Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Couples hiking PCT
Display Avatars Sort By:
Jeffrey McConnell
Couples hiking PCT on 05/12/2013 23:05:23 MDT Print View

Just wondering if there are any people on here who have hiked the PCT with their significant other. If so, could you provide some info? When, how old were you (if you don't mind sharing), what prompted you to do it, did you or your partner require some convincing, did you complete the hike, did one of you ever want to bail, and any suggestions for a couple following in your footsteps?

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
couples thru-hiking together on 05/13/2013 10:21:05 MDT Print View

Lots of people do this, on the PCT and other trails. My own wife is a bit too sane to want to hike continuously, but she's trained to hike hard and joined me on stretches where --- surprisingly perhaps (not the typical experience) she's come very quickly up to speed and fit right in.

I think the big issue for couples of any sort (a pair of friends or a committed couple) is to decide what to do if one of the pair wants or needs to leave the trail. Will both leave then, or will just one?

I recommend that whichever you *think* you'll want to do that you make gear selections to be as independent as possible. Think of yourselves as two independent hikers who choose to hike together, rather than as being joined at the hip. Even if both of you stay together continually, you might find that you want to walk apart for significant chunks of the day; my wife and I do that, and I feel better knowing that she is (and I am) "self-contained".

On the PCT I was acquainted with a nice couple in their 50's (I would guess, my age range too). A few hundred miles in she had had enough and opted to go home. He continued on --- with a 2-person tent, large cook pot, that sort of thing.

OTOH, on the AT a very young couple was looking to replace their really old and sketchy tent. After looking over my tarptent contrail --- a fairly spacious solo tent --- they bought one of those, rather than going for a bigger, heavier two-person tent. And they seemed happy in that, though of course on the AT you can sleep in shelters a lot; still, I saw them in that tent several times thereafter.

Bottom line though, think at least tentatively about what you'll do if one leaves the trail and talk that out.

As far as one partner needing convincing to do this --- I think that the best convincing would be to go out together on a long-ish hike, at least 50 miles, talk about it on the hike. There are so many factors, just in terms of where you are in life --- jobs, finances, pets, family, friends, other opportunities, that even if you both would be happy living like hobos for months, it might nevertheless cause too much stress. I was fortunate that my wife was clearly against doing it, so there wasn't any temptation to try to push her into something she didn't want to. The successful couples that I've met (and a good few of those) *both* of them seemed to both do very well on the trail, seemed to thrive on the experience.

Edited by brianle on 05/13/2013 10:22:57 MDT.

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: Couples hiking PCT on 05/13/2013 10:59:16 MDT Print View

FWIW I haven't done it yet, but I am starting a sobo PCT thru-hike in about a month with my girlfriend. This means that I can't give you the full report until late October. However, I'll let you know what I can and I hope that it helps. I am 24 and she is 28 and we have lived together for about two years. We are hiking because we love backpacking and it was a common goal that we both had before our relationship started. Neither one of us needed convincing. Our jobs as biologists are also pretty seasonal so they are both ending at the end of May, so that wasn't a big obstacle like it might be for other couples. We have also been saving up for a while so finding jobs at the end of the trip shouldn't be urgent although it would be nice to have something definitive lined up. We already go backpacking, biking, and rock climbing in addition to fishing and shooting together all the time. This means we are also pretty used to being dirty, smelly, and cramped together. For example, we both worked at a field station in WI without electricity or running water (not much bathing going on) and shared a twin bed for a summer.

We have also created contingency and daily plans for our thru-hike. We plan to hike together on the trail and honestly don't plan to ever be more than 100 yards apart while we are hiking. We have also agreed that either one is allowed to quit for whatever reason at any time and that the other is allowed to proceed solo. Maybe most importantly however, we also plan to be flexible and take obstacles as they come. Hope this helps!

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
married on 05/13/2013 11:40:54 MDT Print View

I'm married, and we have talked about doing the PCT, but she has decided it isn't for her, so I'll be going solo next year. She might decide to be a "support" team kinda thing, and that would be really fun. It will be a bummer to not see her for so long.

I do think the biggest issue would be the "what if I want to leave and you want to stay" situation. Good idea to have a plan in place from the beginning.

"A Blistered Kind of Love" and "The Cactus Eaters" are great books about the trials of long trail relationships. Also, "I Hike" has some insights to this as well.

Good luck on your Sobo attempt Andrew, hopefully the snow cooperates.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
couples on 05/17/2013 07:17:29 MDT Print View

We do all of our backpacking as a couple. TO Brian's point, if one of us doesn't feel up to something, we both stop.

We have not done major through hikes--longest is about a week--but we much prefer this to hiking on our own. There is no quality time like time together on the trail

Edited by balzaccom on 05/22/2013 20:03:02 MDT.

Rodney Mruk

Locale: Northeast Oregon
Backpacking Couples on 05/22/2013 19:42:52 MDT Print View

Check out the Practical Backpacking podcast. One of the later issues was an interview of Disco and Prince of Darkness who have hiked both the PCT and CDT together. You will get a lot of things to consider. Also they publish (along with 2 other thru hikers) a podcast known as The Trail Show. You can send them any questions you'd like to ask. They will most likely respond or discuss your questions on a show.

One thing I remember them saying is that a day on the trail with a partner is like a week in normal life.

Good luck and have fun together,

Jade Willcoxon
(H2Oboy) - M

Locale: Midwest
Disco and Princess of Darkness.... on 05/23/2013 09:56:22 MDT Print View

Also did a video of themselves doing a through hike together (the PCT). It is out there on the web for free viewing somewhere. Try searching their names and it will pop up for you. I enjoyed it and it will give you some insight on couples doing through hikes together.

Eric N.

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Backpacking couples on 05/30/2013 16:38:52 MDT Print View

I highly recommend a book called The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind - and Almost Found Myself - on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Dan White. It's about a couple who had almost no hiking experience who set out to through-hike the PCT. It's a very entertaining read.

Frank Dumville

Locale: SoCal
Re:Couples hiking PCT on 05/30/2013 21:29:49 MDT Print View

My wife and I hiked long sections of the PCT over three seasons when we were in our 50's. We were aware of the trail and knew some thruhikers so had thought about a long hike. I was able to get an extended period of time off from work so we did it. We were both eager and anxious. We only planned to hike for a few months but kept going back for 2 more seasons.

I finished the whole trail and my wife did about half. She couldn't get quite as much time off as I could but was able to hike with me for a couple of months each season.

A big issue with hiking couples, or any group that stays together, is that you have to make compromises. One compromise is going at the pace of the slower hiker. I'm faster than my wife but decided to go the slower pace to share the trail with her. That ruled out a thruhike attempt. The compromise was worth it.

Think about why each of you is hiking. Are your reasons and goals compatible? If one wants a speed hike and the other wants to wonder the woods there is going to be a problem. You'll have to compromise.

I didn't find switching gear to be an issue. There were a few things we shared like a camera but not much. I would hike a section or two while she sent me the single person tent. Gear could be a problem if you can't agree on a lightweight versus luxury balance. Same goes with food.

I would think most people think about bailing at some time on a long hike. The common suggestion is to take a couple of days off before quitting the trail. The advantage of the slower hike was that we weren't under a lot of pressure to make big miles so we could take more zeros in town and on the trail for a break.

Decide on how you are going to hike, stay together, hike separately meeting at times during the day or both. How will you handle off trail breaks? Have a plan on what to do if you get separated on the trail. How long will you wait? Then what, will you stay put or start searching? When will you call for help?

Here's a link to the Thruhiker Papers which has a section on couples. Worth a read for anyone thinking about a long hike.


Alasdair Fowler
(MessiahKhan) - F

Locale: Newcastle, UK
Couples hiking PCT on 06/05/2013 03:12:53 MDT Print View

Me and my wife Sarah thru hiked the PCT (Nobo) last year. I am 30 and she is 28. Much of the trail was tough, both physically and mentally and at times this put pressure on our relationship and tempers. But we managed to find ways of working together and by the end we have a much stronger bond than we did before. The feeling of having been through something like a thru hike together can only make you stronger.

I once heard the saying "Love isn't a destination, it is the journey!" And this is very true. The longer the journey, and the more things you have to go through together the stronger the love is.

Having said that, it did take a little while to work out compromises etc. In the beginning, Sarah was quite nervous as she was inexperienced with hiking and backpacking. I was a fair bit more experienced and had done all the practical planning with regards to logistics and mileages etc (I am also quite OCD when it comes to planning). So for the first few months this caused some tension, as often it would come across like I was pushing too hard. But after a while, Sarah really got a feel for the trail, learnt the daily routine and became physically stronger. I also started to relax a little and learnt to compromise. By the end, we were a well oiled machine! We both had set roles such as packing up the tent, filtering water etc and it all felt very natural.

One of the other things that caused tension at the problem was my habbit of walking ahead. I have a tendency to race up hills (Sometimes literally running up them to see how fast I can go!) and wait at the top, leaving Sarah up to a mile behind. In the beginning this would make her scared and would cause some arguments. But by the end she was a lot more confident hiking on her own and she knew that I would be waiting at the top of the hill.

So there is a high chance you will have disagreements, but as time goes on and you settle in to trail life, you will work these problems out and become much stronger for it! Since completing the trail, we have hiked and backpacked here in the UK a few times, and it all feel totally natural again and everything seems so much easier after the PCT. "Hiking for 3 days?, pfft! We don't need to plan that, just chuck some food in the pack and off we go!"