Yeah, I know. You’ve heard me harp on this before and you’ll hear me harp on it in the future. Physical fitness is important to anybody, but to someone who intends to hike a heavy back pack out of a danger zone it’s of paramount importance.
One of our readers recently commented how he once bought a backpack and when he’d filled it up he couldn’t even lift it! I had to laugh because I’ve done the same thing. If you’ve never done something like this you either had a very good teacher or you’ve never been hiking.
Buying extra gear and throwing it into your bag is something I call BOB Creep. Basically you keep buying extra stuff and throwing it into your bag one item at a time until eventually it’s so full and heavy that it’s useless.
So there are really two aspects in this post I’d like to discuss: physical fitness and bug-out bag weight.
The Bug-Out Bag
First – the BOB. Everybody has an idea of what their BOB is going to be used for and I agree that it’s a personal decision you have to make after weighing the factors in your particular circumstances. Some people want to live out of their BOBs for 72 hours or more. Others – like myself – just want to have enough gear to get home. Regardless, I still have enough gear to survive in reasonable comfort for a few days if the chips are down.
The difference is the amount of food, water, and gear necessary to survive. If you pack extra clothes, and lots of batteries, and cans of food, and weapons and ammo, and other items like that your bag is going to be heavy. When I was in the service a combat loaded pack weighed over 65 pounds and that didn’t count the extras we had to carry like mortar rounds, base plates, PRC radios and extra batteries, and stuff like that. As we’ve mentioned before military gear isn’t all that light (but it is rugged) and when it was all loaded up it was possible that we were carrying over 75 or 80 pounds of gear.
Just putting a pack that heavy on is a chore and once you’ve walked a mile or two in it your shoulders, back, legs, and hips will feel like liquid fire. Trust me.
This is one of the reasons that as I’ve gained experience in the outdoors my pack has become lighter. I find it’s easy to do without a lot of the stuff that you think you need in the wilderness.
Now comes the hard part. After you’ve gone through your bag and pared out the extra equipment it’s time to put that pack on and take it for a walk. If you’re serious about bugging out you should be able to hike your BOB at least ten miles without feeling like your heart is going to explode.
If you can’t walk ten miles *without* a bug-out bag you need to get out there and start walking. In my mind being physically fit doesn’t necessarily mean that you can pass a military Physical Fitness Test. It means that when the chips are down you need the physical ability to save yourself and your dependents if you have to. A disaster doesn’t care if your abs are ripped or not (mine aren’t!) – you just have to be able to function at a high level of physical demand for the time that the situation calls for.
The other day I picked my three year old up (he was tired from walking) and carried him a half mile through the woods while toting my bug-out bag on my back. That was probably a combined weight of 70 lbs while walking over broken terrain. That’s a tough workout ya’ll, but I was glad to see that I could do it without collapsing. I was tired when I set him down to be sure, but at the same time I was pleased to know that I could have gone further if I needed to.
You can do exercise programs like Crossfit (I like this, but it’s tough!), or lift weights, or cardio, or a mixture of all three, but I think the best idea is to train for what it is you expect to do. If you’re a runner you don’t lift weights and expect to kick ass on the weekend 5k race. If you’re training for a race you need to run. If you want to be able to hike ten miles with a pack you should put on your pack and start hiking with it. As someone noted in the comments awhile back, this will also help you figure out if your hiking shoes are right for you too.
Eventually a couple of things will happen. You’ll notice that you don’t feel as tired with it as you did at first and you’ll start to weed out gear that might not be necessary for a three day event.
What do you do to train?
Here’s a short video of me doing a Crossfit workout. It ain’t an easy one! I’ve edited the video down so you’re not subjected to the whole thing, so when you’re watching it’ll occasionally look like I’m magically teleported from one exercise to the next. Don’t be fooled, even I’m not that fast!