10 Summer Cross-Training Ideas for Backpackers

Cross-training at the gym got you in a monotonous slump? Give these 10 summer sports a try for a fun way to boost your backpacking game.

BACKPACKER caught up with Nate Goldberg, director of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center .

“Cross-training helps build strength in all different areas of the body, improve one’s overall fitness level, avoid injuries by not being too repetitive with the same activities day after day, and even helps avoid boredom,” Goldberg says.

“Most of the time soreness occurs 24-48 hours after an intense exercise, so doing a light exercise soon after can help flush lactic acid out of the muscles, prepare for recovery, and help alleviate soreness,” he adds.

The last thing you want in the summer is to be out of commission, forced to resign to life in a cast or boot or splint. Stay happy and healthy with these fun summer cross-training sports when you’re not out on the trail.

Mountain Biking

summer cross-training

Biking helps to build aerobic base endurance while engaging the core. It also works the shoulders and chest, which are the same muscles you use when hiking with trekking poles. Photo: Anthony DeLorenzo/Flickr


summer cross-training

Keep hiking legs limber and upper body strength high with pre- or post-hike yoga. Yoga also boosts balance and flexibility, and the breath control work will make long climbs feel easier. Photo: Matthew Ragan/Flickr

Trail Running

summer cross-training

Running boosts cardio endurance and works specific muscle groups, especially in the legs. Uphills work calves and downhills strengthen quads. Choose grass or dirt trails for less impact. Photo: akunamatata/Flickr


summer cross-training

“Tennis is great for anaerobic exercise that will help hikers on rolling terrain,” Goldberg says. Photo: meridican/Flickr


summer cross-training

Many backpackers have dabbled in this full-body workout. Build strong, lean muscle by incorporating climbing on short hikes. Photo: Alex Indigo/Flickr

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

summer cross-training

Never thought this fun summer activity could be classified as training? You were wrong- it’s a real core (and arm) workout and trains muscles to fire in co-cordinated ways. Photo: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater/Flickr

Sand Volleyball

summer cross-training

Hit the beach with your crew to get a great cardiovascular workout while gaining sweet upper body strength. Pack in some extra jumps and spikes to work your leg muscles. Photo: Rafiq Sarlie/Flickr


summer cross-training

“Swimming is a low-impact, aerobic activity that helps flux out toxins from the muscles, rehabilitates the muscles, and increases circulation in the full body,” Goldberg says. Photo: Dvidshub/Flickr

Ultimate Frisbee

summer cross-training

Strengthen your arms and wrists for trekking pole use, and get a great cardiovascular workout in a fun team environment. Photo: Björn/Flickr


summer cross-training

Gain impressive hip strength that will prove useful on the trail. And the fact that you can cool off with a dip in refreshing water post-workout is the cherry on top. Photo: Jamie McCaffrey/Flickr

“I recommend cross-training for fun and overall wellness,” Goldberg says.