Your Guide to Gearing Up For Year-Round Training

When you’re packing up to go into the backcountry, you scrutinize every item. Everything you carry has to be the correct size and weight to make sure you’re not traveling too heavily. At the same time, you can't compromise your preparedness for the wild. It's a delicate balance. Just like you wouldn’t invest in hunting equipment or gear that doesn't fit within your weight and necessity parameters, you shouldn’t buy fitness equipment you won’t use.

That’s why the MTNTOUGH programs are designed to use only what’s necessary. We're all about functional fitness, from workouts that get you primed for the many scenarios you encounter in the backcountry to each piece of equipment used in the programs - every action and every piece of equipment impacts your results. We take this seriously.

In this article, you’ll learn what equipment is needed for each Backcountry Hunter MTNTOUGH training phase. Serious mountain athletes train year-round, so if you're looking to join their elite ranks, you’ll need to prepare for it in the same way you meticulously prep for a hunt. Although the MTNTOUGH Backcountry Hunting programs are where we cut our teeth, we have a wide range of routines and workouts for the community. We'll cover a couple of additional ones in this article as well, including two that are built around minimal or no-equipment workouts.

MTNTOUGH Backcountry Hunting Programs

Think of your training in the same way a professional athlete would. A football player, for example, has a regular season when they compete. Even when the season ends, they’re still a football player. It’s a year-round endeavor. When they’re not competing, athletes go back into training mode. That way, they can come back stronger and better during the next season.

Adopting the same mindset will make you a better backcountry athlete. For that reason, MTNTOUGH offers year-round training.

Each phase of training is designed to make you a better hunter. Whether that means building strength, increasing your endurance, or making your joints more flexible, each segment of training is important. Keep reading to learn why each phase was designed and what equipment you’ll need to complete it.

Backcountry Hunter Preseason Prep 2.0 - MAY-AUG

This isn’t the typical thrown-together workout program you’ll find in a magazine or on YouTube. Thousands of hours of training, fine-tuning, researching, and developing have created this 16-week program. We took all this data in the lab and forged it into our new and improved Backcountry Hunter Preseason Prep 2.0; you’ll quickly see why it’s MTNTOUGH’s flagship training block.

If you’re hunting in September, at a minimum, summer is the last time to reasonably commit to training. If you’re going into high altitude, hiking for days on end, or moving through rough terrain, you need this program. This dynamic program will get you more than ready for the season.

The strength training exercises will prepare you for the demands that a heavy pack will place on your body. Endurance training workouts will prepare you to fight fatigue caused by altitude and long tips. Even if you’re not a hunter, this workout program is one of the best you’ll encounter. It can get you ready for trail running, skiing, climbing, or any other outdoor activity.

Start with the Pre-Season Prep 2.0 fitness test to get a baseline fitness level. Then, you’ll complete two 8-week training phases. The first phase is designed to build mental and physical strength. In phase two you’ll build the endurance capacity needed to last for multiple days in the backcountry.

Dedication is required to get you through this program. Don’t let poor equipment hold you back. You’ll need a comprehensive gym set-up to get through both phases. Beginners should start with the gym foundations program instead of jumping into the more advanced barbell training in Pre-Season Prep 2.0.

Gear Needed for Backcountry Hunter Preseason Prep 2.0

For all the programs we'll roll through, keep in mind that you don't have to run out and purchase all this equipment. Our workouts are crafted in a way that you can follow along at your local gym on your phone, or throw it on your TV if you have the equipment in a home gym. Plus, as we look at our

  • Pack: The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a pack, which you likely already have. You’ll use a pack in multiple workouts.
  • Dumbbells or Kettlebells: These are a necessity for the program, preferably with multiple weight options for each.
  • Box: You’ll also need a box or similarly sturdy surface for the program. There are boxes designed for workouts, but you can use a cooler that’s capable of supporting your weight, a bench, or even stairs for some exercises. It also helps to have a bench for exercises like the dumbbell chest press.
  • Squat Rack, Barbell, Weight Plates: A squat rack, complete with a barbell and weight plates is necessary for some of the more advanced strength exercises.
  • Treadmill: A treadmill lift to an incline is needed for endurance training. You should also have access to an Assault Bike, rower, or ski erg for short-burst cardiovascular training. Another piece of cardio equipment you'll want access to is the VersaClimber. As the name suggests, it mimics climbing at a steep incline, which means mountain athletes will see a direct carryover from using the machine. The sled is also nice to have and is a cross between cardio and strength.
  • Miscellaneous: Other equipment that’s not as bulky and expensive includes the TRX, mini bands, sliders, and medicine balls. When placed properly, these pieces of equipment don’t take up much space. Cable machines are rarely found in home gyms, but if you have one, it’ll come in handy in this program. However, you can use resistance bands to mimic the few cable machine exercises.

Again, you don't need to run out and purchase all this stuff. A simple gym membership goes a long way. But if you're looking to bring some of your training to your home, you could start by gathering equipment for a specific workout, and supplement the other days at the gym. Once you have that fully finished, then go on to get the rest of the gear needed for other workout days.

