Wilderness Fitness

Increase Your Hiking and Backpacking Fitness

Latest posts by A.J. Fick (see all)


In continuing with our series on wilderness fitness we are going to look at the fitness involved to make you a better long distance hiker.

Sometimes you have to be willing to travel into the wilderness further than the average hunter in order to locate the ideal game animal or fish. Basically, we want you to be able to hike faster and further than ever before. Just like the last week’s article on Archery Draw Weight, we will see how the muscles operate while hiking. Then we will devise a plan to increase strength and stamina to improve hiking performance so that those long distance hunting or fishing backcountry trips seem a little less daunting.

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The muscles of your lower body bear the brunt of the work while hiking. The leg muscles will hold your weight and your abdominal muscles help you stay upright and bear the extra load of a backpack while you are walking, balancing, and carrying a pack. How does each of these muscles operate while you move?



Please consult your physician before beginning this or any exercise program. Harvesting Nature nor its authors assume responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained by or through the use of this exercise.

The advice given on harvestingnature.com is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Discontinue any exercise that causes you pain, severe discomfort, nausea, dizziness, or shortness of breath and consult a medical expert. Start slowly and at the level that is appropriate for you. Not all exercise plans are suitable for everyone.


These movements are fundamental to creating and maintain flexible muscles and tendons. Proper stretching before, during, and after hiking can help minimize the threat of injury, especially if you are hiking long distances for a great amount of time.

 Quads – Stand up straight with your feet together. Grab a chair with your right hand. Use your left hand to grab your right foot. Bend/pull your foot towards your buttocks. Keep your back straight and your knees together. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

 Hips – Sit on the ground with your back up straight. Place the bottoms of your feet together with your knees bent. Grasp your feet with your hands and use your arms to push down your legs. Hold for 30 seconds

Calves – Stand facing a wall or structure that will hold your weight. Step forward with your right leg and bend your knee forward. Place both palms flat against the wall. Straighten your left leg, which should be behind the heel of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite side.

Hamstrings – Stand with your feet together and back straight. Bend down with arms extended and touch toes. If you cannot touch your toes then push yourself to touch your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.

Glutes – Seat yourself on the ground. Extend both legs out in front of you. Bend you right leg and place your right foot on the opposite side of the left knee. Place your right elbow on your right knee and rotate your back slowly to the left. Hold for 30 seconds. Rotate your back to the left and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Abs – Lay belly down on the ground or mat. Place both hands(palms down) on each side of you and push your shoulders up while leaving you lower body on the ground.


Try working these into your normal weekly workout plan with a day or two of rest in between. Start a few weeks prior to your trip and become more aggressive as your trip nears by incorporating longer duration and additional weight. The more cardio related exercises (such as running and fast paced walking) you complete the more prepared you will be for moving quicker and hiking longer.


Your body will react differently if you will be hiking at higher altitudes of approximately 7000 feet and above. At higher altitudes there is less air pressure and it is harder on your body to pull the oxygen in because there is less oxygen in the air. The cardio exercises will greatly help with this because you will be in better shape and will not have to exert your body as much.  Check out Hiking Dude’s article on high elevation hiking for more information. I have personally suffered from being unprepared when hiking at higher elevations and it is not fun at all.

Working out these muscles and adding cardio to your workout routine will greatly help you prepare for those backcountry expeditions this season. Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

A.J. Fick

Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in southern California, central Texas, and currently reside in western Idaho. I consider myself a western hunter at heart, enjoying being part of vast landscapes and the thrill of the stalk. One of my hunting mottos is “stretch the stalk, not the shot”. My motivations as an outdoorsman are rooted in the sustenance, independence, and challenging physical aspects. In fact, my largest driving factor for physical fitness is preparing for upcoming hunts and ensuring I’m well-prepared to climb mountains and cover ground with a heavy pack. I also recognize and respect the importance of conservation efforts for our wild animals and wild places and the close connection to hunting and fishing. If we want future generations to experience the wonder and adventure of the outdoors, and gain the countless benefits, we must continue to make wildlife conservation today’s priority to ensure continued opportunity.

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