Oct 8, 2013 at 10:34 am #1308484
last July a friend who would later become my girlfriend told me she wanted to become an avid backpacker. i offered to go on an easy out and back on the AT – the route would take us past several shelter sites so we had plenty of options to modify the trip if the 14 miles was too far for one day. it proved to be slightly out of reach given the late start, but i think the shelter we stayed at was a better choice (excellent spring, met a thru-hiker from the UK, relaxing camp time).
i had some suspicions that it was her first backpacking trip based on the amount of stuff she was carrying, including 96 ounces of water in her pack in addition to 32 ounces outside. she was very paranoid about water. when we stopped for lunch i saw the 96 ounce container and suggested she empty 1/2 of it. she politely said no and i left it alone.
the following morning she relented as we had a very long, steep, rocky uphill to content with first thing out of camp. when we finished up a few hours later, she had about 16 ounces of water left.
jump ahead to this past August. i really miss Dolly Sods and asked her to come along. she would not let me help her pack. in fact, she told me to not show up early to pick her up. i knew she was trying to hide carrying too much water. she had packed 128 or more ounces. her instance on carrying such a heavy load affected my enjoyment of the trip. instead of enjoying the vistas and waterfalls, i was urging her along. my planned camping site was so far away and it was clear i'd have to start looking for a place to make camp. there were zero options, we were in a bog area and it was going to rain overnight – not a place i wanted to sleep. we pushed on another mile until we found something a little more solid.
on the car drive home from Dolly Sods she confessed that she had purchased her backpack and some other gear before our trip in August of 2012 and that this was her second time backpacking. she also told me she was very nervous and she thought we'd be in a very remote place and that added to her fears. i admit i could have eased some of those fears, but i was not aware of them. some poor communication from both of us.
what we did talk about on the ride home was reviewing her gear and instead of going out backpacking for 10 miles, backpack 2 miles, setup a base camp, and then go exploring. for places like Dolly Sods this is workable, but along the AT, not so much.
getting her to be comfortable carrying less water will be a challenge as will replacing some of her heavy car camping gear. her warm sleeping bag weighs 6 pounds. 6 pounds.
we are hoping to spend Thanksgiving in Shenandoah at the lodge (if it's open!) and i think i can use that as a jumping off point to review her gear and get out for a night in the tent.Oct 8, 2013 at 11:24 am #2031895
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Let her carry your pack for a couple miles. When she puts hers back on, the game may change. You may not get your pack back :)
She needs to deal with the water thing. Are you filtering or treating water? The water sources on route may be the core of her fears rather than simply running out of water. Filtering may appeal more to someone with fears of contaminated water. I would have her directly involved of the filter process, with practice at home and on day hikes.
I think shelter types (the bug and creepy-crawler thing), sleeping pads and insulation/clothing are the biggest areas of contention and sources of boat anchors. Some car camping experience using UL gear might help get over those humps.
I don't need anywhere near as much insulation as my wife and I have to keep that in mind. For example, I have tried to get her to try using windshirts as part of her layering system. She contends that a windshirt won't keep her warm, ignoring the fact that it is used with other layers. She wants a big monolithic layer and I'm sure it is a perceptual issue, but that is hard to change. There is the boy-girl "he's not telling me what to do" factor, regardless of how cautiously I tread.
I'm sure that personality types influence the approach to UL kits. Much of UL kit gathering has a left-brain orientation and a super techno-nerd appeal. All the techy materials, weighing, spreadsheets and the rest may make some right-brainers defensive from the start.
My wife and daughter did a trip to Mount Rainier this summer and came back with a LOT more interest in UL gear and techniques. I had made low key suggestions beforehand, but there's nothing like a few thousand feet of switchbacks at elevation to make new converts.Oct 8, 2013 at 11:49 am #2031907
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
I don't think we can solve this with ideas on how she can reduce the weight of her pack. That's something she needs to do. And the way to encourage her to do it is to listen to her and understand what she is thinking. '
You might find some websites for her to look at. We have some stuff on ours about how my wife looks at all of this: backpackthesierra.com
Don't look at this as an opportunity to show her the "light." Look at it as an opportunity to understand her better, and build a better relationship. The pack will come later.Oct 8, 2013 at 11:51 am #2031909
she is concerned that there are bad nasty things in the water and only overnight treatment will fix it. i use chlorine dioxide and have never had an issue, she balked at even drinking from a well cared for spring at Dolly Sods – made fun of me even. she said i have no idea what is the ground were that water is coming from… we live in Philadelphia, i'm certain the water coming out of that pipe on a mountain in West Virginia is cleaner than what is coming out of the Schuylkill River.
