7 Tips for Backpacking With Your Significant Other
We were 5 hours deep into Glacier National Park's back country when I looked at Michael and said, "I should write a blog post about how if you think you love someone you should go backpacking with them and see if you still love them afterwards." We both laughed. We were totally fine, I wasn't having the greatest day but Michael had been constantly encouraging me to keep going and that I was doing great (I was not). I believe at one point of the day he even sweetly told me to "suck it up" when I was hesitant about whether or not we should venture off the trail to see a waterfall.
I didn't say what I said because Michael and I weren't doing well on the trail, I said what I said because I was thinking about my past relationships and if I had to backpack with some of my exes I would have broken up with them a mile into backpacking... or killed them and left them for the wolves. KIDDING! But in all seriousness backpacking with your significant other is a adventure in itself and a serious team building experience. It's something I believe every outdoorsy couple should do together! Here's some tips for backpacking with your special someone:
1. Never forget, you're a team
Say this to yourself and repeat it until it's engraved in your head: you two are a team (and honestly it should be this way off the trail too). It's not only you so there's no room to only think about yourself. Unless you've discussed otherwise, tackle your trip together. Your partner's enjoyment will contribute to your enjoyment and vice versa. Don't put your partner down, make sure to support them, encourage them and be there for them when they need you.
2. Communicate before, during and after
Before you embark on your adventure, make sure you communicate on exactly what you'll be doing. Discuss mileage, terrain, elevation gain, etc. If one of you has a slower pace than the other, talk about how you're going to let the other person know you need them to slow down or speed up. Make sure you both agree you're comfortable with the planned trip, or if one of you has reservations or thinks it'll be out of your comfort zone, voice that. While you're hiking communicate with each other about how you're feeling. It's easy to just check in and say "How you doin'?" Also make sure to communicate what you're doing. For example, if you're about to take a turn down a trail and your not sure if it's right or not, talk it out. After the trip talk about how it went, what were your favorite parts, what didn't you like, etc. Sometimes people think communicating this way is dumb or unnecessary but communication is key in a relationship- it can make or break it- so you might as well get good at it.
3. Encourage one another
Backpacking isn't easy. You're hiking with added weight onto your back and over longer miles. Hive five each other when you tackle a long uphill, and if your significant other is struggling, be their cheerleader. At the beginning of this I mentioned we were on a trip and I wasn't doing too hot. On that particular day I was dehydrated, not used to the elevation and hadn't eaten enough that morning before we left. I was feeling lethargic and sluggish and I was stopping a ton when usually I'd be tackling the trail. Instead of getting annoyed with me Michael patiently stopped whenever I needed too, made sure the extra water bottles were always filled and occasionally sang me words of encouragement. Even if sometimes it sounds corny, "YOU GOT THIS JESS!" *and it's a 5 foot tall hill...* It still put a smile on my face and at the end of the day my spirits were high although I hadn't done my best. Also, to add to that, at the end of the day I wasn't left feeling guilty for making Michael's experience any less. He didn't make me feel bad about myself because I was having an off-day and slowing him down, he happily encouraged me and went at my pace and made it seem like that's exactly what he would be doing even if I had been 100%. It really makes all the difference.
4. Be attentive
You may know how to spot your significant other coming down with a cold or you may know how to gauge if they've had a bad day at work by the way they come home. But do you know how to tell when they're dehydrated or need to take a breather while on the trail? A lot of times in the back country you two are tackling new obstacles together and you need to be attentive to make sure you can be a shoulder to lean on or have some encouraging words if your partner isn't having the greatest day. Being attentive will allow you to learn about your partner in new, unique circumstances. If you're significant other is getting irritable maybe it's because they need a snack but may not realize it themselves (I suggest always having a yummy snack bar on you, you never know when you might need one). If your significant other is stubborn and doesn't want to admit the hike is a little to hard for them, be the one that suggests stopping more often to hydrate and have a snack or take a breather.
5. Never place blame
This is a biggy. Don't place blame on each other for anything. If you miss a turn, you missed it together. If you took a turn down a wrong trail, you turned down the wrong trail together. If the snacks weren't packed, you both forgot to pack them. Got it? There isn't time to place blame in the back country and if you remember what I said earlier, you're both a team and you should have been communicating the whole time. Blaming one another for things you can't change just creates tension and negativity and can even hurt already exhausted feelings. Just roll with the punches and remind yourself when things don't go according to plan, it just adds to the adventure.
6. Practice setting up and using gear beforehand together
This is a great one! Knowing how to very quickly and methodically set up camp and get your stove rolling makes a huge difference after a long day of hiking. If you can easily and quickly set up camp together it just means you'll have more time to relax at the end of a long day. If your significant other doesn't know how to use some of your gear, or if you don't know how to use some of theirs, make a date and learn! Take the gear out to a local park and teach each other how to use whatever it is you don't know how to use. Usually, setting up a tent together just once helps develop a routine you'll use in the future, and if you both know how to light the stove you won't have to worry about waiting longer for food. We always set up our tent together but Michael usually gets all the sleeping pads and sleeping bags situated inside the tent while I get the water boiling for dinner. If you don't have time to both learn how to set up camp beforehand, make sure at least one of you knows how to!
7. Remember, you're technically on a date!
Give each other smelly hugs, little kisses or ass grabs if you simply can't resist that tush climbing the hill in front of you. It's easy to get lost in your own thoughts on the trail but remember you're out there with someone you love! If you have sleeping bags that can zip together and you can deal with each others' smells, snuggle! Offer to cook dinner while the other relaxes or take turns rubbing out each others feet (we do this every time we backpack and I look forward to it every night!). I also like to wake up early in the morning and make Michael a cup of coffee even though I don't even drink it and give him a few extra minutes to sleep in. If you're feeling risqué and there's a body of water nearby, go skinny dipping! Just make it fun and if you treat it like one big date, it'll be a great time.