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Team Backpacking?

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Team Backpacking?

Postby balzaccom » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:29 am

Once we started backpacking together, a few things became pretty clear. My wife tends to look down on the trail, exploring flowers, rocks, funghi and animal scat with great interest. And I tend to look up on the trail, trying to catch sight of peaks, passes, and possible a trout stream or lake. It makes us a pretty good combination on the trail. Between the two of us, we don't miss much!

We work as a team in the campsite, as well. I generally sets up the tent, while my wife manages more of the kitchen. And in the morning, we work together to get everything packed up and on the trail. Some days I pump the water because I am packed first, sometimes that falls to my wife if she gets her pack loaded up before me.

And speaking of loading up the pack, we do try to share the load. I am bigger, and stronger, so I carry more weight. On a recent four-day trip to the John Muir Wilderness, I carried about 30 pounds total, and my wifey was carrying about 20--those weights include some water for the trail in each pack. We think that's about fair, because I weigh a lot more than my wife...and we are each carrying roughly the same weight in terms of a percentage of our body weight: between 15 and 18%.

We each carry our own clothes, sleeping bag, and pads. The big difference is that I carry the tent and food, while my wife carries the cook pot and kitchen.

Of course, as the trip goes on, we eat a lot of the food, so my pack gets lighter. That's when I start putting other things into the bear canister, like the gas for the stove, or some other part of our kitchen. And I've been known to carry more of the water, as well.

That way we each feel the benefits of the lighter load on the last couple of days of the trip.

It's not a perfect system, but it works for us. Got a better one?

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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby cgundersen » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:14 am

Similar system has worked for my wife and me (for >30 years), but I have sometimes wondered about hiring a sherpa. Or, a world class women's weightlifter who could carry the heavy stuff.....
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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby jfelectron » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:11 am

Yup, Team Couples action is great! Solo I am a UL guy with a Sierra base-weight around 9lbs. With the wifey, I transition to lightweight without thought or complaint. The main differences are that I go from a tarp (MLD DuoMid) to a tarptent (TarpTent Squall) and bring larger quilt which we share.

The kitchen weighs very little (WhiteBox stove + windscreen+ 1.3L REI TiWare pot=~8oz). We share meals directly out of the pot for one course meals or use a ziploc disposable container with lid as a second bowl for two course meals.We share a homemade Climashield quilt (which comes to 25oz and for a close sleeping couple is fully three season with clothing worn at night). We share a gravity filter rigged to a Platy reservoir for water filtration. She sleeps on a NeoAir, I sleep on a torso length Z-lite. I carry everything except her clothes and first-aid/toiletry supplies. With food and water I'm in the high 20's- 30lbs at the start up to to 6 days. I already have almost everything so I don't take on anything additional. Her weight is very low and remains constant. We both use Granite Gear Vapor Trail packs (she carries the Ki version).

The big weight savings for a couple are sharing a bag/quilt and getting a lightweight shelter. Learning how much you eat each day and not taking extra or just a little extra also reduces weight.
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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 08, 2011 3:26 pm

I have done most of my backpacking with others so being a part of a team is very natural for me. Only in the last few years have I done much solo, simply because it gets harder to find people to go with. I think defined roles work better than "each to his own". Those roles can change daily, as long as each partner is clear on the role he or she takes on that day. When I hike with another person who is used to do all the leading (as I am) we alternate days as the official "leader". A lot of off-trail route decisions are six of one, half dozen the other, so two strong leaders could spend the entire day squabbling about route unless where the "buck stops" is clearly defined. When I plan the trip and another goes along, I usually make most of the route decisions. I may ask for advise or opinion, but it is clear that I make the final decision. I am also pretty strict on staying together- not necessarily right on top of each other, but meet up at rest stops on trails, and staying within sight off trial.

My husband is an eager follower- he really hates to plan trips, in fact, before he met me, he often hired a guide. I really enjoy trail time (like to move) and he prefers camp time (where I often get bored). I do almost all the route finding, however, he hikes in front of me and I "backseat drive". We do this because I tend to get too far ahead if I am out front. If I stay behind him we stick together a lot better. I do all the cooking, he does most of the fishing (he has a whole lot more patience them me), is in charge of the tent (although I choose the campsite because I have a perfectionist nesting instinct but for the life of me, cannot figure out uphill from down!), gathers all the water and patiently waits outside the tent (often in the cold) while I get in my sleeping bag and get organized for the night. He also lets me pick which side of the tent I want. He says I am like the princess and the pea- he can sleep anywhere. Since it can take me near an hour to find the "perfect campsite", he has accepted this quirk of mine and simply goes fishing or reads a book while I hunt all over. I get up first in the morning because my cooking chores take longer than his tent chores. When we used to do alpine technical climbing, he would lead the first pitches because they usually were steeper and more difficult and he had more short-term strength but I would lead upper pitches where the slope usually backed off, and for 12+ pitch climbs, I had more endurance. Nowadays, as we both are aging we both get so forgetful that we really need each other so we do not loose everything. I swear that our most repeated phrase is "have you seen my ...".
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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby mokelumnekid » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:04 am

