Trail Tough: A Basic Plan For Building Backpacking Endurance


Talk to enough guides and outfitters and you’ll find their number one complaint is dealing with doughy, out-of-shape clients in the mountains. Money might be able to buy you a ticket to hunting adventure anywhere in the world. But getting close to game in rugged, backcountry terrain almost always means hiking many miles, day after day, under the burden of a heavy pack.



This requires a special kind of fitness you’re not going to find in a gym or in the organic food section of your local grocery store. It requires the kind of stamina you can’t build lifting weights alone or racking up the miles on a weekly running schedule. To be in the best mental and physical shape for backpacking, you really have to strap on pack (preferably the one you’re going to be hunting with) get outside and do some hiking.

A 16-Week Plan

When it comes to the smartest and safest method of training average people to cover long distances carrying everything they need on their back, no one has looked at the problem more closely than the U.S. military.

Air Force PJ (pararescue jumper) and military fitness expert, Nate Morrison, introduced what is now one of the most successful conditioning programs of its kind in 2007 for the Army Times.

In soldier-speak, “ruck marching” is hiking (or marching) with a weighted pack for long distances over varied terrain. Morrison’s program was designed for both raw recruits and experienced soldiers looking to get back on track after a long layoff from rucking. A systematic, 16-week progression, Morrison’s program is simple, well organized and—for anyone planning a backcountry bowhunt this coming year—a perfect fit for the four-month window now remaining before western hunting seasons kick off in the U.S. in September.


The guidelines are simple:

During the course of routine, you “ruck march” twice per week. This should give your nervous system, bones, tendons and ligaments adequate time to recover if you rest at least two days between sessions and possibly even a third or fourth day if you’re doing any additional running or resistance training.

In the original program, Morrison recommends hiking at specific tempos (e.g. fast/slow, slow/fast), depending on the week. Generally speaking, a good tempo is one where you can still comfortably maintain a conversation; for most people, that will work out to around a 15- to 20-minute-per-mile pace.


It should go without saying, but since there are no sidewalks or paved roads in the backcountry you should hike on uneven, hilly terrain whenever possible. Use the same boot/sock combination and the same pack that you plan to use on your hunt. Likewise, you shouldn’t even attempt this program if you can’t already walk five miles, unloaded without doubling over with leg and lower-back pain.

The first week of the program starts with a five-mile hike with 20-percent of your body weight loaded in your pack. If you don’t know how to figure out the percent of a number, that’s what Google is for. The 16-week progression looks like this:



1                                  20%                                            5 miles

2                                  20%                                            5 miles

3                                  25%                                            5 miles

4                                  25%                                            5 miles

5                                  30%                                            5 miles

6                                  30%                                            5 miles

7                                  35%                                            5 miles

8                                  35%                                            5 miles

9                                  40%                                            5 miles

10                                40%                                            5 miles

11                                40%                                            6 miles

12                                40%                                            8 miles

13                                40%                                           10 miles

14                                40%                                           12 miles

15                                40%                                           14 miles

16                                40%                                           16 miles

Stone Glacier Ultralight Backpacks

Actually, the market is filled with backpacks and the options are unlimited. Big names, as Kifaru, MisteryRanch, Kuiu, Badlands, Eberlestock, traditional backpacks as Bisongear, quiver-backpacks as RanchoSafari and new ones, as Tenzing or Easton with his own line of hunting backpacks. For me, many of the actual designs are filled with non sense small pockets, zippers and hundreds of Molle type webbing to attach more non sense pouches. If one brand has all my attention this is Stone Glacier, by far less know than the other ones.

About Stone Glacier, very few “ultralight” packs can say this:

From the Stone Glacier webpage:

After three years of design and testing with loads from 70 to 135 pounds without any structural issues, the goal was to test the pack to failure.  Starting with 1 inch steel plates 13” by 25”, I worked my way up to four plates in the pack.  Each plate weighed about 85  pounds, 40 pounds a square foot.  When it was time to add the third and fourth plate, I welded the plates together, lifted them with a crane, wrapped the Solo around the plates, and set it back down on edge of the welding bench where I could get it on my back.  The final load weight on my back was 340 pounds with no damage, failure, or signs of stress.  While the goal of testing to failure was not accomplished, the load test did prove the 130 pounds plus rating structurally conservative.


The Solo model, without meat bag and with it, 3.7 pounds, around 1.7 kilos, with a load rating of 130 pounds…


And they are solids, not camo, nice !!!

