If you are truly backpacking this. Meaning you are hiking it and carrying all your gear on your own back.
It is the opinion from a large amount of seasoned backpackers, from a variety of ages, you better be in shape, and do special conditioning for this trip. Even then, expect the first day in camp to be uncomfortable with some muscle stiffness and pain. Most people attempt to do the trek in faster than they normally train or condition. They stretch out, or use muscles on the switchbacks they aren’t used to using.
Doing the trip without any conditioning, you might expect to really be miserable with pain for couple of days. Mostly in the form of muscle and joint pain. About the time you recover from the hike in you will be doing it again. Using different muscles on the hike up the switchbacks.
Often people will then jump in their vehicles and drive for hours without getting out to stretch.
While this hike is not extremely difficult. Don’t think this trip is a “walk in the park” as some macho types like to post on social media. But we are talking “Backpacking”, not hiking it without your gear on your back.
Some people boast about how easy it is. Then you find they either helicoptered in or out. Or they used Pack Animals to transport their gear….they just fail to mention that.
There of course could be people in very good shape. But the majority of you out there are not in this type of shape. Believe us…..many voices of experience trying to pass on advice! Do some conditioning. The more the better.
People that are flying in or out, or both. Or using Pack Animals to transport gear, even a portion of their gear, then hiking it. These are the people hard core backpackers will say, “Those types have really never backpacked Havasu. They took a vacation there”.
If you aren’t going to do a true backpacking trip, there is nothing wrong with that. Just as long as you don’t BS people that you did. Also don’t do a disservice to the inexperienced, or first timer to backpacking, by claiming the hike in and out is nothing.
Those that will truly backpack this trip. Please take time to plan and prepare. Prepare your gear, and your body.
Every time I make the trip, I run into people with injuries, and those inadequately prepared, not having adequate water for the trail, lacking proper gear and footwear, or packing grossly over-weight packs.
If you are in great shape, a seasoned backpacker, or have lots of stamina, then by all means you can throw caution to the wind. But it is kind of irresponsible to boast, convincing some unsuspecting new person to skip many precautions about gear, and physical conditioning.
If you are new to all of this, or never backpacked in this type of climate and terrain. Many of us that have been doing this for awhile, recommend you take these recommendations seriously. Get in shape, have good footwear, go light, and carry plenty of water.
It is highly recommended you do many pre-conditioning hikes prior to your actual trip. I don’t care if you walk daily, jog, or bike. While these exercises will certainly help, nothing like that will properly prepare you. Most people exercise on relatively flat terrain.
While doing conditioning hikes wear the actual boots and clothing you will be using on your Havasu trip.
Load a backpack up with about 30 to 35lbs of books or bags of rice or flour….or all of your gear if you are that prepared….be sure to include a gallon of water. If you think you are going to backpack with 50lbs strapped on your back. You certainly better be practicing with that amount.
Start doing stairs or steep inclines. If you have a natural hiking environment that offers steep trails and steps, the more the better. At least you will enjoy your “training” more. Start out small. 30 minutes or so with pack weight strapped on your back. You can even progress up to that weight if it helps. Work up to 4 hour sessions before you go on your actual trip.
The terrain during the actual trip will most likely be more difficult, but those that prep will think it is more of a cake walk. Those that don’t will be nursing sore and stiff legs for a couple of days. Take your 800mg of Ibuprofen with you.
Hiking out of the canyon is not bad either, until those final 2 miles of switchbacks. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that final ascent. But anything conditioning wise, is better than nothing.
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