If you haven't put on the pack since last season, and you're not into snowshoeing or nordic skiing then chances are you've lost the touch. Before you start your backpacking training you should pysch yourself up with some of our pictures in the photo gallery. Get ready for wilderness solitude and natural beauty on the trails. Ok, so you're ready? Here's the top three ways to get ready for your first spring hike!
Running - a lot of backpackers maintain that running is not the best way to train for backpacking. I concede the point, they are right, backpacking is the best training for backpacking. However, in the off season, running keeps you fit and healthy and keeps those legs moving when the pack is hanging in the closet. It's a great way to just stay in shape and keep yourself from sitting on your butt all winter. Try cross country skiing and snowshoeing too if you want to hit the trails before the snow melts, they're both good ways to keep those legs moving and you could even try winter backpacking. GASP!
Treadmill Packing - throw on your backpack, pop in the ear buds, turn the treadmill incline all the way up, and go for a walk. Sounds boring, huh? Park your laptop in front of the treadmill and throw in your favorite movie or TV episodes and pretty soon you'll be getting ready for backpacking instead of sitting on the couch waiting for spring to roll around. Read more in my full article on backpacking treadmill training and conditioning.
Lighten the Load - it's not all about training your body, this one will help train your mind. Here are a few cheap, quick, ways to shave pack weight. Set out all of your backpacking gear. Then, go through and take out everything but your tent, bag, stove, pot, water bottle, and sleeping pad. Ready to lighten the load? If you have a self inflating mattress, put it back in the closet and go buy a closed-cell foam mat. They are about $30 for a Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest, and weigh less than self inflating mattresses. They also will never go "pop" in the middle of the night. Now, ditch those Nalgene bottles for a Platy Bottle, my current model is the Plus Bottle. The clip can be great for attaching a carabiner sometimes. Last but not least, if you're taking more than just one cooking pot for a solo trip, you're over packing. Go grab a Snow Peak Trek 900. I can cook comfortably for two in just this one pot, any meal. Granted, I'm not a finicky eater and often end up mixing foods and flavors but it doesn't bother me and I'd rather not have the wasted weight of an extra pot.
Now, put these revised items all back into your pack and take a look at all that extra junk you're thinking about taking with you. Ask yourself "is this absolutely necessary?" and if the answer is "no" then leave it out. These tips will ensure your pack weight is low, but you need to find your comfort level yourself. Some people need more little extras on the trail than others. Just keep in mind, everything weighs something.
Get out there, put on your pack, and do your thing!