If you are truly backpacking, and a trip of any distance. Meaning you are hiking it and carrying all your gear on your own back.
It is the opinion from a large amount of seasoned backpackers, from a variety of ages, you better be in shape, and do special conditioning. Even then, expect the first day in camp to be uncomfortable with some muscle stiffness and pain. Most people tend pace faster than they normally train or condition for. They stretch out, or use muscles, they aren’t used to using.
Doing a strenuous trip without any conditioning, you might expect to really be miserable with pain for couple of days. Mostly in the form of muscle and joint pain. About the time you recover from that first day hike, you will be doing it again the next day, or subsequent days.
Often people will then complete a strenuous hike, jump in their vehicle, and drive/sit for hours, without getting out to stretch. That can also cause you some issues.
While many treks are not extremely difficult. Don’t think a trip is a “walk in the park” as some macho types like to post on social media. We are talking “Backpacking”, not hiking without your gear on your back.
There of course could be people in very good shape. But the majority of you out there are not in this type of shape. Believe us…..many voices of experience trying to pass on advice! Do some conditioning. The more the better.
If you are in great shape, a seasoned backpacker, or have lots of stamina, then by all means you can throw caution to the wind. But it is kind of irresponsible to boast, convincing some unsuspecting new person to skip many precautions about gear, and physical conditioning.
If you are new to all of this, or never backpacked. Many of us that have been doing this for awhile, recommend you take these recommendations seriously. Get in shape, have good footwear, go light, and carry plenty of water.
It is highly recommended you do many pre-conditioning hikes prior to your actual trip. I don’t care if you walk daily, jog, or bike. While these exercises will certainly help, nothing like that will properly prepare you. Most people exercise on relatively flat terrain. Try to train and condition using similar terrain that you will face.
While doing conditioning hikes wear the actual boots and clothing you will be using on trek.
Load a backpack up with about 30 to 35lbs of books or bags of rice or flour….or all of your gear if you are that prepared….be sure to include a gallon of water. If you think you are going to backpack with 50lbs strapped on your back. You certainly better be practicing with that amount.
Start doing stairs or steep inclines. If you have a natural hiking environment that offers steep trails and steps, the more the better. At least you will enjoy your “training” more. Start out small. 30 minutes or so with pack weight strapped on your back. You can even progress up to that weight if it helps. Work up to 4 hour sessions before you go on your actual trip.
The terrain during the actual trip will most likely be more difficult, but those that prep will think it is more of a cake walk. Those that don’t will be nursing sore and stiff legs for a couple of days. Take your 800mg of Ibuprofen with you.
Lastly…..any pre-conditioning, is better than nothing.