Weighted backpack training is almost essential for mountaineering success. Most types of climbing and hiking adventures require you to carry a backpack. If you train with a heavy backpack previous to your trip, you will most likely do better.
I went in and put my bags through the x-ray, forgetting my passport in my bag, causing the poor door guards minor consternation, since I had to go past the gate to collect my passport, but could not pass the gate without one. We got it sorted out, and I went to the check in desk. My completely full backpack was only 14 kg. — Elbrus, My Waterloo (Seven Summits Quest)
Some mountaineers will have a few different backpacks for different conditions. Having one just for weighted backpack training probably won’t work for everyone. If you use the one you will be using for your trip, you will have a chance to work out any bugs or fitting issues. Begin with an empty backpack, with just an old pillow stuck in to keep it stable in use.
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Over time you can add more and more weight as you improve endurance and strength. For my weighted backpack training I use bags of rice, since we usually have a few in the pantry. I double bag them in the disposable thin plastic shopping bags in case the paper rips. The rice is very close to the same density and feel as other backpacking gear. Slide it in near your back, and stuff another pillow between the rice (or beans, wheat, etc.) and the outside of the backpack. This will keep it from moving around while in motion.
When you get past 40 pounds or so, you’ll probably want to use something with more density. Unless you get a lot of rice or beans or get the 50 pound sacks if you can. Some people use gallon jugs of water. If you do a lot of weight training and have them handy and available, you can use weights. Steel plates, kettle bells, dumbbells, are all excellent additions to your weighted backpack training loads. Pad them well with pillows since they will have more inertia when you jostle in training. Just be very careful when setting the bag down. Dropping a ten pound bag of rice on your toe is very different from dropping a ten pound kettle bell on your toe.
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If you have access to cardio machines, and it’s okay to use them for weighted backpack training, start slowly and be careful. Some machines, like the Jacob’s Ladder, can put your back at a dangerous angle. You might not be able to use as much weight on it. I like the Incline Treadmill the best, and just go steady and slow. I love the elliptical machines too, as it reduces greatly the impact you’ll feel while still providing a great leg workout. Set the resistance up high and go slow. This is more realistic for steep hiking. Stairmasters work good, and again, go slow. Also be sure you know how much you and the pack weighs so you can set it correctly. Most gyms have a scale that should go up to your weight plus the backpack.
Weighted Backpack Training Outside
Some people can just toss 24 pounds of rice in a backpack and walk 3 or 4 miles every day in their neighborhood. That’s probably good enough for most people and adventures, and it’s a great scenic workout. Some people can do a lot of hill climbing, or better yet, steep mountain trail ascents. If that’s the case consider using gallon jugs of water for weight. At the top you can dump the water on a handy needy shrub. This lightens the load to protect your knees on the downhill.
Weighted Backpack Training – What’s in the 60 lb pack?
Weighted Backpack Training Warnings
- Don’t try so much to improve your speed and resistance. That’s nice and all, but your first priority in weighted backpack training is to increase the weight of the backpack. You can train up to a weight much higher than your anticipated on-mountain weight. This will make all your climbing feel a lot easier in general.
- Be very careful and go slow. Putting on a heavy backpack can be difficult and a strain on back muscles that can cause damage or worse. If you start with a light pack and work your way up, you should be strong enough for each increase.
- If you try to put your backpack on and just can’t do it, maybe that’s not the session for weighted backpack training. Relax and do something else.
- Weighted backpack training is good for your core, but don’t try too hard. It’s potentially a lot of weight in a strange place at strange angles. Avoid hanging on for your life. If you have to, it means you have the machine set too fast.
- In fact, mix it up. Do different machines, at different angles, at different speeds. Most hiking trails are a combination of things anyway. Try to avoid downhill under heavy load, just for knee and back safety.
- I wear a tech tee under a cotton tee to provide resistance to the abrasion of the straps.
Good luck, and train safe. Only do what you are capable of safely.