A Guide to Broadhead Sharpening DVD

A new DVD about broadhead sharpenning by Gary and Connie Renfro, populars bowhunters

All the info from 3Rivers Archery

Every hunter is looking for that extra edge for hunting season. This DVD shows you how to get and keep that edge with super sharp broadheads!

Gary and Connie Renfro show you how to get and maintain an extra sharp edge on your broadheads using a variety of modern and time-tested methods. From straight edges to 3-blade broadheads to mechanical broadheads, and everything in between, you’ll learn a variety of methods using a variety of sharpeners and tools.

Over 1 hour and 30 minutes of information, instruction, demonstrations, and insights. A Guide to Broadhead Sharpening is a must-view before getting ready for the hunt!

Includes tips on how to use:

  • Carbide Sharpeners
  • Hand Filling Methods
  • Motorized Methods
  • Angled Sharpeners
  • Knife Style Sharpeners

Learn how to sharpen:

  • Radius Edges
  • Straight Edges
  • Concave Edges
  • Single Bevel
  • Double Bevel
  • 3-Blade Broadheads
  • Mechanical Broadheads

Approximately 90 minutes.

Rain skirt

Yes, the hunters are by general rule, tough guys, rudes and very “machos”. Beards are the rule, maybe tattoos, short hair…you know. To help with this “supermacho” problem, i think that add one skirt to our weardrobe is the perfect solution. I have never seen one hunter using one skirt, not at daylight, but in the backpacking world is something usual.

Pros, are very very lights, volume near zero, very cheaps and with a pair of gaiters you can be dry under heavy rain

Cons, not the best for long walks in the typical hunting terrain with brush, trees and similar and not practical for many hunting situations. Your hunting buddies can be joking about you for your lifetime.

Pics from Plenty of models in the market, this is only one option.


For sure, this is not for everyone but who knows, can be helpful

Vortex Viper HD Binoculars

I often get asked what I think of my Vortex Optics Viper HD binoculars, so thought I’d put together a short write up about them.NIGELIVY_20130529_6124

I bought my first pair of Vortex binoculars, the Viper HDs,  about 18 months ago and have used them on several hunts, with great success. I think they’re a great example of a mid-range bino and are probably some of the best value for money out there.



I’ve compared them side-by-side against Swarovski. In good light conditions I didn’t notice much difference between the Vortex and Swarovski. Where I’ve found the Viper HDs to lack compared to Swarovski, is in low light conditions. That said, the difference in sharpness was not massive. I think that you would only really realize the difference in sharpness if you used your binos extensively at night.IVY_20120523_4513


The Viper HDs are very well built. I put a pair of BinoBibs over mine for added protection and to keep stuff off the lens when I crawl or push through thick brush. The Viper HDs are not bulky, but are strong enough for someone that will put them through their paces. I don’t abuse mine, but I also don’t baby them and mine have held together very well with no signs of wear. One of the most attractive things about Vortex Optics is their Unlimited Lifetime Warranty.

About the only thing that I don’t like about the Viper HDs is that when you twist out the eye-cups, there is lubricant that is exposed, which I found collects grass seeds and dirt very easily. Fortunately for me, I don’t use them with the eye-cups out, so it doesn’t affect me much, but this is something to bear in mind if you need the eye-lids out.NIGELIVY_20130529_6119


In my opinion, about the most attractive thing about the Viper HDs is their price. When you consider, at the time of writing this blog, that an equivalent model Swarovski runs up at $2,239 and an equivalent model Zeiss runs up at $999, the Viper HDs at $599 is very good value for money for what you get!NIGELIVY_20130529_6134


In summary, I consider the Viper HDs to be a very strong contender for someone looking for a good pair of binoculars. They tick all the boxes in terms of price, sharpness and build and with an Unlimited Lifetime Warranty, you can’t go wrong.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Press Release – KUIU Tiburon Series Warm Weather


DIXON, CALIFORNIA (May 16, 2013) – KUIU announced today the release of their new Tiburon warm weather system. The Tiburon system consists of a Zip-T and Pant that are constructed with a unique Toray fabric advancement called Dot Air. The use of Dot Air allows for maximum breathability and durability for warm weather hunts.


“The Tiburon Zip-T and Pant are one of my favorite developments because it solves the problem of the wide temperature changes we face during summer and early fall hunts,” explains Jason Hariston, founder of KUIU. “I have tested the Tiburon on the coastal range in California during the summer in 100 degree heat and layered up underneath in 10 degree hunts in November.  I love the versatility of Tiburon.”


