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Couples long distance imbalanced gear lists
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Matthew Naylor

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Couples long distance imbalanced gear lists on 09/05/2012 16:22:16 MDT Print View

Does anyone have any posted lists of long distance gear lists for couples? My wife and I did an overnight trip last weekend to test our equipment for a possible PCT thru hike, and we discovered that we need to do some major revisions to her kit, especially getting her into the realm of ultralight backpacking. Her hips and back were in constant pain, but not unbearable for an overnighter... less good for 4 months...

There are some equipment improvements that she can make (lighter pack, less clothing, certain other items), but since she's about 40% lighter body weight and less robust in frame than I am, I can also carry some extra goods (maybe not at an ultralight level though).

I'm just wondering if other people have dealt with this issue. I noticed this article from 2003:
But I'd love the perspective of someone with new lightweight technology from the past few years, especially with the circumstance of having a somewhat petite partner.


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Couples long distance imbalanced gear lists on 09/05/2012 16:36:32 MDT Print View

I have not gone on an overnight with my GF in a while due to her grad school but other than shared cooking gear and a larger shelter there shouldn't be too much difference?

our sleeping bags are the same brand so they zip together, with separate footboxes. Though in the summer i'd use my quilt.

bigger shelter is easily split up.. or whoever carries the pot/stove doesn't carry the tent..

personal clothes and other stuff is their own so that won't change

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Couples long distance imbalanced gear lists on 09/05/2012 16:55:16 MDT Print View

My wife is a stud muffin (competitive rower) and fiercely inpendent so she hauls her own stuff (but I can typically take more of the kid's gear). But Ray Jardine discusses this issue in his books on his many thru-hikes (PCTx3, AT, etc) with his wife. He makes the point that everyone should have some basic supplies with them (some food, clothes, foul weather gear) at all times.

"Her hips and back were in constant pain" is concerning to me. I'd back off to some long dayhikes and see if there is any issue there - shoes, conditioning, or something medical.

If long dayhikes are fine but she's in pain after carrying 20 pounds or less, I'd look to try various different packs (internal, external, different brands, etc) or maybe getting more creative. For 40 mile days, I've sometimes shifted some weight to my chest using a daypack so I was more balanced, fro-and-aft.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Couples long distance imbalanced gear lists on 09/05/2012 19:08:09 MDT Print View

I wouldn't worry about inbalance is what each of you carry... I would be concerned about the hip and back pain. There are three possibilities that come to mind. One issue is that she might need some combination of strengthen some muscles / drop the weight she is carrying. The second could be technique, e.g. how she is walking. For example, some people walk slouched over when carrying weight which tends to tire the hip and back more quickly than walking in a more upright position. The final possibility is that her pack doesn't fit well / doesn't have a waist belt which fits her well. I know several women that had trouble finding a pack that carried comfortably for them around the waist.

I would try to experiments. The first is to do a day hike the same distance you expect your longest day, I am guessing 15-20 miles and see how that goes. If she does ok with that, then experiment with weight and pack and have her do exercises to strengthen her core muscles.


James McBryan
(jamesprepatrip) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Here's a list on 09/06/2012 10:15:12 MDT Print View

I found a list in doing some research of my own and specifically remember this gear list that was divided for a couple:

Hope that helps!

Clint Hewitt
(WalkSoftly33) - F

Locale: New England
Hiking Long ditances with partner and gear. on 09/07/2012 17:27:21 MDT Print View

I thru hiked and met a girl a week in, after two weeks we had gotten rid of the majority of duplicate gear.

I carried the heavy food (Cheese, Fudge, powders etc.)
I carried the tent
I carried the bear rope
I carried the cook setup
I carried the water treatment (minus back up tablets for her just in case)
I carried the reserve "extra bladder" usually we both had one or two liters full, in some sections the extra 3liters was needed and I would haul it.

Im sure there was other stuff, the one thing she had that I would occasionally use was her cell phone (I had casted of that chain at the start) and wet wipes, she used them daily I would utilize them after a long days hike occasionally for the good bits or an "interesting" grumpy time.

Really the stuff I carried was not anything I would not have been carrying if it was just my self, less food of course but besides that it was not a difference at all.

My packs avg weight I would guess to be 22lbs hers was probably 28lbs, why you ask if I am carrying all of the shared gear? Main reason...Clothes, extra clothes, while I had the bare minimum and was comfortable (enough) she needed the extra clothes. In addition she had a framed pack, ULA Catalyst, while I went with a framless MLD prophet. She had a full length thermarest, I had a dingy piece of evazote foam.

The tent we shared was Gossamer Gear "the one" yea its for one person and I have gone in the tent since by my self and just shake my head in wonder at how we made it work, must have really liked each other with that special hiker aroma. So my point is carrying the tent for the both of us, I was not doing anything different then I would have on my own. She did keep a tarp from her hammock as a just in case event should I not be around and she needed shelter.

