Things to Consider When Hiking with a Partner on the Appalachian Trail
The majority of people who set out to thru hike start solo. Some bring a friend or family member. Others chose to test their relationship and bring their partner with them. Here’s what I’ve noticed that has made our thru hike different, some for the better and some difficulties.
Here you’ll find some benefits and downsides of thru hiking together as well as an overview of our last few weeks. As of writing this blog post, we only have two states to go, Virginia & Maine!
1. Sharing Gear
We’re able to reduce our individual base weights by sharing gear. For example, I carry the tent & stove while Ian carries the first aid kit, cookware, and trowel.
2. Having a backup
We both carry fuel, toilet paper, lighters, and water filters. This allows us to have some safety in the redundancies without having to carry more weight individually.
3. Food Sharing
When in town, we can split up food that comes in boxes too much for one person. We also can get more variety in food by sharing on trail. It’s another backup, if one of us over or under packs food we can share!
4. Safety on trail
We can camp away from shelters without the fear of being somewhere alone. This helps when you hear noises in the forest at night. When hiking, it’s better to come across a bear with another person to help scare it away. You also have someone to watch your pack when going down to get water or going to the bathroom.
Navigating difficult terrain is easier with two! Especially tight squeezes or hard sections in the Whites, we could pass packs and trekking poles to each other. It also helps having a hand getting up steep sections. As Ian is better at scrambling, I can watch how he navigates sections before going up.
In some areas (I’m looking at you Pennsylvania boulder fields) the trail isn’t well defined. Having another set of eyes helps with navigation!
6. Splitting Up Tasks
When we stop for the day, we save time getting set up. Ian likes throwing the bear line while I like getting the tent set. We can also have one person filtering water while the other cooks dinner. It’s also easier rolling up the tent with two people.
7. Different Cell Phone Networks
Since we have different phone networks, it doubles our chances of getting signal to check the weather!
It’s both easier to get a ride and safer with two people! People seem more willing to pick up a pair of hikers versus a single guy. Thankfully we haven’t had any sketchy encounters, but it would be better to have two people if we did!
9. Moral Support
If one of us is having a slow day, not in the mood to hike, or struggling, we have each other to rely on. If we both are struggling, at least we have each other to keep us moving!
It also helps on hills. Ian prefers uphill hiking while I prefer downhill. We take turns leading to help make the hike easier.
10. Preventing Boredem
You always have someone to talk to when you hike with your partner! Sometimes we will listen to the same podcasts and discuss them.
1. Double The Cost
Of course it makes sense but double the clothes, sleep system, and replacement items adds up! Same for double the food resupply and town food.
Same goes for time off trail. Two beds in a hostel is sometimes just as expensive as a motel room making it not as good of a deal as it could be for solo hikers.
2. Double The Chance of Illness & Injury
If one of us needs to get off trail, we both do. We’ve gone through Noro, Lyme, and a toe infection together which has resulted in a combined five zero days.
There’s also the risk of an injury taking one of us off trail. In that case, the trail has become something we do together. We’d just have to end our thru hike and finish up hiking when we are able.
3. Compromising on Mileage
Ian definitely can hike faster than me on average, but he is willing to stay at my pace. That doesn’t mean we go slow, he still pushes me within reason.
Some days we need to stop earlier because one of us has had a bad day which is difficult when the other still has miles left in them. It’s part of hiking together and balances out how we push each other on good days.
4. Little Personal Space
It’s difficult not having space alone on the trail. While we usually are listening to our own podcasts, we hike together, rarely straying out of sight of each other. It’s definitely comforting having someone at all times, but as introverts, we need our space. This usually results in some irritation and grouchiness to work through.
Since the last update, we have finished North Carolina and Tennessee. We had our longest day on this half of our hike, 24 miles to the TN VA border. We enjoyed the Roan and Grayson Highlands. We hope to pick up mileage and complete Virginia by June to flip back up to hike Maine.
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