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Physical Preparation for backpacking trip

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  • #16
    I'm no backpacking expert, but we took 17 youth and 4 adults on a very successful 12-day trip to Glacier NP in August. My sister, experienced backpacker who takes her kids with her, told me to plan for 5-10 miles per day. We stuck to that, and she was right. We split into a couple of groups for our multi-day backcountry treks, and the older kids did treks with the most elevation gain or loss in each day.

    DON'T overdo mileage with kids, even if you think they can handle it. It's gotta be fun. Plus, most of the fun stuff happens when you have time at the backcountry sites, and when you have time to notice stuff along the trails. Remember that significant elevation gain AND/OR elevation loss will really affect how much mileage the kids can handle. Long downhills are hard on the joints and feet, even if they are not as hard aerobically.

    We kept pack weight for all kids at 20-25% of body weight, including water. Two of the dads in that were in really great shape went up to 30% with no problem. Strength, endurance, maturity, and overall attitude, but not speed, were main considerations when determining whether the trip was going to be appropriate for a specific scout. The youngest kid on the trip was 12, and he did great because he's strong, mature for his age, and has a great attitude. I recommended to parents of a few other interested 12-13 year olds that they hold off until the next trip. They'll be ready for next year's trip. Sometimes a year in age makes a big difference.

    Best trip I've ever been on, and I've travelled a lot. We're already planning next July's trip. I can't wait!


    • #17
      Limiting backpacking trips by age is ludicrous. A child of any age can do ANYTHING, all they need is an adult to believe in them. However, if an 11 year old scout has never been on a 2 mile hike in his life, I would never permit him to go on a 50 mile backpacking trip.

      It is more mental than physical. I know of some 8 year olds that could carry a greater % of their body weight and hike longer and for more days in a row than many 38 year olds.

      I strongly believe that if a troop has a quality outdoors program they will have opportunities for many hiking trips through the entire year, at least once a month. They may be short day trips ranging up to that long 50 mile 3-5 day annual trip. It will be very evident which scouts have the interest and ability to complete that 50 miler by simply observing how they do on all the other trips.

      If your troop doesn't do lots of hikes and just the 50 miler and kids are not going hiking with their families, then you have a recipe for a trip that none of them will want to do again.

      Regardless of any other hikes during the year, I would have a shakedown overnight trip. Just a few miles in to a camp, spend the night, and a few miles back out. For any kids that have not backpacked before it is a good opportunity to figure out what gear works for them and how much they can handle w/o getting stuck on a long trip.

      For me personally, I try to hike and backpack as often as I can. But if I go a few weeks w/o (or months as it is now) then there is no way I could do a 50 miler - it doesn't take long for me to get out of shape. Teen age boys, probably not as big a deal. But I know my body, they need to know theirs. One of the trip leaders main responsibilities is to know the ability of everyone on the trip, and the best way to determine that is to go on lots of smaller hikes and trips before and observe.

      Best way to condition, is to do. Carry a large pack with all overnight gear, and go on a short day hike. Do that every weekend.


      • #18
        Re-read some of the other posts and have a few other comments (again, as a non-expert):

        You can add a younger scout in with a group of older scouts on a really long trek, but remember that the speed and distance will be determined by the "weakest link" in the group. I highly recommend matching the physical capabilities of the people in each group.

        Someone asked me how I knew for sure if some kids could do the trip. I didn't know for sure, but I did know the kids. I've camped with them a lot and spent a lot of time with them as a leader. You gotta trust your gut. We had some skinny but scrappy kids that did great. By the way, we had crew and troop kids on our trip, so the age range was 12-19, including four girls. The girls were among the scrappiest. No whiners came on the trip, and the kids really supported each other.


        • #19
          I was gonna do the my is bigger than yours thing.....


          So Outdoors when is the last time you took a group of 12 year olds on a backpacking trip???

          Your son is a wolf by now, right????
          (This message has been edited by Basementdweller)


          • #20

            (This message has been edited by Basementdweller)


            • #21
              Basementdweller, I have no idea what you are trying to get at or if you are trying to pick a fight. So to prevent that, i'm not going to say anything else on this thread after this reply.

              A question was asked, I gave a response.

              I also am not sure if you are implying that 12 year olds are not old enough to go backpacking? Some are, some are not. Some 30 year olds couldn't handle it, some can. You can not make a blanket statement and apply some arbitrary age to say who can and cant. The youngest person to complete the AT was only 6. That is a pretty decent backpacking trip, one I could not do right now. If you dont think kids under 14 can backpack, try reading Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis Herr. I believe those girls were around 6-8 when they completed all of NH's 4000 footers (something I have not done) and many of those trips were backpacking trips. Some covered 18 miles in one day.

