Tips For Hiking In A Relationship

30 August, 2021 By Chris Chase

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I write this advice aiming towards couples where one partner might have more experience hiking than the other, which was the case for myself and my partner Laura. But the advice can also serve people who are bringing friends or family hiking for the first time.


Start small and work your way up

Part of starting anything new is you want to be able to be successful at it in some way. So starting off with a day hike where you can still experience the thrills of climbing a mountain and seeing the views will help you get what you want in getting your partner outdoors, but helps them feel like they can enjoy the adventure and not have too much to worry about.


Plan the hike together

A way to help your partner feel more at ease is knowing what they are walking into (pun intended!). These days with technology, it is really easy for the both of you to jump online and search up walks.

Make sure you are using key words in your search engine, like 'beginner day walks (insert location here)' or 'easier hikes around (insert location here). There are many things you could type into google to find hiking trails, but this is a good way to start and know that you would find something at that beginner level.


Use reliable resources to plan

A trustworthy resource when planning hikes would be the Department of Conservation website. Throughout New Zealand and other places around the world, there is usually a public service organisation that maintains and protects areas of wilderness meant for outdoor recreation.

On these websites, you can find lots of information about tracks, the track history, difficulty and time it would take to complete, along with gear lists and recommendations.


The anxiety around planning adventures can be worked around if you do it together!


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Once you have the hike planned and you know where you want to go, it is time to start planning what you will bring.  A couple of things to consider here.


Pack AND Unpack your bags together

When Laura started out hiking, she wasn't so sure on what made sense to bring (other than the basics like a rain jacket, hat, food and water).

If you have more experience in hiking you know there are other things you should always have in your pack in case of emergencies, and it is important to pack together and help show your partner that there is more to planning than just chucking stuff in a bag and going for a walk.

Now, again if you have hiked a while, you probably have a decent grip on organising your own gear, but when you start to add a partner in the mix, that's at least double the gear and double the amount of things to organise.

What will help your packing and unpacking is to have ONE LOCATION for all of your adventure gear. Sometimes it's a bookshelf or closet shelves, or it is a series of small containers or crates. Whatever works for you, keeping your outdoor gear in one place can make packing and unpacking WAY easier and more efficient and can help your partner get what they need quickly and not stress about finding things. It also means you don't always have to be the one packing all the gear!

As far as what to have on short walks, in my experience it would be good to have:

-a compass

-paper map of the trails if you can

-digital trail map

-hat/sunglasses

-sunscreen

-EXTRA layer (long sleeve preferably)

-rain jacket

-basic first aid kit

-comfortable OUTDOOR SPECIFIC backpack with chest and hip straps (school style backpacks are not great for hikes because they bounce around)

-up to 3 litres of water

-extra food for each of you

-emergency blanket

-sturdy hiking shoes/boots/trainers

-personal locator beacon/emergency whistle


Will you need to use all of this stuff on what might be a sunny day or short hour walk in the bush? NO, or course not. But you never know when accidents could happen or weather changes and you need to be able to prepared for ANYTHING.

When you start adding all of these extra things in your bag though, your partner may get worried about the true difficulty of the hike. This is where the next tip comes in.


Careful not to overshare

I used to wait until we got to the parking to tell Laura how difficult the hike would be, because she would probably have back out on me half of the time!

I do not condoning witholding information from your hiking partner...just to be clear! :D

In my experience, it is important to share information about the track if I know it ahead of time, but you have to be careful not to scare your partner before they even get out there. You wouldn't hand someone a guitar for the first time and expect them to play in a concert right away, would you?

I have found that making sure I don't overshare about the difficult bits is really important because it helps your partner decide for themselves on what might or might not be difficult on the hike.

Just because you found something difficult doesn't always mean they will too. So be careful there.

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Make sure you get to have your fun out there too

If you have been in this situation before, you know that sometimes waiting for your partner to become proficient at something may take some time and it might mean you can't have the fun that you want to have...So I recommend mixing in parts to your hike that would suit BOTH of your ability levels.

For example, maybe you really want to take the hard trail up to the summit, but your partner wants to take the easier trail down. That is the perfect way to get the challenge that you want in the hike, while helping your partner feel like they got what they wanted out of it.

