thru-hiking as a couple


Before the Hike

Plan & Prepare Together

One person should not shoulder all the responsibilities of planning — even if they want and prefer to. If one person does all the planning, they will receive all the blame when something goes wrong. Even if their partner doesn’t blame them, they will feel responsible. It is a great deal of psychological pressure that creates irritation, anger, and leads to fights.

 

Similarly, one person should not prepare physically and intellectually for the trip and presume their partner will catch up while on-trail. Not only does such an imbalanced relationship produce resentment and anger, but leads to chaos and confusion during an emergency or unforeseen situation because only one person knows what to do.

 

So during the planning process, both you and your partner should:

  • read the same books and discuss them
  • study the maps together
  • read over this website and discuss articles together
  • shop for gear and make decisions about purchases together
  • set financial goals together — both pre-trip savings and on-trip spending
  • plan your resupply strategy together
  • prepare physically by working out & training together
  • make decisions about route options together (east or west around Okeechobee & Orlando)
  • set mileage goals together
  • discuss your preferences for taking zero & nero days
  • determine a start date and commit to it
  • create a bad-weather plan together
  • create a plan for what to do if one person gets injured

 

Planning together ensures that when the unexpected happens or something goes wrong you have a plan that both of you know and understand, one of you will not blame the other, and one of you will not feel completely responsible and guilty.

 

Preparing together means there won't be a huge disparity between a prepared and an unprepared person, which prevents anger, resentment, and fights. Otherwise the prepared person may get angry at the other for not being prepared, while the unprepared person gets angry at them for pushing too hard, telling them what to do, talking down to them, et cetera.

cover of book "Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus" by John Gray
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Read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus

Yes, we're serious.

Heterosexual couples, if you haven't already, you need to read this book. It will save you from a lot of futile arguments and miscommunication. The central thesis of the book is that men and women have different emotional needs and communication styles. When these differences are not recognized, miscommunication and inappropriate responses are the result.

 

LGBT couples, this book has good advice for all couples if you look beyond the gender assumptions. However, there may be a better one out there for you. If you know of one, please let us know.

Go on a Shake-Down Hike Together

A thru-hike is a lot different than a romantic weekend camping trip. There won't be much snuggling by a campfire and drinking wine together. Instead, there will be a lot of farting in the tent and peeing in bottles because it's too cold and rainy to go outside. You have to be very comfortable with each other, in other words. A minimum three-night shake down hike is a good idea before venturing into onto the Trail for 2-3 months.


On-Trail

While on-trail it's best to hike as a team. That does not mean you always have to hike next to each other, side-by-side at the same pace. One person can go ahead for a while if they want to stretch their legs or just be alone for a while (we need to go into "the cave" sometimes — read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ).

 

By hiking as a team, we mean:

  • always make decisions together about how far to go each day
  • decide where to eat lunch together before leaving camp in the morning
  • the person ahead should wait for the person behind at intersections, road crossings, et cetera where it's possible to get separated
  • when walking together, let the slower person set the pace
  • both of you make compromises

 

Additionally, the Florida Trail is a lonesome trail, and you won't meet many other hikers. So it will just be the two of you, day in and day out and you may find yourselves running out of things to talk about. We have found that reading a book together (one person reads aloud to the other) can create a lot of discussion if its a good book you are both interested in. Playing games is something a lot of couples enjoy. You may not know what will work best for you, because 2-3 months of isolation with your partner is a rare circumstance, so experiment. 


Cooking Together

Carrying two stoves is nice because you can cook at the same time and eat together. However, if you are looking to shed weight it's hard to justify a second stove, pot, and fuel can. 

 

If you want to save weight and share a stove, this is how to do it:

  • Bring only one stove and pot set, plus a plastic food storage container with its lid. Go for an inexpensive one made by Ziploc or Glad rather than heavy-duty Tupperware. Having a container with a lid makes cleanup easy: just add water, close lid, shake, and drink the water.
  • Cook meal #1 in the pot, pour it into the bowl, and someone can be eating while meal #2 is cooking.
  • Of the two dinners that night, make the one that's easier to clean first. For example: If the night’s menu is mashed potatoes and ramen noodles, make the ramen first, since mashed potatoes is harder to clean. Pour the cooked ramen into the plastic bowl and the pot is mostly clean, ready to make mashed potatoes.
  • The other option is to boil water for both meals simultaneously and pour half into the plastic bowl.

