There are two types of adventurers – those that go at it alone, and those that love to have mates along for the ride.
The freedom to make your own decisions, having time and space to enjoy your surroundings and the satisfaction of self-reliance are what make tackling an adventure alone so rewarding. But having your mates along adds a voice of reason to your decisions, gives you someone to share both the load and memories with, and also provides security if things go pear-shaped.
Making a case for either is a debate for another day, but for those of us who love to have mates along for the ride, here are some worthwhile considerations to ensure you’re still friends at the end!
Having your mates along can really add to the experience. Photo: Coleman.
Everyday friendship doesn’t always translate
Heading out into the wilderness is always a testing environment to step into. We naturally associate challenges with physical, mental or emotional pressures. But these stresses can easily translate to our relationships as well.
The change of scenery, lack of creature comforts and disconnection from your usual schedule can change the dynamic between you and your best mates.
What I’m trying to say here is to ensure your relationship is ready to handle what a new experience or different environment is about to throw at you.
Make sure your friendship can withstand the adventure. Photo: Ben Trewren.
Test the adventure beforehand
So, you’ve found a mate to tackle an adventure with, and you’ve got a goal in mind. You might be best mates, or you could have only just met. The best way to be sure that you’re ready for your grand plan is to go on a micro-adventure.
Tackle a short 1-2 night adventure that mimics your bigger plans. Pick a similar location and weather conditions. Bring the gear you’re aiming to use, and eat the kind of food that you’re intending to bring. At the end of it, you’ll know whether you’re ready to go firing on all cylinders!
Go on a shorter trip together, to see if you’re ready to tackle a longer one. Photo: Ben Trewren.
Spend time (and money) on the gear
When two or more people commit to an adventure, there is either a clash or lack of gear – both are as problematic as each other. You don’t want to carry two of each item, but you also don’t want to be caught short!
Resolve this by going through the packing list together as a team. It’s really important to establish what is required and who is going to bring what. If gear needs to be bought, decide whether someone will voluntarily buy it and if not – come up with a way of splitting the cost.
Aim to share the responsibility and the load, stick to your plans and you’ll find that it’ll be a massive advantage in the end. Individually you’ll carry less, but collectively – you’ll have access to more!
If you share the gear load, then you’ve got more to work with. Photo: Ben Trewren.
Respect time, space and property
The one sketchy thing about being with others is the challenge to co-exist and share. We all think it’s simple and easy, but is it really? Especially when in the outdoors, many people will value their time and space more than anything else. Furthermore, it can feel a bit uneasy when letting others use gear that’s almost part of your DNA or that you’ve invested money into.
The best advice I can offer to anyone when out on an adventure with others is to never get complacent. Continually exercise respect for others and their gear, read the vibe of how others are feeling and act accordingly. Group cohesion requires a selfless attitude. Apologies can make a world of difference, honest communication can clear the air, and if the gear is damaged or broken, compensation should always be offered (accident or otherwise!).
Teamwork means communication! Photo: Ben Trewren.
Be a team player
There are many reasons why you’re adventuring together. None more so than the fact that it gives you the opportunity to work together.
The physical, mental and emotional support you can offer each other is invaluable, which is why teamwork is so critical. Learn about each other’s strengths, compensate for each other’s weaknesses and embrace the chance to create lifelong memories together. A popular mantra for me is ‘teamwork makes the dream work!’.
Set goals and preferences
When coming together for an adventure, it’s likely that every individual brings their own set of goals and outcomes. Some are driven by the physical challenge, others crave the sense of adventure while some just want a break in their everyday hustle.
Beyond the big picture, there are also the little preferences to consider. These can include morning routines, movement plans, approach to collecting and managing resources, maximising daylight and so much more.
Make sure others have a say on things like rest stops and other movement plans. Photo: Ben Trewren.
Find common ground
What’s important here is to find common ground through mutual understanding and acceptance. Sometimes understanding can’t be taught or communicated, only learnt through experience. I love my mates who understand the finer details of being in the outdoors, whether it’s in a practical way, or when it comes to logical decision making.
It’s that feeling of having a mutual understanding that you both know what needs to be done to achieve a goal. It’s not easy, but when it exists, it’s pretty special.
Weigh up your goals, and consider a compromise
Consider what is critically important to you, and try to always have a reason for your objectives or ideas. That way they’ll be easier to sell, you’ll be more confident, and it will allow your opinion to be heard properly. It will also give everyone the opportunity to flesh out your contributions further.
Analyse whether there is a way to set your goals, and if not, how you can compromise on them. It goes without saying that the best teams will be the ones that can set to achieve the same goal, and respect each other’s preferences as second nature.
Be up for listening, and compromising with your mates. Photo: Ben Trewren.
Put communication first
Above everything else, the most critical thing you can do when adventuring with others is to communicate. It’s no secret that successful relationships are built on communication, especially in unknown and challenging environments. The ability to be open and honest with each other is invaluable. Communication isn’t just talking either, but equally, it’s as much about listening.
From the outset, be prepared to engage in ideas, plans and objectives. Never shy away from adoptions, challenges, emotions. And once the trip is finished, take the time to participate in debriefing, reflecting and coming up with improvements.
Be open to new ideas
The biggest danger here is assumptions… never assume you know what your mates are thinking, wanting or feeling. There’s no harm in asking how someone is going or if they have a better idea that could help. Likewise, don’t expect them to be able to read your mind. When communication breaks down, it’s almost guaranteed that everything else will follow.
Don’t forget to see the bigger picture, and remember why you’re there. Photo: BioLite.
Remember why you’re there
Adventure is designed to be fun. It’s as simple as that. If it’s not fun, then it’s not worth it. This doesn’t mean that every moment has to be beaming with enjoyment. Nor does it mean that adventure isn’t full of challenges and obstacles.
Heck – adventure can sometimes take you through the roughest, darkest and most brutal moments of your life! What matters is that when you reach your goal, you can look at your friends with a sense of pride, and happiness.
That’s why we take mates along – to celebrate goals, reminisce on crazy times with, to yell at each other with when things get rough, to cry together when the emotions run high, but most importantly to reflect on each adventure and think… “that was fun!”
Do you go on trips with your mates, or are you more of a lone wolf?
About the writer...
Currently the Experiential Learning Manager at Youth Inc., the outdoors has always been Ben’s second home. His adventures have taken him to almost every continent in the world. He’s hiked in the United States, mountain biked in Cambodia, 4WD through South Africa, kayaked in Laos, skydived at Uluru, white water rafted in New Zealand and much more. However, nothing beats home where he now gets to live out his passion, bringing young people together for adventure-based learning experiences to help them build a life that is purposeful for them.
Ben is also part of the Snowys staff family, having worked here for a few years as a resident ‘gear guru’. While many say Ben has a poorly developed sense of fear and no idea of the odds against him, he puts his adventures down to the planning and preparation of his gear that he’s bought from Snowys.