How to Carry a Heavy Load
We all love the idea of a hike that’s a bit extra. A hike that requires a bit of planning, a bit of training and one that conjures the unique feeling of “I’ve done it!” when it’s over. If it’s wild camping, or simply a couple days of hiking a gnarly trail – there is just one hitch – you've got to carry your kit. Take a stretch of the south west coast path for instance – gruelling climbs and endless terrain at the best of times, yet put 15kg (33 pounds) or more on your back and it’s a totally different story!
Here are my Top Tips for getting yourself over that ‘weight’ hurdle, so you can carry a heavy pack whilst still loving the hike!
1. PACK SMART
Three words: balance the load. There’s no right way to pack, but there are a few things to bear in mind that will make a huge difference to how you’re feeling during the hike.
My advice? Break your pack into four ‘zones’:
- Bottom: good for super bulky gear that you won’t need anytime soon e.g. tent!
- Core: good for dense items e.g. sleeping bag, insulation jacket for camp
- Top: items you might need on the trail – e.g. waterproofs!
- Outer/accessory pockets: essentials e.g. first aid kit, snack bars
Picture yourself laying ‘rows’ - fill all the tiny spaces with smaller items – I like to roll all my clothes etc as it creates a firm level base, upon which I build up. It allows the weight to be distributed much more evenly!
It’s really important to make sure your pack is properly adjusted according to the weight – which will naturally change as you progress through the hike. So many people don’t take full advantage of the waist strap – which can be a total game changer for re-distributing the weight and transferring it to your quads – allowing your whole body to drive you up those climbs!
WALK STRONG (CONSIDER TREKKING POLES)
How we walk can make a huge difference to how we cope with a weighted pack. I started using trekking poles about six years ago as I’ve had several knee operations. I used to think they were just for ‘old people’ - but now, I never leave for the trail without them! Studies have shown that using them can transfer up to 20% of strain off your knees and arms – and you can honestly feel the difference!
With a weighted pack its common to feel unsteady at first – but with a trekking pole in each hand it’s not only more comfortable to hike, but also a lot safer. I couldn’t recommend them enough!
Hiking with a weighted pack can burn some serious calories – fast. Studies have shown that the average hiker with a heavy pack can easily burn over 5,500 calories in one day, so staying hydrated and properly fuelled is a serious part of the adventure.
I always have nutrition and protein bars handy in my waist belt pouches – and the key is little and often. You should try to stay away from getting that sudden ‘sugar low’ feeling – as with a weighted pack you can suddenly feel weak at the knees and that’s not good!
I like to snack on ‘Eat Natural’ protein packed bars, Trek bars, Cliff bars, nuts and dried fruit. It’s sensible to have a mixture of simple and complex carbs – to keep you going at a steady pace, whilst also offering a quick-release energy boost when needed. Having good nutrition discipline on the trail is very simple, but oh so important – and you don’t want to get caught out!
Sophie Pavelle is an adventurous zoologist and science communicator, with a passion for using adventure to share stories about wildlife. Sophie creates unique and engaging online content to inspire others to get outside, push themselves and stay curious about the natural world.