Splitting up Gear Among Hiking Partners

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?

Who Should Carry What?

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.

Preparation Angst

I’m kind of going nuts here.  I keep looking at Yogi’s Handbook, and looking at resupply strategies, and looking at the boxes that litter my living room floor wondering how on earth I’m going to make all this come together.  Somehow there is so much more preparation involved with this hike than our AT hike.  I’m not sure if it is because I’m making it more complicated, or because it actually is.

I think there is something particularly daunting about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after hiking the Appalachian Trail.  It has to do with how many miles per day you are used to going on the difficult AT terrain, and how many miles you are expected to cover on the PCT.  I keep winding up with resupply strategies that involve roughly 150 mile sections.  Either I’m going to be hiking 30 miles a day, or I’m going to be carrying a shit ton of food.  Either way, I’m scared.

On top of that, we’re starting in snow, and I have no idea how many miles we’ll be able to do in snow.  The difference between 10 mile days and 15 mile days makes a big difference over 110 miles.

Should I just stop worrying about it so much?

Should I really just stop wasting my time planning and get outside and go for a run so I’m in better shape to do those 30 mile days?

I think it is particularly daunting for us because we’re going southbound, and so we don’t get the luxury of an easy 700 miles to “warm up with”.  We have to plan our resupply’s for Washington State now without knowing what our pace will be, but knowing that we’ll need to move as fast as possible.  Should I just over-pack my resupply boxes just in case?

Also, I really have no concept of how much Dirt Stew is actually going eat.  I feel like I’ve never had a good concept of how much food he needs, even after 6 years.  It doesn’t help that he gets sort of panicked when food is scarce.  The minute he comes home for work he shoves several hands full of peanuts into his mouth.  I have no idea how many calories that is.  Just on a normal day, I’ll cook food for what I think would be good for 5 people, and I eat my portion, and somehow the rest is gone by the end of the evening.

People say that you carry your fears with you.  Literally. Folks afraid of being cold carry too many clothes.  Folks afraid of getting hungry carry too much food.  Folks afraid of getting lost carry maps, a guide book, a GPS and a PLB.  Just take apart someone’s backpack and you’ll find their fears hiding inside.