Interesting posts. Despite the fact that my wife and I seem to have worked out "who carries what" years ago, there is always a little hissing at the trail head when I put on my *much* heavier pack, and she zooms off up the trail. But she is smaller than me, but also extremely fit. Extremely (athletics is pretty much her only passion in life besides cooking). So the arguments usually go something like this- I'm bigger so I should carry significantly more of the common gear, to which I respond-tho smaller, her engine/horsepower is proportionally bigger than her body size, so she should carry more. When we used to do back-country mountaineering and climbing, and you add rope, rack, helmets, rock shoes, etc. and the loads were stupidly heavy for a twirp like me for a multi-day trip, the discussion would get heated indeed.

This seems to be a ritual, and unless we change our MO and go ultralight, which isn't likely, it will be a fixture of our first few hours on the trail.

One significant other division of "labor" is that she has a poor sense of direction, so unless we are going up something like Taboose Pass where there are no real opportunities for screw-ups (she typically leaves me at the significant first water crossing on that one and then I meet up with her at the top) she has to stick within earshot, or wait for me at junctions, to keep from taking fisherman's trails, etc. which she has done before. When we travel cross-country, I do the leading as the travel is slower anyway. But I do have an emergency plan if she has to walk out for help. And I am very picky about where we camp and will spend considerable time choosing where we finally put the packs down.

But heck- I'm just *thrilled* to have a partner who is always ready for more than I can dish-out. She was always a better rock climber than me and so is pretty fearless scrambling. If she isn't exhausted by the end of each day- I haven't done my job of planning enough activity. I'll drink to that!

And I make the margaritas.
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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby windknot » Sat Jul 09, 2011 11:12 am

Neat to read stories of how couples have established their backpacking routine over the years. I wouldn't call it a routine yet, but when I hike with others we try to distribute weight so as to even out hiking speeds (i.e. stronger hikers carry more weight). I've found over the past few years that if my girlfriend (who weighs about 50 pounds less than I do) and I each carry our own clothes, sleeping bag, and pad, and I carry everything else, this will put us at about the same pace. Same thing with my dad, although he'll also carry his own fishing gear and some of the food.
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Re: Team Backpacking?

Postby BrianF » Sat Jul 09, 2011 1:00 pm

Let me preface this with saying that since my teen years I have done more solo backpacking than team by at least 3 to 1, so I am totally used to carrying the tent, cooking gear, food and 1st aid kit (which tends to be big; hangover from SAR days). Also I have a certain routine and a place for everything in may pack and it kind of throws me off to not have it all.
When I was married, my wife was significantly smaller so she just carried her gear and overflow food. I would have her walk in front on trail so I could adjust my pace to hers and I would go in front off trail. In camp we shared the tasks without set assignments. She also provided the entertainment ( in the form of good company and a sense of awe) and the natural history seminars and some great photos.
Nowadays my team partner is my son, and the routine is pretty much the same. Despite him being 18 and me 57, he is very thin and I ... am not. But I am by far the stronger hiker so I carry the shared gear. Same routine around camp - we make good partners and pitch in to do what needs doing at the time. Like his mom he provides the fun and the good photos and now it is me providing the natural history info. He likes to be in front so I backseat drive when the need arises. However, I am counting on the load carrying roles reversing at some point.
Back in my technical mountaineering days my partner and I would each carry our own gear and evenly divide whatever shared gear and hardware fairly evenly. The funny thing is that I had one partner who was a huge guy, but he had only a smallish pack, which looked even smaller on him, while I had this voluminous expedition pack that looked huge on me. So we would end up with the same weight by dividing the compact heavy stuff for him and the bulkier for me - I would usually carry his sleeping bag and the rope for instance. We used to get comments and laughs on the trail about me being the sherpa or the "pack that walks like a man".
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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