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5 Ways to Train for a Backpacking Trip

So you want to go on a backpacking trip? Or you’re thinking about it. Or your friend/significant other is forcing you and you don’t know where to start. Well, it’s quite fun and rewarding if you keep a positive attitude and give it a shot!

I’m not an expert, but I have done it a couple times and I’ll keep it real. Here are five ways to make sure you’re prepared and comfortable on your trip:
I promise, this is the most important part. Ensure you have comfortable and well-fitted backpack, hiking shoes and hiking socks.


For the backpack, go to a store like REI where a professional can measure you for size and help you try them on. I found it so valuable that the store associate showed me how to adjust the backpack to fit me perfectly – I would have had no idea what I was doing! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle because you’ll regret it. They can also help you determine how many liters your pack needs to hold based on the length of your trip. I’m really happy with my 55 liter Opsrey pack as it works for both shorter and longer trips.

For shoes, again, you need to try them on before committing. If you order online, make sure you can return them if they don’t fit. For backpacking, you’ll want a sturdy and waterproof boot with ankle support. I took the Lowa Renegades on my last backpacking trip and loved them! They are on the firmer and heavier side but very durable and supportive. I hiked seven days in Patagonia in crappy hiking shoes (not the Lowas I mentioned) and I paid for it with wet socks and blisters. So I was all about the sturdier more durable boot!

Believe it or not, socks are important, too. Go for merino wool and make sure they are long enough for your boots. Yup, even in the summer. It provides some cushion and wicks sweat to keep your feet dry and blister free. I only wear Darn Tough – great quality with a lifetime guarantee.

$$$ Tip: Gear can get expensive. Once you know what you like, keep an eye on outlet sites like REI Garage, Backcountry and Campsaver. They also do 20% coupons a few times a year.

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Break it in
Ok, you got the gear. Now it’s time to break it in. This will ensure your socks, shoes and pack have molded to your shape a bit and will be at their most comfortable.

I do this by wearing my boots, socks and pack whenever and wherever I can: walking the dog (yes, you’ll get funny looks), around the house (less funny looks) and on local trails (zero to few funny looks).

Most boots are now made ready to wear out of the box. However, I truly think it prepares you and makes for more comfortable gear.


We decided to explore further in the valley and the landscape changed from boulders to moss and streams

Real-life practice
Now, what you came for: the actual training. It’s pretty straight forward. Pack your pack like you would for your trip or load it up with generally heavy things, and get walking!

I like to get an idea of how many miles I’ll be hiking per day on my trip with how much weight. Then match that wherever you can close to home: parks, local trails, at the gym – stair stepper or treadmill. Stair stepper and treadmill give you an advantage because you can adjust for some uphill practice.

You may have to work up to your goal mileage, and that’s totally OK. That’s the benefit of training near home. Then, when you’re on your hike you’ll feel much more comfortable and confident.


Hiking back to the refugio with a view of Lago Nordenskjöld

General cardio and strength training
Backpacking is a workout and much easier when you’re physically fit. Even if you don’t have a trip coming up, you’ll always be ready for one if you keep up with a consistent work out routine. I personally work out by lifting weights 4-5x a week (shoulders, back and biceps, chest and triceps and legs). I’m not a fan of cardio but get it in by hiking and walking the dog. Keep cardio interesting by mixing high intensity shorter workouts with longer low intesity walks to your goal mileage.

Mind over matter
Honestly, it’s a mental game too. If you keep a positive attitude and focus on enjoying the experience you’ll have a better time. Don’t get frustrated with how tired you feel or how hot it is, you’ll only make yourself more miserable. I know this is easier said than done when you’re feeling exhausted and hungry and sore. I have a hard time with this, so my trick is to stop to take a break and enjoy the scenery and remember why I’m doing this.

Hiking in Havasu Canyon

It’s not always about the destination. The 10 mile journey through the Grand Canyon was also magnificent.