              And I will repeat myself. If a troop does a 50 mile trip, they should do lots and lots of smaller trips. Anyone interested in the 50 miler, should go on all the shorter ones to both test themselves as well as demonstrate to the trip leaders that they can handle it. Condition by doing, load up a pack, go for a few miles at first and build from there. Educate yourself in safe hiking, bring the essentials, and understand that knowledge is more important than gear - but don't skimp on the gear, know how to use it. Rely on yourself.

              Children can accomplish great things, just believe in them.

              edit: oh, and no my son is not a wolf - what does that have to do with anything
              (This message has been edited by Outdoors)


              • #22
                Outdoors is right. A couple of good 10 milers certainly shows the boys who are in the top 20% and bottom 20% pretty quick. I have seen some small, excellent 12 year old hikers --though they came from heavy hiking families and usually carried lighter loads. I have seen some pretty slow 16 year olds--I mean I was faster and I am the Turtle.

                Best prep...lots of hikes, stair climbs, etc. We find a 10 mile beach hike with pack on uneven sands a good AT prep since we do not have any hills. Rough on 50 year old hips.


                • #23
                  Thank you everyone for all the advice. I think my son and I will start hiking more in the local parks. We may also just do some walking and biking just to stay in shape. increasing distance and time as we go.

                  If the troop decides for sure it wants to do a 50 mile hike then we will definetly do all the prep hikes. I will let him make the decide after that if he wants to try it.

                  Please feel free to add more advice on trainig if you think it will be helpful. I haven't done a ton of hiking myself so any advice is welcome.


                  • #24
                    Are you interested or planning to do the 50 miler yourself?


                    • #25
                      Yes, I am interested indoing the 50 mile hike myself. I am planning to go with him on the hike.

                      So I definitely need to be in shape myself. I am in fairly good shape now. i was able to complete a 30 mile bike ride last month. However I know riding a bike on city street 30 miles is not the same as hiking with 40 pound pack.

                      Any suggestion for me would be great also.


                      • #26
                        " if a troop has a quality outdoors program they will have opportunities for many hiking trips through the entire year, at least once a month."

                        Hiking is good but saying that a troop needs to hike at least once a month to have quality program is unrealistic.

                        In reference to the 6 year old AT thru-hiker comment. Completing a thru-hike of the AT at any age is a far different animal than taking boys on a weekend hike. Most smart thru-hikers start slow and build up endurance, stamina and strength. You can't train for it. Basically hiking becomes your full time job and you ease into it or you don't make it. Boys doing a weekend hike don't have that opportunity.

                        Feel free to ask me how I know this


                        • #27
                          Outdoor my point is you have zero experience taking a group of young Boy Scouts on a multiple day backpacking trip.....

                          You were busy saying that an 8 year could carry a greater percentage of their body weight than a 30 year old....I am calling BS..... Oh they might do it for 100 yards or even a mile....but soon dad or leader will end up with the excess weight. It is a recipe for losing boys.


                          • #28

                            Why not give all those interested in trying the opportunity to do so? Presumably those who need to improve their conditioning, skills or what they carry might learn from the experience.

                            That seems like the best Scouting method to me. Having adults decide what to take and who is able to go doesn't sound like a good Scouting method to me.


                            • #29
                              I don't see anything wrong with a troop having a High Adventure trip once in a while where only the older boys go. We use to call that those Senior Patrol outings.(This message has been edited by Eagle732)


                              • #30
                                The first thing one learns while becoming an experienced backpacker is what not to bring and what to bring.

                                I've hiked in Michigan - rolling hills and mostly flat lands, but also in New Mexico - high elevations, mountains, etc.

                                I don't want to generalize, but I would be wary of boys younger than 14 for a backpacking trip. Now, for definitions, backpacking to me is you need to carry all foodstuffs (including water or water purification equipment), cooking gear, tent, sleeping bag, first aid equipment, clothes (including warm weather, cold weather and wet weather), etc. Most folks bring way to much gear. One can get away with a pack that is 35 lbs if one is careful.

                                I've gone on two and a half day hikes covering a total of around 18 miles (11 miles, day one, 7 miles day two) and also 50 miles or so hikes (approx 5 - 10 miles per day for a six days). Longer hikes require more food obviously so packs can get quite heavy. Also, keep in mind that hiking to me is carrying out all trash (I did have the luxury of burying my waste but did need to carry a trowel and TP).

                                I would err on the conservative side. I would not want to take a boy too early and sour him on backpacking. Day hikes with a fanny pack are a good start for 12 & 13 year olds.