5 Tips and Tricks for Hiking with your Partner in Crime
Hiking with your PIC
In 2015, I caught the thru-hike bug. After graduating from college, my boyfriend Dave and I took off to hike El Camino De Santiago. The following year, I hiked the Appalachian Trail with my childhood friend, Hannah aka Sunshine. Although I hiked two completely different trails with two different people, I learned a lot about what works and what does when hiking with a partner. Here’s 5 Tips and Tricks to hiking with your PIC.
1. Lets be real, who do you think you can hike with?
I know thru-hiking isn’t for everyone. I’ve thru-hiked two totally different trails and understand how someone could enjoy el Camino De Santiago but not the Appalachian Trail, and vice versa. Personally, I find it hard to compare my experiences in terms of which thru-hike was best. But, I learned a lot about teamwork and resourcefulness hiking with Dave and Hannah. I’ve realized my strengths and weakness as a hiker and how both of my PIC’s are the yin to my yang. However, I know hiking with some friends would be detrimental to our friendship. And, that’s ok and if hiking with a partner isn’t your scene, going solo is cool too.
Moreover, think about who you are compatible with for long periods of time. What are you like after 10 hours of hiking? What are your strengths and weaknesses? And most importantly, what are your expectations of your thru-hiking partner in crime. Here’s 6 Tips for Choosing a Thru-Hike Partner.
2. Make a Plan
Literally, sit down with your partner and write down goals and expectations for the trip. Sounds cheesy? Well, it is. Pair it with some whine or wine. But, it’s essential to be on the same page as your partner and understand what they hope to get out of the trip. You are two individuals working towards a common goal, you are a team. For starters, talk about which trail to do, a time frame, start date and where to start. For the AT, these 3 tips to jumpstart planning to help organize. In general, I highly recommend making a plan before any thru-hike. Not only does it keep you organized, but it’s helpful for budgeting, goal setting and keeping you on track. Plus, planning gets you excited for your trip!
In comparison to the planning for the Appalachian Trail, I was a free spirit for El Camino de Santiago. For El Camino De Santiago, I purchased the guidebook on the plane to Paris and decided to play it day by day. Here, I learned (more like tried) to go with the flow and take each day one step at a time. We did try to plan at least 2 days ahead but really played it by ear. With all the conveniences and towns on El Camino, the spontaneity added to the adventure.
3. Communication, Communication, Communication
My advice is simple- be honest with your PIC. It is so so important to have good communication on the trail. Hannah and I actually didn’t shut up for the first 4 months of thru-hiking- talking all day every day, no headphones allowed. Before setting off from Springer, Hannah and I had clear goals and expectations accompanied with a detailed daily itinerary. We shared a tent aka 44 sq ft. for 5 months and ended the trail stronger as friends. If that’s not friendship goals then I don’t know what is.
However, when you’re not communicating well with your partner, things can go south, fast. For example, on day 1 of El Camino we decided to do a 30 km day. At the start, I wasn’t feeling great and felt my pack poking my lower back. As Dave noticed a change in my mood and pace of hiking, I said nothing when he questioned how I was doing. Truth: I was struggling and hating everything. Well, at the top of the Pyrenees, I had my freak out. Disclaimer: I was hangry and my pack’s metal frame was poking me, leading to blood blisters on my lower back. This was only discovered post freak out. Basically, I lashed out at Dave because I was uncomfortable, tired and in pain from my back but too proud to ask for help. Looking back, this all could have been avoided. Luckily and thankfully, Dave is loving and understanding so after a snack break, we switched packs, talked it out and hiked on. Communication people, I’m telling you, it’s the key to success in thru-hiking.
4. Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Growing up, Hannah and I were friends and teammates. We were also class president and vice-president and varsity soccer captains so we’ve had experience working together as teammates. We challenge each other and are a dynamic duo. Whenever hiking with someone, remember you’re a team. These experiences allowed us to effectively work together both on and off the trail. One team, one dream.
5. Roses and Thorns
There are roses and thorns to thru-hiking with a partner. Hiking with a partner presents the opportunity for a close support system, learning to work together physically, mentally and logistically with someone to overcome mountains. When I was feeling down, my PIC’s motivated me to keep going. And, I did the same for them. Conversely, it’s a completely different experience than hiking solo. I’ve never hiked solo so I can’t comment about it. However, I still felt independent even hiking with someone. On both trails, I hiked by myself for periods of time and hiked with my PIC. Understandably, spending an extended period of time with someone, pushing yourself physically and mentally, can strain a relationship. In my case, I’ve found quite the opposite but it’s one thing to consider when planning a thru-hike. Have a backup plan if you decide to split up. However, there’s more roses than thorns for hiking with a PIC for me. Moreover, I’m thankful to have completed two thru-hikes with my adventure pals and couldn’t have done it without them.
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