Michelle Waitzman is the author of Sex in a Tent: A Wild Couple’s Guide to Getting Naughty in Nature. It’s a fun and sexy, but also practical guide for couples who like to explore the wilderness together. She also has an outdoors blog called Love in a Tent, which she writes from her home in Wellington, New Zealand. Michelle is our fourth guest poster on the topic Hiking Gear - What are the basics to get started?
Since you’ve already had some great general advice in previous posts, I’ll stick with my area of expertise – couples.
Since Megan says that both she and her partner are new to the wilderness, they’ll be buying gear at the same time. This is great, because they can buy compatible stuff, and avoid doubling up on things like tents, stoves, pots and other items that you only need one of for the two of you.
There are a few areas where I think couples have slightly different needs than singles:
Sleeping bags: Since you’re both buying them at the same time, try finding a left-opening and a right-opening version of the same bag. That way you should be able to zip the bags together to create one double-sized bag. You can then choose to sleep cuddled up in your double, or to each zip up separately into single bags.
Sleeping pads: If you are sleeping together in one big bag, you may find that your sleeping pads tend to drift apart during the night (especially if there’s a lot of movement going on) and leave you lying on the cold floor of the tent. A couple of manufacturers (including Therm-a-rest) have started selling “couplers” that attach two pads together so they won’t slide. You can also easily make your own. Just get a length of elastic cord (flat if possible) and make two loops, each just large enough to slide around the width of your sleeping pad. Sew or safety pin the two loops together like a figure 8. After inflating your pads (if using inflated pads) slide one pad into each loop and presto – your mattresses are held side-by-side.
Michelle and her partner completing the St James Valley Walk Way in New Zealand
Tent: Find one with good ventilation. There is always a need to let condensation escape during the night, but if a couple is in there doing some heavy breathing, it can get steamier than usual! Also, look for a tent with two doors, so that either of you can slip out for a late-night pee without climbing over your partner and waking him or her up. Couples can often get away with a slightly smaller (and hopefully lighter) tent than other people sharing a two-person, because they don’t mind sleeping nice and close to each other. I’ve even heard of couples sharing a one-person tent, but unless you’re hard-core lightweight walkers, I wouldn’t take it to that extreme.
Backpacks: Matching sleeping bags are great, but matching backpacks are not! Most manufacturers are finally making different harnesses for men and women. The women’s harnesses are narrower in the shoulders, have straps that are shaped to allow for breasts and not squish them, and have shorter torso lengths. Some also have a more flared shape for the hip belt. It’s crucial to try on any backpack in the shop, and fill it with heavy items to test how comfortable it is. Adjust the harness and various straps to fit you, and get the salesperson to help. (If the salesperson doesn’t know how to do this, go somewhere else!) Also, get the right size for your needs. In an ideal world, it’s best to buy your packs last, so you can try packing all of your other gear into them, and return them to the shop if they aren’t big enough. (Or start deciding with gear you should return!) Generally, bigger people can carry more weight, so don’t assume you should both have the same capacity pack if you are different in size.
Good luck with your adventures!
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Hiking gear - what are the basics to get started?