The “Threesome Dynamic”: Our story, Considerations, and Tips

Introduction to the Hiking Threesome

While most people hike solo, it’s fairly common to hike (or at least start out) with a partner. What’s not so common is starting out hiking with two partners. Hiking in a threesome, if you will.

But hey now, get your head out of the gutter. This May, I’ll be beginning my hike somewhere in Virginia with two of my favorite people in the world – my boyfriend, Kyler, and my cousin, Becca.

Kyler and I have always talked about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail together. In fact, it was one of the first things we talked about on our first “real” date. He had thru-hiked in 2009, and when I asked him if he’d do it again, he said, “only with a partner” and winked at me. But I knew that I’d need to make the decision to hike somewhat on my own. After all, hiking the AT, even with another person (or two), is still a personal battle.

Becca and I have always been close. Since birth, actually…we’re only 9 days apart (I’ll never let anyone forget who the oldest is…*cough* me *cough*). We’re both extremely giggly and silly, and we’ve always bonded over how much we got made fun of for being very, very hairy. We blame it on those Spanish Jew genes, which we’ve now learned to embrace. I’m sure there will be ongoing competitions for longest leg hair on the trail.

When I finally jumped out of bed one day and made that personal decision to hike the Appalachian Trail, I knew Kyler would be down to take it on as a team. We’d talked about it a lot, I could just never commit. I have a great job, we have a nice apartment, we don’t have the money, etc. But Kyler is crazy (and awesome) enough to drop everything and hike the AT…again. He just needed me to be ready.

And ready I am. And on that day I flipped the switch from practical to spontaneous, I was actually with Becca. She was visiting me in Vermont, and we had gone hiking together the day before. I was so excited that this was actually going to happen that I blurted out, “Kyler and I are going to thru-hike the AT, you should come too!” And to my extreme surprise, she instantaneously said yes.

It was kinda like this:
parks-and-rec-gif
and then this:
roblowe

At this time, I’d like to insert a quote from Kyler himself, which he declared when I told him that not only would we be thru-hiking the AT together in May, but that Becca would also be joining us.

Simply put, “This should be interesting.”

Considerations and Tips

So, without further ado, here are some things to consider about the “Threesome Dynamic”:

Hiking Dynamics Between Friends, Family and Romantic Partners
The concept is explained perfectly in this Appalachian Trials post: “One thing I have experienced and observed over the past eighteen days is the dynamics between friends hiking together and couples who are sharing the journey together, are completely different. Friends have never-ending patience, while the couples experience a different set of parameters. Couples expect more from their partner and at times exhibit less patience…” And while the family dynamic family isn’t quite explained above, I’d venture to say that in most cases, family dynamics are closer to romantic partner dynamics.

In our case: I know that Becca will love me no matter what, and I probably won’t have any problem being brutally honest or upset with her, just like I won’t with Kyler. However, she and Kyler will have the friends dynamic, so perhaps this will ease some tension?

Sharing Gear and Food

Who shares what? Do you share everything between all three people? Do two people share? Do you not share at all?

In our case: We’ve decided that Kyler and I will share (and by share I mean distribute weight and make purchases together) all food and gear – that is, any gear that can be shared like a tent – and Becca will be self sufficient. But I’ll let her have a Larabar if she asks.

The Third Wheel and/or The Middle Man
This is a big question mark. Who will end up being the third wheel, or will there even be one? Maybe we all get along perfectly and there is no third wheel. Does someone feel like they’re caught somewhere in the middle?

In our case: As I’ve found out from talking to both Kyler and Becca, we all have different views and ways of talking about the trail and who we’re hiking it with. Kyler says, “I’m hiking with Laura, and her cousin Becca is coming too.” Becca says, “I’m hiking with Laura, and her boyfriend Kyler is coming too.” And because I’m in the middle, I say, “I’m hiking with my cousin, Becca, and my boyfriend, Kyler.” However, we’re all getting better at avoiding this pitfall. The lesson here is: When you talk about the trail and who you’re hiking it with, include everyone.

Also, if Kyler and I are sharing all of our gear, food, and not to mention our tent, there’s always the possibility of Becca feeling like the third wheel. Or who knows, maybe they get along so well as friends that I end up feeling like the third wheel. Anything is possible, and I like to think that in our case, no one will be the third wheel.

Pace, Camping, & Separation
Instead of just thinking about yourself or one other person, you have to consider the pace, abilities, desires, and emotions of two other people. One person might be faster, you might ALL go at different speeds, etc. Plus, if someone is going faster/slower, do you have to agree on a stopping/camping spot? What happens if you get separated?

In our case: This is where we take a step back and say, “let it be and go with the flow”. We’re not going to be able to control everything, and we’re bound to disagree or want different things. That needs to be okay, or we’ll end up hating each other by the end of all this. This also means that communication will be key. If you want to go slower, say so. If you want to separate and meet up a few hours (or days) later, say so.

Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to this awesome blog post, by Ashli Baldwin, which goes over 6 tips for choosing a thru-hiking partner. I think it applies to choosing multiple partners as well!

We’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and/or stories!

  • Did you start your hike with two other people? If so, what was it like? What were some of the challenges you faced? What were some of the best parts?
  • Are you planning on starting off your hike with two other people in the future? What are you anticipating the dynamic will be like?

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Comments 6

  • Avatar
    Fairway : Jan 26th

    If you want to hike together then the slower hiker needs to be in front. Before you leave for the trail you really need to have a conversation about splitting up. Most likely y’all will split up. I’m not sure the attitude of “let it be, and go with the flow” answers any questions about what is expected from the others. If you need to get off trail do you expect your bf to follow you? Will you be upset if decides to finish without you? If your cousin gets injured are you going to hang out at the hostel with her for a week while she heals up?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Laura : Jan 26th

      Good points and good questions! You’re right – talking about realistic expectations is important, especially for those situations. However, things that we don’t talk about are inevitably going to pop up. That’s what the “let it be and go with the flow” attitude is for.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Reboot2016 : Jan 27th

    While most of my trips have been solo, here are some things I’ve learned about walking with a partner. At the beginning of the day outline agree on proposed stops for lunch and the end of the day. Nothing is more aggravating than having to walk someone else’s pace. Someone who lags on the uphill sections may set the pace on the downhill stretches. Using this system, you may actually walk together, but you don’t have to.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Liz Kibby : Jan 28th

    Hey Laura! Nice article, I enjoyed reading it. I’m flip-flopping as well, so hopefully I’ll see the three of you out there! Are you planning on doing the flip-flop launch May 5-6 hosted by the ATC? Good luck with everything, I look forward to reading more.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Laura : Jan 28th

      Awesome! I had no idea there was a May 5-6 “flip-flop launch”. What’s that about? Do you have more info? We were planning to start a few days earlier (probably in Montebello, VA), but could possibly be convinced otherwise…

      Reply

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