a few good trips under her will help, but then there is the issue of her gear – it is very car camping minded. large and heavy 2 person tent, heavy walmart sleeping bag. money is an issue so it will take some time to resolve some of these points.
i'll be happy if her packed weight for a weekend of fun is less than 20 pounds. i'll be excited if it's under 16, i'll marry her if she can get it under 15! wait, she can probably do that by leaving the water at home… :)Oct 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm #2031916
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Okay, so, carrying extra water is actually a problem for me. I think, as Dale suggested, that it would helpful to figure out where the fear is coming from. For me, it was partly habit, as on dayhikes as a kid my dad did not want or did not know how to treat water, so we always carried enough for the whole trip. For a long time it didn't register for me mentally that water along the trail could be drinkable. Silly but true! The other part was growing up in an area with mine-related surface water pollution and currently living in an area with heavy agricultural runoff. I use a carbon filter b/c chemicals, UV, and hollow membrane filters don't remove those sorts of contaminants. Once I did the research on a filter and did a couple dayhikes filtering instead of bringing water (and not getting sick afterwards), I got more comfortable.
It sounds like she might want to impress you or is worried you'll judge her if she admits she's afraid. It sounds like you talked this through already, but it might help to tell her these are very common fears. People who've been backpacking for years post on BPL for advice on going solo, for example. It's not a weakness! Just something that needs to be worked through.Oct 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm #2031944
i'm the kind of person that has no problem doing something… when i first went backpacking, i'm sure i was a darn funny sight, but i was having fun. i simply said "i'm going backpacking next weekend" and then i did it.
that part of my personality can be intimidating and toss in her concerns and fears and yeah, extra water is brought.Oct 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm #2031954
@jraiderguyLocale: Bay Area
My wife had zero car camping or backpacking experience when we started dating, and no real interest in it other than because I wanted her to go. I made the mistake of taking her on a five day backpacking trip in the high sierra during mosquito season for her first trip. She did not have fun learning about catholes from her boyfriend while swatting mosquitoes. After that, I went with baby steps.
We started with car camping. She got comfortable with the camping ways of life like fewer hot showers, wearing clothes until they're actually dirty, and a blurrier definition of clean dishes. Then I'd use dayhikes as backpacking classes. We'd do a dehydrated meal for lunch and I'd teach her the how and why of using the gear. Pretty soon she packed less on her own, and we were pretty much car camping with backpacking gear (to the point of packing our backpacks in the living room and just throwing them in the car).
She still likes to leave the backpacking planning to me, but she's comfortable with my recommendations now, and has her own tasks that she likes taking the lead on while in camp. She's at the point now where she sees backpacking as more fun than burden, and I'm really happy about that.
The good news is you've got someone who had enough interest to take initiative and get herself out there, so you can shoot for a bit better than the 5-years is took me to get to this point. :)Oct 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm #2032133
she loves car camping. we both took a mental health day and went to the beach in Delaware. we remembered we had a tent and a sleeping bag in the car from a trip a few weeks earlier and decided to just stay the night. we were up at 4:30 am and i got to work on time – talk about an adventure.
car camping at a state park is one thing, hiking into the wilds and throwing down for two days is another. she wants to be out there, it's just those pesky fears are hard to over come – we'll get there.
thanks for the comments. i miss this place, glad to be back on-line.Oct 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm #2032151
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I think that it would help to look at this in the bigger picture of your relationship.
How you deal with this should be how you hope to deal with any issues between the two of you.
You can try and figure out how to help her not feel the need for so much water, such heavy gear etc…But more importantly you could try and find out why she was not comfortable telling you she was such a newbie…why she did not want you to come over early and have input on her gear choices….how she would react if she read all this.
Sounds like new love and the best time to set the standard for open communication, honesty, expectations etc.Oct 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm #2032157
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
+1 to Kat's observations about setting the standard for open communication, honesty, expectations, etc.
If the GF wants to work through the issues objectively, the best thing would be for her to figure out the rate she actually uses water. Ideally you have some terrain near home that is representative of where you backpack. Have her weight herself naked + however much water she wants for the next 1-2 hours. Hike, sweat, but go easy enough on the drink that she doesn't feel compelled to immediately pee. Go back home. Take off clothing, and once again weight self +the somewhat empty water container.
This gives a general sense of how much water was lost for whatever time/distance was travelled. Use the distance-time between water refill locations + whatever is an appropriate margin of error / length of test hike * amount of water lost during test hike.
–MarkOct 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm #2032173
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
Try doing a car camping out of your backpack thing. Set up at a car campsite or walk in site and see if you can get her to go minimal. If she needs something the car is always there.
That's what I would try and do.Oct 9, 2013 at 6:39 am #2032214
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
You know, I first read this and thought – your girlfriend should feel good about herself and you shouldn't berate her for her weight!!!
Then I realized you were talking about PACK weight……,,.Oct 9, 2013 at 6:52 am #2032220
she is embarrassed that her gear is big, heavy, and not really for backpacking. i have tried to make her less self conscience of the gear and make it more about getting out and having a good time and learning. we are both learning.Oct 9, 2013 at 7:12 am #2032222
"Then I realized you were talking about PACK weight……"
hahaha. yes, her pack weight. and it's more about choices of what to bring along. she hasn't made the connection that everything weighs something and she has to carry it. she laughs at me using a scale and knowing weighs for my gear off the top of my head (after a year of not backpacking even!).
an easy example is the water, but there are other things she brought that she admitted would never need or use. we've all been there, i guess i'm trying to find a way to not be judgmental and demanding she "leave the crap at home"
i want her to have fun and enjoy backpacking. i know she'll have to sort a lot of this out on her own. it will just take some time for it all to click.Oct 9, 2013 at 7:43 am #2032229
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I did not mean for you to have to answer any of those questions to me or anyone else. Just things to keep in mind while tackling the day to day stuff.
Sounds like you both love the outdoors and fun will be had
:)Oct 9, 2013 at 11:30 am #2032347
If you can get to the level of relationship that allows you to go through her stuff when you're on the trail…..
Halfway through the hike, second or third day, go through her pack, identify all the things YOU wouldn't carry or would carry a smaller version of. If you have a smaller version in your pack, swap with her. If you wouldn't carry it at all, put it in your pack. In other words, carry all her excess baggage.
Then ask her at the end of the hike what it was like to carry a lighter pack – experiential education is a wonderful thing!Oct 9, 2013 at 11:58 am #2032361
@jakesandwichLocale: S.F. Bay Area
It sounds like there is a fair amount of pride/shame going on, which can make communication and change difficult. It may be better to "show her the way" rather than telling her. For example, if you bring one liter of water and use your filter to refill along the way, she will see over time that one liter is all that is needed (assuming readily available lakes/streams). You can also show her that you also have backup water filtration system, like Aqua Mira tablets. But perhaps let her connect the final dots (i.e., 'Hey, I can do that too") rather than doing it for her. This will require patience, as it may not happen at the pace you would like. The good news is it sounds like you both want to make it work.
Edit: After reading this back, it sounds a little wacky. But in my 22 years of marriage I have learned that sometimes holding my tongue is the best course of action :)Oct 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm #2032444
@wildtownerLocale: Grand Canyon State
First of all, this gal is "strong like bull" to be carrying all the heavy stuff! Wow, she's amazing! But there are many issues going on here…
Trip Planning: Starting someone off with a 14 mile day — what???? Any time you haven't backpacked with someone before, unless you KNOW that they are a super-athlete, it's better not plan more than 10 miles for the first couple of days. I definitely agree with those who've proposed "baby steps".
Water: If she's really worried about contamination (rather than availability), why not have the two of you discuss (and research) different treatment options before you leave, and get her "buy in" to one or more systems. Let her see the science behind each method, so she'll understand. You might also start out by double-treating — for example, use a Sawyer, then a Steripen on the same liter of water, until she feels more relaxed about it.
Extra Stuff: Encourage (not force) her to do a "post mortem" after each trip — what did she actually use, what was never used, what would she want as a safety margin, what could be left behind next time. She should make a list. I still do this, and I've been backpacking for decades!
Heavy Equipment: Gear Swap! Post a WTB for a new bag for her — I have a warm down women's bag that I would sell very cheaply to someone who would really use it!
Communication: Clearly, Rome wasn't built in a day, but I have to wonder if she feels like you're lecturing her (extrapolating from her not wanting you there while she's packing). Or maybe she feels that she can't keep up with you (14 mile day) and she's embarrassed about it. Include lots of praise for what she's done already, and talk about all the fun you hope to have with her in the future…
[Ed. for grammar]Oct 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm #2032479
Buy her an ultralight sleeping bag for Christmas, a five point something ounce puffy for her birthday, and a four point something ounce rain jacket "just because." A year from now on one of those holidays, buy her a 45 liter Zpacks Arc Blast or a 35 liter Arc Slim to put everything in.Oct 12, 2013 at 2:25 am #2033352
@dmusasheLocale: Pacific Northwest
All the advice above is great. I would just add that you might just want to focus on one thing at a time, starting with the heaviest stuff she is carrying. Lightening her load in small steps will keep her from feeling overwhelmed.
