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First trip for the wife
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Jeffrey McConnell
First trip for the wife on 07/30/2013 11:21:04 MDT Print View

I'm taking the wife on an overnight trip to Hungry Packer Lake in the Sierras starting at Lake Sabrina. This will be her first backpacking trip. Thus far she's only done overnight car camping. Easy mileage for the first trip and I'm giving her the Exped Synmat to make things as comfortable as possible. Any advice from those who have taken their significant other on their first backpacking trip?

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Change of heart on 07/30/2013 11:57:52 MDT Print View

A couple of years ago, when guys replied with posts about carrying most of the gear and making it easy and comfy for her, I got upset, claiming that the wife/ girlfriend should be perfectly capable of pulling her weight and ought not to be treated like an invalid.
These days I see that if it can be an enjoyable experience in the beginning, there will likely be more opportunities in the future.
I say, don't skimp on comfort, food, warmth and don't push too many miles.
Not very specific advice, I know..

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: First trip for the wife on 07/30/2013 12:24:24 MDT Print View

I'm in a similar boat. My wife's never expressed any interest in backpacking and a 20 mile suffer fest is out of the question. If we ever do go on one together, my plan is to keep her backpack under 10lbs total weight, under five miles, and under 1000'. Good call on the synmat.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
First trip for the wife on 07/30/2013 12:36:31 MDT Print View

I just did 3 nights in the Sierra with my wife. She has been before and was a little skeptical about this trip. She wound up loving it.

Here's what I did different that I think made a real difference. First, we went very light. I think she was probably carrying about 5 pounds. My son and I started with about 15 pounds each.

Second, we went to a beautiful place. We are from the east, so the Sierra seemed very exotic and beautiful

Third, we went comfy. She slept on a neoair and had a good bag an puffy to wear.

Fourth, we were flexible on mileage. I know what I wanted to do, but I always left it up to her on how far we were going to go. She wound up wanting to walk about as much as I did.

Fifth, stop and smell the roses. Or other flowers. Or nap on the lakeside.

My wife can't wait to go again now.

Rob E

Locale: Canada
Re: First trip for the wife on 07/30/2013 12:56:07 MDT Print View

When we go out for a couple of nights I like to bring enough fuel for the stove so that there is essentially unlimited hot water. Want 3 hot meals per day? Hot water to wash your face at night? Hot chocolate before bed? Tea on the trail? Hot water bottle to sleep with? Absolutely not a problem, and I encourage my better half to use the stove as frequently and as often as she wants. The weight cost is really only a few extra ounces of alcohol fuel (I use inexpensive methanol), but it can be a big boost to moral, comfort and fun.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
First Trip with Wife on 07/30/2013 13:16:48 MDT Print View

The first trip my wife came along also included two of my daughters. We started in the afternoon on the High Sierra Trail and hiked to 9 Mile Creek. The next day we went up to Hamilton Lake where we swam and hung out. Later, my brother, along with his boys and one of mine, kept on going to complete a 5 day loop.

Due to time constraints the women could not go with us and they headed back in a group. I think the time they spent without me was very important as they had to depend on themselves. Each took on a task, water treatment, stove, and cooking, etc. They had a blast.

The next year, my wife, daughter and I did the actual High Sierra Trail. My wife can hike big miles. She is very task oriented and loves to finish something. We did 26 miles the last day from Wallace Creek to Whitney Portal the last day. Not bad for a rookie. She was in better shape heading up to Whitney than me!

I help her travel light by carrying her heavier 20ยบ bag and the bear canister. On shorter trips we will share a canister or try and hike from bear box to bear box on the first few nights until all our food can fit. Since I travel light anyway, it's not that much of a big deal to carry a few items to make it more fun for her. I will also carry the tarp and if there is room the stove and pot, etc. Truth is, I would carry even more if it helped being able to hike with her.

