Training for Backpacking


The enjoyment received from any physical activity is largely dependent on the shape you’re in. Most of our programs are located in regions above 7,500 feet, and your trip will require hiking over varying terrain in uncertain weather with the load of a backpack.

We cannot stress enough that the fitter you are the more fun you’ll have. We recommend you prepare for your trip with a training program that addresses your fitness needs and works well with your daily routine. Options include:


If you have access to hiking trails and a schedule to accommodate it begin walking and hiking in hilly/steep terrain. Nothing prepares you for a backpacking trip better than the activity itself!

Try to get out at least 3 days a week. Start with short hikes (1-2 hours in length) with a light daypack. From week to week build the length and difficulty of your hikes and gradually increase your pack weight until you’re comfortably able to hike 6-8 hours a day carrying the weight you’ll have on your trip (refer to your trip packet for exact pack weight). Unless you’re in great shape it is ideal to begin your training at least 12 weeks prior to your trip. Also be sure to use the boots you’ll have on your trip to break them in. Following is how a moderate program may look:

Weekly Training ReGimens

Start with a modest amount of training per week:

  • Tuesday: 1-2 hour hike with daypack
  • Thursday: 1-2 hour hike with daypack
  • Sunday: 2-5 hour hike with daypack

Then gradually increase your hiking times and backpack weight to reach and maintain the below regimen. Ideally you will be on this regimen for 2-6 weeks prior to your trip.

  • Monday: 3.5-hour hike with 30-pound pack
  • Wednesday: 2-hour hike with daypack
  • Thursday: 3.5-hour hike with 30-pound pack
  • Sunday: 7-hour hike with the weight you’ll have on your trip

Finally, one week before your trip begins:

  • Cut the regimen in half to avoid arriving fatigued
  • Focus on stretching and staying hydrated


Gym training is not ideal because it promotes short workouts, not the day-long efforts you’ll put in on your trip, and is best used as a supplement to hiking. However, if a hiking routine is not practical the gym may be used for training. Be sure to begin exercising 3 times a week at a minimum for at least 1 hour each time and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.

Activities may include swimming, step aerobics, treadmill, bicycling, or elliptical trainers to name a few. Swimming is a great way to build endurance and cardiovascular fitness and is easy on the joints. A modest weight training program focusing on the muscles that support the ankles, knees, back, and shoulders is also beneficial.


There are many other activities that are easily incorporated into your daily life to supplement the above activities and build your overall fitness. Cross training is also important to strengthen opposing muscle groups and it helps to avoid overuse injuries. Some ideas include:

  • Bike to work or when running errands. Bike around town or on country roads outside of your town/city. Cycling is a great way to build endurance and strength in your legs.
  • Climb the stairs at your office, house, park, or neighborhood with a backpack. Stair climbing is a fantastic way to simulate backpacking in hilly or steep terrain.
  • Yoga and/or Pilates classes can build strength throughout your body while also improving your flexibility.
  • Intramural sports.
  • Walk to work instead of driving. Run your errands by walking and carry your groceries home in a backpack.
  • Jogging is another option, however if you are not a regular runner it can easily lead to injuries that backpacking may then exacerbate. Undertake a jogging routine with care. Other Considerations

Flexibility is an important part of training, remember to stretch before and after your workouts. For the week leading up to your trip cut your workouts in half to avoid arriving fatigued. Also for a 72-hour period before your trip commences, ensure that you are consuming sufficient amounts of sodium and fluids. Doctors agree that hikers increase the likelihood of experiencing problems if they are sodium depleted (e.g., follow a low sodium diet) or are dehydrated (due to travel or using diuretics such as coffee or alcohol).

Important Note: Always consult with your physician before commencing with a workout program.

*Being physically prepared for your backpacking trip is solely your responsibility. Guests who must be evacuated from a trip due to improper physical preparation will not receive any refunds and may be subject to additional expenses related to the evacuation.