Summer Adventures Wilderness Explorations

Training Tips

The beginning of any journey starts long before one leaves home - in the thoughts, intentions, goals, planning, and preparation for the adventure. A key part of that preparation for backpacking, or any physical endeavor, is getting the body ready for the work we will ask it to do. When our bodies have had the opportunity to get stronger and practice the challenges they will meet on the trail, they are ready and willing when the journey begins!

The trip training we suggest below builds both physical and mental strength, increases confidence, helps prevent injury, and will make you a team member who can effectively carry a portion of group gear. For these reasons, training is mandatory for all intermediate and advanced trips. A physically and mentally prepared trekker measurably increases the safety of self and others. Training suggestions mimic the types of trail and terrain you'll be hiking during your trip.

Tip! Train in the shoes/boots you'll be wearing for the trip (key to blister prevention).

Begin training with a partially loaded pack, then increase to your full load weight. Note that your base weight is pack weight with just your personal gear. Your total pack weight is personal gear plus a portion of group gear and food, and 1-2 liters of water (1 liter of water weighs 2 pounds). Aim to work up to training at the highest mileage day of your trip with a fully loaded backpack. Total pack weight will be approximately:

  • Beginners: Approx 17-22 lbs.

  • Intermediate: Approx. 20-30 lbs.

  • Advanced: Approx. 30-40 lbs.

Remember! The best way to train for hiking with a full pack is to hike with a full pack!

Even if you are in great shape as a runner, cyclist, soccer player, swimmer, gymnast, or rock climber, no activity quite mimics backpacking. This is especially true if your trip involves hills, long distances with a pack on your back, or tricky terrain.

Training Level 1

Mostly flat trails, with little elevation gain/loss.

Training level 1 is great training for these Wild Whatcom trips:

  • Baker Lake Backpack

  • Noisy Creek Trek

Note: not all trips are offered every year.

These trips are relatively flat, with little elevation gain. The main focus should be walking on mostly flat trails with a full pack. You can also train by heading uphill, but you won't be doing much of that on the trip.

Here are some local trails to consider, though you could walk just about anywhere - even through your neighborhood:

  • Birch Bay State Park

  • Hovander Park / Tennant Lake

  • Interurban

  • Lake Padden Park (lake and horse trails)

  • Larrabee State Park – Clayton Beach

  • Locust Beach (heading north)

  • North Lake Whatcom Park

  • Point Whitehorn

  • Semiahmoo Spit

  • South Bay/Boulevard Park

  • Squires Lake Park

  • Whatcom Falls Park

Reminder! You’ll need a Washington State Park Discover Pass if parking at a state park.

Walk as far as you'd like on these trails, but aim to work up to the full distance of your trip hike with a fully-loaded pack (including water).

Training Level 2

Steeper hikes, with elevation gain/loss and/or tricky terrain

Training level 2 is great training for these Wild Whatcom trips:

  • Glaciers & Mountain Meadows

  • Goat Rocks Ramble

  • Necklace Valley Voyage

  • Image Lake Trek

Note: not all trips are offered every year.

All of these trips involve elevation gain and/or tricky terrain. Practice hiking up and down hills with your full pack and, depending on your trip location, scrambling over some rocky terrain. Intermediate trip participants should plan to include 3 mile training hikes that include hills. Advanced trip participants should take on several 5-8 training hikes that include significant elevation gain (Pine & Cedar Lakes trail is great). Here are some local trails to consider: 

  • Blanchard Mountain trails (east side to Lizard / Lily Lakes, North Butte, Oyster Dome)

  • Blanchard Mountain trails (west side to Oyster Dome)

  • Chuckanut Mountain trails (north starting from Arroyo Park area and up)

  • Chuckanut Mountain trails (south starting from Larrabee State Park and up)

  • Galbraith Mountain hiking trails

  • Lake Padden Park (horse trails)

  • Lookout Mountain (near Sudden Valley)

  • Pine and Cedar Lakes

  • Rock Trail (Larrabee State Park)

  • Sehome Hill Arboretum (WWU Campus)

  • Squires Lake Park

  • Stewart Mountain (north end of Lake Whatcom or off the Y Road)

Reminder! You’ll need a Washington State Park Discover Pass if parking at a state park.

Last, if you haven't slept outside much, consider sleeping out in the backyard for a night with a tent/tarp, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, etc. to make sure you'll stay warm and can get a comfortable nights sleep. Note that on all trips, we will be sleeping at higher elevations, and thus will have colder temperatures. A warm sleeping bag is essential!