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 23 and hails from Devon – southwest England where the air is clean, rain is plentiful, landscapes beautiful. She has a background in Zoology and recently completed her masters in Science Communication. She is passionate about the relationship between getting outside and allowing that to inspire that all-important curiosity in the natural world and the wildlife on our doorsteps. Find her: