Exercises to help with backpacking endurance

To see views like this you need to be fit enough to get there
To see views like this you need to be fit enough to get there

Although hiking seems like a very straightforward activity, it is quite demanding on the body. You need to be physically fit before hitting the trails on backpacking trips.

However, walking around your block isn’t going to cut it. You need to do some extra exercises to build muscle strength in key areas such as your calves and lower back. Check out these five exercises to help you train for a less painful backpacking trip.


The dreaded B word. Anyone that has done burpees knows why they will help your hiking; they are difficult. In addition to giving your legs a workout, they are also a solid cardio workout.

To do a burpee, start standing with your feet together. Then, bend down into a crouching position with your hands placed flat on the ground next to your feet. Shoot your feet out behind you, so your body is in a plank position. To finish off, jump your legs back into a crouched position and explode upwards into a jump off of the ground.

plank position
plank position
Jump legs forward
Jump legs forward
Jump up from the crouched position
Jump up from the crouched position

If you want to get a little extra fancy, add a push up when you get to your plank position. This exercise will improve your endurance on the trail and help with quad strength.

Weighted Step Ups

My least favorite part of backpacking is coming to sections where you need to step up above knee height. When you are wearing a pack, it messes with your balance and requires much more effort.

Doing step ups on a park bench or a box high box at the gym is a great way to build up strength for this. To do this exercise, grab some extra weight and simply step up and down off of a ledge.

Make sure to step down softly so you don’t damage your knees or shins. If you are at home, throw on your pack full of gear and do step ups!

Getting the balance down is important to make sure you don’t fall out on the trails.

Bosu Ball Squat

For this one, you will need a Bosu Ball which is simply a half of a yoga ball that you can stand on. Position your feet on the Bosu Ball under your shoulders and slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Make sure to keep your knees behind your toes and your head facing forward. In addition, keep your squats slow to prevent bouncing on the ball. This exercise will help with leg strength and balance.

Weighted Heel Raises

This one is quick and easy if don’t have tons of extra time. Grab some weights or throw your pack on and find a small ledge to stand on.

Position your toes on the ledge with your heels off of it. Then, point your toes and lift your heels up. You can do this in the stairwell at work during your break, or on your front porch!
Increasing calve strength will help with overall stamina when you are hiking.

Hip Raises

Laying down and facing upwards with your feet planted on the ground, lift your hips toward the sky. Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor and repeat.

Lift your hips off the ground until you’re on your shoulders and feet
Lift your hips off the ground until you’re on your shoulders and feet

You can also do a variation of this exercise by using a padded bench to rest your back on.

Hold a weight against your lower stomach to increase resistance and get more out of the exercise. This move will help increase your lower back strength which is essential for backpacking.


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rebecca-hext is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival