October 31, 2005

Guerrilla Conditioning – Guerrilla Camping 101.4

Draft originally posted at The Guerrilla News Network. Included here with GNN commentary courtesy of the GNN Archive.
Guerrilla Conditioning – Guerrilla Camping 101.4
Asset B10235 Posted By BlackPacker

*To keep up to date on my current writing and articles, please visit my page at GuerrillaCamping.Blogspot.com*

It’s not easy to lug your life on your back over endless miles. Every endurance injury known to man will accost you or those you encounter along the way. Blisters, bruises, pulled muscles, shin splints, sprains, stress fractures, knee failure, even amputations, if it can be wounded – the trail will find a way.

Once I started to adjust to being a civilian hiker, I was amazed at the injuries I witnessed in the people I shared trails with. Sprained ankles are endemic to through hikers, though I seldom saw the injury while in the military; which has a great many more “hikers” and a great many more miles “hiked”. This is due to the nature of training. Like running, martial arts or any other sport, training is required to improve performance but it is also instrumental in order to avoid what are commonly called “sport injuries”.

A member of the active duty military exercises at least five days a week. Pushups, sit ups and flutter kicks accumulate with mind numbing repetition while 12 mile road marches wear down boots and build calluses. Even those who struggle with the routine are healthier, stronger and less prone to injury than their civilian counterparts.

Most non-professional hikers are frequent walkers who rely on the trail for conditioning, starting with 8 mile days and working up to 15 mile days as their journey progresses. Few that I have encountered follow any real off-trail exercise regimen. Not viewing hiking as the sport that it is, many fail to stretch or warm up before setting out on the trail, opting instead to move directly to a dead lift of their 40-60lb sack which they lurch onto their shoulders dropping it onto their backs. Later that day, they blame hills and potholes for sore backs and cramping calves.

I personally do not follow a military exercise cycle anymore, although I still recognize its benefits. Every morning, I stretch lightly and do a few dozen pushups and sit ups. In town this is a great way to feel like you deserve that shower and in the woods it can be a literal warm up, calming chilly fingers as you try to light your stove to make oatmeal or coffee. Throughout the morning, I do a lot of stretching while tearing down camp. Butterfly stretches while rolling my sleeping pad and packing my bag, stretching my back and legs while pulling stakes. The contortions lend a sense of ritual and focus to the mundane and common tasks of tearing down and I’m convinced it’s why I don’t loose tarp pegs. Prior to picking up the pack I do a quick round of leg, back and shoulder stretches just to avoid possible pulled muscles or simply sore ones later.

When I’ve got the calories to burn (i.e., extra food in my pack) I will often run the flatter and broader sections of a trail. I jog at a relaxed pace, letting the inertia of the pack propel me forward. After a while of this, you learn a half squatted stance that removes almost all shock from your knees and ankles allowing you to glide steadily along at a calm double time for surprising distances, I’ve heard it compared to a South American gait. I merely jog like this until winded then return to my normal pace until I feel rested. If I’m inclined and the trail is good, I’ll do this off and on all day. The added blood flow helps relive aches that have settled in underneath my shoulder and kidney pads and pumped muscles make the pack seem lighter afterwards.

Do not run down hill. The only way to do what I’m talking about does not allow for you to slow yourself and any downhill running with a pack requires you to break with each step, putting incredible amounts of direct stress on leg joints and bones. Uphill is fine if you feel up to it however and I find it makes arduous climbs at least shorter in time if not in distance and inclination. And yes, the argument can even be made that you should own nothing that you can’t carry on your back for two miles at a dead run. . . but if you do it downhill, you’re going to get shin splints.

Upper body strength is not overly important to a hiker, although it may prove to be of great use to a guerrilla. If you do not currently lead an active lifestyle, I urge you to begin at least moderate physical training. There are a great many of exercises that can be done using only your body for resistance, or community centers often have gymnasium equipment for free use. If however you are spending a lot of time on the trail, it is a simple matter to work all portions of your body.

