As of today, we are 7 weeks out from our annual backpacking trip.  I’ve no idea where we’re going to go yet, though I assume it’ll be somewhere in the Weminuche Wilderness.  It’s possible we may decide to go back to the Maroon-Bells Wilderness, but that area tends to be more crowded… there are just so many decisions to make!


Avalanche Lake is one of several possibilities for this year’s trip.

One decision that’s easy is my latest one to start actually training for this trip.  Last year the only exercise I did before our Big Blue trip was mountain biking.  While that may sound like a great way to strengthen one’s legs, it’s not the same as hiking. During the first two days of our trip, my legs just plain hurt. They weren’t just a little sore–they were achy.  I hadn’t hiked much at all before the trip, and I certainly hadn’t hiked carrying any significant amount of weight.

This year, I am vowing to do things differently.  I want to get to camp and still have energy to hike around to a nearby waterfall or up to a view point.  I want to not spend evenings downing ibuprofen because my legs hurt so much.  So I’ve devised the following plan.  Feel free to use it yourself when prepping for your next trip, or create your own!  Either way, being prepared will save us all a little pain in the long run.

Tomorrow, May 17, I’ve already got the first hike of the season planned. It’s hard to take a break from biking, but I know in the long run it’ll be worth it.

Every week starting May 18:

2 lunchtime hikes of about 45 minutes each.  These will not involve much weight, but will just be to get my legs back in the habit of hiking.  One the days that I don’t take lunchtime hikes I plan to continue biking to work.  Between the two I should be able to strengthen my hiking muscles but not get too sore in the process (that’s my theory anyway).

Weekend of May 24-25:

One longer hike of 6-8 miles with 10-15 lbs of weight.  This hike, and subsequent weekend hikes, will be to get used to carrying weight again and to test out my pack.  I’m wavering between keeping the old one or getting a new one, and these trips will help me decide.


The REI Ridgeline has been with me since my first backpacking trip in 2008. Is it time for an upgrade?

Weekend of May 31-1:

I plan to increase my hike mileage to 8-10 miles.  This is more than we’ll ever hike in a day on our actual trip, but we may encounter more hills, deadfall, and tricky sections that will require my legs to be extra strong.  So the extra length will be a good thing.  My pack will have 15-20 lbs in it for this hike.


This Devil’s Canyon hike is definitely on the list of weekend hikes. The area is filled with trails, so you can make as long or as short a hike as you like. This cabin is at the turn around point for a 6 mile round trip hike.

Weekend of June 7-8:

This weekend I’d love to do an overnight backpack trip.  There are several places we could go just for an overnight trip, like the Kannah Creek Trail, Rattlesnake Arches, or Dominguez Canyon.  Whether any of that will happen or not is another thing entirely.  Suffice it to say that I want to get in one more long hike this weekend with 20-25 lbs.

At this point I’ll need to make a decision about the backpack.  If I’m going to order a new one it will be the Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 SL Pack or a similar Deuter product.  I tried one on a few weeks ago, so I know I like the fit.  The only question now is if it’s a necessity.  If, by this hike, my current backpack just isn’t cutting it as far as cushioning my shoulders and hips and appropriately distributing weight, then it’ll be time to order this new one.

Weekend of June 14-15:

This will be an “off” weekend for hiking.  By now my legs will be a little more used to hiking and, especially, hiking with added weight.

Weekend of June 21-22: 

This will be my final weekend hike before our trip.  While there will probably be one more weekend available, that one will be spent prepping for the trip and getting in a final mountain bike ride.

I’m a planner.  I think it’s good to set a plan for my backpack training and stick to it as much as possible.  You may not need to plan hikes–perhaps you already do plenty of them! Or maybe you’re like my significant other: he never needs to prep.  He handles the hikes just fine without training for them.  BUT if you’re like me and you want to avoid the pain of suddenly hiking with 30 lbs on your back for the first time in a year, stick to a plan like mine!

# Comments

  • mtbgreg1

    That’s a great plan! I know personally I get frustrated when I go on trips with people who seem to think they can get off the couch in the Midwest after doing nothing for months, fly to Colorado, and then keep up with an active native doing strenuous exercise at 10,000 feet. It just ain’t going to happen…

    And yeah, that oddly specific example may have happened not too long ago 😉

    For me, even though I now live in a place like Colorado, I’ll still train for trips that I know will really put a toll on my body, and then taper before the trip, basically like I would if I was doing a race. That’s the best way to be fit, rested, and prepared to get the most enjoyment out of your experience!

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