Dot Air is constructed with micro-openings in the fabric designed to maximize breathability, allowing even the slightest breeze to pass through the fabric, keeping you cool in the warmest temperatures while still protecting you from the elements. The Tiburon system is 100% polyester, treated with Toray’s Kudos DWR for water repellency, quick drying, and most importantly quiet. Designed for versatility, both pieces can be worn next to skin, or over additional base layers in cooler temperatures.


The Tiburon is available in either the Vias or Verde Camo pattern. The Tiburon Zip-T, weighing in at a mere 8.50 ounces, is available in sizes M-XXL for $99.99 and the Tiburon Pant, weighing in at a mere 12.50 ounces, is available in sizes 32-40 for $139.99.

ABOUT KUIU: Based in Dixon, California, KUIU was founded in 2011 ­­­­­to provide customers with the world’s most advanced hunting layering system and equipment on the market. KUIU provides remarkable apparel and equipment that is light, packable, and dependable. By eliminating retailers and selling their products exclusively online, KUIU drives the ultimate shopping experience. They provide superior customer service, lower pricing, and the highest product quality. For additional information visit or call 1-855-367-5848 Monday-Friday from 9:00AM-5:00PM PST.


DIXON, CALIFORNIA (April, 11, 2013) – Today KUIU announced the release of their new Icon 1850 Day Pack on their Building KUIU blog found at The new 1850 cubic inch bag provides a unique design that allows for the pack to be used with or without KUIU’s carbon fiber frame. This versatile 21-ounce bag allows hunters to customize the pack’s performance based on one’s individual needs. Preorders are now being accepted for the first shipment on June 15th.

“I am excited to introduce the Icon 1850 to the market,” explains Jason Hairston, founder of KUIU. “This was a year long development project driven by input made by our Building KUIU blog readers, and is by far the most versatile day pack ever created.”

The Icon 1850 Day Pack, has two primary set-ups: with or without the carbon fiber frame, each with their own benefits, exceling in comfort and performance in either set up. Attaching the 1850 bag to the frame allows for use of the external load sling in conditions where hauling a heavy load, such as an elk hindquarter, is necessary. Removing the frame reduces weight and provides a comfortable fit perfect for day hunts or scouting.


Providing even more versatility, the bag’s structural carbon fiber stays are removable, allowing the bag to compress down even further and reduce even more weight. The bag is available in four different color ways: their original Vias Camo, green-based digital Verde Camo, or a solid two-tone Phantom Grey/Major Brown.

The pack has already generated lots of excitement from customers on Hairston’s

“Building KUIU” blog. One customer, Seth, wrote, “I’ve been waiting for this pack ever since it was first announced. Passed on many tempting packs knowing that this would hit the sweet spot in every aspect. You have not disappointed.”

ABOUT KUIU: Based in Dixon, California, KUIU was founded in 2011, with one goal: bring the finest ultralight technical mountain hunting gear possible to the market. KUIU provides a layering system that is light, packable, and dependable in all weather conditions. They sell all of their products exclusively online in order to provide competitive wholesale pricing with the best customer service and highest product quality possible. For more information visit or call 1-855-367-5848 Monday- Friday from 9:00AM-5:00PM PST.

“TOP END” Buffalo II

The first day of the hunt was an exciting one. We spotted several buffalo as well as a few scrub bulls and wild donkeys. We passed on all the buffalo because both Barry and Kim had seen larger bulls during their pre-scouting trips.  This initial trip into hunting country gave us a feel for what was to come – Rough four wheeling for two hours or so, following by 5 to 6 hours of walking and spotting. We generally walked 10 to 14 miles per day.

On the second day of the hunt we had a little excitement. After fording the Milton River we came upon a small group of wild hogs. They were all walking in single file, into the wind, and oblivious to our presence. Bill and I were able to run right up to the last hog in the line when she whirled and gave a grunt that stopped the whole procession. We launched our first volley of arrows hitting two of them. Bill’s arrow completely penetrated one boar and hit a small piglet running with the group. This piglet took great exception to an arrow in its side and began to squeal with a volume the likes of which were disproportionate to its size. This squealing had a very unsettling affect on the rest of the group. Bottom line is that they started charging Bill and me. In unison, we both looked for a tree to climb and discovered that there were none! Barry and Kim were observing all this through binoculars at several hundred yards distant. Although I’ve certainly seen larger hogs in my day, I don’t remember any being more determined. We were both equipped with very heavy arrows made for the buffalo hunt and they became very useful at this point. Bill turned one boar with a well placed shot which left the sow that was coming directly at me. My choice was to run or shoot and I decided on the latter. Thank God I actually hit her where I was aiming. The 860-grain “Grizzlystik” tipped with a 190 grain Grizzly head entered the hog right between the eyes and exited behind her ear. With their numbers greatly reduced that rest of the group decided to run off which pleased us greatly.