If it sounds like a lot to purchase, that's because it is on one shopping spree, but if you plan well, you'll find that this equipment can be used for the rest of your life and won’t take up too much space in any gym setting.

Backcountry Hunter In-Season - SEP-OCT

Just because hunting season is underway doesn’t mean you get to stop training. All of the efforts you put into your workouts to get in shape for hunting season shouldn’t go to waste. However, you won’t have as much time or energy to hit the gym, so the goal for this phase is to keep you in shape throughout the season without getting in the way of what you've worked so hard for the rest of the year. Not to mention, getting in the way of life's many other responsibilities.

As hunting season goes on, navigating the backcountry doesn’t get easier. It can be more challenging as wintery conditions begin to set in. To maintain your fitness level, you need to stay committed to the gym. This program is adaptable to your schedule, which is different from other phases of training - remember, every phase of your backcountry hunter series is uniquely designed to match what you need most at that point of training. In-season, you’ll focus on maintaining strength and muscle mass, as well as cardiovascular ability.

Gear Needed for Backcountry Hunter In-Season

You don’t need as much equipment for in-season training, since it’s not as comprehensive as the pre-season or off-season programs. However, you’ll need some basic equipment. As with any strength program, dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, plates, and a squat rack are essential. A box and bench are also needed for some exercises.

For strength training, you’ll also need a pull-up bar and ab roller. The pull-up bar should be included with your squat rack, or easy to install in your gym if you're looking to train from home. But any gym worth its weight will have this.

You'll also need access to ski erg, Assault Bike, or seated spin bike for cardio. For sports-specific workouts, you’ll need the boots and pack that you’re going to hike with. If you’re not hunting, you’ll have a once-weekly long trek with a weighted pack and boots. 

This is a good opportunity to test your gear to make sure everything fits properly. Pay special attention to the way your boots feel during a long hike. If you have foot problems it might be time to switch boots.

Additionally, the ab roller is relatively cheap and small but packs a punch for core training, making it a great investment for your home gym. You should also get mini bands and regular resistance bands for resistance exercises that mimic movements you’d do with a cable machine.

Backcountry Hunter Post-Season Strength - NOV-FEB

After struggling to find the time and energy to train during hunting season, you’re finally ready to go all-in on training again. Just like any athlete, when your season ends the true training begins. This phase of training is meant to make you more athletic and stronger than you were going into the hunting season. You’ll start by building a foundation of strength.

It’s likely that during hunting season, you lost strength and muscle, so you'll need to start by building that back. The first couple of weeks will be lighter in terms of weight with a focus on form to get your body used to training. Then, you’ll turn up the intensity.

Gear Needed for Backcountry Hunter Post-Season Strength

To build your muscle mass and strength, you’ll need the basics: dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, a squat rack, and weight plates. Sensing an equipment theme here with strength? A variety of kettlebells and dumbbells is nice to have for this phase since you’ll be using a variety of weights.

A box and bench are also essential for exercises like step-ups and the lying chest press. Sliders are helpful for hamstring curls, and mini-bands are needed for hip-strengthening movements. You’ll also need access to a pull-up bar for back and core exercises and a medicine ball for athletic movements, but these are easy things to have in your home gym if that's part of your plan. Grab a jump rope for this phase of training too.

For cardio, you should have access to at least one machine. It could be a ski erg, rower, Assault Bike or regular spin bike, or treadmill. You can stick to one machine for all cardio bursts or use a few to mix things up.

Backcountry Hunter Spring Training Camp - MAR-APR

This is a relatively short program that bridges the gap between the off-season and pre-season training programs. The assumption is that you’ve completed the off-season and are in shape at this point because spring training starts with intense workouts right off the bat. Nobody said it was easy.

Since this program is relatively short, you need to have your mind in the right place. Setting goals and getting a baseline fitness level using one of the MTNTOUGH standard fitness tests is essential for measuring your progress.

If you’re going to compete in any races or go on any intense hikes during the spring, this program is designed to get you ready. You’re going to take your mountain athleticism to the next level.

Gear Needed for Backcountry Hunter Spring Training Camp

As with any comprehensive resistance training program, you should have access to the standard kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, squat rack, and weighted plates for the barbell. Plus, a bench and box or something sturdy you can step on, like a cooler.

You'll also need room to move around and ground that’s comfortable enough to lay on. That might mean a yoga mat is needed if you’re working out on a hard surface like concrete.

If you don't have a pack, you'll need to get one for this phase since some of the functional workouts require it - it needs to be able to handle some hefty lbs too, able to withstand dumbbells, weighted plates, or sandbags inside.

For cardio, you’ll use a treadmill, Assault Bike, stationary bike, rower, or ski erg. A stair climber or VersaClimber will be helpful for climbing-specific high-intensity intervals. If your gym has a sled, you'll make the most of it with short sprints. No spring training camp would be complete without a sled.