Which brings me to my next point. Do you hike at the same pace? We did for the most part but when sections became rockier, me hiking in five fingers slowed down big time, and would get to dinner or lunch time 30min-1hr after her, I had all of the cook stuff, it took some working through to adjust to that situation. Hiking speed will impact your choices for what goes in whos pack.

And like was said above each person should always have enough of what they need to make it, food, water, treatment, shelter, warmth.

I WOULD SAY IF SHE WANTS EXTRA CLOTHES LET HER HAVE THEM OTHER WISE SHE WILL BE WEARING WHAT LITTLE YOU HAVE. Maybe move her in the direction of lighter weight alternatives i.e a good puffy jacket and multiple light layers.

I think it was in damascus virgina where I literally gave her the shirt off of my back, and I had nothing at all left to my name but my boxers and it was not good enough for her, aka she was still asking if I had anything else she could wear. (laundry was involved) that was a fun three hours, I received some strange looks but you do what you got to do.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Ann and J's lists on 09/07/2012 18:30:29 MDT Print View Ann's List My List

These are our lists that we use in the coldest weather that we hike in in Montana. It is also the list of what we will use on our upcoming AT thru-hike starting in March. The one thing that will be changing is the pack Ann will carry. She is having a custom MLD womens Prophet made. She tends to see the gear I buy/make and say that seems to work well can I have one of those. She loves lightweight hiking but does not love shopping, sewing or researching gear. Fortunately she gives me a free pass to get whatever I think best.

We hike at the same average pace. We have been hiking together for 8 years and our pace has always been very close. Ann is the first person I have met that hikes at a similar speed. It may be because she started hiking when she met me. Overall she is in better condition then me but I'm stronger (cause I'm a boy).

We split the gear and food fairly even. One of us will take the Tent and the other will take the kitchen and toiletries. I always have the poles because I use them to stiffen my pack. We plan on splitting up the poles once she gets her new pack.

After reading some of these other posts I think I will add a couple tiny dropper bottles of AM to one of the lists for when we do hike separate.

Edited by zippymorocco on 09/08/2012 10:54:56 MDT.

Nick Badyrka
(oldcrank) - F

Locale: Northwest
No gear list, but on 09/30/2012 21:37:00 MDT Print View

My wife did her first real backpack this last summer. We are in our mid-fifties and she has had some real medical challenges in her life, so this twelve day trip around Mt. Rainier was a real challenge for her. I carried almost all the group gear. The only group gear she carried was the days lunch. We have lightweight level gear and her pack was in the 10-12 pound range, with a few better selections, I think she could be down to 8 pounds or so. My pack was around 18-20 pounds base weight and after a big resupply around 35. I am working on getting it down to maybe 12-15. She loved it and we are now planning a month long section hike next summer.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
David, you made my day on 10/01/2012 12:18:05 MDT Print View

Calling your wife a stud muffin :)

Jennifer McFarlane
(JennyMcFarlane) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Couples gear on 10/04/2012 19:07:46 MDT Print View

My husband, son and I backpack together.
I have arthritis in hips and knees so my husband is my porter.
We all hike pretty slowly, although now that our son is 14 he's speeding up. Next trip he's carrying more stuff than me :)
My husband carries:
Bear canister with food (we generally hike where they are required.
Tarp tent for the 3 of us, his bag and pad
His clothing (he gets cold easily so he brings a heavier down jacket and an extra pair of Cap4 bottoms)
A small first aid kit with bandaids
Heavy digital SLR camera (takes some great pictures)

His weight is about 35 pounds

I carry my gear, meds for everyone and a 6 oz first aid kit with some specialty stuff
I also carry a liter gatorade bottle and a Platypus 3 liter bladder and the Aquamira- I drink a lot of water. We don't treat all sources and so far have not become ill. It depends on the source.
My weight is 21 pounds with 4 liters of water and that night's food (carried without a canister)

Our son carries his gear
I think soaking wet with 2 liters of water he was maybe carrying 20 pounds.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
How we do things... on 10/15/2012 17:37:17 MDT Print View

I’ve been hiking and canoeing with my wife for 18 years now ( since we were married ). Our longest backpacking trips to date have been only six days, but we have evolved a system that works for us.
Note that none of the following gear is ultralight by any means, but it is what we had and used at the time.

I used an old Karrimor jaguar 75 liter internal frame pack, and my wife mostly used an REI Morningstar internal frame pack.

I’d carry our shelter which consisted of a heavy but roomy and bomb-proof Eureka Timberline 2 tent, an MSR Wisperlight stove with fuel bottle, our cooking gear and all our food, ( up to 15 pounds or so for a six day trip), my own clothing ‘n stuff, a sidearm, and water.

