Hi, I’m new to the forum and new to backcountry backpacking. My husband and I are doing a 4 night backcountry trip to Yosemite in a few months. Since this is our first trip, we booked through a tour company that provides a guide and our equipment (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, etc). We start our trip up Yosemite Falls Trail, which from what I understand is about a 5 mile hike at a 10-12% grade via switchbacks. We are both athletic (runners/cyclists/lifting) and are actively training, but I’m a little anxious about how carrying a weighted backpack will feel.
My question is about training with a weighted backpack. Since this is our first experience and the company is providing our backpacks, what is the best way to train for carrying a weighted backpack? We were told the packs will be 32-40lbs. Since they are proving the packs and we aren’t sure if we’ll enjoy backcountry backpacking yet, we don’t want to invest in an expensive backpack just for training. We’ve also heard that putting weight in a regular backpack (like a school bag type pack) could cause injury to your back and shoulders. Does anyone have a recommendation on a good way to train for the weight? I would be willing to spend some money on a cheaper backpack, understanding that you get what you pay for, but I’m not sure what to look for in terms of size, fitting, brand, etc. Then, if we decided we will be doing more hiking in the future we could upgrade. We have a few steep hills in the area but they are very short, so we plan to add in hikes up and down stadium stairs and on an inclined treadmill.
Thank you for your help. We really appreciate any advice you have for us!
It would be hard to find a cheap frameless backpack that would comfortably carry 30-40 lbs. I think the injury risk is overreacting for training. If it becomes uncomfortable, take it off. It is good to do some training with weight. Start with what you got and see how it goes. You can often find old external framed packs at St. Vinney's
*edit: forgot to add.... Just get some weight on your shoulders and head to the Kettles or Holy Hill and see how you do. It is definitely harder hiking up hills with extra weight, but you are not going that far. If you are in shape you shouldn't have too much of a problem. Just slow down and take your time.
Loc: Central Illinois near Springfi...
I've hauled packs of rocks around before. I was collecting glacier rocks for landscaping. Rocks are way too dense for training. Just a few cobbles will add a lot of weight to a pack and it probably won't ride right. I used an old military medium ALICE pack and frame, partly because it was cheap, but also because I figured that the military bag would handle the rock without bursting a seam. When I want to train with a pack, I usually carry a bag of dog food or bird seed. Bird seed makes good canoe ballast, but it's actually a bit dense for pack weight. Dog or cat food is fairly dense, but not overly so and a bag of it is somewhat rigid, but conformable. I would start with one or two 10 pound bags and more as I felt I could handle it.
Loc: Washington State, King County
IMO the best thing to carry in "weighted" training is bottles of water. Carry the water on flat and uphill ground, if/when you get to the top of something and are coming back down --- pour a lot of it OUT to save your knees on the descent.
I am not a fan of "weighted training". Rather strengthen your back muscles, work on core strength, and learn to properly use trekking poles. If you run you know about pace. Same concept for backpacking.
The difference in walking up a steep long hill w/o a pack and with a pack is more a matter of pace. A slow steady pace is best. Take a step forward, shift your body weight over the uphill foot, take a split-second rest, lift up your downhill foot and place above, repeat, repeat, repeat. Let your breathing determine the pace. Never get totally winded. A good guide should teach you proper pacing. Poor guides run up the hill to simply show their own abilities. Never feel compelled to go too fast. If the guide wants you to go faster, he can take some of your weight. That is what they are paid to do.
The Yosemite Falls trail is very rocky, has some big steps, and often the rock is covered with sand so you tend to slip. so if you may try practice hiking on a rougher surface than a sidewalk. I think going up is far better than going down this trail.
Can you get the pack they will give you before the trip? That way you can assure that the pack will be comfortable, and if not, have them give you a different pack. Having a well-fitting pack is highly important. Be sure they spend the time adjusting it properly. Most of the weight should be on your hips, not your shoulders. And how you pack it- weight distribution is also critical. They should help you with that too. If not, specifically ask for help.
If you are highly uncomfortable with a backpack, something is not right. It will be work, but should not be painful. Stop and adjust until you get it right.
Thank you all for your great responses! They will be very helpful. We recently realized that my husband still has his Army rucksack so we'll likely experiment with that. I don't know why we didn't think about it before reading your responses.
BZH, it sounds like you know Southern Wisconsin! We plan to do a good portion of our training hikes at the Kettles for sure.
When the weather is good enough (as it is not in New England winter) I carry a Deuter internal frame loaded with bottled water from a store. A case of pint bottles weighs 24 lbs., about what a weekend pack should weigh if can ever get my load down to where it should be. I do one mile when I am somewhat busy, 3 to 5 miles on the rare occasions when I can spare the time. I bicycle when I can and strangely I find I get more of a workout from that than the pack. I do think the pack idea is a good one though.