As most of my readers know, I’m an avowed day hiker, and while I’ve put in more than 3,000 trail miles in Florida and another 500+ on other trails, including the AT, I’ve never been as fond of backpacking as day hiking. I started backpacking in 1997 but never liked going solo. There are logistics to juggle. Gear to decide on. Food choices to manage. Water treatment. Weather to deal with. And lots of little mechanical issues that can go wrong, from stoves to tents to backpacks themselves.
Backpacking as a couple smooths out a lot of these worries that a solo hiker, even hiking with a group, has to cope with alone. For me, the toughest part of backpacking has been coping with mechanical problems, from stoves that won’t light (or explode if lighted incorrectly) to jammed-up water filters. I’m quite thankful that my partner is an expert with mechanical stuff. The easiest part for me is planning and route-finding, and I lend those skills for the betterment of us both.
Back in the 1990s, I knew quite a few backpacking couples who wrote about the experience for others to learn from, including Cindy Ross & Todd Gladfelter, Frank and Victoria Logue, Karen Berger and Dan Smith among them. Plenty of couples head into the woods together today, but there aren’t as many people writing about it. As our expertise as a team grows, we look forward to sharing our problems and solutions as well.
Some of things we’ve discovered already:
- Get a lightweight tent. It makes a serious difference in comfort when your tent is roomy AND lightweight. Our solution: the Lightheart Duo.
- It’s a good idea to find a solution (such as Thermarest Couplers) to attach sleeping pads together to keep them from sliding across the tent while you sleep.
- If you’re coming into the relationship with two very different sleeping bags, a joint solution might be a shared bag like the Big Agnes Cabin Creek. Alternatively, think about using one bag as a bottom layer and the other as a quilt on top, depending on their shape, size, and how chilly it is outside. Two together do sleep warmer than two apart.
- Rather than evenly divide pack weight as some books recommend, it makes sense to load more into the larger of the two packs / divide according to the hiker’s strength.
- Share camp duties. He cooks while you get the tent prepped for sleeping or filter the water (or vice-versa).
- Capture the experience! Take turns taking photos to share later. You’ll be glad you did. Here’s ours.
Some books from which to learn about the “backpacking as a couple” experience:
A Blistered Kind of Love: One Couple’s Trial by Trail
Solemates: Lessons On Life, Love & Marriage From The Appalachian Trail”