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Hiking with your partner is a wonderful way to strengthen your relationship, even more so if you are camping overnight. When we go on an overnight trip, it is usually for a couple of days and includes several hours of hiking per day. Over the years, we’ve learned valuable lessons on setting up camp, understanding how to work as a team, and how to flow with time. When we hike, we have learned to be organized and disciplined, which really helps when we are tired from hiking all day.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you what to do; rather, it is intended to launch a conversation on how you can work together when camping as a couple. Here are some of the systems and lessons we’ve learned.
Hiking With Your Partner
Aside from the adventure and exercise that hiking provides, we enjoy it, and we enjoy being together. When you go hiking with your partner, even though you are on the same path, your experiences are different. You’re different heights and have different strengths and abilities. Plus, being outside all day and night is tough and will test you. Therefore, having open communication about what you are experiencing is important, like asking your partner if they need a snack or if they want to stop hiking for a little bit so they can stretch. Being hungry, tired, and having to go to the bathroom are all part of the hike and require patience and support for one another.
We have also heard of couples who are on different time schedules because one person likes to sleep in, and the other partner likes to start hiking early. Staggered start times may work for some people, but it just isn’t a consideration for us. When we set off on a hike, it’s always together. With that said, Liza and I hike at different speeds, so there will be times when we are not physically together, but most of those times happen on the hills. If there is a technical rock scramble or questionable turn, we will wait for each other. We are physically together or within sight distance 90% of the time. It’s a good idea to discuss this beforehand so you can adjust your expectations of each other while hiking as a couple.
Determining Where to Camp
The day before we set up camp, we discuss the distance to cover the next day, available water sources, and campsites we are considering. Deciding ahead of time is important because it sets expectations for what we are trying to accomplish, and having a stated goal keeps us focused on our plan. Having a goal doesn’t necessarily mean we have to do it, but it plays into the conversation we have together. To give an example of what I mean, on a particular hiking trip, it was unclear where the next water source would be. We decided that if we came across a major stream, we would finish one liter of water to ensure that we were hydrated and refill the water bottles. That night, we had to conserve our water for the camp, but it turned out okay because we were well-hydrated from our previous planning. Having these talks periodically when camping is important so you’re both on the same page.
Splitting the Chores
When setting up camp, we both determine the location of the tent and put it up together. Once the tent is completed, one person sets up the mattresses, pillows, and everything inside the tent. The other person unpacks the bags – being sure to remove any food or smelly items from all pockets – fetches and filters the water and sets up the kitchen.
While one person is cooking, the other finds a spot for the bear bag and sets it up so we can stow all the food, food equipment and smelly items. After dinner and cleaning up, both people go and hang the bear bag together. While it’s possible to hang the bag alone, it’s much easier to hang as a team – another benefit of camping as a couple.
When we wake up in the morning, one person will get the bear bag, set up the kitchen for breakfast, fetch the water, and boil it for coffee. While the other person takes out the snacks and packs lunch for the day to put in outside pockets. If we leave the campsite entirely, we will take down the tent together and one person will pack the bags.
The point of how we separate our chores is to break them into parts and assign someone the complete task, from start to finish, so we are not accidentally duplicating work or doing it only partway. There isn’t a designated person who always has the tasks each time we set up camp; we go with the flow so we can continue to appreciate what must be done and each other.
Checking for Ticks
Before going to bed, we check each other for ticks. This should also be done in the morning. The purpose of looking at night and in the morning is to ensure that we have double-checked our bodies. Since ticks can attach to our equipment and get to us at night, checking again in the morning is a good idea. Checking for ticks is so much easier when you have a partner.
Splitting Up the Gear
One of us carries the tent, the other carries the stove and medical stuff, and we each carry our own stuff including water. The remaining gear that crosses over is food. We eat breakfast before we head out on our hike and we each have our lunches for the day. The rest of the food for the next days and nights seems to just get split between the two of us. This is where honest communication needs to happen because if one of us is dragging, then we will split it up differently.
Going hiking together as a couple is fun, but it’s also challenging, putting in the hours and miles with a pack on your back. It can cause a strain on your well-being, especially when you are exhausted or hungry. However, working together feels good – you’ve accomplished something together. Moreover, one of the benefits of camping and hiking as a couple is the time you’ve shared. We have had some of our best conversations while being on a hike. The other part of the fun is the shared misery and laughing at and with each other. Learning how to support one another and work as a couple, through hiking, is a terrific way to strengthen your relationship and have a great shared experience.