Girlfriend Hike, Advice?

11:19 a.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
6,812 reviewer rep
1,679 forum posts

Taking mi novia on our first backpacking trip together next month.  We did a 5k together Saturday so I think she is ready.  My first GF hike in 18 years so I'm a little rusty.  I'm leaning toward Ida Lake in the Icicle River area near Leavenworth.  I don't want to drive really far and I'm also open to suggestions.  This is kind of my plan with this thing:

1. Treat a GF hike like a kid hike; carry most of everything and let her carry the lightest pack possible

2. Take TONS of breaks

3. Bring LOTS of different food and limit the specialized mountain food that a lowlander might not appreciate

4. Bring the flask, maybe two, just in case things go south (not like a kid hike)

5. Bring deluxe sleeping pads and bags, no minimalist suffer-fest.

Advice?

Jeff

11:30 a.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
673 forum posts

I took my wife on her first backpacking trip many years ago, and she is now my confirmed backpacking buddy---we hike at least 100 miles every year together, and it is the best thing we do together.

 

That said, I worry about the overall tone of your approach here.  It sounds as if you are treating her like a child, or someone who is not capable of taking care of herself, or making her own decisions.  Maybe you are just trying to be "extra nice" to her.

 

I would try a little less "extra nice" and a little more true communication.  Talk to her about how much weight she wants to carry.  Ask he what she wants to eat.  Sure, let her call the breaks, but don't call them yourself.  You may find that she is perfectly capable of hiking farther than you expect. 

 

I never push my wife to do what she doesn't want to do, but I also never try to "coddle" her in a way that makes her feel that she is not part of the team.  We are a team when we backpack.  We each carry our share of the weight (yeah, I carry more, but I am also larger and stronger.  But she carries a full pack.)  There have been days when she offered to carry more, or take on more the work, just as there have been days when I did that.

 

Think of this as creating a team, not as luring (or ticking?) your GF into hiking, and I think you will be far better off. 

11:33 a.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

Jeff,

You are asking the right questions. I love the Icicle Country and the weather in the fall can be splendid. Make it easy and make it fun. Carry more than she does. Be sensitive to her needs. I learned the hard way as a young person the perils of pushing my female partners. The first one quit going together. The second one came along more gradually and went on some horse packing trips and backpacking in Alaska. She was a city girl that could benchpress more than her weight and had extreme mental toughness. She was ready for anything.

 

I had a girlfriend that was willing to go hitchhiking across Alaska. My current girl is an all-star but she works from home a lot and misses most of the river trips and backpacking. Good luck. And keep your eyes open. Make a course correction if necessary.

 

11:51 a.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
8,710 reviewer rep
1,467 forum posts

On trips with my wife I try to balance it between taking care of her and giving her a chance to feel like she's taking care of herself. I carry the heavy stuff of course, but she'd feel insulted if she didn't feel like she was pulling her weight.

Sounds like you have the right idea for a first trip. You can never go wrong with tasty treats. Fruit, cheese, chocolate, wine... Good eating and good sleeping are definitely the keys to getting someone hooked on backpacking.

One drawback to these sorts of trips is that after hitting the trail with your partner solo trips aren't the same :) Have a great trip!

1:04 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
273 forum posts
Make a course correction if necessary

on the girl or the actual trip?

:P

(just kidding---couldnt resist)........

2:02 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

Kevin,

Both. When I was younger, I used to always take girls camping after a few dates to figure out who I was dealing with. I was on a trip with a friend once and his girlfriend needed a mirror to "put on her false eyelashes." Needless to say that was the last time we saw her.

Some women are very independent, and are offended by special treatment. Some really like it. You need to quickly figure out which type you have for a partner. Act accordingly, but always show lots of empathy and you can't go wrong.

2:10 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
5,513 reviewer rep
610 forum posts

I've got to agree with Balzaccom on this one. Especially the line, "I never push my wife to do what she doesn't want to do, but I also never try to "coddle" her in a way that makes her feel that she is not part of the team. We are a team when we backpack. We each carry our share of the weight (yeah, I carry more, but I am also larger and stronger. But she carries a full pack.) There have been days when she offered to carry more, or take on more the work, just as there have been days when I did that."

While I came into our relationship with considerable more experience hiking than my wife, I learned the hard way that I was wrong to put low expectations on her when we first started going on hiking trips together a couple years ago. With each trip I learn (present tense) more and more, but in general, the more I expect from her, the more we both enjoy the trip. 

