #2 – don’t forget Rule #1!

    On August 02, 2021
  • Susan Hawkes says...

    thank you for the tips! All great advice, many happy trails!!
    Susie and Ken

    On April 26, 2021

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