Our next trip is North Lake/South Lake loop with a few side trips to Desolation Lake, Blaney Hot Springs and maybe Darwin Bench. Can't wait for that one. The only problem is, I can get her to hike with me if the kids are along (my youngest is 18) but probably couldn't get her to do it alone with me. For her, it makes more sense to do it as a family and she knows how much my boys and I love to hike so she is glad to go along.

I think she thought our backpack trips were just little hikes in the mountains. It wasn't until that first trip that she got to really see what we like about hiking. First, it's fun to work up a pass and down. It can be hard but challenging work. Second, she saw how stunningly beautiful it is in the Sierra Nevada. In order to get those views you have to hike!

Andre D.

Locale: East Bay, CA
do it better than i did on 07/30/2013 15:09:14 MDT Print View

I took my SO and future wifey on a backpacking trip a couple years ago, her first and at a time I was still trying to find my hiking philosophy and gear. If I knew then what I know now about going lighter, we would have had a much better time. Hopefully you can learn from my naivete.

We went to Henry Coe, famous for steep traverses. Not exactly heavy packs but we definitely could have been lighter. There were lots of hot, steep, and dusty parts of that hike, and we covered significantly more miles than I had originally planned, basically hunting for water in a dry environment. Suffer fest! My favorite picture from this trip is of her flipping me the bird, in a moment we were both hurting from sore legs and heat!

It was a learning experience in our relationship, and luckily her love of the outdoors only grew deeper despite my shi**y trip planning. I owe this to an awesome lake and morning swims, some really cool wildlife, luxury camp meals, and her being a bad-ass woman. Also, it really was good for us both to establish a common love of and respect for the wilderness, and I developed a more healthy respect for her abilities.

A few things I would have done differently:
- don't allow any novice to pack their gear independently. It may seem like you're being overbearing or controlling by saying no to all sorts of comfort items, but your experience and ability to keep pack weight down is really valuable.
- like other posters have said, carry the lion's share of weight and do the yeoman's share of work.
- plan even more carefully your route, water sources, elevation gains, and mileage. go for natural beauty, solitude, low bug factor, etc.
- invest in a pump, UV or gravity filter, my lady did not enjoy the taste of aqua-pure, and really who does?
- after your adventure, take her out for a stellar meal at a restaurant halfway between the trail and your home. This will become a tradition and great memory for you both.

Edited by oofowf on 07/30/2013 15:16:31 MDT.

Jeffrey McConnell
great suggestions on 07/30/2013 15:45:55 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the great suggestions. A couple I had thought of and others I hadn't. I definitely want to make this a good experience so I appreciate the help.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
pstyle on 07/30/2013 15:52:54 MDT Print View

Jeffrey McConnell
Re: pstyle on 07/30/2013 18:28:37 MDT Print View

Right on! Pstyle for the pre-trip gift!

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
My advice? on 07/30/2013 20:10:01 MDT Print View

Ask your wife. I did quite a few things to try to make my wife's first trip a good one. But part of that is listening to her about what she wants, and what would make her happy. That was 35 years ago. She still takes more moisturizing cream than I ever would, and she also takes more clothes than I do.

But I also learned to love a NeoAir thanks to her...

it's a partnership---let her play a role, and value her opinion.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 07/30/2013 20:57:28 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/22/2015 11:44:37 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
what I know you should NOT do... on 07/30/2013 21:47:06 MDT Print View

I took my first wife on her first (and only) backpacking trip in the Sierras about 5 months after we were married. We started at Horseshoe Meadows. I guess I should have known that someone who lived next to the ocean all their lives might not like high places. By the time we got to Cottonwood Pass, she was not thrilled.

Long story short; we were out for a week and she actually did pretty good. However, that was 35 years ago and she never backpacked again.

I have never taken my 2nd wife backpacking.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: what I know you should NOT do... on 07/30/2013 22:07:38 MDT Print View

I'm still on my first wife.

But I met her on a backpacking trip.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: what I know you should NOT do... on 07/30/2013 22:45:43 MDT Print View

What else you should not do...

