Many outdoorsmen prefer the solitude and peace that accompanies a solo hike, but sometimes it’s nice to have a partner along on a backpacking trip.
Not everyone on your “friends list” makes a great hiking partner, though, especially if you’re planning a longer trip in the backcountry. Below are five tips you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re considering who to invite along on your next backpacking adventure.
Can They Keep Up?
Your partner needs to be just that: a partner. With this in mind, make sure your backpacking buddy can at least handle the endeavor. Are they in shape? Will they lag too far behind, or even leave you in their wake? You both will need to keep a similar pace on the trail, so it will pay off to have a chat ahead of time concerning expectations for the trip. I’d even go on a shorter practice hike with your planned backpacking buddy before tackling the real trip.
Trust Falls Galore
Perhaps the most important quality you’ll want in a backpacking buddy is someone you can trust. For me, this entails everything from an extra set of preparatory eyes on maps and gear to keeping a level head and making sound decisions in a variety of potential situations. It also means someone who will trust my instincts, too, and not challenge or question me when it hits the fan. Keep in mind, too, that trustworthiness isn’t limited to outdoorsmen, so don’t be biased when you’re asking around for a trip partner.
I Don’t Do “Needy”
Even if it’s their first time on the trail, it’s still fair to expect a reasonable amount of self-sufficiency from your trail buddy. Make sure they can handle carrying a pack and won’t need help lugging along items that really weren’t necessary to begin with. Furthermore, self-sufficiency means being smart enough to bring enough food, water and spare items such as batteries or an extra pair of socks. I will say, though, that there is a bit of an onus on your part to teach them a few things about the outdoors and prepare them accordingly.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Will your prospective backpacking partner pitch in around the campsite? Will they gather wood while you pitch the tent, or vice versa? Contributing and doing one’s fair share of the work is a major requirement in a trail partner. Failure in this regard can mean extra work for one person, not to mention a bit of awkward bitterness during the trip.
Can You Get Along?
You’re going to be spending several days on the trail with this individual, so you’ll probably want to make sure you both can enjoy one another’s company while roughing it. Can you be good, supportive, encouraging friends to each other when it’s cold and you’re both tired? Are you chatty or do you prefer to hike in relative silence? Either way, invite someone who won’t get on your nerves by doing the opposite. The other side of that same coin, though, is that there is room for compromise and for you to extend some grace to your backpacking buddy, as well.
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