How I prepare for a high altitude backpacking trip


Preparing for what seems to be our annual Western backpack trip takes some planning. One of the big areas we have to plan around is going from the lowlands of Ohio to hiking at higher altitudes. We do everything we can to avoid altitude sickness. In this video I go over my preparation process for backpacking at high elevation.

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okay not really hiking it helps dude but when we end up doing our our Western trip that we did last year which was epic and I'm fully expecting this year's trip to Utah in July to be really awesome when you're out there once you start getting please for me because the altitude and how it affects people differs depending on who you are for me what ended up happening is once I made it to about oh eleven thousand feet or so then things started feeling weird for me I realized I could lose my breath really easily even though I wasn't exerting much effort and I couldn't push myself as far or as fast so in terms of how I prepared for hiking out west one of the big things I do and that's why the thumbnail is a huge joke to me is you try your best to feel your body with the right things and so I definitely cut way back on sugars natural sugars I think are fine as long as you don't overdo them I try to cut back on sugars carbs in general and I try to bump up the amount of protein in my diet just in preparation for having to I kind of any hike but especially at altitude and healthy fats is why I trying to focus on and there's something that works for me and I find just in regular life that I feel way better if I do that the second thing I do is try to make sure I'm a good cardiovascular shape I used to run a lot more than I did for example this year in the in the run-up to this hike I used to to run a lot more but I found that when I ran a lot it started to kind of we're on my knees I definitely felt it more when I kind of bumped up the intensity and so I do a lot of walking and so that's not necessarily cardiovascular activity but I walk a lot I pack walk whenever I can walk the dog so he's really really happy around this time because he gets lots of walks sometimes twice three times a day if I'm really pushing it I try to walk with a pack whenever I can and something I've really recently been getting into is biking a lot because easier and joints but you could still get in that cardiovascular range without kind of the impact exercise and so I've really been enjoying that so stay tuned this here is your teaser right now the channel you may see a bike packing trip in the future I have no idea when I'm still considered myself to be a beginning biker but that's one of the activities that I really enjoy doing right now and working out in general stinks I never enjoyed running thank goodness I enjoy biking a lot more than I do running right now but I try to make sure and I when I'm out there kind of struggling sweating not eating cookies or whatever it is that I really want to be eating or ice cream I try to think about everything I do right in terms of a good habit now it's something I don't have to worry about when I am out west because I'll just be enjoying the views I won't have to necessarily worry as much about how's my body gonna respond to kind of exerting itself the altitude the third thing I have mentioned this in a previous video talking about altitude sickness and what to do what you can do to prepare something I think is really important and there's an article linked down below I think it was done as a Stanford kind of clinical trial comparing the effectiveness of ibuprofen versus placebo versus there was one other experimental group and they were actually showing how that ibuprofen is actually considered to be clinically effective at preventing symptoms of altitude sickness of course it was a small percentage small sample size generalizability and we'll see but it's worked for me and so while I'll be doing and this is not medical advice at all while I'll be doing is taking about 600 milligrams of ibuprofen I think in a study don't quote me down below I think they took it every six hours it kind of so it was like a 8 o'clock time 2 o'clock time then 8 p.m. time and that worked well for me in the moon bells I could feel like it was almost staving off altitude sickness and it wasn't something that was just masking it for me but the final thing is knowing your body be able to judge when you were pushing it too far too fast altitude you have to really listen to yourself and say ok I may need to take more breaks than usual it's something where I just have to dial it back a notch and then catch my breath and I'm ready to go again and be really aware of that I can get out to you guys it's something that's I try not to play around with it if you're even feeling I think remote symptoms of altitude sickness you just have to be aware of it let someone else know what you're experiencing and it's just something to be cautious with hiking out east honestly three four thousand feet you do not have to worry about altitude sickness it's one of those things where you pretty much can push yourself to your physical limits you will feel like you're exerting yourself more at higher altitude then if you're hiking out east and so for someone like me who is a complete flatlander an owl I just have to know when enough is enough and when to dial it back so hopefully this video is helpful for you this was a collaboration with three other channels backcountry exposure and of course the awesome Josh's we have Subaru Josh and we have karate Josh the challenge I'll link down in the description below they're all talking about preparing for hiking at higher altitude and what they are doing so be sure to check out what those guys are doing because they make some phenomenal videos and I always enjoy watching each and every one of them the josh is because it gives me a different perspective and Devin's videos backcountry exposure he that's just a great job showing what's out at Utah as well as a lot of good backpacking camping tight tips are you guys thanks for watching let me grab a swiss cake roll peace not a sponsor

20 thoughts on “How I prepare for a high altitude backpacking trip”

  1. This is a serious topic. One small study at Stanford doesn't cut it (yes, you did acknowledge). You have a significant viewer volume that you can really help with more than that. Here are two resources that I hope you'll post in the summary of this clip.
    ….. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AltitudeAcclimatization/
    ….. https://www.wemjournal.org/article/S1080-6032(14)00257-9/fulltext
    …….. Altitude sickness includes a whole range of problems ranging from the mild including dyspnea, dysphoria and headache to severe life threatening Pulmonary Edema and cerebral edema. People die from this at elevations far below ten and twenty thousand feet.
    …….Some may think diet and fitness will prevent or attenuate the illness. Ibuprofen will treat symptoms, but doesn't treat the illness. You gave good advice for people to dial back their activity.
    Happy trails.

  2. The one thing i don't miss about living out west was dealing with the altitude at times. Lived in Vernal Utah and would camp and hike the High Uintahs. Slight sinus headache was all I got. Went above 10,000 feet a few times. It effects everyone a little different. Worst effects was moving from Houston. 90 feet to Dawsonville ga. Roughly 1300. Took me a week to be able to walk.
    Be safe. Have fun On your trip.

