Training for Backpacking

My goal is to be able to gain the ability to walk at least 10 hours in one day with a backpack on the AT, and camp for the night.
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  • aub6689
    aub6689 Posts: 351 Member
    What is your current program or fitness level?
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    Trail walking, hiking, jogging, yoga type exercises. Building up more distance and stamina each day. Finding new interesting trails to explore and challenge myself with. My main objective is to spend time outside in the fresh air, and to remain healthy and active.
  • aub6689
    aub6689 Posts: 351 Member
    Do you have a goal for how many miles you wish to cover in the 10 hours or a pace? I would say what you are doing is good, but I'd add a weighted vest to mimic packing an overnight pack or add your pack itself to your training.
    I find 10 hours hiking can be remarkably different depending on how strenuous the section of trail is, pace, weather, and weight carried. Coming up with a more detailed plan of what your goal hike looks like could help you think of all factors --weight of pack influenced by carrying water? additional needs for extreme temperatures? etc.?--and those factors should really shape your training.
  • juliet3455
    juliet3455 Posts: 3,015 Member
    @rose_a_lind 10 hours seems like a very ambitious goal - even for experienced backpackers.
    So I have to ask - What is your existing experience with Long Distance Backpacking?
    What is your Longest Trip distance?
    What is the Maximum number of days you have spent in a trip?

    Rather than Time you should focus on miles/km's between campsites and plan-schedule-focus around them.
    Nothing worse than being between camp sites with no water source/shelter. ie trapped at elevation in the dark.
    Elevation changes - terrain/trail conditions will ultimately dictate how much you can do in a day.
    20 miles with no big elevation changes is a lot easier than 5 miles with elevation gains/losses.
    As the number of days in the trip extends out you start to get tired and are able to cover less miles.
    I have never carried my bag for more than 6-7 hours ( 8 absolute max ) and that was usually a long hard day.
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    Thank you. Yes, that is the kind of helpful advice I can use. I don't have my backpack yet. I am practicing with a lighter daypack only filled to 15 lbs for short day trips. I also haven't bought my water bladder yet. I am breaking in a new pair of shoes and had a couple of blisters on my heels over the weekend. I did about 6 miles today on slight hills. Here in Mississippi temperatures get pretty hot and humid in the summer so I expect to cut back on my daily runs in June. Hopefully I will be ready for a trip to Georgia then.
  • whmscll
    whmscll Posts: 2,254 Member
    You need to go somewhere you can hike steep trails with weight on your back at some point during your training. There is a huge difference hiking with weight, and a huge difference hiking steep hills with weight.
  • meritage4
    meritage4 Posts: 1,441 Member
    yes get your backpack and walk with it. Get a good fitting one with an attached rain cover. Consider using hiking poles. Add some hills to your walks (or stairs if no hills arouns)
  • heybales
    heybales Posts: 18,842 Member
    Ambitious goal - that after some point in time will likely take a nose dive to delicate walking attempts for 2 hrs daily on blistered feet.

    I'd suggest get legs used to the mileage too.

    If you are hoping for 1.5-2 miles per hour - than attempt to get that in at least once weekly with walking/jogging routine (merely for aspect of time) - and jogging will help mimic the extra weight on back.
    Don't attempt that 2 days in a row though, 1 to 2 x weekly is enough for joints, tendons, ligaments.
    Muscles will be working for endurance, once they can do it - it's all about recovery so they can do it again tomorrow.
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    I see my mistake now. I meant to say 10 miles, not 10 hours a day. (I was tired last night.) But that is only a short term goal that I set for myself on regular terrain with the full pack, not what I expect to do on a mountain trail. That hasn't been tested yet. Don't worry, this is for fun! I have the book "Trail Tested" by Justin Lighter, for tips from an expert. (He does say to start training with an empty pack.) This weekend I have an easy Tanglefoot Trail to work on building up my distance and speed. Memorial weekend will be an overnight camp on a back country trail to test my endurance and my gear. After that, Cumberland National Seashore in Georgia. June, the AT in Georgia, or, visiting family near the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then, the Berkshires of Massachusetts to see my mother. And finally, the high point, at the end of August, is several weeks in my home state of Maine....plenty of opportunities for testing myself on hiking trails.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,970 Member
    Thank you. Yes, that is the kind of helpful advice I can use. I don't have my backpack yet. I am practicing with a lighter daypack only filled to 15 lbs for short day trips. I also haven't bought my water bladder yet. I am breaking in a new pair of shoes and had a couple of blisters on my heels over the weekend. I did about 6 miles today on slight hills. Here in Mississippi temperatures get pretty hot and humid in the summer so I expect to cut back on my daily runs in June. Hopefully I will be ready for a trip to Georgia then.

    If you're in Mississippi how/why did you choose the AT? I'd be much, much more inclined to hike the PCT, CDT, or PNWT.

    I'd figure out what gear you'll bring now and then start acquiring and carrying it. You won't just be walking, you'll be doing it with a heavy pack, and how it contours to your back and how it carries the weight will be very important, also very different from walking around with a day pack. Plus, the lighter your gear, the less burden on your hips and back.

