With long days on the trail and little to no other people around, choosing the right backpacking partner can make or break your trip.
Maybe you have a significant other who loves the outdoors as much as you do, and wants to try backpacking. Or perhaps you're wondering if your co-worker or childhood friend will be as good of a travel buddy as they are a friend?
Before you request time off from work or book your flight for a far-off location, stop and ask yourself these questions. Get the answers before you go to avoid a bad–or even dangerous–backpacking trip.
Is Your Potential Travel Buddy Physically Fit?
Don't judge your friend's fitness level based on their physical size. Instead, hit the trail as soon as possible to see if you both hike at a similar pace. Choose a hike with similar terrain as the trail you plan to backpack on. Or, plan the location after your initial hike.
On the practice trip, note whether they continually forge ahead, struggle at the first minor ascent, or need to stop often. These cues will help you determine whether they're ready or not. If you or your friend has never hiked with a backpack—a full pack weighs, on average, about 20 percent of your body weight—test that too.
What Do They Already Know?
What your friend knows or doesn't know is critical in a difficult situation—especially if one of you gets injured. Use the following questions as a baseline test of their knowledge:
- What do you know about backpacking?
- Can you set up a tent?
- Can you read a topographical map or a GPS?
- Do you understand the dangers of lightning when you're at a summit?
- Do you know how to purify water?
If you believe your friend is teachable, don't discount them just yet. Keep in mind that you may need to rely on your travel buddy at some point on the backpacking trip. Be sure they know the basics.