Walking together with others can in many ways test your relationships, whether you are out with friends, family, colleagues or your partner. Friction can arise in unpleasant ways when you are exposed to the elements or steep uphill climbs and you need to spend time with tired and hungry people – and all while you may have to also make tough decisions about routes and where to go and where best to pitch a tent.
We all have different personalities – both in life and on the mountain – and how we react under stressful circumstances varies. My best tip is that long before you set foot out on the trail, talk together in advance about different situations that can arise on the trail and decide how you should deal with them. Ie. How you should distribute responsibility and what expectations you have of your time together and of each other. This will come more naturally if you walk with total strangers and new acquaintances, but it is easy in older relationships to “take things for granted” because you have different roles imprinted already. So be extra careful to prepare yourself and your company especially if it happens to be someone you really care about having a good relationship with when you get home – as close friends or a partner. I have seen the beginning of the end to both, which perhaps, could have been avoided beforehand with a good structure that I share today, a few wiser years later. Do not make my mistakes.
4 things to discuss in the group contract
- Resources: Personal resources in the group can be a gold mine for a good hike. Someone may be eager to snap together hilarious walking marches you can sing at mentally challenging parts of the trail. Another might share exciting life stories around the campfire in the evening, while a third might be able to point out all edible plants along the way. Among more material resources, it is good to find out in advance if you can share heavy things such as stoves and tents or whether each person will carry their own to manage themselves.
Routines: Talk through which kind of routines are important to you and what is required of you in the type of terrain where you are going to walk. Is it a calm and easy strait, where the day may unfold at its own pace after a long morning sleep in the tent? Or do you need to walk a certain number of kilometers every day and have strict rest and lunch routines to cope with a demanding stretch? Think about what your purpose is doing this out in nature in the first place and what kind of experience you want.
Roles: The biggest things that require energy on the trail are navigation and cooking. Can you come up with a system that engages everyone in the group but at the same time rotate so that you take turns with different activities? Be responsible for dinner on different days? Someone navigates until lunch and another until the evening camp? What is reasonable for you?
Conflicts: How to solve conflicts that arise on the trail. Think about in which situations a conflict could arise and how you react under pressure. Does anyone become particularly angry when it has been a long time between meals? Who grits their teeth and becomes silent when the uphill stretches feel demanding? What can you do to show consideration towards each other? How do you act on the unexpected events? What if someone is injured or you do not agree on the road choice? Who wants to win then?
If you want to read more about outdoor self-confidence, group dynamics, how to walk along with others and different tips and tricks to prepare for a safe and lovely hike, you can read more in my book Vandra från Natur och Kultur (Hike from Nature and Culture).