The question in the title and similar questions like ‘can overweight people hike’ or ‘can an obese person do trekking?’ are frequently seen on the Internet. Here I give my answers to these and similar questions.
The question which is discussed here is if obese people can backpack and hike at all. So the short answer is yes, most definitely so. Anybody can hike.
Start slowly and choose easy and short routes to see how your body reacts, and then increase the length and levels of difficulty. One of the results of these activities would be to eventually reduce the weight and get in a better shape both physically and spiritually.
I am sure it is best to start from an example that is encouraging, so here is one great video, please have a look:
Is it harder to hike if you are overweight?
The answer is yes, very much so. You can test it yourself regardless of your body weight. Put a heavy backpack on your back and try to climb some long stairs near you, or walk up a small hill, and you will see.
The same is with your body, if you have extra weight this is very similar to carrying a heavy pack. In one of my texts here in the site I described how I experienced this myself. Although I have never been really fat, in one period my body weight came to 82 kg.
So after a diet, I reduced it to 65. After that I climbed a mountain twice, this was the mountain that I climbed 6 times before that. Well, with such a reduced weight, I managed to do this easily in 3 hours and 15 minutes as compared to more than 5 hours in the previous climbs.
Tips for overweight hikers
Consult your doctor
I am not a medical doctor and cannot provide any advice regarding health issues. Your doctor knows you best, so it is advisable to ask for an opinion about how and when to start.
Consider using trekking poles
In my separate text I discuss the issue of trekking poles. They may be useful if you want to more engage muscles from the upper part of your body. I always use poles and this has been so for years.
So try and see if this is for you. In the beginning it may look difficult because of arms muscles pain, but do not give up easily. Nevertheless, if you feel poles are not your thing, no worry, throw them away.
Have enough water
The problem here is what the word ‘enough’ mean. I have discussed this in my separate text. Here just to stress that we are all different, so test yourself and you will know how much water you will need to carry in the pack.
Make sure you use synthetic clothes
This is related to sweating and to chafing discussed below. We all sweat when we are involved in a hard physical activity, so this is all normal.
Synthetic materials will perform better as they may dry quickly on your body when you are on a less demanding section on the route, or when you are taking a break.
Take care about chafing
I am not overweight, but chafing is an issue that I have to deal with all the time. It can turn a tour into a real misery. So this is not necessarily only a problem of obese people.
Synthetic clothing is one thing that may help to reduce the problem, namely cotton remains wet longer and chafing may be increased. Some people use vaseline and similar stuff that reduce friction. The guy in the video shows how he deals with it:
Take it easy & listen to your body
It may be much harder in the beginning than later. So do not push too much, take rests when you feel you need it. You can make goals, for example start from shorter tours and extend them later.
It is easier to walk on a flat terrain, so choose this as a start, and get to higher elevations when you feel you are ready. Remember, this all must be a pleasure and not a torture.
Backpack tips for overweight people
♦ In general, no matter how overweight you are, I would warmly suggest that you go for a ventilated backpack design. I have discussed this issue in my separate text.
♦ Overweight people may have problems with standard hiking packs because of the size of their body. But there is a line of packs launched by Gregory specifically designed for oversized users.
These Gregory Plus Size backpacks are available both for men and for women. They are from their famous existing series, but with extra features added. So you have extra long and wide shoulder harness straps, a larger angle of the shoulder harness straps at the attachment points, etc. The picture below show some of the extra features:
More about these Gregory Plus Size backpacks you can see in this video:
- On the left side the shoulder strap and hip belt position of the Gregory Katmai Plus Size 65 Backpack.
- On the right side it shows the same elements for the standard Katmai pack.
Note also that this is a pack with an excellent ventilation.
Hiking is for everybody
It is important also to get rid of the notion that hiking is only for thin people and for athletes. If you go to any popular hiking area you will realize this. I have seen this very recently in some of my mountaineering tours in Dolomites because I was starting the tours from popular and high mountain passes.
In summary, I have no doubt at all that overweight and obese people can take part in hiking and trekking. Just follow at least some of the advises and tips mentioned above, and above all take it easy.
Embrace this activity and enjoy it, you will see results and you will be happy with your progress. If you are over 50 and have doubts and think you are too old for this, have a look in my separate text that deals with this age issue.
Let me know if you have questions, I have been mountaineering most of my life and I hope I shall be able to help. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.