It's time to get your backpacking fitness on!

A couple of items...

  1. We have changed the time for our Backpacking 101 night on August 26th. We will begin at 6:00 pm at Gravity Coalition in Midway, UT, 269 E. Main Street.

  2. Last week's blog was about shoes. Our Coyote Gulch trip is unique in that we will spend much of the day in and out of the water. This will require a different approach to footwear. Rather than a leather hiking boot, I find a pair of running shoes to be the best type of shoes for this hike. Especially when the weather is warm, I find it easiest to just wear them right in the river, totally soaked all day. They are pretty good at keeping the sand out and protecting your feet. Do NOT wear waterproof shoes on this hike! It will trap water inside the shoe, and they will become heavy and uncomfortable. Also, don't bring your best, brand new trail runners--because they will be completely full of sand and ruined by the end. But, perhaps an older, retired pair with a decent amount of tread remaining. You don't want something totally slick on the bottom either. Scrambling over wet rocks can get slippery. A pair of chacos or tevas can also be a nice option if you are VERY used to hiking in them. Do NOT bring a closed-toe sort of water shoe. The sand and rocks sneak into the toe of them and cause major discomfort. My favorite combo has been a sock/running shoe combo for the sand dune descent. A switch to chacos at the river for camp set up. Back to sock/running shoes for the day #2 hike, and back into chacos for fun time at the waterfalls late that afternoon. I bring both types of shoes and love having the option to switch. With that said, everyone has different preferences!

First of all... Women make AWESOME backpackers! We are well-equipped biologically and physically. We're built for endurance, have a high pain tolerance, store fat better than men, and are stronger in the hips (great for carrying packs!). Perhaps most importantly, as women, we excel at supporting each other, creating a community wherever we are.

We are officially 7 1/2 weeks away from our Coyote Gulch trip. Maybe this is your first backpack? Or maybe just a new destination for you? Having an adventure on the horizon gets all those feel-good chemicals flowing in your brain... Now it's up to you to get your body ready to go! Being physically prepared will set you up to have your most successful experience.

The type of training you'll need to do will depend on a few things: your baseline fitness level, the distance of your backpack trip, the elevation gains, the terrain, weather conditions, and the weight of the pack you'll be carrying.

Coyote Gulch in September is still hot, highs around 90, lows in the low 50s. The first few miles are mostly flat across slick rock and sand, followed by a descent down a huge sand dune to the river bottom of the gulch. Walking in sand requires some hip flexor muscles that you don't always use. Days two and three are also mostly flat, walking in and out of the river. Balance is critical for maneuvering over rocks with a pack. A tolerance to heat will also come in handy! The hike out the final morning is the longest at about 6 miles. Mileage the other days will be slightly less.

As you begin to dial in your training over the next few weeks, keep Coyote Gulch in mind. If you do all of your cardio in the cool of the early morning, a 90-degree day may feel more challenging! Practice hiking with a weighted pack in the heat. Practice hydration and find an electrolyte drink mix you enjoy and tolerate well.

Training Schedule for Backpacking

We adapted this from the REI website. They are a wonderful, free resource for all things outdoors!

Start training 6-8 weeks before you’ll be backpacking. Every week, include the following in any order that works for you:

  • 3 cardio sessions

  • 2 days of strength training

  • 2 rest days

Two weeks before your trip: Change your cardio days to long day hikes (60+ minutes each) with a pack that weighs about 80% of the weight you’ll be carrying on your trip.

  • One or two days prior to your trip: Ease up on all training. REST!


Hiking is the perfect cardio session! Weight a daypack with 10-15 pounds. You don't need to practice any serious elevation gains for this particular trip, just have fun! Plan for one longer hike a week, and a few shorter ones as well. Each week, up your long hike by a mile, so that by two weeks out from our trip (September 8th), you are comfortable with a 5-mile hike.

Biking, swimming, rowing, paddling, etc. are also excellent forms of cardio. Feel free to include anything that makes you smile, but make sure to get your hiking miles in too!

Strength Training Circuit

Perform a strength training circuit two times a week, doing two or three sets of each. The lower body exercises will make elevation changes easier, while the upper body moves will assist in carrying extra weight. Upper back strength is really helpful for carrying the pack and lifting it on and off your back.

Warm up

Always begin with a 5-10 minute warmup. Do whatever you like to do to get your body moving!

Do each of the exercises below. Rest for 30 seconds at the end of each exercise. At the end of the complete circuit, rest for 2 minutes and do in all the way through once more!

Jump Squats

Squats are a staple of many exercise routines because they provide an excellent all-around workout for all of the muscles in the lower body and legs—your body’s backpacking engine. Adding a jump helps develop power in the lower legs.

Props: None

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat down until your thighs are at least parallel with the ground.

  1. Keep your chest up, your feet flat and your knees over your toes.

  2. As you come up from the squat, push through your heels, explode up and jump a few inches off the ground.

  3. Land softly and quietly, and immediately go into another squat.

  4. Do 15-20 times.

Hip Roll Exercise

Most of your backpack weight rides on your hips. This exercise works the glutes and other muscles that support the hips to improve their stability and endurance.

Props: None

Stand on your left leg.

  1. Lean your body forward at your hips, keeping your back straight, and lift your right leg back behind you, slightly off the ground.

  2. Rotate (roll) your hip away from your standing foot.

  3. Keep your body in a straight plane as you roll your hips back.

  4. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.

Tips and modifications: If it’s too hard to balance, hold onto the back of a chair or keep your toes on the ground.