The water is obviously the biggest issue right now, and it sounds like the sleeping bag is next. Lead by example with the water thing, as suggested above. I might even suggest that you take water from the sketchiest source you feel comfortable with, treat it, and drink that. If you do this enough, it will set a certain bar, and suddenly drinking out of a clean mountain spring won't seem so extreme to her anymore.
For the sleeping bag, I think the present idea is a good one (I hope you really like this girl though, because UL down bags aren't cheap!).
Once she starts getting her pack weight down, there will be a snowball effect. She will realize that if she could change one or two things, she can change more.
Just think of it as an lightweight evolution rather than a revolution. :)Oct 12, 2013 at 8:17 am #2033380
– -K.T.- –Participant
Ditch the broad and go solo. Too needy. Meet one that hikes already. Save time and anguish.
kidding. slightly.Oct 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm #2034184
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Yes, sounds like both of you need to work on your communication skills. Root cause issue.Oct 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm #2034190
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
A 14 mile day on her first backpacking trip? Lol….I hope I read that wrong.
You have to break others in gently….and never, ever tell them that they can't bring something. No one likes being around a "I told you so" ;-) Even if you don't say it out loud…hehheh! She will find her way….Oct 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm #2034210
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Which is easier for you to find: a UL BPer to backpack with or a woman to spend your life with?
I and a dozen other whackos went on Eugene's crazy rim-to-rim-to-rim trip last year and many are going on Mike's Zion trip in April. So it seems to me that UL BPer types are easy to hook up with (at least if you stay in your own quilt). Whereas, many of us looked for years for the right person to settle down with (although my wife did more extreme BPing, climbing, travel and expeditions than I had before we hooked up).
There is always a "price of admission" to be in relationship since no two people are ever perfectly compatible, interested in exactly the same things, have the same sexual tastes, or like exactly the same diet. Is her carrying lots of weight while backpacking a price you're willing to pay to in a BF-GF relationship with her? Turning it around, is being in a harmonious relationship worth enough to you to be patient with her as she adjusts to a BPing mindset?
I'm pretty UL now. I wasn't during the first years I camped and backpacked. You seem to be insisting on a very steep learning curve by the GF. If she was after you to change your bad habits (house keeping, dress, table manners, whatever) so quickly, would she be as much fun to hang out with?
If the water thing really is a paranoia (an irrational fear) AND she wants to rein it in, she could slowly, slowly, desensitize herself with calm exposures to ever so slightly less controlled settings. Trying to convince someone to not have a paranoia doesn't work.Oct 23, 2013 at 11:00 am #2036982
@traylLocale: SE Tx
+1 on most of the thoughts above.
I suspect one of her "core values" is a strong desire to feel safe and secure, both physically and emotionally. No doubt she didn't want you to show up early because she didn't feel safe about possible criticism of her equipment load. She carries extra water because she wants to feel safe and secure about her drinking water source and is not secure with the idea of treating "wild" water. And so on…
I would suggest that you first reinforce her need for security by telling her that if she feels she needs to carry an extra gallon so she can feel safe, that's ok at least for now and you'll even help carry part of the extra burden. Knowing she'll be within her "safety zone" may go a long way toward relieving some of her anxieties and insecurities.
Next, you can address some simple issues by, say, reviewing with her various water treatment options (filtering? chlorine? iodine? boiling?) and letting HER review some articles and asking her which SHE would feel best about. If she reviews credible information directly herself (NOT relayed through you), she may become more comfortable with "stretching" into new areas, such as drinking treated "wild" water. I would suggest a simple weekend outing where you agree you (plural) will take whatever water she feels necessary to feel "safe", but plan to treat and use "wild" water found on the trail. She may be more agreeable if she's (A) personally validated the water treatment methodology on her own and (B) has her readily-available "safety net" close at hand. If all goes well, you will end with the "safety net" water still intact.
Similarly, with other gear, if she's assured that whatever she has is perfectly ok and you'll help with the weight ("…It's not "extra" weight; you're just dividing the combined load more appropriately…"), she may be amenable to considering trying an "upgrade" or two. Gifts may work fine, but so might borrowing if someone has some lighter weight gear they might be willing to loan and let her "try out over the weekend".
She wanted to "become an avid backpacker", so she does have something of an adventurous spirit. Keeping her "emotionally safe" may go a long way toward helping her expand her horizons. Good luck!
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