Weighted pack vs. weighted vest

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  • #67106
    Stephanie Stefanski

    Hey there!

    I’ve been wondering about the pro’s / con’s of using a weighted pack vs. a weighted vest for muscular endurance sessions, and relative benefits of each for training purposes.

    When training for my previous expedition, I generally used the weighted vest for gym workouts (incline treadmill/stairs) and local walks (hill/stair laps in my neighborhood, as well as just walking my dog). The vest was about 20% of my bodyweight and I enjoyed how relatively easy it was to put on and accurately measure weight. On weekends, I would switch over to my expedition pack and all of the gear I planned to carry up to each campsite (also about 20-25% of my bodyweight). Of course this took more time to put together, but I noticed it helped a lot more with developing balance for carrying a big, bulky pack, especially on uphill/downhill.

    In practice, when it came to actually carrying that same weight at high altitude (14,000’+), my legs burned out so much quicker than at sea level. The weight that had felt very manageable during my training sessions instead felt like a literal rock… Keeping balance on uneven terrain was also tricky. My guide pointed out that the weighted vest simply doesn’t fully simulate the expedition pack load because it is so streamlined and close to the body, and that I’d be better off training most often with a filled pack.

    Since then, I’ve been wondering:
    1. Would training with a pack/weighted vest heavier than my planned expedition weight help compensate for lack of training at altitude?
    2. Are there any workouts where you would recommended a weighted vest over a weighted pack? Any insights on the relative benefits of each?
    3. Should weighted vest weight generally be heavier than weighted pack weight for a given workout, to compensate for the lack of stability / balance training?

    Thanks so much! Would love any thoughts/insights from others who have trained with each.

  • Moderator
    MarkPostle on #67144

    For Gym based ME strength workouts I.e. Those with squats, jumping split squats, lunges etc with added weight I recommend the use of a weight vest as its hard to perform some of these more dynamic movements with a pack correctly. For all other training that has a weight component (zone 1/2 aerobic capacity train, Hiking based heavy ME outdoors, any training on the treadmill/stairmill with added weight) I recommend folks use a pack and ideally that pack they’ll be carrying on the goal climb. This kind of sport specificity is especially important in the last months of training as the goal nears.

    Stefan Goldberg on #67335

    Hi Stephanie and Mark,
    I once recommended a training vest to train empathy. My daughter played the youngest daughter in a high school performance of Fiddler on the Roof. The student playing the father of three grown daughters was a good singer and actor but he moved like an athletic 18 year-old. I bought a weight vest for him to rehearse in to practice feeling the weight of age and of the world. He did not use it and got better in rehearsals anyway, perhaps incorporating that weight mentally.
    Betraying my age again, I’m finding “threads” & “sticky threads” confusing, but maybe starting to stick with practice. I’ve always thought of threads as what each of us has in the hands of the Greek goddesses of fate, the Three Fates, “Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Allotter), and Atropos (Inflexible). Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread (thus determining the individual’s moment of death).”
    I’m about to look for or start a “technical thread” (?) to ask what to try next to get my watch data into TP; rebooting computer, cell-phone, and watch did not do the trick. Monday’s data and some old workouts show up as runs in TP, but not yesterday’s or today’s.
    – Stefan

    Stephanie Stefanski on #67360

    Thank you Mark and Stefan for the responses.

    Mark – that makes a lot of sense! Two follow up questions:
    1. If the pack weight I plan to climb with is heavier than the 15% BW currently prescribed in the weekend workouts (currently closer to 20-25% BW), should I use the higher weight? Or train across the range? I noticed the weekday endurance workouts call for heavier weight, so I’ll definitely plan to carry more those days.
    2. Which brings me to question 2, probably 50% of the time I’ll only be able to do the gym based endurance workout during the week (unless I do some 200-300ft hills repeatedly here in my neighborhood as an alternative….). I should be on the intermediate plan, but all 4 progressions of that workout call for BW only, adjusting rest time and # reps with each progression. I did version #1 today and it felt pretty easy, and it was hard to push my heart rate into zone 2. Would you recommend adding some weight to help increase the intensity of the workout? I will definitely try progression #3 next time, but curious what else might be able to push my heart rate up. (For reference, I felt like I was moving fast during the movements, and completed the bulk of the workout in under 40 minutes).

    Stefan – I think that’s another great use for a weight vest! It reminds me of when I train with my taller friends in rock climbing – I often challenge them to shorten their reach, even by a few inches, so that they can experience the climb for the perspective of someone much more petite (and have the extra challenge of using form/balance to extend their reach!)

    I believe there are only two ‘sticky threads’ which are intended to be quick access for everyone to view (Zoom videos and intros). There are definitely themed threads throughout the forum, and I appreciate you starting the technical thread earlier today to troubleshoot watches and HRMs!

    MarkPostle on #67439


    1) You want to make sure you’re training with the target weight for your goal climb by the last weeks of the program before you leave but you can progress through the range up to that point.

    2) Individual ability varies quite a bit for the gym based ME, If you’re finding it fairly easy (I like to use recovery as much as HR as a gauge) then you can definitely progress it faster than the plan. That includes adding 10% or more BW. If you skip ahead to July 12th I think there are progressions 3,4 and 5. You may well be able to go directly to 5 if you have a fair bit of training history with this type of work.

    Stephanie Stefanski on #67459

    Thanks Mark, that makes a lot of sense! Sounds like a great plan for #1 and for #2, I’ll be sure to track recovery and HR in adjusting the gym based ME so I don’t overdo it. I’m quite familiar and comfortable with these movements, so progressing a little more faster than the plan seems reasonable.

    Thank you!

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