However, because of my wife's lack of experience there are some things I don't yet expect of her, like remembering to pack all the right gear (she almost always forgets a rain jacket, which has become a good-natured running joke), but she can and wants to carry a pack, do the river crossing, read the map, eat kinda gross trail food, etc.

I hope some of the TS ladies chime in on this thread. I'd love to hear their opinion and thoughts. 

2:23 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
1,684 reviewer rep
4,221 forum posts

I think there's some excellent advice above, but I'll offer some female perspective too.

I think it's great you're taking her on a backpacking trip. You know her best and how she'll respond, but it's best to assume more of her than less. You don't want to risk insulting her or her abilities.

Of course, you want to have a positive experience so she'll want to go again. I'd say that for anyone who's new to hiking and outdoor activities though (kid or adult). The goal is to have a good time and have them want to come back for more.

So, I think you're right to be careful about how much she carries on her first trip, making it relaxed and fun for all. No sufferfest. But that's general good sense for any new backpacker.

I highly recommend asking her what she wants to do on the trip and keeping her involved as much as she'd like. How does she imagine this trip going? What are her goals? Treat her as you would any outdoor partner.

Make sure she's involved in some of the decisions too (perhaps the route, rest stops, meal-planning, etc). Helping plan things gets you personally invested in a trip, instead of feeling led along. As does carrying your own gear.

And chocolate, bring chocolate, or whatever her favorite dessert or food is.

Have fun!

2:44 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
1,684 reviewer rep
4,221 forum posts

Oh, here's some extra advice as a cold-blooded person. I run way colder than my husband and have had to come to accept that to be comfortable that means I need more and warmer clothes and a sleeping bag than him.

I also need to snack more frequently on the move than he does.

I don't know your thermostats, but better to have extra layers, snacks on the trail, and warm drinks before bed than not. Also, help her anticipate proper layering and eating before she gets cold and/or hungry.

I'm sure this is stuff you already know (especially as a parent), but sometimes it helps to remember that what we've learned about ourselves may not apply to others. She may need to layer or approach things in a different way.

Have fun!

2:58 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
4,241 reviewer rep
603 forum posts

Great question, Jeff. As the girlfriend (wife now) who once swore that I would "never carry a big backpack full of stuff and sleep on the ground," I have some advice to help. :)

First off, I echo Alicia. Great advice.

Other than what Alicia said, my most helpful advice is to go somewhere awesome that she's probably never seen before, make it as fun as possible, and keep her as comfortable as possible. Make sure to take lots of pictures, too!

 I saw you mentioned bringing a flask...my favorite fall backpacking beverage is powdered Apple Cider with Butterscotch Schnapps (with or without a cinnamon stick or powdered cinnamon). It tastes like Caramel Apple. Smores are also fun and a great dessert. If you can manage it, coffee in the morning is also a super nice treat.

Also, make sure she is without a doubt going to be warm and that her sleeping pad is comfy. Being cold and not getting sleep are definite deal breakers.

Good luck and have so much fun!

 

3:28 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
1,684 reviewer rep
4,221 forum posts

Thanks, Ashleigh! I agree about picking a destination that she's really excited to see. Motivation is important.

I am also a fan of s'mores and cocoa (with marshmallows).

I'm also curious to hear what other women have to say on this topic.

4:54 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
NONPROFIT REP FORMER STAFF
640 reviewer rep
1,184 forum posts

I wish I had the benefit of this great advice years ago. I took a lady-friend on one of my standard "death march" backpacking trips, slept under a tarp and served luke-warm ramen for dinner. On the return trip, I realized that I had run out of money, and was reduced to panhandling to buy us some french fries.  Jeff, it sounds like you're already light years ahead of some of us!

8:33 p.m. on September 29, 2014 (EDT)
11,737 reviewer rep
1,399 forum posts

My first camping trip with my wife consisted of us riding our tandem bike along the Katy Trail in Missouri. We pulled into the public campground to discover that it was closed. With no options, we pitched our tent. A few hours later a pack of coyotes came into our campsite. Running back and forth, we could see their shadows through the tent walls.

The second time I took her camping, we had a toddler and an infant. As we drove up to our campsite in the Black Hills, the snow began falling fast & furious and the thermometer in the car kept dropping. In camp, I pitched the tent, took everything out of the car to put in the tent. Then we slept in the car all night, with me turning on the engine for heat every so often. We finished that trip in a hotel.