Many hikers use trek poles to provide extra leverage as well as an upper body work out while hiking and I have been curious about trying some for myself. With some ingenuity, they are easy to make for yourself out of the proper branches. Using two, and supporting part of your pack weight on your arms, your ease stress on the legs, and add stress to the arms, providing the “legs with a pack” look so fashionable with distance hikers.

Barring that approach, you do have a nylon free weight strapped to your back eight or nine hours a day out there. You can improvise. Trees make great pull up bars and if you can resist swinging from the arms of a giant oak, you should probably go get an office job at Halliburton. I don’t bother doing curls with my pack however, feeling that pushups, sit ups and tree climbing do me just fine.

When off trail for any period of time, I resolve to walk everywhere, usually putting in four or five miles a day and often more if I am camping on the outskirts of a town. I increase the amount of morning exercise I do, working instead to build a sweat rather than simply warm up. It makes me feel cleaner after my morning wash, it wakes me up as much as coffee used to and does do without the noon-time crash. If I am unable to at least go out on an over night hike at least once a week, I will often take a bit of time to explore town with a fully loaded pack on, covering 12-15 miles each week as a general goal. It’s also a great way to carry your groceries and scores big points with checkers at co-ops. The trick is to acclimate yourself to the realities of maintaining a nomadic existence, even if you stage them from a hostel you’ve been at for three months.

The exercises described above are not a training regimen as much as they are a conditioning routine. If you wish to bulk up or build strength many of the same routines will work. For a simple and effective work out program, find a copy of the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Training Manual, you can get it from their recruiting website, but I wouldn’t give them my address. Even if I had one.

4 years ago


Dude, your post makes me want to get out of my office job and go hiking for a few months SO BADLY. SHIT. SHIT SHIT SHIT.

I’m ready: running, boxing, yoga, and weight-lifting keep me in shape. But the morning routine of break-down, the all day exertion of walking/jogging, the hanging from oak limbs, etc. Man it all sounds SO GOOD.

Post Modified: 10/30/05 05:51:11
4 years ago


you need to put all this stuff into a book, a manual of sorts. it would be a great buy for the guerrilla set, whether they are getting ready for Armageddon, the collapse of Western society, a revolution or just to get in shape.

4 years ago


yes, stretching is crucial.

very true about exercise being and effective warm-up. i’ve always said that those who heat themselves with wood are lucky, because it warms them three times. once when they collect it, once when they chop it, and then again when they burn it. wood chopping is excellent exercise. just be sure to keep good posture and lift with your legs, not your back.

i think trek poles are rediculous, but that’s just my opinion.

good post my friend, as always. keep up the good work. let’s go tackle a fourteener sometime. i live in the midst of many.

4 years ago


4 years ago


The bent-leg slow quasi-run gait you describe perfectly describes how I’ve seen the hill people of Nepal walk. They never lock a knee or come down stiffly; their legs are nearly always bent, their steps very short, and they seem to glide smoothly more than stomp. Westerners tend to take big long strides, lunging from each step, and when heading downhill tend to keep their legs straight, jacking their foot hard into the ground and taking the shock straightlegged, not absorbing it by flexing the knees. It takes just an unbelievable amount of leg strength, but I’ve hiked many miles this way, and it’s just vastly more efficient and comfortable. It’s also easier to maintain good footing, and you remain more stable with a heavy load. Considering that the Nepalis regularly carry 90-120lb loads over rough trails that can gain a thousand meters in just a couple of kilometers, it’s unsurprising that they’ve developed such a perfect hiking style.

Also, shifty- I’m in the Denver area, but I’ll PM you if I’m ever in your neck of the woods. I’d definitely like to claim a 14er in the name of GNN….

4 years ago


Shiftshaper, You got me prompted to do a new GC on fire building with that remark. Yes, building a fire is a definate warm up. And I also think trek poles are ridiculous, but I want to try them just so I can say that I know they are ridiculous.