  3. This is Shadd. I was with Clayonthetrail and met you at about 11,000 feet at Daynes Lake in the Uintas. These suggestions must work really well, because you looked like you felt great and were sharp as a tack at 11,000 feet. I was impressed that with limited O2 you knew who Shadowfax(Lord of all horses) and Josh Allen (U of Wyoming quarterback) were.

  4. Ive been super lucky, I’ve had altitude sickness one time and that was when I was on Mt. Whitney without proper accumulation beforehand. Then this past summer when I hiked the JMT and went up Whitney I flew to the top and felt great. I guess being at elevation and hiking for 18 days will get you ready for it, I would have been dying if I started with Whitney and went north. The experience really taught me to take it serious and to pay more attention to the people I’m with and if they are getting it. The last hike I was on a kid didn’t feel good and they gave him some stuff that kind of masked. He ended up making it to the top but threw up and was feeling terrible the whole way down and even felt bad the next day at camp. He felt bad at the trailhead and it sure didn’t help climbing up a few thousand more feet. Anyways enough of my rant of I told you so but ya, you have to listen to your body

  5. Funny how things work out.. you are a backpacker that is getting in to cycling, I'm a cyclist getting in to backpacking. The two work well together. Bad cycling weather usually equals a trip to the woods for me. At any rate, the two give me great out door opportunities year round. I enjoy your videos.. Be safe out there!

  6. The answer to hiking at altitude is Snickers bars. 🙂 Seriously I'm not sure why almost none of us got altitude sickness even when we went up to San Jacinto, about 10,800 ft, just 2 weeks in. After that we hung out at over 10k for a while before getting higher. That was one of my worries since I live at 900 feet. Right now I'm laying at about 2200ft with a whopping 4700 foot climb tomorrow.

  7. I'm in my 50s and I also walk a lot for exercise. I try to get out hiking two or three weekends per month, nice long day hikes. When I get above 7,000 ft elevation I start to feel the effects of it. I take my time, and take more breaks. I'll have to try that Advil trick. 😉 Great video, thanks.

  8. Just got back from a backpacking trip with a 0ne day 3,000 ft elevation gain up to 12,300 ft. I Drink lots and lots of water. Before my hike I spent 2 day at 6,000ft, 2 days at 10,000 before I started my trip. To get acclimated. No alcohol, caffeine, no sugar. Rolaid also helped me. Good luck

  9. I like your idea as you are working out to prepare for a hike that you look forward to the delayed gratification of beautiful views ! Please be aware that one of the side effects of Ibuprofen is the possibility to raise your blood pressure. If you have any issues with your blood pressure you may want to try the dosing for a day or two and check your blood pressure to see if there is a change before you use it on a trip. And as always consult with your doctor 🙂 Happy hiking !

  10. You’d better know your kidney health before chugging ibuprofen. I spent years taking a prescribed medication and having my renal function tested every six months; once it hit the lower ranges I had to be switched to a different, less effective med because unlike the liver, kidneys don’t regenerate or improve once you’ve stopped whatever’s causing the problem. Ibuprofen can be extremely dangerous if you have kidney issues.

  11. Sweet video Tim! Good pointers man and I'm glad they're working for you. I also heard of ibuprofen helping at altitudes but contradictory for what works for you, carbohydrates are "supposed" to be helpful as well. I have burned lots of sugar from candy on hikes in the past, but recently got an ulcer and had to change my diet. That led to a recent trips diet being changed to healthy options like; oatmeal w/ dried fruit, lots of pro-bars, green vibrance packets, dried coconut & bananas, fancy ramen, and cous-cous. Boy I tell ya my energy was noticeably more clean and lasting. As opposed to the candy diet that gave me a quick boost and an awful crash, these healthy foods burned long and clean. My emotions seemed to be a bit more under control on our death march hike (18 mi. / 6000ft) which was crashing down on us all pretty hard, and trowel time was always a pleasure. This trip was at high altitude in the Collegiate Peaks of Colorado that involved 14r's, so I think it makes a good comparison to the high altitude hiking when I was eating lots of candy on my CT thru-hike.

  12. Aspirin and tums work great if your not taking the time to get acclimated and pushing 8-10,000 feet elevation in a day. It helps break up the bubbles. I find one blows up like a potato chip bag when going up too fast. The other thing I've found helpful is gator-aide. Eventually one reaches a point where water won't go down. Switch it up. I've done the Cactus to Clouds in Palm Springs many times back in the day and even though it only tops out at 10,333 it starts at sea level. I wish you luck and have a great trip. Atb Sean

  13. Good points
    Definitely Know your body and double check the Altitude of where you Live and then the Alt- of where your going.!
    Oh and I just subed both yur friends .

  14. You backpack so switching over to Bike Packing would be as simple as having a luggage ( Pannier ) rack on your bike , Back and even the front of the bike if so desired. A set of Panniers on the bike would replace your backpack. I like to think of it being the same as canoe camping. Canoe camping the Canoe or Kayak carries everything and I don't. Same with bike packing , the bike carries everything including myself. For me it's a Mountain Bike since I like the back trails and woods and try to avoid ( when possible ) any pavement. Yep , A mountain bike in Florida , I guess it should be called a Sand & Swamp bike. Biking it will take 30 easy minutes to cover the same distance when hiking for a hour. To put it in plain language … It's Fun.

  15. Interesting video, thanks for sharing your process, Tim! Those Swiss Rolls look delicious – I think I'll have to do some of my own extensive testing just to be really sure that sugary foods don't help for high altitude hikes 😉

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