Category Archives for "Tips and Tricks"

A few Basic Tips to Improve your Fitness for Hiking, Mountaineering, Adventure, Travel and General well-being

Running for fitness


At Primal Hiking, we are focused on self-improvement and growth.  Hiking and Outdoors Adventure are just a mechanism to “get you there” (although, there is no really “getting there” – the journey is constant and that’s what it is all about…more on that later).

One thing I have found is that the more fit I am, both physically and mentally, the more I enjoy the mountains.  Of course, hiking will contribute towards getting you fit, but you can make some great strides towards general fitness every day…even if you are not hiking.  The key is to do something! Even if it is for just 10 minutes, do something.

The below list should give you some ideas.  I will have a lot more detailed content in future posts and videos.


Hike more: Get out there more!

Hiker on a ridge

When you hike, you get fitter and get to see beautiful views 🙂

There is an old adage: What is the best exercise to get ready for hiking? Hiking! Just get out there even if it is for a short 30 min walk in the local park. If you find some local areas or park with some hills, you can get even more out of it.

Hike more.  Try and get out at least once a week, even if it is a 1 hour hike. Sometimes, life gets busy for all of us and time is limited so even a short hike is enough. At some point, you may wish to increase the challenge by carrying a heavier pack. What I like to do at times is, carry a gallon jug filled with water for the uphill portion of the hike, dump it out before descending (easier on the knees).

Go for a run

Running for fitness

Going for a run is one of the best ways to get fit for hiking and mountaineering

Running is one of the best things you can do – assuming you do it properly. Posture and foot placement are important. Start with a brisk walk. Then jogging.  Keep your heart rate low. There is an adage in the mountaineering, alpinist and Triathlon training world – LSD (Long Slow distance).  Better to keep a moderate heart rate for a longer period of time. Get a heart rate monitor and the basic formula to use is 180 – your age.  So if you are 30, your heart rate should be around 150 for the duration of the run.

Once you get better at running, start trail running!  A great way to enjoy the outdoors and get fit!


Do a bit of cardio at the gym when you are unable to hike

I personally am not a big fan of using cardio machines at the gym but sometimes when the weather is not great and you are looking for a workout, this can be useful during those times as well as when it gets too cumbersome to go out and hit the trails.

I have taken my daypack, filled it with 10 lbs of weight and done the stair mill.
A stationary bike is good as well – fairly low impact and good to work on your aerobic base.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of the treadmill at all, would rather just go for a run outside. Even if it is crappy weather, go for a run!


If you have a nice steep hill nearby, go do some hill sprints!

How to do hill sprints:

  • Find a nice steep hill – say 30 metres (90 feet or so)
  • Run up it as fast as possible
  • Walk down
  • Repeat the above 4-6 times.

Boom!  You will enhance your fitness level by orders of magnitude (doing these consistently over a period of time – say once or twice a week).

Box steps

Box steps are great to work on your leg strength. These really help in working the muscles used to hike uphill.  When you get better at them, start doing them with a weighted pack (5,10, 15, 20 lbs or more as you get stronger)

Squats & Lunges

I like bodyweight squats. I like box squats. I like front squats and back squats. I like kettlbell goblet squats and dumbbell goblet squats. I like Hindu squats (Baithak). In short, I like squats. Years ago, I was being plagued with pain and discomfort during
hiking steep trails, specially on the way down. I started squatting and the pain went away. As simple as that!

Lunges are great too. You can do them bodyweight or with dumbbells.

Mobility and Stretching

Yoga on the beach

Doing yoga is one of the best ways to get limber

I cannot say enough about how important mobility and stretching are. These are some of the things to look at:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Feldenkrais / Alexander Technique
  • GMB Fitness
  • IntuFlow
  • Limber 11


Matterhorn Hiking

Get good at fitness, so you can enjoy this!

I think that should cover it for now.  This stuff is a key component of wellness and enjoying the outdoors as well as everything life has to offer.  In the meantime, start doing SOMETHING – ANYTHING.

Let me know if you have questions.

The Top 10 Items to carry in your daypack

As I mentioned earlier, you do not need a lot to get started. However, if you are venturing out for longer trips
and away from civilization, you do need to carry some stuff. Most of the stuff I list below, you will most likely
already have at home. There is no need to run out at this point and spend a lot of money on expensive, high-tech

– Water and Extra Water

If you take one thing, take water. A human being can survive a few days without food but not very long without water.
So it is critical to have enough. The best way is to get a waterbottle or 2 , maybe a liter each. You can buy
some bottled water or just take a water bottle from home. Sometimes, I like to add some lemon or lime and a bit
of good quality sea-salt – tastes great and replenishes electrolytes.

– Food

Food is a vast topic and I have written a bit about and will write a lot more. However, it is good to have a high-calorie
snack such as
– Pita with Peanut butter
– Salami
– Cheddar cheese
– Nutella
– Toblerone
– M&Ms
– Dried mangos

– GPS or map or compass or some navigational aid

If you are venturing into territory that you are not familiar with, it is good to have some navigation aid and
knowledge on how to use them. These days, many phones have a built in GPS. However, make sure to download a map
of the area you are going to since you may not get cell phone signal. Also, have a backup plan if the battery dies.
Paper maps, analog compasses etc can help

– First Aid kit

I remember a time when I was the only person in a party of 3 with a first-aid kit and someone started getting a blister
very early on in the trip. If I didnt have a kit with moleskin in it, that trip may have to be cut short.
What ended up happening was that this person put on moleskin on her blister hot spot and was able to proceed further
and we had a successful trip. The first-aid kit doesn’t need to be too complicated for shorter trips , close to help
but if you are going further afield, make sure you have adequate supplies. I will cover this at a later date.

– Bandanna

As Dogulas Adams said in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “a towel is about the most massively useful thing an
interstellar hitchiker can have.”. Well, a bandanna is a very useful thing that you as a earthbound hiker
can have 🙂 . Some uses:

– Sun protection/head protection
– Signal
– Breathing mask
– Sling
– Washcloth / Towel
– Water filter
– Bandage

and literally hundreds of potential uses more

– Firestarter of some kind, matches, lighter, a bit of tinder

This can be handy to have in a survival situation if you need to get a fire going. Leave no trace asks us to minimize
starting fires wherever possible but nothing beats sitting around a nice, hot campfire on a chilly evening and looking
at the stars.

– Some extra clothes

Rain jacket, insulating layers (fleece, down jacket), gloves if its fall or winter, hats, a pair of dry socks if your
feet get wet ..stuff like that. I will write a lot more about this.

– Flashlight / headlamp or other lightsource

If you happen to run late and it starts getting dark, this is essential to have and I highly recommend that you carry it
every time you venture out in the wilderness. Make sure the batteries are new-ish and work before you start your hike.

– Sunglasses/sun protection

If you are above tree-line, in the snow or in the sun, these are essential

– Garbage bags

Multiple uses, shelter in a pinch, liner for backpack in case of rain, carry your trash out (leave no trace)

I will expand on this stuff in future posts but this should get you started!

Let me know if you have anything else that you bring with you that you consider as an essential!