She didn't go camping with me again for a long time (until we bought a pop up camper). Then last week, she suddenly told me she wants to go hike a section of the AT with me sometime "soon." WHAT????

6:13 a.m. on September 30, 2014 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
940 reviewer rep
783 forum posts

My wife and I split the gear but my pack ends up being slightly heavier.  Nevertheless, she has never complained that her pack was too heavy to carry. Being in a very scenic area helps a great deal and we cheat in one aspect of backpack trips.  We bring along her Ipad because we can literally get service nearly anywhere and we'll watch something on Netflix before going to sleep for the night.  I know having an Ipad taints the "backcountry" experience, but, really, it's your experience, not someone else's. 

11:32 a.m. on September 30, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
673 forum posts

Alicia said:

Oh, here's some extra advice as a cold-blooded person. I run way colder than my husband and have had to come to accept that to be comfortable that means I need more and warmer clothes and a sleeping bag than him.

I also need to snack more frequently on the move than he does.

I don't know your thermostats, but better to have extra layers, snacks on the trail, and warm drinks before bed than not. Also, help her anticipate proper layering and eating before she gets cold and/or hungry.

I'm sure this is stuff you already know (especially as a parent), but sometimes it helps to remember that what we've learned about ourselves may not apply to others. She may need to layer or approach things in a different way.

Have fun!

 Great point Alicia. 

My wife hikes and sleeps colder than I do.  And we have to plan for that.  She has a slightly warmer bag, and wears more clothes at night than I do.  That part is easy.

But when we hit the trail, the minute I start hiking I start generating heat...and so I wear just a light shirt and shorts, even in pretty cool weather.  I start that way, and within five or ten minutes, I am toasty warm.

M, on the other hand, bundles up to start hiking, and it will take her as much as an hour to get fully warm on the trail.  So we stop every ten minutes for her to remove another layer--and sometimes there are four layers.  She wears gloves when I am in short sleeves. 

But here's the weird part.  Once we STOP hiking, she stays warm, and I immediately go into a deep freeze.  The minute I stop hiking I have to layer up extensively or I start shivering on the way to hypothermia.  She just smiles.

Different folks, different strokes. 

 

4:40 p.m. on September 30, 2014 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

Maybe the most important point to be made here is that it takes communication about what the expectations are, just like everything else in male/female relationships. You have to know the person you are taking with you. You can't overwhelm the newbie or under whelm someone with a lot of experience and expect them to be happy about it. There are a lot of right answers.

For younger people, and girlfriends going for the first time, I would always carry more weight, be willing to adjust the schedule, and be willing to go for easier goals. If it is not fun, they won't want to go again. This is actually a complicated and important subject that affects a lot of relationships, and is worth discussing.

 

7:57 p.m. on September 30, 2014 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,747 reviewer rep
743 forum posts

I feel I have had a lot of experience with this topic...but I like bringing folks of all genders unfamiliar with backpacking and paddling with me just to disprove their previous sentiments regarding camping...so I have had some practice.

Ashleigh and Alicia (unsurprisingly) offered great advice...take measures to keep her as thermally comfortable as possible...in the summer I seek out cold springs and lots of shade...I also bring an extra bandana and wipes for cleaning and staying cool. In the winter I bring reusable hand-warmers + hot drink mixes + extra puffy-layers (to lend as necessary). When it comes to temp comfort...it is really hard to over-do-it here...until you and her both have a better understanding of what she likes and needs. I would add...that in colder weather I always plan to build a fire (not always possible)...and if you can sew...I often sew a fleece mitten out of some extra fleece I have around (this little project is thoughtful + personal + cheap + quick).

Comfort should also include taking measures to stay dry as well as warm. Obviously she will bring rain-gear...but I would suggest a tarp...the extra dry-space is amazing for cooking and relaxing if rain is frequent...and though they will not dry...people feel really good about hanging wet clothes under a tarp (until they discover the clothes are still wet in the morning). Also...it usually takes my lady-friends a good while before they can change  clothes and do everything I can in a bivy...so a tarp will make those things a lot easier. For the weight...it will outshine everything else in wet weather.

Ashleigh was also correct about destination...regardless of gender I always try to demonstrate the value of backpacking and paddling by focusing the trip around a difficult to access site/sight. In addition to the experience of visiting a great destination...some folks just like the idea of doing something that not everyone is able or willing to do (I feel it is okay to be artificially enthusiastic about this aspect...because ironically doing something together that not a lot of others are able or willing to do is apparently doubly satisfying).

