Hiking is a great pastime, it is especially fun with friends and family. How do you make hiking enjoyable for someone that has never hiked before and you want to have fun on the experience? After all, hiking rarely goes to plan, and there is always a bit of uncomfortableness to the trip. We enjoy hiking for these reasons, the challenge, the trials, we want to experience these things and we hike for the adventure. But what if we are taking a new hiker, how do we keep the experience tolerable and to their comfort level.
The lessons that I am going to go over today are ones that I learned the hard way. Through a lot of frustration, tears and patience from my wife we have learned how to hike together, but I did not make it easy. While I grew up in the mountains, hiking, camping, you name it. She did not and the learning curve for me to learn how to hike with her was steep. Here are the lessons that I learned.
- Start small
- Start easy
- Make it pretty
- Plan something fun
- Make it light
- Listen to their concerns
- Get feedback afterwards
While we may be used to bigger mileages and like to obtain them while hiking, this is not the trip for this. You want to curb your desire to see what is over that next ridge and fall back with your partner. Remember that they came to hike with YOU.
This, as with many of these other tips, I failed at the first time. My wife is a saint and she was just dating me at the time, why she stuck around with me after our first couple of camping trips I’ll never know, but once I learned to curb back my wants on these trips and go slower for her, the trips got immensely enjoyable for the both of us.
Again, I am an idiot and my wife is a saint. Do not have a hike that goes along a mountain face, on a tiny game trail, in shale. Pick a trail that has small elevation changes, is well marked, and is well developed. After our first couple of hiking trips my wife was torn between thinking I was either slightly insane, or I was just a fool. Either way I almost ruined hiking for her until I got smart and calmed down a little bit.
This is not a hike to see what trouble you can get into. This is an introductory hike. Keep it simple and easy. You don’t need to clime K2 for your first adventure.
Make it Pretty
The better the views and the more you stop to enjoy them, the more that they will remember the scenery and less about the hike to get there. Especially if you make the hike easy, they won’t remember the hike at all, just the beautiful waterfall you took them to. It took me two years to figure this one out (I am a slow learner). We did a small hike to a waterfall with a small pond. This hike wasn’t the greatest of views on the trail, but the destination is worth it. This hike is one of my wife’s favorites.
Plan Something Fun
I try to plan the end of the hike to include a picnic or a swim, or something like that. I make it a surprise (my wife loves those), this adds to the reward for her. If you have a reward like this at the end of the hike it makes it seem all the more worthwhile. It doesn’t have to be much either. You don’t have to pack a whole picnic basket with you, just a small gesture is enough to make it special.
Make it Light
This is the one thing that I have actually done right from the get-go. Make their pack light. Take on a lot of their weight. I have my wife’s base weight around ten pounds at the most. For day hikes it is around 3-5 pounds. This makes her hiking easier and much more enjoyable. Be prepared to carry most of the gear. All the stuff that you normally split up fuel, shelter, food, etc. be expecting to carry on your own this time.
Listen to Their Concerns
This is important before, during and after the hike. Before is normally answered with “you’ll be fine”, and for most cases this is true. Especially during the hiking however, you need to make sure that you are addressing their concerns. Don’t just say “you’ll be fine” during the hike. (This may have been done by a certain idiot that is involved in this post).
Stop, address their complaint, blisters, thirst, hunger, whatever it is take care of it. The sooner that you fix the problem the easier that they will accept change or the next hardship. If you allow problems to build, they become straws on a camel’s back, eventually it becomes one too many.
Get Feedback Afterwards
After the hike, ask your partner what they liked about the hike and what they didn’t. Don’t be offended, take the criticism and be willing to change the next hiking trip off of their feedback. Remember that you want them to go back out with you again, so be willing to hear them out.
Ask questions, figure out if the distance and the terrain was challenging enough or if they are ready for something harder. Ask them what they thought of the views, the weight that they were carrying, everything about the trip. Even if you don’t necessary like the answer, you can use their feedback to do better next time. Remember that these hikes are not about you.
Hiking as a couple can be a great experience or it can ruin a relationship. If you want to keep your loved one as a hiking partner, learn from my mistakes and do the right things the first time. Follow these 7 tips for taking your loved one hiking for the first time and you will have a much happier car ride home than I did.