    I use a backpacking down quilt from ZPacks because it weighs so much less than a sleeping bag, it's also more comfortable. I use a solo tent, it's heavier than a tarp but I like the bug protection. I use a Sawyer Mini because it's one of the lightest water filters around, and reliable. And a NeoAir XTherm to sleep on; it's not as comfortable as other mats but it doesn't weigh much and is very insulated.
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    Thank you, I will check out these products.

    What can I say? It has been a life long dream to explore the Appalachians, but I am also interested in discovering other trails. I grow up in Maine and have climbed mountain trails such as at Grafton Notch, and even once climbed Table Rock Mt in my barefeet.
  • CindyFooWho
    CindyFooWho Posts: 179 Member
    edited May 2016
    If this were me (and I'd love for it to be me someday) I would also do plain old weight training in the gym, focusing on legs and especially back. Definitely I'd strengthen my back. All day hiking with a heavy pack, then sleeping on the ground.... I'd think you'll need a pretty reliable core.

    Have fun!!
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    edited May 2016
    :) thank you, Cindy! Yes, when it begins to be too hot here then I will be forced inside to work out :'( ,but right now I am enjoying the exercise in the fresh air. I also like to get out there at 5 am. (But not every morning! :o )
  • TrailNurse
    TrailNurse Posts: 359 Member
    Weight training and either a weighted vest walking around town or smaller hikes with the same loaded backpack that you will be using on the AT.

    Mole skin for the blisters and cut everything down to ultra light. Toothpaste on wax paper. Cut your toothbrush down to a tiny handle. Lightweight tent and minimal clothing. There are AT journals online that you can read and they have great tips for ultra light hikers.
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    In the book, Trail Tested, Justin Lighter has ultra light gear lists for different seasons, different environments. Looking at the list for summer on the East Coast I see he does not pack a change of clothes. Only extra socks, plus rain jacket and wind pants.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,970 Member
    Have you done any backpacking before? If not, go camping near the car but only with items you can fit into your backpack. If you have any kind of trouble (mostly I'm thinking of being too cold at night) it'll be easy to get in your car and drive home. Then find somewhere you can hike a very short distance, for the same reason.

    I almost never carry a change of clothes when I do it. At most I'll hike in a short sleeve (wool) T and pack a long sleeve one. I also bring a goretex jacket for wind and rain, and either a down or synthetic one for warmth depending on the forecast and whether I'm heading to a rainy place or not. I'm going to get my clothes dirty and need to carry enough other things that I just won't shoulder the weight. Sounds like you've got a pretty good guide to all of this; just try to test your knowledge occasionally because for example some people sleep warm and some sleep cold.

    Have you found the website BackpackingLight?

    Do you have a barometer?
  • Ws2016
    Ws2016 Posts: 432 Member
    My goal is to be able to gain the ability to walk at least 10 hours in one day with a backpack on the AT, and camp for the night.

    How many days out are you planning? If you're in any shape at all, after about 4 days you'll find your pace and strength.
  • rose_a_lind
    rose_a_lind Posts: 41 Member
    I have experienced camping, traveling light, and hiking without the big Pack. I want to learn to rely on using Transit instead of my own transportation in between areas such Day Hiker style. Most of the places I wil travel to this summer I have relatives in the area.

    The big pack on the AT will be a new experience. I am planning on starting out slow with short trips. And yes, the Tanglefoot Trail is near a campground, but now thunderstorms and 90% chance of rain overnight is predicted. It will have to be a 1 day hike this time. The Cumberland National Seashore is on a Island, no cars allowed. Two options for camping: short hike to Sea Camp on the beach, or longer hikes to Back Country Camps where theres no water. This will be only one overnight. I don't know yet how long the AT trip will be. Not long, as this first attempt is with my daughter on vacation. She is talking about bringing her dog.

    I will check out that BackpackLight website, thank you!
  • Guns_N_Buns
    Guns_N_Buns Posts: 1,899 Member
    I've hiked the PCT, so I can be a bit of help, although they differ slightly in elevation gain/loss. I'd also recommend reading 'A Blistered Kind of Love'. This is an account of a couple's experience hiking the PCT. The woman was basically the epitome of a 'NEWB' when it pertained to hiking/camping.

    From personal experience, nothing really prepares you for the trail except for the day prior...and even then, it feels like the previous day didn't condition you for the next. So, with that in mind, do condition your legs; strength, as well as range of motion will be very helpful to prevent torn ligaments/sprains -- which is the most common injury that puts a lot of people out.

    You won't need to carry much water on the AT, so your pack weight won't be crazy, but I would definitely hike some tall peaks right now and get acclimated to weight on your shoulders/hips/back. Oh, and don't fall for those "ultralight" packs...they only 'work' if you're going to be carrying ultralight gear with it, but most people buy them and then stuff them like crazy for a thru-hike (bad idea). For comfort for the long term, I would suggest just a good quality pack; these days, they're everywhere and a lot more supportive than the ultra-lights (you can thank me later). Boots. Make sure you get and try out (break in) some really good boots. REI is pretty good for this, because while on the trail, they'll send you a new pair if you happen to lose or damage the ones you bought. Make sure to buy a size or more larger than your standard size.

    Good luck!
  • Guns_N_Buns
    Guns_N_Buns Posts: 1,899 Member
    And sorry if I went deep in that. I read your OP as if you intend to thru-hike the AT.