Plan & Prepare Together
One person should not shoulder all the responsibilities of planning — even if they want and prefer to. If one person does all the planning, they will receive all the blame when something goes wrong. Even if their partner doesn’t blame them, they will feel responsible. It is a great deal of psychological pressure that creates irritation, anger, and leads to fights.
Similarly, one person should not prepare physically and intellectually for the trip and presume their partner will catch up while on-trail. Not only does such an imbalanced relationship produce resentment and anger, but leads to chaos and confusion during an emergency or unforeseen situation because only one person knows what to do.
So during the planning process, both you and your partner should:
Planning together ensures that when the unexpected happens or something goes wrong you have a plan that both of you know and understand, one of you will not blame the other, and one of you will not feel completely responsible and guilty.
Preparing together means there won't be a huge disparity between a prepared and an unprepared person, which prevents anger, resentment, and fights. Otherwise the prepared person may get angry at the other for not being prepared, while the unprepared person gets angry at them for pushing too hard, telling them what to do, talking down to them, et cetera.
Read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus
Yes, we're serious.
Heterosexual couples, if you haven't already, you need to read this book. It will save you from a lot of futile arguments and miscommunication. The central thesis of the book is that men and women have different emotional needs and communication styles. When these differences are not recognized, miscommunication and inappropriate responses are the result.
LGBT couples, this book has good advice for all couples if you look beyond the gender assumptions. However, there may be a better one out there for you. If you know of one, please let us know.
Go on a Shake-Down Hike Together
A thru-hike is a lot different than a romantic weekend camping trip. There won't be much snuggling by a campfire and drinking wine together. Instead, there will be a lot of farting in the tent and peeing in bottles because it's too cold and rainy to go outside. You have to be very comfortable with each other, in other words. A minimum three-night shake down hike is a good idea before venturing into onto the Trail for 2-3 months.
While on-trail it's best to hike as a team. That does not mean you always have to hike next to each other, side-by-side at the same pace. One person can go ahead for a while if they want to stretch their legs or just be alone for a while (we need to go into "the cave" sometimes — read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ).
By hiking as a team, we mean:
Carrying two stoves is nice because you can cook at the same time and eat together. However, if you are looking to shed weight it's hard to justify a second stove, pot, and fuel can.
If you want to save weight and share a stove, this is how to do it:
While we recommend plastic food storage containers because they are light and cheap, there is one drawback. Adding olive oil to meals is a great way to punch up the calories, but olive oil sticks to plastic more than metal and is harder to clean with plain water. A lid makes keeping clean easy. Secure the lid before putting the container back in your food bag to prevent the oil from getting all over your stuff, and dirt from sticking to the inside of the container.
However, if you are not comfortable with having oil in all of your meals (breakfast cereal, for example) then a titanium pot is a good substitution. They are more expensive and a little heavier, but much easier to clean with plain water.
You have to make time for intimacy. It’s weird, but even though you spend 24/7 with each other, you rarely fool around, cuddle, snuggle, et cetera because you are so tired, sweaty, and dirty. Here are our suggestions for maintaining intimacy while on the Trail:
Sleeping Bags that Zip Together
It's really nice to zip your sleeping bags together. It is both more intimate, and you share body heat with your partner so it's warmer. However, not all sleeping bags can zip together, even two bags from the same manufacturer. So when buying sleeping bags as a couple you have to make sure that:
Zero days are busy with chores, and there is little time left over for intimacy. (For sex, there might be time, but not intimacy). Taking a second zero day allows for that intimacy. We recommend that couples always double zero (or nero then zero). You should plan for the extra time in your schedule.
There are lots of chores to do while in town — and one person cannot do them all. One person should not be doing chores while the other smokes and drinks beer (fellas) or checks facebook and texts (ladies). Chores should be shared equally and done together. Only after they are done should you start watching TV, calling family, drinking, and generally kicking back.
Hostels are fun places where you hang out with friends you've made on-trail and make new friends. However they usually don't make financial sense for couples and that social atmosphere gets in the way of intimacy.
Finances: At a hostel, a charge of $25 per person is great for a solo hiker, but couples will pay $50 — roughly the same price as a small-town motel room — without getting any of the perks of a motel room. Couples don't get to sleep together in a large bed, don't have a private bathroom, and can't lay in bed together while watching a movie.
Intimacy: At a hostel, the social atmosphere and lack of a private bedroom prevent any kind of intimacy between couples.