It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new adventure, and forget the realities of a 24×7 relationship. This can be especially true for those who primarily hike solo and/or live a more solitary lifestyle, and can be even more problematic for those in long-term relationships who take for granted that their on-trail life will be similar to their off-trail life.
Joan and I tested our compatibilities earlier in the year when we spent a week together exploring Utah. We’d met briefly last summer while Joan was on the PCT, and reunited in January at a Gossamer Gear Ambassador event in Moab (which coincidentally is where we were introduced to the Arizona Trail by fellow ambassador, Sirena, who works for the Arizona Trail Association). Joan and I are both analytical and spent time evaluating and discussing our hiking strengths and weaknesses. As the Arizona Trail concept became more of a reality, we talked in more depth about commitments, compatibilities and compromises.
Neither of us wanted to solo the Arizona Trail. Therefore, we made a conscious partnership commitment. We did not discuss what if this didn’t work . . . we were both committed to making it work. If either of us had been miserable, we would have devised a Plan B.
Compatibilities and Compromises:
Beyond personality, here are a few considerations.
- Daily mileage
- 10? 15? 20? 30?
- It’s fairly easy to compromise between a 5 mile difference, 10 miles becomes more difficult.
- Miles per hour
- 1? 1.5? 2? 3?
- For the hiker at either end of the spectrum, it can be challenging to compromise.
- Daily start and end time
- Early morning starters will have a hard time waiting on later morning risers.
- Hikers who want to hike until they drop will need to compromise with hikers who want to spend more time camping.
- Daily Breaks
- Some hikers like to break up their day with regular breaks; others feel it breaks their rhythm and never take breaks.
- Separate or Together
- Some hikers will never want to hike independent; others will want to hike solo meeting up only for breaks and camp.
- NERO and ZERO Days
- Some will want to take a ZERO day at every town, others may only want NERO days.
- When in town, do you plan to share a room? share chores? share meals?
- Some will want to stop frequently to take photos; others have no interest and will get irritated.
- Some will want to stop on ridges or peaks to check for cell signal; others have no interest and will get irritated.
- Some will rely on electronics for navigation; others will rely on maps and compass or a combination.
- Some hikers fly by the seat of their pants while others follow topographic maps carefully.
- Some hikers put 100% trust in their partner’s navigation skills while others want a 50/50 relationship.
- Daily mileage
- Have the person with lesser mileage goals, set the calendar based on total agreed upon miles. The higher mileage hiker will then have realistic expectations and can adjust accordingly.
- The higher mileage hiker can take side trips (i.e. summit a nearby peak) and master the art of lollygagging (spend more time focused on taking photos, enjoying nature, napping).
- Miles per hour
- Have the slower person hike in front of the faster person
- Have the faster person hike ahead and wait at agreed upon time or location
- Daily start and end times
- Agree in advance to start time, set the alarm and be firm about departure time
- Start at separate times and meet later in day at agreed upon time or location
- Daily breaks
- Agree in advance to approximate time intervals and length of breaks
- Otherwise, the hiker who wants to skip breaks can meet the breaker later at agreed upon time or location
- Separate or together
- If hiking together is preferred, give each other some space and some quiet time. Hiking within sight of each other is a good compromise.
- If hiking separate at times is acceptable, communicate clearly when and where to meet.
- NERO and ZERO days
- Know in advance where and when these are planned.
- If sharing a room, discuss in advance expectations such as:
- TV – some like the noise, others don’t
- Quiet Time – some may want to chit chat, while others may want to sleep or be tied to electronics
- Bed Time – some may want to party or stay up late, while others will stick to their on-trail schedule
- Awake Time – some will want to sleep as long as possible, wile others will stick to their on-trail schedule
- If sharing chores, have a plan for efficiency. What are priorities of town? It may be different for each town so discuss on your way into town.
- Eating – is the plan to eat at restaurants or combine with purchased food?
- Shopping and Laundry – together or separate? when? where?
- Knowledge is power. Be mindful and respectful of your differences.
- Know in advance how this very important task will be handled. Will it be shared? What methods will be used? How will disagreements be handled?
- Agree to discuss disagreements, forgive and forget. Move on!
- Be flexible to Plan B options. Partners get sick, injured, or just want to be done. Shit Happens!
- Hiking is hard work, take time to giggle.
Tips and Resources:
- Link to my other Arizona Trail (AZT) posts
- Rambling Hemlock (aka Joan)
- Arizona Trail Association
- Fred Gaudet’s Water Report
- Umbrella and Mariposa Pack Links
- Disclaimer: As a Gossamer Gear Ambassador, I was gifted the pack, but paid for all the rest of my gear