Digruntled. Do it. It’s surprisingly easy to get out for a day a week and I can’t tell you how much perspective it gives you on everything that happens back “in society”.

Anthony. A book would be great, and if enough gorillas bought it, I suppose I could stop spending so much time working in cafes and diners. I’d still want it to be free though. So, know any publishers?

4 years ago


Oh yeah, and a 14er sounds great. If things keep going as I plan, I should be in Colorado spring of 2007. If Anthony provides a flag, let’s plant one on Mt. Elbert.

4 years ago


It appears that your GC blog info is being posted by other people at other sites. Maybe claiming that they’re the ones who’re the original writers. Maybe it’s you, posting your info under alias’ at different site’s. In any case, I saw this on a website called Libertythink, and they posted their link to the GC 101.1 as having originated at sianews.com, which is where the following link will take you. Just thought you may be interested in knowing.



– Ø®£Z –

4 years ago


P.s. Silverback is Stephen, not Anthony 😉

4 years ago


i also recommend these Wilderness Manuals.

4 years ago


yeah, only THAT posting of GC 101.1 had a few little extras, including firearms:

Communications: Remember, that every US-made cell phone manufactured after 2002, by Federal law, contains a GPS monitoring device; and probably do most late-model foreign brands. They know where you are. If you have to be in contact, probably best to freshen up and walk down to a streetside pay phone. If you forsee that that is not going to be possible: buy a prepaid cheapie, use it only if your life or situation depends on it, turn it off (and remove the battery, if it’s a removable-battery model) when you’re not on it, and destroy it when you no longer need it.

Your Friend: Everyone has a different preference as to firearms. You’re sleeping and walking alone, so you will want to carry one. This little essay is not about the hunting expedition – you’re just moving from place to place—, so carry a fairly disposable old standby, a dozen rounds should be plenty, and use your best discretion.

if you are not the one posting this stuff on that site, Blackpacker, you might want to do something about it.

4 years ago


I was wondering, and looking forward to another one of your “Guerrilla Camping” posts…

4 years ago



There is an agent I can try to hook you up with. The key will be to get the whole ‘book’ figured out and then completed. At this point, you could probably do another 5 chapters so that there are 10 in total, go over them to make sure everything is there that you want and then we can see if the agent will take it on. If not, I know a small publisher who might be interested. Only problem is that they pay very little in an advance…

You can send me a message if you want to discuss more.

4 years ago


I was thinking 10 chapters myself. I’ll send you a message about it once I get closer to 9. Also, I went back and edited the food section to include a bit of bear bagging info, and am planning on doing the same to GC 1 and 2.

Thanks for the heads up on the SIA reposting, OG. I went in there and posted, and they fixed the header. Unfortunately, I was at a friends house during a halloween party and spelled my name PlackPacker, so now they probably think I’ve got bad teeth.

4 years ago


BP, you should also mention the importance of stretching while hiking. As you walk, you calf muscles, due to all that stress will tighten over the course of a day. I always strecth my calves every thirty minutes to avoid muscle tears,

4 years ago


Rooftops. In the city look for rooftops that are low enough to scramble up on from a dumpster or a fire escape. Garage rooftops, unused buildings’ rooftops, commercial outbuildings all work but consider how you will get down unnoticed in the morning. I use a blue tarp to cover with in the city. People see them everywhere and are unconcerned to see one on a rooftop. Be safe. Be awake. Be the change.

4 years ago


2 words: Mole Skin

4 years ago


Moleskin is first aid.

Guerilla man, It’s funny you mention that about tarps, I was writing the camoflage blog when you posted that. Green tarps are just as common, and less obvious in the woods. Rooftops though are great. I should include a section in campsite selction when I revise it.

Hagcel, stretching while hiking is definatly important. I don’t stop to stretch usually, though. Instead I take a few minutes to walk slowly doing calf stretches as I go. They definately let me know when they need it.


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