What tips do you have for a first time backpacker? Would you want more detailed posts on my exact workouts? Let me know in the comments below!

Read about my recent backpacking trips:

Quick and Easy DIY Key Hook Frame

Quick, Easy, Beautiful: DIY Key Hanger

Are you always searching for your keys in a frantic rush? Is the dog’s leash hanging on a door somewhere? Consider displaying these functional items in a pretty, personal way with a DIY key hanger picture frame! This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. So happy, in fact, that I wanted to share in a blog post and branch out with an “At Home” section of Road and Air.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Materials for DIY Key Hook FrameA picture, artwork or patterned paper that you love enough to look at every day!
  • Wood picture frame. I picked up this Hand Made Modern frame from Target. I love it because it’s ready to paint and ready to hang on your wall!
  • Multi-surface paint. Here’s what I used:
  • Utility hooks. I obviously picked these up from Target as well: Arrow 1.25″ Cup Hooks (18 Pack)
  • A hairdryer. Wait, what? Yes, a hairdryer
  • Picture hanger. The one I used is rated for up to 20 lbs
  • Two paintbrushes (or one if you’re patient and can use one color at a time)
  • An electric drill (which I don’t have so I used a hammer and the pointy bit for my screwdriver)
  • Marker
  • Measuring tape

Now the fun part!

  1. Take the frame apart. You don’t need the glass panel or back yet. Right now we’re working with the frame itself.
  2. Use your main color to paint the front of the frame. Once dry, paint the inside and outside edges with your accent color (details, people!). Let the paint dry once more.
    Painted frame for DIY Key Hook Frame
  3. Now re-attach the back of the frame – the stand is about to come in handy.
  4. I’m naturally a sloppy person, so this is the fun part! Use a large paint brush and GLOP your accent color on. Spread it thick across the border of your frame. Work with one edge at a time for best results!
  5. Use the hairdryer to blow the paint around for a fun pattern! I personally used it on the coolest temperature on the highest setting. I blew the paint downward and sometimes diagonally (the .gif below is not rotated correctly). I had to get the dryer right up next to the paint. Feel free to experiment with different settings and angles for the look you want.
    Plowing paint on DIY Key Hook Frame
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 on the next three sides, rotating the frame as you go. See, I told you the stand helps! Let dry.
    Painted Frame for DIY Key Hook
  7. Measure the bottom of your frame and mark where you want the key hooks. This will depend on the size of your frame and how many hooks you want. Using the Hand Made Modern frame and three hooks, I measured two inches from the edges for the outside hooks and put the third hook in the middle of those.
  8. Use a drill (or my screwdriver and hammer method) to make holes where your marks are. Then screw in the hooks! I had the hooks so the opening was facing the left. This way the frame will lay flat when hung on the wall.
  9. Paint the key hooks with your accent color. I suspect my keys will chip the paint off eventually, but it looks cool for now! Use this opportunity to paint any spots that need a touch up.
  10. Ensure all the paint is dry and put the frame back together with your favorite photo!
  11. Optional: remove the stand from the back of the frame. I didn’t do this because it didn’t seem to be in the way, and you never know when it will come in handy. Oh, and if your frame doesn’t already have an attachment to hang it on the wall – screw one in.
  12. Hang on the wall using a traditional picture hanger. Mine is rated up to 20 lbs because that’s what I had.
  13. Hang keys, leash, etc.
  14. Admire your beautiful work and never be able to use the “I couldn’t find my keys” excuse again!
    DIY Key Hook Frame

This easy DIY looks great and gives your entry way a unique, personal touch! Let me know in the comments if you make one of these or something similar – I’d LOVE to see your finished product!

I think the blown paint design kind of looks like mountains which tie into the photo I framed (my boyfriend, dog and I posing in front of a view of The Needle mountains in Colorado).

P.P.S. not sponsored by Target but I happened to pick all of this up during a spontaneous shopping spree there. Love their Hand Made Modern brand!