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The 5 Best Exercises To Train For Backpacking Season

A little preparation goes a long way on the trail.

By: Anna Cohen + Save to a List

Backpacking season is nearly upon us and it's never too early to start getting your body trained and conditioned. Sometimes it is quite the rude awakening when you hit the trail for the first time after a long winter and spring. Hiking over uneven terrain can be tough, and adding a 50+ pound backpack to the mix can be downright HARD. If you want to be sure you are feeling strong and agile for your first backpacking trip of the season, try these five exercises. They can be done anywhere - even your living room!

Photo: Jason Zabriskie

1. Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your knees in line with your ankles, bend at your knees and sit back as if you are sitting into a low chair behind you. Keep your chest open and upright. Then, driving your weight into your heels, stand back up, squeezing your glutes as you come up. Do 20 reps to start out with. Do more if you can, but twenty a day is a great place to start. Squats will help build up your leg muscles, and strong legs are a must for backpacking. Bonus: Add some weight! Hold a kettle bell or dumbbell while you perform your squats to increase the resistance.

2. Mountain Climbers

The name says it all! What better way to get in shape for climbing a mountain than by doing something called a “mountain climber”? Here’s what you do: get into a high plank position with your hands positioned in line with your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Bring your right knee up to your chest. Then, return it to plank position. That’s one rep. Repeat with your left knee, using your core to bring it to your chest. Place it back by your right foot. Repeat, as fast as you can, alternating bringing each knee to your chest. Do twenty reps, or as many as you can! This is a great burst of cardio which will help get your lungs and heart ready for backpacking. It is also great for strengthening your core, which is important for carrying that heavy pack.

Photo: Nick Lake

3. Burpee With a Jump Tuck

This may sound like hell, but trust me - it will get your whole body ready for trekking in the backcountry. Start in a plank position. Jump your feet in to meet your hands. Stand up and do a jump tuck. To do a jump tuck, jump straight up into the air and bring your knees up to meet your elbows. Land softly, bend down and place your hands on the ground just in front of your feet, shoulder width apart, and jump your feet back into a plank position. That’s one rep. Complete twenty reps, or as many as you can. It will burn. You will feel this in every part of your body. This move will strengthen your core, your legs, and your arms, AND you will get some cardio in!

4. Bent Over Rear Flies

This move is great for strengthening your upper back and your shoulders. Grab dumbbells if you have them and hold one in each hand. Bend over slightly at the waist, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Hold your dumbbells in front of you right below your shoulders. Pull the weights back, bringing your shoulder blades together behind you and keeping your arms outstretched with a slight bend at the elbow. Then return the weights back down in front of you. That’s one rep. Repeat twenty reps or as many as you can. This will help get your upper back ready for that pack!

5. Half Moon Lunges

Bringing the focus back to those big muscles in your legs, lunges will help strengthen your quads for those uphill hikes. Stand with your feet together. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand for this if you want to up your game a bit. Step your right foot forward and perform a forward lunge. Then step your right foot back to meet your left again. Next, step your right foot to the right and perform a side lunge. Bring your right foot back to meet your left. Then, step your right foot back behind you and before a back lunge. Bring your right foot forward to meet your left. Repeat on your left side. That’s one rep. Do twenty reps, or as many as you can!

Photo: Nick Lake

Note: Please consult with your doctor before performing any of the above exercises. Use your own judgement to determine if these exercise moves are right for you and for your body. Listen to your body, don’t overdo it. Make modifications if necessary. These are just suggestions.

Cover photo: Nick Lake

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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