 

While we recommend plastic food storage containers because they are light and cheap, there is one drawback. Adding olive oil to meals is a great way to punch up the calories, but olive oil sticks to plastic more than metal and is harder to clean with plain water. A lid makes keeping clean easy. Secure the lid before putting the container back in your food bag to prevent the oil from getting all over your stuff, and dirt from sticking to the inside of the container.

 

However, if you are not comfortable with having oil in all of your meals (breakfast cereal, for example) then a titanium pot is a good substitution. They are more expensive and a little heavier, but much easier to clean with plain water.


Intimacy

You have to make time for intimacy. It’s weird, but even though you spend 24/7 with each other, you rarely fool around, cuddle, snuggle, et cetera because you are so tired, sweaty, and dirty. Here are our suggestions for maintaining intimacy while on the Trail:

 

  • hug each other for 10 seconds each morning before leaving camp
  • hug each other for 10 seconds each evening after dinner
  • get sleeping bags that zip together (see below)
  • take 2 zero days in a row (see below)

 

Sleeping Bags that Zip Together

It's really nice to zip your sleeping bags together. It is both more intimate, and you share body heat with your partner so it's warmer. However, not all sleeping bags can zip together, even two bags from the same manufacturer. So when buying sleeping bags as a couple you have to make sure that:

 

  • One bag has a "right-hand" zipper and the other a "left-hand" zipper. A right-hand zipper means the bag's zipper is on your right when lying in the bag on your back. If you have regular sides of the bed, this will determine your zipper location. The person who sleeps on the right side of the tent should get a left-hand bag, and the person on the left side of the tent should get a right-hand bag. This way the zippers face each other and both of you are on the side that's most comfortable.
  • The zippers are the same size. But how to tell when shopping online? Zippers come in standard numbered sizes (#2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and more, corresponding to their width when zipped). A bag's zipper number is usually included in the bag's specs found on retailer's and manufacturer's websites. Sleeping bag zippers are usually large but not too large, with numbers between 5 and 8. If you already have a sleeping bag and want to mate a second bag with it, look at the zipper's slider. Stamped on the nose should be a number.

  • The zippers are the same type. There are three main zipper types: polyester, molded plastic, and metal. Polyester zippers have further variations, but most sleeping bags will have either molded plastic or metal zippers. You cannot mate a metal zipper with a plastic one.
  • The zippers are the same length. Bags come in half-zip, three-quarter-zip, and full-zip options. For the most body contact, we recommend full-zip bags. It is best to mate two bags with identical zipper lengths, or else you end up with open areas that let in cold. Of course, unless you two are the exact same height you will have different length bags. This is not as much of a problem as mating a full-zip bag with a half-zip.

 

Zipping bags together is not for all couples, however, since sometimes one person can disrupt the sleep of the other. Maybe they roll around at night and their partner is a light sleeper. Maybe they feel very cold at night while their partner feels much warmer. If you're thinking about zipping together, try it during your shake-down hike and see if it works for you.

 

Double Zeros

Zero days are busy with chores, and there is little time left over for intimacy. (For sex, there might be time, but not intimacy). Taking a second zero day allows for that intimacy. We recommend that couples always double zero (or nero then zero). You should plan for the extra time in your schedule.

 

On the PCT and AT we recommend that couples skip hostels and get motel rooms in order to be alone, but since there are no hostels on the Florida Trail, it's a moot point.

 

Sex in the Tent?

You are already smelly and gross, right? So why wait until town? While there is a widely held belief that not showering after sex can cause a yeast infection, we cannot find a medical source that backs that up. Hence, there is no medical reason to avoid sex between town stops. Besides, there are occasional showers at campgrounds like in the Ocala NF and the Suwanee River camps. Ultimately  this is an issue of personal comfort that couples have to decide for themselves.


Do Chores First

There are lots of chores to do while in town — and one person cannot do them all. One person should not be doing chores while the other smokes and drinks beer (fellas) or checks facebook and texts (ladies). Chores should be shared equally and done together. Only after they are done should you start watching TV, calling family, drinking, and generally kicking back.