How to Get in Shape for Your First Big Backpacking Trip

back of a long haired young brunette lady with a backpack on her back. She is going for a hike in a sunlit forest.

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail – this couldn’t be more true, especially when it comes to backpacking and especially when it comes to getting in shape. Follow these tips to make sure you’re in tip-top shape and ready for your first backpacking trip this year.

Scout the Trail

Make sure you do your research on where you’re going to be hiking.

Be sure to:

  • Map out your starting and ending points and all the stops in between. This will help you establish how far you’ll be travelling in a day and how much physical preparation you’ll need.
  • Know the area you’re hiking, what the terrain is like and how difficult the trail will be. For your first backpacking trip, taking a bit of an easier trail would be advantageous, but if you want to take on a more difficult trip, be sure to train by running on a lot of hills with steep resistance.
  • Check out websites with reviews for hikes and trails. They may also have packing and preparation tips.
  • Watch the weather, so you know what to expect and whether or not it’s safe to go.

Great Exercises for Getting Your Body in Shape

A long hike isn’t likely something you can just do – you need to train for it physically. Some of the best exercises you can do are ones that engage your whole body.

Here are some examples:

  • Walk or run in the sand and on trails to build strength in your knees and ankles.
  • Practice squats, lunges and push-ups to build muscular strength.
  • Keep cardiovascular fitness a priority with walking and jogging to build endurance.
  • Balance and stretch your way to a better range of motion with yoga or pilates.
  • Try climbing stairs and shorter hills to help get used to changes in elevation and steep climbs.

Exercise Routine Tips

Once you have some basic exercises under your belt, it’s time to start building in some daily workout routines that will help you prepare for backpacking.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to build up cardio endurance.

  • Start your HIIT training with a few minutes of stretching and walking up and down stairs or a hill.
  • High intensity exercise for 1 minute, like jumping rope or sprinting.
  • A rest activity like walking for 30 seconds to lower your heart rate.
  • Walk for about five minutes and stretch for a cool down.

Circuit training is a series of exercises performed in a row without resting. Circuit training will help you build up strength for all the hills you’ll be hiking.

Try a simple routine such as this:

  • 12 squats with weight (ideally you should slowly increase the amount of weight)
  • 12-20 pushups (feel free to increase the number of pushups over time as well)
  • 6-10 squat jumps
  • 30 mountain climbs
  • 30 burpees
  • 10 split squats (per leg)

Bring the Right Food to Keep You Going

Without the right foods on your trip, all your prep work won’t do much good. When it comes to packing food for your hiking trip, you want food that’s easy to make and carry and that will keep you energized.

Options could include:

  • Healthy fats: Nuts, seeds and nut butters
  • Sustaining proteins: Cheese, eggs and protein bars
  • Quick calories: Rice, pasta, sandwiches and dried fruits
  • Warm meals: Oatmeal, instant noodles or soup and beans

No matter what you bring along, though, make sure it’s food you enjoy and will want to eat.

Keep Your Pack Light

You don’t want to be weighed down with unnecessary items as you’re trekking up and down mountains and trails. To help keep your pack as light as possible, try:

  • Going for travel-size hygiene products and tools.
  • Comfort is key, choose multi-purpose equipment like a backpack chair from
  • Leaving the razors, perfume and makeup at home.
  • Swapping canned and boxed items for bagged.
  • Limiting the number of cameras and other electronic devices you bring – your eyes are the best way to take it all in.

Let Someone Know Where You’ll Be

Regardless of whether you are going on the trip alone you should always let someone know where you’re going to be on the trail and when you should be there. Providing information to loved ones about your trip and setting up contact points will make it easier for someone to notify the authorities or emergency services if something doesn’t go according to plan, and you can’t call anyone for help.

Enjoy Yourself!

You’re out on an adventure, so remember to have fun! Use the above tips to help you get in shape in preparation for your first backpacking trip – when you have what you need, you’ll be all set to have a memorable and safe excursion.

Author Bio

Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability.

Read Emily’s last post here.

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