Let’s cut to the chase. Training isn’t complicated. It’s about putting in the work more than anything else. Despite the fact we hold strong opinions about how to train and what tools to train with, at the end of the day what we care about most is THAT you train. Do something. Anything.

Hike, run, bike, lift, do CrossFit, whatever. The program you actually implement and follow-through with is the best program for you. End of story.

For the past few years, we’ve devoted an immense amount of time and space to discussing the finer points of field applicable training methods, tools and programming. But the truth is, you don’t need much to adequately prepare for mountain and backcountry hunts. Are there better ways to train than others? In our opinion, absolutely. But perfect should never be the enemy of good enough. And where you train, how you train and what you train with is far less important than just f-ing training. Without the desire and the willpower to see it through, nothing else matters.

By a wide margin, the two most common reasons (aka excuses) we hear about why someone neglected to train for their mountain hunt—and suffered for it—are time and money. Well this article is going to put both those excuses to bed once and for all.

Time is the most precious commodity we own. The only truly priceless commodity left on this planet. There’s no hiding that fact. Between work and our families, it’s not easy to fit in adequate training time. It’s not easy but it’s not impossible. But easy is not why we mountain hunt. As former SEAL Andy Stumpf posits in this month’s Mountain Life column, any goal that’s easy to accomplish is likely meaningless. Take those words to heart and make training time a priority. It’s that simple.

When it comes to money, there is no question you can spend a lot of dough on programs, coaching, and memberships at fancy-ass facilities. But you don’t need to. Using gear you already own and a budget of no more than $150 you can put together a “gym” that is portable and will 100% prepare you for whatever the hunting season brings. A “gym” you can use in your garage or your backyard that might make your neighbours worry you’ve finally lost it but have you laughing at the mountains come hunting season. A system so simple you can throw it in the back of your truck and take it anywhere you please.

What is this panacea for your time and training woes? Is there some new product available you haven’t heard of yet? Nope. This “gym” is as simple as it gets.

The Hunter’s No-Gym Gym:

  • Pack
  • Sandbag
  • 12 – 16 lb Sledgehammer
  • Tree Branch

That’s right, with just those four components you can be ready for your next mountain hunt.

The pack is an obvious one. Hike with it, do pull-ups (that’s what the tree branch is for), push-ups, and lunges while wearing it. You get the idea. A sandbag is probably the most versatile training tool you can find. Use it for deadlifts up onto your truck tailgate, do farmer carries on alternating shoulders, or even sandbag get-ups if you want to get fancy. There is no training implement more transferrable to the ungainly and awkward loads we face in the real world than a sandbag.

The sledge is the one that probably raised a few eyebrows but mark our words, after carrying a sledge around on your hikes, your rifle or bow will feel like child’s play. The sledge is also a great way to train the often neglected but critical rotational muscles that help us weather hour after hour of sidehilling or a meat loaded pack that wants to send us tumbling down the mountain. Use it to show an old tire who’s boss as part of a circuit or carry it on your hikes to increase the overall weight your body must adapt to when logging vertical.

A great (aka punishing) little hike and sledge circuit that former heli-tack wildland firefighter and MTNSTRONG coach Matt Ward suggested is as follows:

  • Warm-up hike for 10 – 20 mins
  • Then, hike at a higher intensity for 5 mins, stop and swing 12 – 16 lb sledge for 2 mins alternating sides and incorporating side swings as well
  • Repeat this cycle for 20 – 30 mins
  • Use old stumps or other natural features to hit with the sledge
  • Wear sunglasses or eye protection (shirt optional)
  • Scare the crap out of other hikers

There simply are no excuses. If money’s been the issue, you probably have most of the tools listed in the no-gym gym already. If you don’t own a sandbag, odds are you can find one secondhand on the cheap. With this “gym” you can train anywhere your heart desires, eliminating the excuse of not having the time or the desire to set foot in a gym.

Keep it simple. Get it done. Stay alpha.


Posted by JOMH Editor