Tips

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:
Gear
I promise, this is the most important part. Ensure you have comfortable and well-fitted backpack, hiking shoes and hiking socks.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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The very beginning of our seven day trek through Torres Del Paine Patagonia

12 Things You Need to Know Before Your Patagonia Trip

So I told you what to pack and about my trek through Patagonia, now you’re interested in planning your own trip. Here are a few highlights you should know when planning your trip…

Before You Go:

  • Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-25,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veChile or Argentina? Patagonia stretches across both Chile and Argentina. I went to the Chilean side, Torres del Paine National Park, specifically. If you’re more interested in Argentina or a different part of the region, this isn’t the post for you.
  • Plan your trip. First, you need to decide if you’ll take the trek with a tour guide/company or on own your own. I personally went with a guided group and it made for a very relaxed experience. The guides did everything from reserving transportation and lodging, picking up our bagged lunch, checking into the refugio, etc. However, I think this trek can be done on your own with enough research and planning in advance. The trails are very well-marked and populated.
  • How to get there: You’ll fly into Punta Arenas and from there, drive to Puerto Natales. From Puerto Natales, it’s another couple hours to the park entrance. Stock up on any snacks or last minute supplies and use the last bit of Wi-Fi and cell in one of these cities.
  • Plan an extra day in Punta Arenas to take the ferry to Magdalena Island the see the Penguins! Then, enjoy a night cap at the Hotel Dreams for a wonderful view of the city and ocean.
  • Let’s talk money! You’ll need Chilean pesos, possibly, or a credit card you can use internationally. Everywhere in town, and even the refugios, all accepted credit card. However, it’s always a good idea to bring cash when traveling in case you need it. I always exchange cash with my bank prior to my trip to avoid any exchange fees. I brought about 500 Chilean pesos that I used for restaurants, bars, souvenirs and tips. I put the other tours I did on my credit card. Prices are comparable if not more, than the U.S.

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While You’re There:

  • Prepare for weather: It almost goes without saying. Prepare by dressing in layers and bringing the right gear (Gortex is your friend!). We experienced sunshine, snow, rain and plenty of wind.
  • The days are long. I went late December to early January which is summer in South America. You’re on the “bottom” of the world so the sun rose at 5 a.m. and set at 10 p.m. I was never up early enough or late enough to see the dark… excluding New Year’s Eve!
  • Live off the grid. You won’t have TV, Wi-Fi or cell service once you leave Puerto Natales and it is awesome! Some refugios offered eight hours of Wi-Fi for ten pesos (pay online with credit card). But I say, embrace being off the grid!
  • Brush up on your Spanish. Having bilingual guides made this optional, but I enjoy the opportunity to practice my Spanish. It seemed that most of the refugio staff knew English, but it helps to at least know some basics!
Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Bonus tips! 

  • Try a Pisco Sour. Apparently it’s THE drink: Pisco (brandy), sour and egg whites! They also make them in the Calafate variety, which was my favorite! Calafate is a berry that only grows in the Patagonia region.
  • Like beer? I loved trying local beers! Austral Calafate was great slightly fruity beer that let me further enjoy the Calafate berry. Puerto Natales had the most variety of craft beers in restaurants and had a great blonde beer that I don’t remember the name of.
  • Explore a glacier. Glaciar Grey will be at either the end or beginning of the W Trek depending on where you start. We ended there, which I thought was perfect. There are two options to get intimate with the glacier: kayak in Lago Grey among the glacial cliffs or climb on top with an ice hike! You can reserve either with Big Foot Patagonia. 

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OK, so now you want to go to Patagonia!

Need some advice on what to pack? Click here.

Want an idea of what the trek is like? Click here.

 

Cuba Travel Tips

I recently wrote about my recent trip to Cuba, which I highly recommend you look into if you’re interested. I wanted to share a few tips that I learned from researching the trip and from experiencing it myself!

  • DSCF0093Brush up on your Spanish – at least some basic phrases. I took classes in college, but use the Duolingo app to get a refresh
  • Visa – if you’re traveling from the United States, you’ll need a Visa. I bought mine in advance from Cuba Travel Services ($85)
  • Documents – speaking of Visas, a general international travel tip is to make photocopies of all relevant documents (passport, ID, accommodations, visas, reservations, etc.)
  • DSCF0149Taxis – be sure to negotiate price before getting in the car. Almost every driver came down from the original price they offered
  • Airbnb – go for it! This is the best way to find affordable, trustworthy lodging and stay like a local and with locals! 
  • Internet/cell service – get of the grid and go without it! However, if you need Wi-Fi you’ll have to purchase an internet card. We found a hotel cafe that sold a one hour card for $2 CUC and also included a coffee
  • Forget the credit card – you’ll need cash for everything. See below…
  • Currency – There is a 10% fee for exchanging USD. I got Euros from my bank before I left the US. Then in Cuba, I could exchange the Euros for Cuban currency without the fee. There are two currencies in Cuba, the CUC and the CUP. We did run into both types but didn’t have an issue with the locals giving us correct change. Read this article to educate yourself
  • Safety – while using common sense, I never felt unsafe in Cuba. Since we were two young females, we did get a lot of “cat calls” but ignored them and kept walking. We also ran into people trying to get us to eat in their restaurants, buy their cigars or give us recommendations – we also politely said no to all of these offers and kept walking
  • Buy bottled water – I do this when traveling to any foreign country. We would buy 2 liter bottles from a sandwich stand near our Airbnb for 2 CUC. All restaurants serve bottled water as well
  • Wear comfortable shoes – Havana is very walkable – save some money and take advantage of that
  • Have fun – meet locals, try new food, take tons of photos, see everything you can while staying safe!

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