How much weight/distance for backpack training?


Active Member
Apr 2, 2021
Norway and Sweden
Just to brainstorm regarding what I believe is the ultimate training for backpack carrying:

Some factors to consider:
1. Your build - Are you long or short, strong or weak strength-wise?
2. Previous experience in endurance sports or carrying backpacks.
3. Proneness to injury.
4. Cardio level vs Strength.

I would say that a weak person can benefit a lot from going to the gym with the goal of adding muscle. Having a good strength is fundamental when adding weights to carry. It also stabilizes the core, knees and other weak-spots. Strength training for a thin person should in my opinion focus on adding muscle weight and by that increase durability in the body and joints, and of course - developing a higher strength that makes it easier to work a long time with lower weights.

A good strength in my world is to be able to benchpress your own bodyweight (bw) for 8 reps, deadlift/squat 1.5 x bw for 5-10 reps with a very correct form. Or, if you don't like deadlift and squats: To be able to barbell lunge 70% of your bodyweight for 30 reps (alternate between right and left leg, 15 rep each).

With such a strength level, you are able to carry a lot more than a "pure cardio" person that practice running and walking with backpack - if you practice that too.

If I were an untrained individual I would try a training schedule along these lines:
1. Reach the strength standards mentioned above by a good training regime and protein-rich foods (protein intake should be higher than most people believe). It may take a lot of time. Possibly several years, depending on background.
2. Running 2-3 times per week, starting with a very low mileage and build up. But do not take it too far- that will destroy the strength gains (cardio sends a signal to your body to not gain too much muscleweight as your body wants to be light to run easier, to say it in a very simplified way).
3. Walk with a backpack that weights not more than 15-20 lbs as a start. It is generally better to walk long than heavy when you start off.

I tend to get into the best backpack-carrying form by strength training and decent cardio exercises while adding about 15-20 pounds of bodyweight. My "secret" after that is to then lose the 15-20 pounds I added while simultaneously increasing the mileage for running and adding the lost weight in the backpack.

By this method, if you weight 220 lbs and carries 45lbs for training, you can go up to 65-70lbs when your diet is done, and probably move a lot quicker than you did with 45 lbs.

A thing to consider is that cardio-output is closely related to bodyweight. If you use a Vo2Max calculator and elaborate a little with bodyweight you can see it clearly. So being fat is the worst thing for your speed. Same applies to excessive muscles, of course. But very few have "excessive muscles" to the degree that it hurts cardio output.

My most effective training for backpack carrying is to walk in ski-slopes or similar steep hills. Doing it as an interval training with a decent speed is extremely exhausting even with very low weights added to the backpack. By using a pulse-watch you can see that your fitness increase almost every week (giving a lower average heart rate), as your legs becomes more used to handling the stress.


Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2009
Im 58,5-9,165#.I work in construction,bagged up ,up down ladder,etc=3-5 miles a day at work.3-4 nights I do weights that I can handle,free hang.When out camp I do pullups,pushups,bring dumbell. I start out easy and work up,my day pack is 20#,Go what I can,then repeat.This year I did over 160 miles in mountains.Packed a bull solo,ten miles,shuttle style.Easier on older guy,less weight all at once.My muley easy pack compared.Had a lot of fun, lot days 3-4 miles.Some 6-10.Just keep at it.