Introduce her to somebody as your first wife.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
All great advice on 07/30/2013 23:22:59 MDT Print View

Excellent advice...

I'll just emphasize try to take some weight to make the hike easier.

Take a nice thick pad. Mrs Mags loves her NeoAir

Take a "real" tent. I mentioned this on another thread, but my Mrs Mags is a German citizen. True to the national stereotype, she does not like dirt, messes and what she looks on as "unclean". A tarp would not cut it. :) We compromised on a Lunar Duo. YMMV.

Keep the mileage low

...AND (I did not see this) pack in a small .5 liter box of wine, some good chocolate (See above about Mrs Mags being German. Hershey's is anathema!) and some yummy cheese. The extra ounces won't matter on a short backpacking trip and the creature comforts will go a long way to make the trip very enjoyable.

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Great advice! on 07/31/2013 07:06:58 MDT Print View

There is some very good advice here.

One thing that I did was get a double down quilt. My wife runs very cold and her biggest fear was freezing to death at night. I bundled her up in long underwear, down puffy, and then she glommed onto me all night long. Cuddling was nice, albeit rather warm for me! I got one of Tim's quilts where I could shake more of the down over on her side. We used NeoAir pads tied together with three grosgrain straps. Find a really good pillow as well--the world can look pretty awful if you've been up all night.

The first time she was doing it more for our three teen kids rather than for me or for her. So, I weighed all of her clothes, took her shopping for lighter clothing, and nodded and smiled when she was adamant that she wanted long pants over shorts and bomb-proof bra and biker shorts. Some battles weren't worth fighting yet. Later she realized that the bomb-proof stuff doesn't breathe or dry out very well and has now converted to ExOfficio.

I carried the bulk of the weight and gave her the first day's food so by the end of the day she was very light.

I made sure to dehydrate some of her favorite foods--she actually ate better on the trail than at home! As well, we made sure to make hot chocolate for her each morning.

She didn't understand why I brought Hydropel and some other things until she had a need for it. I stopped about 20 mins into the hike to adjust my boots (they didn't need it, but I knew that hers probably would and this gave her an oppty to adjust without losing face). And I took more frequent breaks to look at scenery. Again, I didn't need it, but it gave her a chance to rest, as she wasn't in as good of shape as I was.

Headnets, mosquito repellant were a big plus.

And Hostess Ding Dongs waiting in the car were a bigger plus. She's dieting and can't eat them-but having burned 3k calories, she splurged and enjoyed herself.

Finally, we have a tradition of stopping in at Subway after a big hike. Mmmm.. Buffalo chicken sandwich. It is a simple but great reward for a job well done (or good behavior, depending on how you look at it!).

As the saying goes, "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"

At the end of our trip, she said, "I'll never admit it, but this was alot of fun!"

Now, four years later, we're hiking ~8-18 miles each weekend. Our family tradition is now to do an epic hike each summer before kids go back to school/college. We've hiked 55 miles through Yellowstone, 6 days in the Wind Rivers, and this year we're doing 110 miles in the 100 mile wilderness + Katahdin. With Subway at the end.

Good luck!

Edited by rutilate on 07/31/2013 07:08:28 MDT.

Ann Karp

Locale: Montana
First trip for anybody on 07/31/2013 08:25:04 MDT Print View

Actual wife here. I suppose I would broaden this discussion to include bringing anybody on their first trip. Any new activity can be intimidating and challenging with new skills and surroundings, and for me what helps with that is learning about what to expect and how to prepare beforehand, and then just doing it: experience. But then again, I was a willing hiker, not someone who was just going along because the other person reeeeally wanted me to. I feel like if you have to drag or heavily persuade another person, it might not be a great idea.

I can't speak for all ladies, but I don't want any special treatment when backpacking. I want to be a partner in the decisions about what we'll bring, where we'll go, how we'll do it. The trip should be appropriate in length and difficulty... and level of suffering/reward! We decide what's best together, meeting in the middle or compromising on one thing or another where there are differences of opinion.

