Since the question of how we as a couple split our gear while backpacking has come up numerous times, I thought I would write a post in response.
First, let me say there is no right or wrong here. Every couple is different, and has different priorities, this is definitely a HYOH (hike your own hike) subject.
So, what do we do? How do we split our gear? How do we decide who should carry what?
Since Dirt Stew is bigger, faster and stronger than I am, he carries more gear. This helps to even things out at least slightly, although even if Dirt Stew carried everything and I carried nothing, he would probably still be faster. We like to think of ourselves as a team more than individuals, and we both bring our own strengths. But even though we are a team, we realize that there are circumstances where we may become separated, and we have kept this in mind when splitting gear.
In general each of us carries his or her own food, water, clothes, sleeping bag and pad. Any backup gear is split (i.e. one of us will carry a water filter, while the other carries a bottle with aquamira or bleach). Dirt Stew carries most of the communal items like the tent, first aid kit and “kitchen items” such as our Tupperware container, bowl, and spoons. Dirt Stew will also carry extra water. Dirt Stew’s clothing is naturally also heavier than mine because of his size, and so is his required food and water.
A general rule of thumb that has worked well for us is to have each of us carry the same percentage of our body weight. Since I weigh roughly 2/3 as much as Dirt Stew, I carry roughly 2/3 as much weight as him.
I have put together a gear list for both our Appalachian Trail hike and our intended gear list for our Pacific Crest Trail hike. You will need to scroll down towards the bottom of those pages to see the gear lists. Please feel free to check those out to see in more detail what we each carried. Since the Appalachian Trail was our first thru-hike, we learned a lot about gear choices between that trip and our Pacific Crest Trail hike. We have purchased a lot of new lighter weight gear for our PCT hike.
In general, Dirt Stew carries roughly 5lbs more weigh, but if either one of us gets tired, sluggish, or starts feeling unwell, the other will take weight off of them. We have even gone so far as to carry the other’s entire backpack. There are no absolute rules. Communication is our best tool, and pride is our Achilles heel.