Like in any relationship or friendship, compromise is key! :D

Learn to take in the moments together

Sometimes on hikes, we want to just move fast and get it over with because we are tired, or the weather is changing or we have some important event to get to when you get home. Stopping at interesting spots on the hike or just taking a snack break and listening to the sounds of nature around you is a really important thing to do. Being present and taking a minute to realise where you are, what you are doing and who you are lucky to be doing it with can really help strengthen those relationships and make the experience all the more special.


Keep off devices where possible

As much as you want to share your experiences with friend and family, remember that hiking with your partner is a bonding experience and a way to spend time together, it will be harder to do if both of you are focused on getting content for your followers.

If you're lucky to be a social media influencer couple or group of friends, well, then disregard all my advice! 


Stop and take a rest

There may be a difference in fitness levels between you two, and depending on how fast you want to move during the hike, it could mean your partner ends up loving hiking with you,, or absolutely hating it!

So take your time. The general rule on a longer day walk is 'go as slow as the slowest person's pace' and generally let them lead.

That being said though, it doesn't mean you have to be stuck behind your partner the whole time. it is sometimes good to set the pace for them so they can have an understanding of how they can push themselves and their body if they really put their mind to it.

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Be a good role model

Kaitiaki- a term in Te Reo Maori that means to be a guardian or protector. What comes to mind about how this relates to hiking is how important is is to model the proper hiking etiquette to newcomers. We are guardians and protectors of our natural spaces and it is important to show your partner the general unspoken rules when hiking in the outdoors.


Generally that means:


-staying on marked trails

This is important because there are groups of people and organisations that usually work to maintain the trails and create steps, bridges, fill in holes, cut down trees etc.

The work they do is because they have found the most safe way to get around in that area and if you were to head off trail, the forest could be unpredictable and easy to get lost or hurt in.


-packing in and packing out

Whatever you take into the hike, you take out with you. try not drop seeds or fruit pits you don't want because it can hurt the biodiversity of the area by introducing things that don't naturally grow there.


-if you see something, do something

That could mean moving a fallen tree branch across the trail, picking up a wrapper on the ground or helping out another hiking group who seems lost. Only offer them your assistance though if you feel safe or able to do so.

Following these general guidelines and modelling them for your partner could also earn you major brownie points and make you look like a trail hero! :D


Let someone know where you are going

If you are on a day trip, maybe tell your flatmates or text a family member who you are going with, where you are going and how long you expect to be away for.  And always remember to let them know when you got back safely.

This will serve two purposes.

It will make sure someone can come help you if one or both of you get hurt on the hike. And it also helps your partner (who remember is NEW to hiking) feel at ease that you are looking out for their safety as well as your own.

If you are going on an overnight trip or sometimes multi day hike, something I like to do is leave a small note in the windshield of the intentions of your hike. Usually on a small piece of paper, you write '2 hikers, 1 man and 1 woman, hiking Te Aroha summit to Karangahake Gorge carpark, 2 nights (July 5th-July 7th).

This allows other people who come across your empty car over those 3 days know where you are, where you are heading and how long you plan to be away in case you need to be rescued.

ONLY DO THIS IF YOU FEEEL COMFORTABLE giving out personal details. I personally do not mind and actually sometimes leave my photo ID on the dashboard in the car so people can see what I look like, but again this puts your other personal details in full view and may not be the best option for everyone.

This allows other people who come across your empty car over those 3 days know where you are, where you are heading and how long you plan to be away in case you need to be rescued.

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If you have read this far, then hopefully you have come away feeling a bit more energised and ready to help your partner enjoy what you and I have come to enjoy so much. It can be a slow process to help your partner get to the level you are at in your hiking, but if I have learned anything with helping Laura enjoy the outdoors and hiking, is that it has helped me become a better communicator to her, understand her limitations and find ways to help her push herself and celebrate the achievements that sets out for herself.

Setting goals is really important and working your way up from easier hikes will lead to more comfort in planning longer missions. Anything good comes with time and you and your partner will be more thankful when you have taken the time to consider how to help them see why you love hiking so much.

Go forth and conquer your next mountain, wherever that might be and make sure you celebrate the small things!


Look out for more blogs about my favourite day hikes and overnights throughout New Zealand.

What are some experiences with hiking with a partner? share below and add your thoughts!

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