Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Partnership Commitments, Compatibilities & Compromises

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.

Commitments:

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?
  • Technology
    • 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.
  • Navigation
    • 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.

Compromise Tips:

  • 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?
  • Technology
    • Knowledge is power. Be mindful and respectful of your differences.
  • Navigation
    • 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?

Bonus Tips:

  1. Agree to discuss disagreements, forgive and forget. Move on!
  2. Be flexible to Plan B options. Partners get sick, injured, or just want to be done. Shit Happens!
  3. Hiking is hard work, take time to giggle.

Tips and Resources:

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11 thoughts on “Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Partnership Commitments, Compatibilities & Compromises

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed our journey and our videos. We definitely had plenty of silly moments, and laughed lots between our bouts of serious hiking. I hope completion of the trail as a team works out also.

  1. What a great list of parameters to discuss! I am planning on doing some long distance hiking with a friend and while we have done lots of things together (but not 24/7 and not long distance hiking), I think this will come in handy! Thanks!

    • FANTASTIC! At least it may provide an easy non-confrontational way to discuss these topics in advance. I actually thought about turning it into a questionnaire. Please let me know how the discussion and trip go.

  2. This is great. I’ve hiked with a variety of group sizes and ages, and I could have used this in every situation.

  3. Jan, great post & you addressed what could be a sensitive topic in a positive way. I’m wondering a few things: how many miles is the AZT? how long did it take you to complete your trip from day 1 to done? Given that, what were your average daily miles? I read your gear review – also very helpful. I’ve saved several from several bloggers postings. I haven’t backpacked so long that I didn’t realize they don’t make backpacks for men or for women. Did you backpack back then? If so, do you notice any difference? I have a curvy figure which was always perfect for backpacking, as I got fitted for the backpack, and made sure it rested above my hip bone. That way the bulk of the weight was evenly distributed along my back. It made for easier backpacking than my friends who had different body shapes, plus I have a very strong back. I’m a retired Nurse Practitioner & never hurt my back lifting patients, so I’m lucky that way. If there is any other tip you can think of, please send me an email. When I spoke with twinkle, he felt that I should not hike that trail solo. Also, it was obvious you were SOBO’s, whereas Sheriff Woody was NOBO. Which direction would you recommend? Thanks so much, you have inspired me! Fondly, Sue

    • Question 2: There are more women’s specific backpacks than ever. I didn’t start backpacking until 2010 and used those for the first few years. The problem is that most off-the-shelf packs are HEAVY weighing 4-7 pounds. The reason I like my Gossamer Gear Mariposa is it has a removable bendable frame/stay that should be customized to match your spine. I have a very S shaped (sway back) spine. Many of the cottage industry companies don’t make women’s specific models but instead make packs that easily work for both men and women. Gossamer Gear redesigned their should straps recently and they are more shaped and padded which makes them even more comfortable. Waist belts are separate so you can mix and match pack size with waist belt size and change up or down if you lose/gain weight. The most important factors are (1) fit, know your torso length measured with chin down from bump at top of spine to above hip bone; (2) capacity, will the size of your stuff fit into the pack easily, there’s nothing worse than cramming; (3) weight, don’t push the pack recommendations. For example I usually carry 18-22 pounds but for this trip had to carry up to 37 pounds. The pack maximum weight recommendations are 35 pounds and it really isn’t comfortable above 30 pounds.

      • Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question so fully. I’ve done my research & the Mariposa seems to be a top pick. Backpacker magazine just came out with their “best of” gear guide, and it was listed as #1 – critics choice.

    • Question 3: I’d prefer hiking this trail with a companion due to the water and navigation issues. Two brains, four eyes are better for many reasons. Another reason is feeling a bit safer in pairs with the amount of trail shared with ranchers, ATV’ers, etc. I feel safe in the wilderness solo, but many times this trail passes through large transition areas that are outside wilderness areas. I loved going SOBO but I’d say it’s a matter of logistics, timing with weather, water, heat, etc. NOBO has it’s benefits also. I’d never recommend this trail as a first, although we did meet one young man out for his first backpacking experience.

      I’m glad you feel inspired and excited about new adventure. It’s definitely good for the soul!

      Please feel free to contact me by email at jansjaunts-wordpress@yahoo.com

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