Never underestimate the importance of who you choose to trip with. I’m sure that all seasoned trippers have (horror) stories about that time that they went out with someone and they weren’t compatible. Finding that right trip partner or group of people, can be challenging but here are some things to consider that will help make for an enjoyable trip.
Will They Be An Asset or a Liability? The first question that I ask myself is “IF something bad happens will this person be an asset or a liability”. This can be a difficult question to answer but it is one that needs to be asked. Let’s look at a scenario. You’re paddling across a windy lake and you dump the canoe. A partner who is an asset will stay calm, assess the situation and react appropriately in a safe manner. A partner who is a liability will increase the danger of this situation.
What Experience Do They Have? What type of experience does this person have? While experience isn’t everything (I’m not advocating that we don’t introduce and educate new people), it’s an important element. Even something as basic as what to bring and how to pack properly can have a big impact on a trip. For people without experience it means that things like their attitude, eagerness to help out and how well you get along with them become even more important.
What Type Of Attitude Do They Have? I am a firm believe that life is about 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. A good trip partner will roll with the punches and remain positive. Would you rather spend a day hiking in the pouring rain with someone who complains about it or someone who is happy to be away from the office?
Do They Possess Good Judgement and Decision Making Skills? It can be quite common to find yourself in a situation that requires some thought and good decision making. Does this person have good decision making skills and judgement or are they reckless and careless. “Oh we’ll be fine, let’s just run the rapids instead of portaging”.
Will They Share In The Workload? Camping and all of the associated activities can be hard work. Some people just don’t like hard work and will do anything to get out of it. This is not a quality that makes for a good trip partner. Camp chores should be evenly divided within the group. This isn’t to say that people can’t specialize in one skill or another, just make certain that everyone is helping out. A classic example is that if you make dinner, someone else does the dishes.
Do They Have Complimentary Skillsets? Rarely is someone the master of all bushcraft skills. It is important that you find a tripping partner that compliments your skills. It’s great if you are both wonderful cooks, but if you can’t build a fire under tough conditions it can mean a less than enjoyable trip.
Are They Strong Communicators? Do you and your prospective partner have similar communication styles? It is easy to communicate with them or is it a source of frustration. Communication will not only be important while you’re in the woods, but also during the planning process. To put it into practical terms think of this phrase coming from your partner “I thought that you were bringing the tent.”
Do You Have Similar Routines? Having a tripping partner that has similar routines to yours is essential. If you’re with the sun and they sleep until 10am, you’ve got a problem.
Are They Reliable? A lot of effort can go into trip planning and you want to ensure that the people that you travel with are reliable. Having someone back out last minute can render all of that planning useless. Or perhaps they are always late and they put the trip behind by an hour as your wait for them. This can also have a big impact on the trip.
Can You Get Along? Will you be able to spend a lengthy period of time with this person? Will they get on your nerves? Does their endless chattering annoying you or is conversation forced and awkward? These are all good questions to ask as you will likely only be interacting with this person for the duration of your trip.
Recognize that you likely won't find the perfect trip partner out there. It would be unusual for someone to 'check' all of these boxes, but for what it's worth the person's attitude is likely the single biggest factor in a good partner.