As Alicia suggested...bring food she likes...if you have access to a dehydrator make one or more of her favorite dishes and dry it or them before you leave (low-fat recipe). For a special treat...I have baked (steam and dry) everything from chocolate lava-cake to brownies on the trail....and if you bring a small can of Reddi-Whip or other shelf-stable whipped-cream to top it off...she will think you have magic powers. If baking isn't your thing...grab a no-bake option in the grocery isle...and when time comes smash all the ingredients together in a zip-lock bag...it does not look particularly delicious...but the cheese-cake with cherry-topping stuff has worked well for me in the past...and the whipped-cream suggestion is still applicable!

Do not take a chance with bugs...offer to treat her clothing with Permethrin...it works really well against mosquitoes...and admirably against ticks and flies (though I suggest applying it less concentrated and more frequently than the manufacturer suggest...since Permethrin is most effective immediately after treatment and can irritate skin in high concentrations). I also suggest bringing a little bottle of DEET (cream-based if available)...it helps with exposed hands and faces...but mostly it seems to act as a psychological tool (folks feel better about a negative situation as long as they have something to do about it...even if what they are doing is negligible). In that same vein...bring a package or two bite/sting wipes...I believe these things to be near worthless...but as long as I don't let that sentiment be known...complaints observably decrease.

Finally...if she is completely unfamiliar with camping and is a relatively new partner for you...fill a zip-lock bag with enough toilet-paper + wipes + sanitizer for your entire trip (more than enough)...so she does not have to ask you for these things...and has everything she needs to be safe and clean. All that is required is to point out that it is for her hygiene needs...she'll know where to go from there...and will not do anything crazy like not go to the bathroom for three or more days out of fear of becoming too familiar with you too quickly (which happens!).

10:27 a.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
253 reviewer rep
193 forum posts

With regard to whether you should coddle her or not, it depends on what people mean by coddling.  With my wife, she can be more intimidated at the beginning, especially up the first big hill, but then when she gets going, she is very enthusiastic.  As a result, it helps to take a little heavier load at first and make sure I have some nice treats or surprises to help her get past those early hurdles.  I think guys might call that coddling, but women would not.  With any new activity, the toughest part is getting started, so anything you can do to help get past that early uncertainty works wonders.  If you can give her some project taht is her project so she is invested, that is good too.  BTW, that is a great suggestion about the carmel apple drink - there is nothing like bringing out some wonderful concoction when it seems like the world is about to end.

11:10 a.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

I second the notion of cleanliness. Some women do fine with everything but staying clean. It is a great idea to add some extra items. A solar shower can be a game changer. Canoe trips are a natural because we are always around the water. Build a sweat lodge. Bring a canvas bucket. Sometimes, clean women are happy women.

12:36 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
6,812 reviewer rep
1,679 forum posts

Thanks all.  This particular gf has backpacked a little before and is an avid snowboarder and is reasonably fit; we ran a 5k last Saturday.  The food ideas are great.  Of course I'll post a TR, stellar or epic.  We'll definitely pack the puffy and down bag. 

1:50 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
743 reviewer rep
1,432 forum posts

Jeff the Enchantments are a great place and the larches will be beautiful. Also, consider the North Cascades, Lake Ann and Maple Pass. There are some lakes just below Mt. Benzarino that no one goes to.

If your gf is relatively new to back packing, you can sweeten the trip with some comfort, both during and after the trip. A flask is a good idea, as would a special dinner be. I made wild huckleberry infused champagne on top of Maple Pass years ago. It was a hit. After your trip, and nice dinner and night in some place like Sun Mountain( his and hers massages)  would make for the end of a nice trip.

3:50 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
1,684 reviewer rep
4,221 forum posts

There is a lot of great advice in this thread. I've enjoyed reading all of it.

On the hygiene subject, I vote for bringing baby wipes (in addition to sanitizer and whatever else you would have brought).

4:37 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
6,812 reviewer rep
1,679 forum posts

Erich, I was hoping you'd contribute!  Those are great places/ideas! 

Alicia, I had forgotten baby wipes in my recent light is right phase.  Thanks. 

Wish I still had that bag of wine ;)

5:07 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,173 reviewer rep
2,258 forum posts

yeah this is a good read....

Joseph Renow you crack me up "people feel really good about hanging wet clothes under a tarp" but you are right-on!

When backpacking with my wife the tarp is indispensable to the perceived comfort level:


DSCN4436.jpg


DSCN4481.jpg

On my recent Teton trip I proudly offered to carry an extra tarp and everyone agreed it was a great idea.