Backcountry Hunter Elite Spring - MAR-APR

The MTNTOUGH Spring Training above is already difficult, but we have an elite program that turns the amp up to 11 for even more intensity. Before starting this advanced routine, you should’ve already completed multiple MTNTOUGH programs and have a high baseline fitness level. There’s no hiding your weaknesses in this program, you’re going to find and conquer them.

There are timed workouts in the elite program, during which you should record your times. In each timed workout you’ll compete with yourself, pushing the pace and lifting heavier weights each workout. Just because the program is tough doesn’t mean you can cut yourself any slack; you need to attack it in the same way you would any other program.

The Elite Spring program uses the same equipment as the other MTNTOUGH Spring Training program. However, you should probably have heavier weights or a wider variety of options for these workouts. Since it’s elite training, you’ll be pushing your previous records on many dumbbell, kettlebell, and barbell exercises.

The Importance of Year-Round Training

Getting in shape for hunting season shouldn’t be your end goal. If that's your takeaway so far, then we've failed you. So allow us to try again and help you understand the gravity of what you're working toward. You want to not just be fit for the mountains but to be in the best physical and mental condition of your life - ready to clobber the backcountry setbacks and life's daily barriers. To take your performance to this level, you need to train year-round.

During hunting season you won’t be able to dedicate as much time and effort to training as you’d probably like. You might even take a step back because you’re out in the backcountry so much. Your yearly training schedule will have natural ups and downs. If you stick with it for long enough, you’ll be able to take advantage of the periods that you can dedicate to training and making progress.

As a hunter, you need to build strength, endurance for long hauls, and mobility. That requires constant dedication. Even if you’re away from your gym and have minimal or no equipment, we've made it so you can still stick to your routine. It's a no-excuses approach that helps you stay accountable; use the following MTNTOUGH training programs below to improve your fitness levels no matter where you are or what your calendar looks like.

MTNTOUGH Programs with Minimal or No Equipment

To make sure that you can’t use "lack of equipment", "I don't have time", or "there's no gym nearby" as excuses to skip training, MTNTOUGH created two programs that use either minimal or no equipment. Instead, they rely on a wide variety of bodyweight movements that will improve your conditioning and strength.

If you travel a lot, don't have the equipment or access to a gym all the time, or your calendar requires constant flexibility, these are perfect. Whatever your situation, these workouts are your keys to meeting your goals. Don’t let a lack of "whatever" hold you back.

Minimal Gear Daily

There's beauty in a simple name, and this program doesn't disappoint. It only requires a few items to complete, and you'll get a new workout every single day. Keeping variety to your routine. Minimal Gear Daily is similar to the bodyweight on-ramp program. In fact, if you’ve just completed the on-ramp, this could be your next step. It’s going to introduce you to strength training with a few pieces of equipment, which you’ll see much more of in the advanced programs. 

Your goal for this program is to build a base level of fitness and stay injury free. It’s a good opportunity to build mental toughness and carve time into your schedule for workouts. In total, you’ll do 5 workouts per week for 30-40 minutes per workout.

That’s not to say that these workouts will be easy. Particularly if you’re new to fitness, many of them will feel like full gym workouts. It’s the ideal program for people who can’t afford a lot of gym equipment yet or need a stepping stone between beginner and more advanced programs.

Gear Needed

All you’ll need for this program is a few pairs of dumbbells, a box or cooler sturdy enough for you to stand on, and a group of resistance bands. For the dumbbells and resistance bands, the more options you have the better. However, since this is a minimal-gear program, you can get away with only a few options for each.

No Gear 60

Again, we love simple names, and the No Gear 60 wouldn't dare disappoint. If you don’t have any equipment or are new to training, this is the perfect program for you. It’s also useful for those who travel often or want workouts to do while they’re on multi-day excursions.

You’re going to build strength and endurance with a combination of exercises. There are plyometric movements, which increase power in your lower and upper body, and strength movements, which build your muscles.

Many of the workouts include circuits, which are fast-paced collections of exercises that make you a better athlete by boosting your endurance. After 60 days of this program, you’ll be in excellent shape.

Gear Needed

The workouts almost exclusively use bodyweight. Some workouts use a pack to carry weight, which you should have already if you’re a backcountry athlete. It’s also helpful to have a mat to lie on and plenty of room to move around.

For the running portions, you can run outside. If you have a treadmill, you can use that in place of running outside. Still, it’s better to get out and get used to exercising in the elements.

Don’t Let Equipment Be Your Excuse

Whether you have access to a full gym or you’re limited to a small space with a yoga mat on the ground, there’s always something you can do. To reach your full potential it helps to have equipment, but you can make progress without it. We've always got you covered.

The beauty of the MTNTOUGH programs is that many of them use the same equipment, so once you buy something, you’re guaranteed to put it to good use. Plus, the equipment doesn’t take up too much space. If you have access to a full gym already, it’s time to get training. Don’t wait for hunting season to get stronger and build endurance, start now with the 14-day free trial. The earlier you prepare, the better your hunt will be.