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.