Is Off-Season Training For Hikers Worth It?

The winter can be a time for hikers and backpackers to prepare for when the snow melts on the trails.

The winter months can be a slow time for hikers and backpackers. Except for those who snowshoe, pursue mountaineering or other winter sports, the casual fair-weather hiker may prefer to hang up the boots for the season and wait for spring. However, it is worth it to keep in shape during the winter months. There are some things that hikers can do to get ready for March or April when the snow thaws.

Get Physically Fit to Hike

Physical fitness is important no matter what season it is, as it promotes a healthy lifestyle, controls weight, and feels good. Hikers can utilize exercises or sports that increase the heart rate and benefit the cardiovascular system. Some ideas include:

  • Using an exercise bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine at the gym or workout room.
  • Cross-country skiing.
  • Walking or running the stairs in an office or apartment building. Carry a backpack with weight so the body gets used to climbing uphill with loads. Also, a good way to break in a new pair of boots.
  • Swimming at an indoor pool.
  • Participate in indoor recreational league sports that provide a cardio workout, such as basketball.
  • Attend yoga classes to promote flexibility.

Consult a Physician Before Working Out

Before beginning an exercise routine one should consult a doctor. This is also a good time to have an annual physical to check for any problems, to make sure one is healthy enough for hiking, and to promote overall wellness.

Research Potential Hiking Areas

The off-season is a great time to research new places to go hiking. Some resources include the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, state parks, and local park systems. The local camping store may have resources such as maps, guidebooks, and advice from staff that are active in the area.

Get Training To Improve Outdoor Skills

During the winter take the opportunity to enroll in a class to improve skills and to be a better outdoors person. Local outdoor shops, and also national chains such as REI in the USA offer clinics and host guest speakers. Consider taking a wilderness first aid course from a wilderness medicine provider to improve first aid skills and to know what to do in a backcountry emergency, and get certified in CPR. Other training ideas include learning primitive living/survival skills and Leave No Trace awareness.

Inventory Hiking Gear

Take an inventory of hiking and camping gear. Are there items that need to be repaired or replaced? Is there a piece of gear needed for an upcoming hike, such as a new tent, pair of boots, clothing layers, or a new sleeping bag?