I often get asked how-in-the-world I managed to get my wife interested in joining me on backpacking trips. Apparently there are many men out there who wish that their wives would do the same. For us it wasn't always that way, the whole process has been very pre-meditated and taken a lot of hard work on my part. I don't claim to be an expert on the topic, but I would like to share with you what has worked for us, and hopefully others may be able to benefit.
Before I get into the detais, there are a couple of things that you need to be prepared for:
It is a Process
The first thing that you have to realize going into this is that teaching your spouse to be more at-home into the outdoors world is a process. Just because you are completely comfortable sleeping on spruce boughs underneath a tarp doesn't mean that she will be (now or ever for that matter). You need to be prepared for this and recognize that the hard-core stuff won't come overnight and will require a lot of baby steps to get there. Think long-term and be happy with small steps, you have lots of time, don't rush things.
It is a Lot of Work
Be prepared to roll-up your sleeves and work. Probably the biggest task will be having an enormous amount of patience, communication, understanding, and restraint. On the flip-side, these qualities also happen to be incredibly good marraige builders. You may surprise yourself with an improved relationship as a result of this process.
With that in mind, here is what worked for us:
- Renee likes being cozy, some of her biggest fears are being cold and wet. One of the best tactics I have found is to ensure she is was as warm and dry as possible, especially at night. We have designed our shelter and sleep system such that she loves it and feels it is a welcome, comfortable refuge. Knowing that this refuge will be with us wherever we go gives her a sense of security in the outdoors.
- When we were first starting out I did all of the work, all Renee had to do was show up. I purchased the gear, planned the trips, prepared and packed food, loaded the car - I did everything. For her, having to think about a process she didn't understand was stressful, so I removed the burden until she was comfortable with the routine.
- We practiced in a safe enviornment and I didn't introduce too many changes at once. We started by car camping in a campground with flush toilets and a hot shower. I gradually introduced backpacking gear into the mix until we were car camping with backpacking gear only. Once we went backpacking for the first time, the only thing that was new was the fact that we walked to the campsite instead of drove there.
- We hiked regularly, we did it for fun, and did it often. This helped her to get used to clothing systems, footwear, and weather. It also helped to build fitness. By the time we did our first backpacking trips we were very used to hiking together.
- I had to learn where it is important to make compromises. I prefer backpacking in a light-weight fashion, but I also want to make sure that the gear and techniques I select are not too extreme for her. I have had to be creative and figure out solutions that satisfy both of our desires.
- I have had to learn (and am still learning) to prioritize things that are important to her. Someties a backpacking trip with me has felt like a sacrifice of a weekend for her to do something I really love. As a result I am learning to pay-her-back with time spent on her priorities, shared with me.
- I am always be ready to listen and ready to make changes in response. As she has gotten used to hiking and backpacking, issues have surfaced. She has been uncomfortable at night, shoes have hurt, packs have not fit right, weather has made things uncomfortable. If she knows that I have her best interests in mind and that I will work to help her resolve the problems she encounters, she is more willing to try new things out because she knows that there is room for flexibility.
I read very few backpacking trip reports (especially light-weight ones) that involve married couples, I would love to read more. For those of you who do go on trips with your spouse, what was the journey like for you to get to that point? For those of you who don't, why not?If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Your Best Backpacking Partner Might Be Closer Than You Think.