My wife would carry all our sleeping gear which consisted of; two thermarest sleeping pads, the joiner sheet, and a single synthetic sleeping bag for the top cover ( this was the old Therma-Nest sleep system ), two small pillows, ( laugh if you want! It’s comfortable ) and her own clothing ‘n stuff, plus a few snacks and water.

We’d mostly carry two one-quart water bottles in the side pockets of our packs, but sometimes we’d carry just one of the one-quart bottles each, and each carry a G.I. two quart canteen ( minus the cover and sling, of course ) in the top of our packs so we could load up on water for the dry spells.

With regards to most other gear we were are usually minimalist about it, and don’t bother with to much extras.

So anyway, I intentionally kept my wife’s load bulky ( so it would fill her pack ) yet lightweight ( so it wouldn’t burden her to much ).
Her load stayed constant through a trip, mine would start out heavy but by the end wouldn’t be to bad at all.
And we had a good system worked out. We’d select a campsite together and set up the tent. She would go inside and set up our bed as I cooked dinner.
The Timberline is easily big enough that I could sit in the doorway and cook during nasty weather and my wife could sit up inside, put out bed together, change out of wet clothing or what-not. This was important to us because we often camped in nasty wet / cold weather.
In the morning I’d cook breakfast as she broke down the bed, and the tent was so easy to throw up that we often did so during the day if we felt like a nap. That way we had no worries about bugs or possible rain.

But these days, we’re in transition because as I age ( I turned 50 this year ) I just don’t want that heavy 35 pound pack anymore!
Before I married my wife I was a confirmed tarp-ster, and never bothered with a tent. I didn’t own much fancy gear, but that was OK because I never carried much of it. But traveling with the wife seems to demand a certain level of comfort.

We’ve started trying the UL thing this summer, got new Go Lite Jam backpacks and everything, but so far my wife isn’t impressed with the UL tarp we’ve used.
And I find I agree, if we can’t comfortably sit inside the shelter and cook in miserable weather, and have room to move at least a bit and not hit condensation-soaked walls or be constantly tormented by mosquitoes, we’re not going to be happy. So my gear list is in transition as I seek the comfort of our Old Ways with something of the lightness of the New Ways.

We have next summer to iron out the details, because we’re planning on a thru-hike of the AT in 2014!
So I look forward to working up a new “couples gear list” myself, and am interested as well in seeing how other couples manage things as well.

Edited by Bawana on 10/15/2012 17:42:33 MDT.

Alex Eriksson

Locale: Austin, TX
Questions about this as well on 10/16/2012 21:30:54 MDT Print View

My girlfriend and I are just getting into backpacking but I've been on a bit of an express train towards lighter loads. Given that I have 3 herniated discs in my low back from various sports accidents I'm always looking to decrease my load even if I've literally only been on a handful of hikes thus far. I'm not counting grams yet, but I've definitely purchased a fair amount of gear from REI that went back, totally unused, because before I could use it I realized I could cut a quarter pound off my pack weight by making a change (cook set twice, stove, pack twice, you get the picture).

Part of me, the spiteful part that gets butt-hurt when my girlfriend snickers at me as I repackage travel sized deodorant into chapstick tubes and the 3oz bug juice into tiny 2/3oz mister bottles I bought at Sally Beauty supply, wants to go on several trips where I let her make her own painful overloaded pack choices. I know she's stubborn and it might be the only way she learns! But the other part of me, that part that actually cares, is already well on the way to making her a gutted, repackaged, and superlight toiletry kit. I guess I'm still all hopelessly in love and whatnot! It's not all altruistic however, and I figure at least in our situation (being new) if she has a better time because she's carrying less then she's more likely to want to continue backpacking with me!

Anyways, for what it's worth, I've found that I can split the load of the tent between her and I easier by repackaging the tent (I'm on a repackaging bender) into individual dry bags. Overall it's probably increasing the weight fractionally for each component but it's nice that I can carry the body, fly and stakes, while she carries the poles and footprint.

My only other advice is to try the "one for me, one for you" method where, for example, when you buy yourself a nice puffy, you just so happen to use that research and your in-built knowledge of the colors your special lady friend likes, and "gift" a nice puffy, in her size and favorite color, to her as well.

If all else fails, do what I do: buy the dog a pack and make him carry not only his own kibble and water, but some of your own as well. :)

Oh man I just realized that without consciously deciding, I started carrying the dog's food in ziplock bags and rolling the top down for him to eat out of it instead of bringing the bowl I bought for him. And the dog is already carrying his own food and water! Sh*t I might be on my way to some sort of 12 step.....

Edited by aeriksson on 10/16/2012 21:38:43 MDT.