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How to Train With Your Hunting Pack

How to Train With Your Hunting Pack


“Now the real work begins” without fail you will hear someone mutter these words with a confidence of originality in their voice once you’ve downed an animal. We all know it’s true, it’s the reason one member of the hunting party is always inspired to remind you. 

The packout is without a doubt the most strenuous portion of the hunt you will encounter. “Dragging a heavy deer through the snow or brush can be exceptionally stressful on the heart,” says Dr. Derrick Woodward, a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System. There is no getting around the difficult nature of carrying a heavy load, but by resistance training using your hunting pack loaded with weights, also known as ruck marching, you can make it easier on yourself and find remarkable satisfaction in watching yourself get stronger.

If you already have a training tool in mind, you can skip to the workout.

Weight Vests

By now it’s impossible to not have seen someone walking around the gym or local trailhead with a plate carrier and at least 3 patches letting you know what they’re willing to die for (mostly coffee and telling you whatever caliber you shoot is wrong).

These weight carriers are quick, convenient and to be honest look pretty cool. I won’t say that they’re not going to give you a great workout, they will, but what I will argue is that you’re not getting the proper training your body needs to be prepared for a packout.

The plates sit perfectly balanced high on your upper body and there is no suspension system to distribute the weight. Your legs will without a doubt take a beating if you decide to workout using a weight vest, but the point of your training is to simulate a pack out. Not having your hips involved and not carrying the entire load on your back is simply not the same workout.


  • Quick to get going
  • Far less bulky than carrying an entire hunting pack
  • Looks tacticool


  • Does not simulate a pack out as well as using a hunting pack
  • Has only one purpose
  • Have to buy ruck plates specifically for one tool

Backpack Hunting Packs

All good hunting packs are designed to carry weight confidently and comfortably. If your pack excels and finds itself among the best in the hunting industry you should be able to easily carry at least 60-pounds. Using the hunting pack that you plan to hunt with is ideal. It allows you to get an idea of where any hotspots may occur, readjust your sizing if necessary and get you used to carrying weight on your hips rather than your torso. 


  • Use the same pack you hunt with
  • Closely simulates weight distribution


  • Extra wear and tear on your pack
  • Have to use sandbags, water or rocks that are quite shifty and leave you with a pack you’ve to constantly clean.

Atlas Trainer

The Atlas Trainer is an add-on to our pack’s external frame system. It’s designed to haul up to 90-pounds using olympic barbells. The weight plates are locked into position for an evenly distributed carry across your back. The suspension system is the same one used by our elk hunting packs so you are essentially training with the same pack you hunt with.


  • Save your pack from extra wear and tear
  • Uses same suspension system
  • Evenly distributes weight


  • Requires purchasing olympic barbells if you don’t already own some
  • Not as quick to transition from training pack to hunting pack


Rucking Workouts

The absolute best workout you can do to train for a pack out is to get on a trail and walk with your weighted pack. However we understand that it’s not always an option to get out to the trail during the week with life’s obligations in the way. So the next best thing is to train at home. When doing these strength training exercises it's best to use the boots your plan to hunt with. 

Trail Training + Shoulders

Our friends Wilderness Athlete have shared a great trail workout with a shoulder workout midway through the ruck.

Wild Skills Atlas Hike

At-Home Training

This is my favorite workout with the Atlas Trainer. I first read about it on the Journal of Mountain Hunting website and credit goes to them for the workout. 

The workout is simple but not easy. All you have to do is load up weight and step on and off of the box for a short period of time.  

What you’ll need

  • Weighted Pack (the heaviest load you can bear while maintaining good posture)
  • A Step Up - Ideally aim for 12 - 14 inches
  • 15-25 Minutes
  • Your favorite playlist (optional)

The Workout

  • Set a timer for 15 minutes and step up then step down. “Your aim is to do one rep every four to five seconds, placing your whole foot in the center of the box, and one rep equaling one step-up with one leg.” (Journal of Mountain Hunting)

Video Demonstration

HICT Box Step-ups Example

For a more detailed description of why this training is effective check out the 2 part write up about The Best Step-ups You’re not Doing.


The benefits of rucking are far beyond training for backcountry hunting. Studies have shown that the leg crushing exercise of walking around with a heavy pack helps boost testosterone, increases muscle and accelerates fat loss. Even if you start with 20-pounds in a backpack, if you keep at it the amount of weight you will be accustomed to carrying only increases from there.

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