Step Up Exercise

Hiking with a backpack involves a seemingly endless amount of stepping up and over things. This exercise builds strength and endurance in your glutes and quad muscles so you can handle whatever obstacles you’ll encounter along the trail.

Props: A stable surface, about 8 inches off the ground. If you have a training box or an aerobic step at home, you can use that. If not, the bottom step on a flight of stairs can also work.

  1. Start with your left foot on the ground and your right foot on top of the step; your right knee will be bent.

  2. Step up until you are standing with your right leg nearly straight and you are balanced on top of the stop; your left leg should be bent slightly and your left foot poised an inch or so above the step.

  3. Pause in a balanced position, then step down, returning your left leg and right foot to the starting position.

  4. Do this 15 times; then repeat the exercise 15 times on the other side.

Tips and modifications: Adjust the difficulty by finding a higher or lower (stable) surface to step on.

You can also wear your weighted backpack when you do this exercise. Start with 10 pounds or so, then add a few more pounds each week until you get to about 80% of your anticipated pack weight.

Heel Down Exercise

To get down after you step on top of boulder or a log, you need to be able to lower your body and pack weight under control. That’s key to preventing knee injuries and stumbles. This exercise works your glutes and quad muscles so you have the strength and the balance to do that smoothly and efficiently.

Props: A stable surface, about 8 inches off the ground. If you have a training box or an aerobic step at home, you can use that. If not, the bottom step on a flight of stairs can also work.

  1. Start by standing on top of a step, balanced on your right foot with your left foot hovering to the side.

  2. Lift the toes on your left foot up, then bend your right knee as you slowly lower your left leg until your left heel is barely touching the ground or poised just above it.

  3. Power back up with your right leg until you are back to the starting position.

  4. Do this 15 times; then repeat the exercise 15 times on the other side.

Tips and modifications: Adjust the difficulty by finding a higher or lower (stable) surface to step on.

You can also wear your weighted backpack when you do this exercise. Start with 10 pounds or so, then add a few more pounds each week until you get to about 80% of your anticipated pack weight.

Single-Leg Deadlift Exercise

This exercise engages your hips and core muscles to develop strength and balance as you center your weight over each side of your body.

Props: A lightweight dumbbell

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your left hand.

  2. Centering your weight over your right foot, bend forward at the hips as you extend your left leg backwards; maintain your balance as you lower the dumbbell toward the floor. Do not let your hips rotate.

  3. Raise back up to the start position by squeezing your glutes; your core should remain engaged and your back should remain straight.

  4. Do this 20 times; then switch to your other side and do 20 reps.

Tips and modifications: Adjust the difficulty by adjusting how high far down you bend toward the floor. You can also use a lighter or heavier dumbbell.

Squat Curl Overhead Press Exercise

This exercise combines a squat to work lower body muscles with a quick lift of moderate weight to build the strength you’ll need to heft your backpack multiple times along the trail.

Props: A pair of lightweight dumbbells

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side, holding a dumbbell in each hand.

  2. Press your hips back and squat down as if you’re about to sit on an invisible chair. Try to bring your thighs parallel to the floor.

  3. Power back up to a standing position, using your upward momentum to assist you as you curl up and then press the dumbbells overhead (with palms facing each other the entire time).

  4. Return to starting position and repeat 10-15 times.

Tips and modifications: Keep your back and neck in a neutral position; try not to round your shoulders or crane your neck forward throughout this exercise. Also, try not to let your knees go past your toes when you’re squatting.

Lift Exercise

Not all backpacking movement is in a straight line, so this exercise prepares you for twists and turns in the trail. It develops balance and core rotational power by strengthening your upper and lower abdominals and obliques, along with your glutes and leg muscles.

Props: A medium-resistance exercise band

  1. Secure one end of the band at ankle height.

  2. Standing sideways to the where the band is anchored, position yourself so that when you grab the end of the band with both hands, there is tension in the band.

  3. Rotate your torso upward to the right, pulling the end of the band at an upward angle across the front of your torso; let your feet pivot until you are facing in the opposite direction with your arms straight in front of your body. Also rotate the leg closest to where the band is anchored slightly while pushing up onto the toe of that foot.

  4. Return to the starting position while maintaining an even tension in the band.

  5. Through this entire motion, your core muscles should be powering the movement. Your shoulders should stay square and your hips should remain aligned, and your elbows and wrists should also remain as straight as possible.

  6. Do this 20 times; then do the same on the opposite side for 20 more reps.

Tips and modifications: Adjust band resistance level by shortening it to increase resistance or lengthening it to ease the resistance. Your goal is to feel fatigued at the end of your reps, but not so fatigued that you struggle to finish them.

Side Plank with Hip Dip Exercise

Backpackers often complain of lower back fatigue. This exercise combines a plank with hip movement to build up core endurance, which will help minimize low-back discomfort.

Props: None

  1. Lie on your right side, supported by your elbow under your shoulder. Your right forearm should be perpendicular to your body, and your left hand should rest on your left hip, with your left elbow pointing up. Your legs and feet should be stacked atop one another.

  2. Tighten your core as you raise your hips up into a plank, creating a straight line from your head to your feet.

  3. Slowly lower your right hip down and then back up to the plank position.

  4. Do this 10 times; then do the same on your left side for 10 more reps.

Tips and modifications: To make it easier, move your top leg slightly in front of your lower leg and use the foot on that leg for more support. You can also do the exercise with your knees resting on the ground.

We're doin' this, gals! Enjoy the journey! Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions at all! Happy Trails!

Coyote Gulch, 2022

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