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How do you prepare (physically) for backpacking

What do you do in terms of exercise to prepare for your backpacking trip.
10 years ago, July 17th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #79992  
N Posts: 23
Hello Everyone,
On with more questions and a mini poll. 😊
I was wondering what people do to prepare for the physical strain of their backpacking trip. This includes, but isnt limited to simple exercise, it could involve other things such as wearing your backpack around for a week or so before you leave etc. I consulted a website recently for women travelling alone where the writer suggested that women travelling alone on long backpacking trips should try lifting weights and building up stamina by hitting the gym a few months ahead of time.
I know there's a lot of experienced backpackers here, so I was wondering what you have done to prepare physically for your trip. I'm a nerd during the year so i do a lot of sitting, eating, reading, and i basically live the life of a monk. In order to prepare for my upcomign trip i've started putting in 5 nights a week at the gym and lifting weights like this writer suggested. Is this enough or really just unnecessary (in terms of backpacking only, because I'm sure its necessary it terms of living an overall healthy lifestyle)? Reply to this

10 years ago, July 17th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #80006  
I'm not an expert, but I've always believed that exercises that more closely incorporate everyday movements are best for most everything. To that end, running, lunges, squats for the legs. A series of core exercises (choose from the myriad of sit-up/crunch style exercises), push ups/pull ups for upper body strength. If you're close to hiking areas throw some sort of weight in your pack and go for a hike.

How heavy will your pack be? Reply to this

10 years ago, July 18th 2009 No: 3 Msg: #80012  
N Posts: 1
Hello everyone. Nice to meet you all.

Reply to this

10 years ago, July 18th 2009 No: 4 Msg: #80044  
Hello Denise 😊

I dont think it is all that physically straining, appart from the jet lag. But, I am quite physcially fit anyway so some walking instead of taking a bus or taxi etc is not too much for me.

I also travel light which makes carrying luggage easier.

I consulted a website recently for women travelling alone where the writer suggested that women travelling alone on long backpacking trips should try lifting weights and building up stamina by hitting the gym a few months ahead of time.

No need to turn backpacking into some complicated science. Just buy a small, inexpensive backpack and get out there and see the world. I think people often make it way more complicated than it needs to be, with their equipment and their clothes and now a pre backpacking exercise regime.

I'm a nerd during the year so i do a lot of sitting, eating, reading, and i basically live the life of a monk.

That is also what some people are like while they are travelling.

Mel Reply to this

10 years ago, July 19th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #80125  
Hi There

I guess it depends where you are going and what you want to do e.g. if you plan to climb etc. I was not very fit before I went backpacking and I did not prepare myself physically at all. At the beginning it was tough to carry the backpack especially in the heat but I got stronger after a short while and the backpack became lighter 😊. I generally became fitter as we were doing a lot of activities compared to sitting in an office the whole day.

Being unfit can mean that you are not able to do certain things safely such as joining a physically demanding tour etc. I think that the most important thing is that you listen to your body and rest when necessary as there is a risk to collapse or injure yourself otherwise. I once felt a bit unwell during a climb up a volcano as the guide was running and was trying to force me to follow his pace. I just rested a lot in the shadow and climbed at my own pace despite him being a bit nasty about it.

Just for travelling and carrying the backpack, I don't think it is necessary to get fit at all. However, if you want to do demanding stuff from day one, it might be worth to pack the backpack and go for a walk and see how you feel.

Enjoy your trip
Em Reply to this

10 years ago, July 20th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #80157  
My Auntie insists I should get fit (but I haven't been doing it much) and mentioned that it's worth toughening the skin on the soles of your feet by wiping them with methelated spirits for a week or 2 before leaving. She says it reduces the soreness.

