T Nation

Outdoor Instructor in Pursuit of Muscle


okay so i've been reading up for awhile now about gainers, proteins, creatine, GNC vs The World, home made vs pre-made gainers, eating more and more vs "i can't eat anymore or my tummy will huwrt" - all of it.

and i've come down to this issue - for me specifically - and was wondering if i could get some ideas floating my way on this, it would be seriously greatly appreciated.

so i work in the outdoor field, working 7 days, 14 days, or 28 days in a row - on a backcountry expedition. i'm literally carrying, along with my students, all the food and equipment we need for the entirety of that expedition. after the trip, i get back to base camp and have a good 4-7 days off, or possibly a month off, maybe 2.

when I'm off work - I'm living in my truck so space is limited and i can only carry the essentials. so no matter what anyone says, i very literally don't have the luxury of being able to eat ginormous amounts of food all day long - on account of i can't really carry all of it. i can however choose high calorie and protein rich foods - most of which have to be non-perishable (unless I'm around a grocery store) in which case i'll buy 3 days of perishable nice food.

i'm trying to gain muscle mass, and get my BF down to under 10%. I don't have access to free weights.

is there something I'm over looking? cut me some slack if its obvious, i am fairly new to this world.


Well, there's bodyweight stuff. Lots of articles on what you can do there.

Given your logistical constraints, I would consider two purchases.

1) A kettlebell. If you don't know what one is, think of a cannonball with a handle. It is basically indestructible and you can do a variety of exercises with it. Very truck-friendly. More for conditioning than strength, but will still build some muscle if you are (relatively) untrained.

2) Adjustable dumbells. They make dumbbells that adjust in 5 pound increments. Some can go quite heavy, like up to 95 pounds. These are expensive and I don't have any experience with them, so I cannot speak to their durability or whether they'd be ideal for "field use". These would take up a bit more space. There may also be an adjustable bench that could flatten out and store in your truck. If you can find room, this might be your best equipment option for building real muscle.

That said, consistency will present a challenge to you.


if this is your route, make sure they don't have a lot of plastic as part of the design.


Gymnastic rings, a 24k kettlebell and a set of adjustable dumbbells. These will take you far if you find the time to train.


When I travel, I pack resistance bands, which weigh almost nothing and have tons of uses. Something like a TRX or blast straps could also work.

As far as food, high calorie nonperishables I would go for include:
Protein powder
Pemmican if you're a meat eater

You have an interesting lifestyle. Good luck and let us know your results.


That is a rough schedule, no doubt. I'm sure it's doable, but your prep and planning will need to be spot-on, in terms of consistent calories (eating plenty seven days a week is where a lot of guys stumble) and in terms of training.

Three meals a day has gotten plenty of guys bigger. You don't "have to" eat throughout the day; sometimes it's useful and sometimes it isn't, but it isn't necessary.

If you can't carry a lot, then you need to think calorie-density. Nuts are huge for this. (That's what she said). A 28oz jar of peanut butter is about 5,000 calories. Make it a point to finish 1-2 jars a week and you've jacked up your calories bigtime.

Nonfat dry milk (mixed with water) is just carbs and quality protein, so that should be an option. A quick search shows 32 8oz-servings (about 2,500 calories) weighs just under two pounds. Again, try to finish a pack a week. Beef jerky's another obvious choice, I'd pack as much as you can.

Your profile says you're 6'0" and 155. Is that accurate/current?

What does your training currently look like? I'm sure it's probably haphazard - best you can, when you can with your schedule, but you'll need to figure out some kind of routine you can stick to for months at a time.

A basic 3-day a week routine that you can do for 6 months straight will yield much better results than a 4-week "bulking blast" you only do when you're off from work. If you're "stuck" with whatever gear you can pack in your truck, then a kettlebell or two might be the way to go.

I just haven't had great experiences with adjustable dumbbells. They're useful, but can be awkward to handle at heavier weights. If you do get into KB work, make sure not to get sidetracked with high rep stuff. You're doing more than enough "cardio" hiking daily, even if you're relatively-adapted to it.


Does your outdoors have logs and big rocks? I'd be looking at doing strong-man type shit for training with outdoor heavy stuff if I could while I was working.




X2 on this^^^^

As someone who has spent as much as 45 days out in third world country deserts and mountains, I have learned the benefit of bodyweight exercises and improvising in making do with whatever you have at hand (article above). I always carry a set of TRX straps and if the area has trees, then some rings. I just got back from 13 days on the Paki border and there wasn't a tree within a 100 miles, so, it was push ups, carrying a sand bag filled with rocks, sit ups, body squats, and sprints when the area was clear of threats.

Others have advised you on a KB and I agree, it is a great conditioning tool. I would have one for my truck and take some time to look up Dan John's KB Challenge. You could work that program during your down time between trips. I did the challenge when he first published the article and it kicked my ass. Great training.

Since you have wilderness experience, I assume you are current on all the current freeze dried food options, but, when out in the field, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, and protein bars are your friends. The only problem with jerky (if it is made commerical) is the excess salt and the thirst that follows after. Water is always a problem on operations.

I dont have any experience with adjustable dumbells, but, I would recommend the straps and KB. Good Luck.