This whole fiasco made for a real confidence booster regarding our equipment. Bill was shooting an 80-pound Black Widow and I was carrying my trusty old 80-pound Stotler longbow. Both of us carried arrows made for this trip by Bob Burton of Whispering Wind arrows. Bob had made some Purple Heart shafts for Bill’s previous trip for Cape Buffalo in Africa. Since they worked well on that trip (nice buff and giraffe), Bill ordered more for this hunt. Bob could not find additional purple heart shafts for me so he came up with an option of resin impregnated Poplar shafts that produced a finished arrow weight of 1140 grains. In addition to these arrows, I was field testing some new heavy carbon shafts called the Grizzlystick from Alaska Bowhunting Supply. I really liked the advantage of the heavier wood arrows, but the Grizzlysticks are almost indestructible, which means a lot on a trip where you can’t run downtown to get more arrows. I’ve purposely hit a granite bolder with a Grizzlystick and had it recoil 20 yards in the opposite direction. In fact, I’ve broken three Judos on one of the arrows I’m still shooting. True to form, the one I shot through the hog’s head is still in my quiver. No matter what shaft I use, the business end always carries the 190-grain Grizzly broadhead when I hunting dangerous game. This one inch wide, three inch long head has served me well over the years.

While Barry and Bill continued to pursue one large bull they saw the second day of the hunt, Kim and I struck out for some new territory that was not previously hunted. The chance to hunt truly virgin territory really appealed to me. From the topo maps for the area, Kim found a long string of small ponds all connected and that eventually drained into the Milton River. From the map, it was apparent that we could walk over twenty miles from the first pond to the river. We drove (if you could call it that) as far as the terrain would allow and logged in the waypoint on our GPS’s. Then we struck out on foot towards the coordinates pulled from the map. Once we reached the water holes we started seeing buffalo in large numbers. One impressive bull was traveling with over 20 cows and calves, which made the ensuing stalk even more difficult. With so many eyes and noses covering his backside, this bull simply grazed with impunity. Finally the inevitable happened when we spooked an unseen cow and the whole herd bolted in a thunder of hooves and a billowing cloud of dust. Back to the string of water holes, we parted some of the dense vegetation to reveal a large group of buffaloes all circling a small pond. While I was busy looking for a trophy in the bunch, Kim stabbed me in the ribs and whispered that the herd bull was in the water ten yards below me. Sure enough the entire herd was watch His Nibs take a bath. All I could see was his nose and horns above the water. Slowly nocking an arrow, I figured all I had to do was wait for the King to walk out of his tub and I would smack him. After a mere 5 seconds, one of the cows grunted in alarm and this peaceful scene erupted into utter chaos. The bull dog-paddled to the opposite side and lunged onto the bank. Standing completely broadside he stared right at me with his nose held high and on full alert. I could see Kim’s 500 Jeffery come to bare and heard Kim whisper “take him”. The distance (around 30 yards) was a bit more than I had hoped for and the fact that he was on full alert, looking right through me made me uncomfortable with the shot. Years of disappoint has taught me never to take a shot that I was not completely comfortable with. Hence, I passed on the shot and was immediately second-guessing the wisdom of what I had just done. I could tell that Kim was disappointed as well.

We had been hunting hard for four days and this was the best opportunity to date. It was with a heavy heart that we finally returned to camp well after dark. Two gins and tonics helped a lot as Bill and I compared the day’s excitement. Bill and Barry had spotted the big bull they were looking for but it had given them the slip after a long hot pursuit. After one of Sonia’s great meals and several glasses of fine Australian Cabernet, I was prepared for a good nights rest and whatever tomorrow might bring.

On the fifth day of the hunt, Kim and I decided to retrace the route of the previous day and continue on into uncharted territory. We did stop on the way to make a stalk on a group of wild donkeys. This heard was more curious than spooked at our presence, which probably attests that we were the first humans they have ever seen. This was their undoing, because I smacked the biggest jack right through both lungs. We watched him fall within sight. The Grizzlystick had struck again. Once we got close for the photo session, I was surprised at the size of these donkeys. The one I shot was in very good flesh and not a tic on him. I was soon to discover that this was true for the water buffalo as well.