I plan to practice walking for half an hour or so with my full pack on for a couple of weeks beforehand just so I can get a feel for it. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 20th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #80233  
N Posts: 23
Has your aunt tried this? lol maybe it hardens the soles of the feet. That sounds like a good idea! If that works i may just wear my good old shoes on my trip. 😊
Stacey when are you leaving? And to go where? Reply to this

10 years ago, July 21st 2009 No: 8 Msg: #80375  
I plan on getting as fit as I can before I go (in about 2 years time). At the moment I am very unfit and a bit overweight and I imagine this will cause some problems with how comfortable I am in heat, on buses(I have read some of the buses, in China for example, have very small seat/beds), tours etc. If I was to backpack right now in my current shape, I don't think I would be able enjoy it at all because my back would be in a lot of pain for most of the time. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 22nd 2009 No: 9 Msg: #80470  
Well, backpacking can produce a lot of stress to your shoulder(and upper body) that can affect your mood and you don't want that, right? I guess preparing the body in the gym is OK because by the time the real "weight" takes load, your body won't be new to it thus resulting you to maximum enjoyment without feeling the pain in your shoulder... Reply to this

10 years ago, July 23rd 2009 No: 10 Msg: #80684  
B Posts: 20
In answer to your question, I don't prepare physically at all. I travel light (unless doing serious stuff in the mountains) and so there's no need.

If you're thinking of carrying a big load, then I'd suggest you don't! Everyone (including me even now) takes too much stuff and ends up regretting it. In the unlikely event that you really really can't do without something that you've left at home, it shouldn't be too hard to buy something fairly similar locally. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 23rd 2009 No: 11 Msg: #80693  
I agree with Darlow, I always try to minimise what I take but still end up taking extra unneccessary things and regretting it.

People are all different, some don't need to do any training before going backpacking, others could do with a lot. My ex-girlfriend, for example, weighed 47 kilos and wasn't particularly physically fit. When we first started backpacking together she found it almost impossible to carry ANYTHING and I ended up carrying both packs! Reply to this

10 years ago, July 23rd 2009 No: 12 Msg: #80734  
So, in conclusion, to prepare you need to find a strong, fit man to carry your pack and his own.

That's what I do too!

I agree with everyone else. I didn't do anything to prepare for backpacking. I was as fit as I was. You can judge for yourself. You don't carry your pack all the time. You're not a snail (although I'm sure we have all felt like one sometimes!). You wear it from a form of transport - bus/boat/train to the next guesthouse. You take it off. Your back and shoulders hurt. You leave it in the guesthouse while you explore the place you are in, and meanwhile your back recovers (This is the point to get yourself a good massage!). A couple of days later you put it on to move on and you do it all again.

If you are planning some serious trekking - the Everest base camp or similar, then yes, perhaps some sort of preparation is in order. I assume you need a level of cardio vascuar fitness. I've never done it so I wouldn't know.

Otherwise, just go. You'll get used to your backpack in time. Until you are, leave it on the floor or find someone else to carry it.


Reply to this

10 years ago, July 24th 2009 No: 13 Msg: #80821  
B Posts: 212
I agree with a lot of what people are saying here. Unless you're going on long treks where you'll actually be carrying your backpack with you, you'll hardly end up carrying it at all. Maybe the odd occasion if you're looking for somewhere to stay and can't leave your bags anywhere while you do that, but normally you get straight off a train or bus and into a rickshaw/tuk tuk/minibus depending on where it is you're going. In Asia, the tuk tuk drivers will carry your backpack for you if they've parked a little way away. I also second Mell in saying travel light - you might not be inclined to at first because if you're travelling for the first time you might feel that you need all these 'essentials' with you, but you'll soon realise that you don't need very much at all.
Having said this, I have to say that I did end up straining my back and shoulders from my trip, but this was more to do with the way I was lifting my backpack up and putting it down so these are things to be aware of: avoid lifting it up and slinging it just over one shoulder to climb up into a bus/train or to walk a few metres, always put it properly onto your back even if you're only carrying it for a matter of seconds, or else drag it along the ground. It's the small un-thought out movements which cause injury so just be aware of what position your body is in when you're holding/lifting up the backpack. If you need to climb up stairs to get to your room in a guesthouse, ask if there's someone around who can carry it up for you, normally people are very helpful and will want to do this for you - you may need to give a small tip but it's worth it, both for them and for you! Reply to this

