Mountaineering Training | How to Make your Backpack “Feel” Lighter

Posted by: | June 10, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

A “fun” and challenging training session experienced in military training was the “heavy bag”. It took the form of a duffle bag full of rocks, gravel, and sand and the goal was to pick up this bag and carry it over a specified distance. The problem was, it weighed about 120 lbs. Just getting it over a shoulder was a challenge sometimes requiring help. I used to think that the purpose of the training was to cause discomfort for the entertainment for instruction staff, but that training was very effective in helping to reframe the concept of what “heavy” actually means. This can be very useful in preparing yourself to carry a pack while mountaineering.

To fit this into your training for climbing, try picking a mid-week stair session and carry a pack which is significantly heavier than your mountain pack for an hour during the session. Exactly how much heavier you choose to make your pack is up to you. Remember to be careful not to overdo it and run the risk of hurting yourself (and be careful to not damage your pack when filling it with extra weight). As a suggestion, if your Mt. Rainier pack will weigh 35 - 40 lbs, try a session carrying 50 - 60 lbs.

Remember that the goal is not to see how much you can carry but to train with a weight that will make your regular pack lighter in comparison.

Try it out! I’d bet that the next time you shoulder your “normal” weight pack, it won’t feel so heavy and you’ll notice a spring in your step!

- John Colver


John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle.

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RMI Guide Linden Mallory's backpack sitting at the foot of Mt. Elbrus after a climb.

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