As we continued our hunt I knew the donkey had been a real confidence builder. I was now determined to find a good bull and put him down. I’ve found that this feeling happens to me a lot in the field. Sometimes it takes several days of hunting to get into sync with nature and the correct frame of mind for what had to be done. I was now hunting with more intensity. Kim was in the lead weaving his way through heavy palm fronds and low brush. I was scanning the country to my right when I turned to see Kim frozen at mid stride. He was looking right at me with his index finger pointed to our left. As he slowly brought the big Jeffery to his shoulder; my eyes shifted to the direction that the half-inch bore was pointed. There taking a nap in the mud was a fine water buffalo.

He was only 20 yards below me and looking at Kim which gave me an opportunity to nock one of my 1140-grain woodies. I remember thinking- “If he would only stand up”. As if on command the bull slowly came to his feet, still looking directly at Kim. Then I was thinking- “ Just turn a little, so you will be quartering away”. Again, he obliged. It was like my friend Monty Browning likes to say- All the pegs were dropping in the right holes. The only thing left to fill the final hole was for the buff to move his front leg forward to expose a chance at the heart. I could tell he was about to bolt, but I forced myself to wait. Finally he turned his big head in the directly of his exit. In doing so, he made one step with his front leg- Time to drop the hammer! I was already aimed and at half draw when he moved that leg, so it only took an instant to come to full draw and release. As luck would have it, the arrow hit exactly where I was looking. I could hear the metallic click which is the tell tale sign of hitting bone.

When the bull exited the small mud hole he had only one inch of white crown dip visible below the fletching, which meant the arrow had penetrated 22 inches (it’s a good thing to know exactly how long your arrows’ crown dip extends and the distance from the nock to the end of your fletching). It was all over in a split second and now it was time to be silent and wait. I was determined to wait a full 30 minutes. At the end of 12 minutes we heard the bellowing of an animal in distress. After four long bellows, all was silent. I continued to wait out the full 30 minutes before taking up the blood trail. Kim was in the lead with the Jeffery extended. After walking exactly 63 paces, I saw Kim drop to one knee and on full alert. Through the thick brush I could see the head of a buffalo on the ground looking at his back trail. Kim motioned for me to move slowly to the left while he stayed in position for a shot if necessary. Kim wisely had me move to see if the buffalo would move his head to follow my motion, indicating he was still alive.

Thankfully, he stone dead! It’s hard to express my feeling at that moment. During the caping process we did a little autopsy and discovered that the arrow had completing blown through a rib (which was sizable) and pierced the top end of the heart.


Somehow the trip back to the vehicle was not as grueling as I had imagined and back at camp, it was cigars around with scotch substituted for the gin and tonics. Cathy and I spent the next day fishing for Baramundi, which is a great sport fish similar to our bass. These fish get up to 30 pounds in these relatively small ponds. We were successful with the Baramundi and also saw fresh water crocodiles and five-foot sharks all in the same pools. We were 80 kilometers from the coast, so that is some indication how high the water gets during the wet season. That evening Bill and Barry were late of the cocktail hour so that was determined to be a good sign. When they finally arrived, Bill announced that he had finally hit the big bull they had been chasing all week. He felt the arrows’ entry angle was a bit back but a lethal hit. They tracked the bull for over six miles in four hours. Each time they jumped bull it would run again. Not wanting to loose the bull or make it suffer, Bill asked Barry to bring it down with a rifle. This was a very ethical gesture on his part because unlike Africa there is no wounding policy in Australia; you simply carry on with the hunt. Anyhow, Barry hit the bull four times with a 404 and it still refused to stop. When it was too dark to continue the track, they had returned to camp. The next morning the whole camp went out to help pick up the spore. It was hard tracking with very little blood. We were starting to get that sick feeling of loosing a fine trophy when Barry gave a shout. He had found the bull dead, approximately 2 miles from where they left the track the evening before. The Purple Heart shaft was still in him and it had penetrated deep. The arrows’ entry was right behind the shoulder, but our speculation was that bull was angled a little towards Bill when the arrow hit. Regardless, it was a happy ending and we were all grateful that we didn’t give up on this magnificent bull.

The whole experience was something I will never forget and will be forever grateful to Barry, Kim and Sonia for showing us the wonders of Australia’s Top End. Now if I can just sleep for the rest of this flight it might make it more tolerable.