10 years ago, July 26th 2009 No: 14 Msg: #80952  
How do I prepare? I don't. You shouldn't. If your backpack is too heavy then dump it! You don't need all that stuff unless you are intending to climb Mount Everest! It's possible to travel with just a small daypack. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 27th 2009 No: 15 Msg: #81024  
I travel as light as possible. We girls usually tend to bring "unnecessary" stuff so try to bring just the really really important ones. And when I noticed that I tire easily, I started going to the gym to build up stamina. Don't overdo the gym thing, I overdid it once and got sick! Evaluate yourself ... how fit are you at the moment 😊 Reply to this

10 years ago, July 27th 2009 No: 16 Msg: #81026  
N Posts: 23
Wow, thanks for the responses.
A lot of people are saying dont overpack, and I'm definitely not going to. When travelling last year i brought a small luggage bag around, the girls that i ended up visiting were shocked. but what i found out was, even though the luggage was a mere carry-on, i didnt even use half of the things i had carried with me. if i stuffed everything that there was in that thing in the backpack that i'm gonna use in europe, it will all definitely fit (backpack is 40l).
Why I started going to the gym though was so that i could get the most out of the day trips around town. Im not going to carry my backpack with me but just a regular purse to go around the towns during the day. NOnetheless, I'm plannign on going to so many different places in a very short period of time, and i think it may be impossible if im not in a good shape. Reading some of the blogs, i've come across people that have chugged coffee during their day trips around the various towns so that they could fit as many sights as possible. the idea is the same. 😊 for me to stay 1 day in a place and then jet off somewhere else, its going to take considerable strength (i think) Reply to this

10 years ago, July 27th 2009 No: 17 Msg: #81068  

Has your aunt tried this? lol maybe it hardens the soles of the feet. Stacey when are you leaving? And to go where?

Yes she's tried it and swears by it! She gave my cousin the same advice and he ignored it. Apparently he wished he hadn't. Hehe.

I'm backpacking Europe starting in September. 3 weeks in Italy, a month in Spain and then 3 weeks in France to start with. Then I'll probably have to find some work. I was going to probably only stay a couple of days in each city I visit. Time isn't an issue for me but funds are and I want to see as much as I can.

I'm quite unfit (and a bit overweight lately) but I figure with all the walking I'm going to do (and all the NOT eating out a lot) I'll get fitter (and thinner) pretty quickly. I'm not going to stress about it. Although I have been seeing a physio and chiropractor regularly and have got some exercises from them which I'm going to be taking with me for my back and knee. If you have any such existing problems then I think it's a good idea to do that. (Chiropractors are very expensive when you always end up seeing a different one and you're not on private health cover for the country you're in! I learned that in England last year and won't be doing it again unless essential.) Reply to this

10 years ago, July 29th 2009 No: 18 Msg: #81315  
B Posts: 102
Spend some time in pubs building up your tolerance... 😉 Reply to this

10 years ago, July 29th 2009 No: 19 Msg: #81423  
B Posts: 602
I am for the pub also LOL

But the HR director here at work has been walking a lot with a pack on to get ready for her trip in the Barb Marshel Wilderness here in Montana. She plans to go for a week and walk what is called "The Great Wall of China" which runs along the continental divide. It is about 26 miles long and very steep. Hopefully she will let me post some pictures of it when she gets back. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 31st 2009 No: 20 Msg: #81712  
Hi there, here's my 2 cents worth. Don't worry so much about the backpacking as mentioned in another response. You put it on to walk from hostel to bus to train to hostel. It's not a problem. The real exercise and stamina is needed for the walking you do in your sightseeing. I have found wandering around a city/town and looking at the scenery can be more physically demanding, especially if it's for most of the day. For training, I suggest to keep up walking everyday with the shoes you will wear for most of the time on the trip.
Have fun! Reply to this

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