I have a distinctly unchivalrous partner (sorry, Zippy, you know it's true), so no cushy extras or light pack weights were sent my way. Each of us are capable; if I want a pillow, I'll bring one. Each of us carries our own gear, except for stuff we share: he carries the tent and I carry toiletries and the cookset and fuel. Consequently, my pack is 1-2 pounds heavier than his, because I sleep cold and need more clothing, though both our packs are very light anyway. On the other hand, when my brother joined my partner and me during our AT thru-hike for six days in the White Mountains, we did help him carry some weight sometimes, since he had a heavier pack and didn't have his trail legs.

Last thing... It doesn't bother me if other people make things extra easy on their hiking partners, but obviously it's important for any hiker to be able to do all the necessary tasks of camping: hang bear line, pitch the tent, do basic first aid. There's a learning curve, so that might not be the case the first time out, but everyone should learn how to take care of themselves in the woods.

Hope y'all have a great time out!

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Re: First trip for the wife on 07/31/2013 08:45:01 MDT Print View

A few things from my experience as a male:

1) Have a comfortable pack with a comfortable load. Sore shoulders, hips or back will make for a miserable trip.
2) Make sure that the trip is scenic. A trip that is 100% in the trees with little view may be boring.
3) A Jetboil or similar stove. Plenty of hot drinks and hot towels for camp showers served up quick. A towel bath at the end of a long day of hiking puts my wife in a splendid mood. With my JetBoil I can have dinner, a hot towel and tea all served up within 15 minutes.
4) Warmth and comfort for sleeping is very important for women. Making sure she has the right combination of bag and layers will keep her happy. This is where I don't scrimp on gear and my most expensive gear falls under this category.

Let me elaborate on gear for this point:

* A closed roomy tent (TT Cloudspire 2)
* A war roomy sleeping bag (Western Mountaineering Alpinelite). We have LH and RH zippers so we can zip our bags together if we want to snuggle or stay warm.
* NeoAir mattress
* A small pillow
* Layering system (Patagonia Capaline 3 base layer, MontBell Ultralight down jacket etc.) to keep her warm in her bag on cold nights

5) Regarding distance, this is really a matter of fitness. I do recommend frequent stops to rest and take pictures (of both of you).

Good luck!

Edited by smarchet on 07/31/2013 08:54:41 MDT.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
first trip with the wife on 07/31/2013 10:14:43 MDT Print View

Lots of good advice here already, but I thought I would add a couple of points...

First, many of the anecdotal examples of how a trip with the wife turned sour have nothing to do with it being your wife. Anybody would be unhappy if they were thirsty, hot, cold, uncomfortable, etc. Especially so if they are on the trip primarily to participate in *your* hobby. In a suffer-fest, most of my closest homies would whine and quit long before my wife would. "What do you mean we're out of beer?". "Bullshit those are insects, I know what a rattlesnake sounds like!". "Hell nah homie, I work hard so I dont HAVE to eat cardboard and sleep on the ground". Most of the advice above applies more to hiking with my friends than it does to my wife.

Second, much of the advice here is specific to that person's preference or experience. My wife prefers to savor swimming holes and waterfalls along the way and she hates mosquitos big time, but she has never complained that she slept cold or that the foam mat was uncomfortable. Hell, some nghts she falls asleep on the couch, with our dog on her chest, and a laptop on her lap!! So I dont add any extra weight to her pack for sleeping comfort. It's all about hiking comfort, interesting meals, and allowing her to "stylize" the trip. If the trip involves swimming, wine, foraging, and stylish, vintage gear in a beautiful wilderness setting, my wife needs no encouragement and we're in for an awesome trip. So really, be honest about what *their* interests are and find ways of incorporating *their* passions into the hike. After all, the only reason you can endure sufferfests on your hikes is because you are indulging in your passion.