The first night we got hit with a sudden storm (guessing 50 mph winds but had no way to measure) even though I’ve been ‘tarping on and off for the last couple of years I got it it stuck in my head that I wanted to pitch an extended lean-to pattern (or flattened L shape really) so we could all three fit comfortably and have enough room to cook etc….long story short, it was a pretty funny debacle and wound up being a wind-sail. The pattern was all wrong and I was trying some new ultralight stakes that were terrible for that application and they wouldn’t stay in the ground or hold the line with friction (had to be tied).

I was running around trying to make it work in the heavy wind and rain and really got much more wet than if I had just found a big rock or tree for cooking shelter (which is what my partners wound up doing anyway).

I was so disgusted with it I didn’t pull out the tarp again for the whole week. J

5:21 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
273 forum posts

pat----that first picture----is that linville gorge?

also---looks like the second photo is from this past weekend.......

6:32 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,173 reviewer rep
2,258 forum posts

kevin,

 

yep you're right, both of those pics are from the gorge (yeah the second one is very close to our camp last weekend huh?) ; the first pic is the camp we used on the Chimney tops: this is the area I was telling you about that is accessed from the Mountains To Sea Trail just south of Table Rock as you head towards Shortoff MTN area.

9:23 p.m. on October 1, 2014 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,747 reviewer rep
743 forum posts

Pat...your issue with the tarp is not uncommon...high winds and rain are always an adventure for me (weather has won a few rounds). I have learned that there are times it is best to pack everything up and sit a storm out in rain-gear...rather than struggling to keep a tarp pitched. If you're expecting weather...having a radio improves your hand a bit...because the NWS broadcasts (or absence of) provide important information about how severe the storm is (rain-gear?)...and how long it is expected to last (go back to sleep?). I find a radio so indispensable (after a tornado hit my camp one night)...that having an actual FM receiver was a key feature I looked for in my last choice of phone (most phones do not)...and before that I carried a tiny FM/AM radio made by Sony if I was expecting poor weather.

Also...I hope I didn't come off as condescending?...the whole doing something negligible to feel in control thing is probably an important part of our psychology. I might not be a firm believer that sting-aids and clothes-lines are as effective as others believe...but that doesn't really matter...doing these things makes folks feel better...which is the whole point...why only matters for those who care about such things.

11:24 a.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
482 reviewer rep
324 forum posts

When I first met my future wife some 8 years ago I took her winter camping for the first time in her life. As luck would have it the temperature dropped to -42C and we experienced some of the worst weather in a decade. I remember she kept saying “I can’t believe you lived like this for 6 months at a time!” But, it didn’t take her long to get used to it and over the course of the first day our individual paces merged into one.

Here she is that first morning.Kristen-winter-2006.jpg

423054_2535379379253_1096645960_32034681

Again, our first spring together we went climbing in the mountains and had a great time.
Kristen-climbing-down.jpg

We travelled as partners taking turns in the lead, sharing camp duties and generally taking care of each other. Regardless of gender, I respected her abilities and she respected mine. But then I never went in for that macho “I’m the man so I have to take charge” stuff and she wouldn’t stand for it either; which is exactly what I would expect from a person who regularly crawls into grizzly bear dens while they are hibernating.

11:51 a.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
5,513 reviewer rep
610 forum posts

North1 said:

...which is exactly what I would expect from a person who regularly crawls into grizzly bear dens while they are hibernating.

 WHAAAAAT? Maybe this isn't the forum, but do explain. 

1:23 p.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,173 reviewer rep
2,258 forum posts

lol, I love it when North1 chimes in! His "winter camping" is a different world from most of us.....

3:27 p.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
11,737 reviewer rep
1,399 forum posts

Patman said:

lol, I love it when North1 chimes in! His "winter camping" is a different world from most of us.....

 Amen!

3:29 p.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,944 forum posts

I am really glad to hear from North1. The women that I have met in northern BC and the Yukon are tougher than most of the men in the lower 48. Especially the ones that work with wildlife for a living. The fall in the NWT is spectacular.

4:36 p.m. on October 2, 2014 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
1,747 reviewer rep
743 forum posts

I like how at -42 she asked about you living similarly for 1/2 of the year...instead of asking if we were going to die like I would have!

October 19, 2019
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: hiking Idaho Newer: Roan, Table Rock, Asheville
All forums: Older: The Curse of Island Lake Newer: TS on a 5k