by Jake Rush and Kimberly Farmer
Living in the west gives us an opportunity that is widely underutilized by a vast majority of hunters. Wilderness backpacking hunts are a great tool that we can use to separate ourselves from the hordes of hunters that spend their hunt cruising the roads on ATVs or in trucks. If you have been considering doing an overnight or multi-day trip into the backcountry, think about these do’s and don’ts to get your body ready for the taxing effort.
A new trend in the preparation for a hunt is running with a weighted pack on to simulate the pack in and out. Although this is a way to get your body used to carrying weight, it is a dangerous exercise and can lead to a season ending injury. Instead of using your pack, which carries all the weight on your back and hips, consider using a weighted vest to walk and hike in.
I do not recommend running with weight on your upper body; running in itself is extremely taxing on your joints and the added weight will do more harm than good in the long run, not to mention one misstep and you can end up with a torn ligament in your knee or a bulged disc in your back.
Another great way to save your joints before the hunt and to build your legs is to ride a bike, stationary, road, or mountain, it doesn’t matter. If riding a stationary bike, find the setting on the bike that shows your caloric output, and change it to show your METs output (a measure of exercise intensity based on oxygen consumption). A person’s oxygen consumption at rest is equivalent to 1 MET.
What you want to do is fluctuate that number between 4 and 6 METs for five minutes, over 6 METs for two minutes, and then back down for another five. Depending on your fitness level, your METs may vary. If you are just starting an exercise regimen, keep your METs between 2 and 3 for five minutes and above 4 for two more minutes. This interval training will give you the best work out and get your legs and lungs ready for the hike into the back country.
Add in some weight training to these exercises and your body will be ready in no time to pack in and hunt some country that others won’t. When preparing for a backcountry hunt, remember that all the most expensive camping gear in the world won’t help you, if you can’t walk out after walking in. What will help is a little quality backcountry training.