I have a love-hate relationship with winter. It is a dead zone as far as big game hunting is concerned but it is a great time to begin getting in hunting shape. I recently attended the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver, Colorado and found four cool products to make hunting conditioning FUN!

Snowshoeing

I tested the Crescent Moon Evas on a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National park. We chose to hike The Loch, a 5.5 moderate to difficult hike with about 1000 foot elevation gain, finishing at about 10,000 feet. Hiking at elevation is one of the best ways to see where your fitness level is and is a perfect simulation for big game back country hunting. But.. snowshoeing is the best winter fitness bang for your buck. It provides a great cardio workout while also building strength, agility, balance and endurance. With these factors at stake, it makes sense that you would want to wear a snowshoe that is comfortable, lightweight and efficient.

A great way to get in shape

Crescent Moon’s patent pending all-foam snowshoes will change your notion about snowshoeing forever. Like a pair of your favorite running or walking shoes, foam bends and flexes in perfect synchronicity with your foot making it feel very much like a natural extension of the way you move. They’re quiet, cushioned, and lightweight. The ICESPIKE traction points create versatility and have great grip. So, step into something a little more comfortable….and prepare yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the performance and feel of foam. The Eva Snowshoes retail for $179 and can be purchased directly through Crescent Moon Snowshoes or many outdoor retailers such as REI and Moosejaw.

Backpack Cardio aka Rucking

Rucking with Kifaru

Rucking is the foundation for special forces training. It simply means carrying a weighted pack on your back. Rucking or carrying heavy meat on your back is the foundation for back country big game hunting (hopefully). But if not meat, you will certainly be carrying some sort of weight as you schlep your gear. It only makes sense to practice like you play!

Rucking can sharpen your fitness by building strength, burning fat and will challenge even the most fit gym rat. There are several factors to consider when starting a rucking routine and the most important thing is your pack.

A backpack is a system of a few things working together. If you are interested in rucking because it assimilates back country hunting, then you will want to use the pack that you are going to use for hunting. It is important that you select a pack that is fit for you and you understand how to adjust it.

Kifaru

The load lifters are key!

I had the opportunity to learn about Kifaru and use the Woodsman Pack for some rucking. Kifaru has been crafting back country gear since 1978, and as far as we know, all their products, even decades old, are still in service; they just don’t wear out.
Being a small company, they keep a critical eye on quality control for the highest performance and one of the only pack companies that use the integrated systems approach. Coordination is the key to success, so their products are designed to be as versatile as possible, and to integrate with other products you might already own. 

When you are carrying weight it is very important for efficiency and avoiding injury that you have your weight distributed correctly. It is recommended that you start with 10-20% of your body weight assuming you are in decent shape. You will want to consider these 4 things when looking for a pack:

A perfect fit
  1. Correct frame length– Your frame/pack size is determined by your torso length, not your height.
  2. Correct hip belt size- because the weight is carried in your hips, this piece is crucial. Frame size usually corresponds with hip size, but you will want to make sure.
  3. Load lifters straps- These are stitched into the top of the shoulder straps, and they connect to the top of the pack frame. Ideally, they will form a 45° angle between your shoulder straps and the pack. Kept snug (but not too tight), they prevent the upper portion of a pack from pulling away from your body, which would cause the pack to sag on your lumbar region.
  4. Sternum strap- This mid-chest strap allows you to connect your shoulder straps, which can boost your stability. It can be useful to do so when traveling on uneven cross-country terrain where an awkward move could cause your pack to shift abruptly and throw you off-balance.

AfterShokz

Outdoor fitness is a lot more fun with music, especially if you are alone. It can be dangerous to have your music blaring while on the road or on the trail. Conversely, loud tunes with a good beat motivate and elevate us to better performance. With AfterShokz, you do not have to sacrifice your safety for blood pumping jams anymore.

Since 2011, AfterShokz has been changing the way we experience audio. Their headphones don’t sit inside your ears. They don’t sit over your ears. They don’t even play music the same way your other headphones do. AfterShokz headphones use bone conduction technology, leaving your eardrums open to your environment.

Bone Conduction

Traditional headphones send sound through your eardrums. Bone conduction headphones send sound through the bones of your skull. Instead of speakers, AfterShokz headphones have transducers that send vibrations through your cheekbones to your cochleas, so your eardrums are free to take in your surroundings.

The first time I used the bone conduction headphones, it freaked me out. I had Eminem rapping about mom’s spaghetti but could hear perfectly the snow crunching under my feet. I could hear other people coming behind which allowed me to use respectful trail etiquette and I said hello without ever adjusting my volume. The sound quality is fantastic and these will be my headphones of choice from now on.

AfterShokz has two wireless versions- the Trekz Air (a 20% lighter build and a sleeker design than Titanium) and the Trekz Titanium which both tout the following features:

PremiumPitch+™ -Dynamic stereo sound and increased bass
Open Ear Design– Delivers comfort and awareness
Dual Noise Canceling Mics– Crystal clear calls
Complete Titanium Frame– Flexible and durable
Sweat Resistant– IP55 certified
LeakSlayer™ -Reduced sound leakage
Wireless Connection Bluetooth® V4.2
6 Hours Music + Calls– Reliable battery life

AfterShokz Trekz Air retail for $149.95 and come in 3 colors. The Trekz Titanium retail for $99.95 and come in 5 colors. They can be purchased at the AfterShokz website, electronic stores and REI.

Trail Running and Hiking

Here in Colorado, and many parts of the country, we are in between seasons. There is a glimmer of Spring, yet the snow and ice still linger on parts of the trail. The snow is not deep enough and consistent enough for snow shoes, but it is perfect for crampons.

Hillsound FreeSteps6

The FreeSteps6 are a perfect lightweight crampon for anything from icy city pavements to to the trails. They offer durable, ultra-light traction performance when you need a reliable anti-slip aid. They carry easily in your pack and take a few seconds to put on. The FreeSteps6 fit perfectly over a light hiking boot or trail running shoes.

Hillsound offers a variety of crampons depending on the type of activity you will be doing. The FreeSteps6 is their lightest most versatile crampon and is best used for trail running, hiking, fall hunting, ice fishing or even early summer scouting. There are 6 different choices for crampons ranging from the FreeSteps6 to the Cypress6 which is best for technical trekking on snow and ice glaciers. The FreeSteps6 retail for $49 and can be purchased directly from Hillsound or at Rei.

If you are looking for a way to get into hunting shape outdoors during the winter months, these products can help make your adventure more fun and safe. Cold weather and less than perfect conditions no longer serve as an excuse. After all, practice like you play and you will be ready for anything.