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Hiking Benches

Many laser sailors like to work out when they are not on the water. One way to do this is to build a hiking bench. I do not believe it is very hard to build and if it is used correctly it can help a lot.


Beauty of a Bench

This bench feels just like your laser, or whatever boat you torture yourself on. You'll be able to keep this bench in you house without your mom or spouse getting on your case.

I have trained on this bench for years.  Mine is made of cedar although I would produce the bench in any wood. The strap is adjusted through a harken cam cleat.

There are two fasteners used in this bench (the two screw that fasten the harken to the rail).  The rest of the bench is held through joinery.
The rails and cross members are simply press-fit half-lap joints so it can be lifted apart in seconds and put in a closet corner. I keep mine on the wall because it looks like furniture.

I think you would get years of loving pain from this bench, and I'd love to build you one.  Send me and email at   Lets talk about what wood fits your decor and budget.


By Dan Fien
Laser # 146778

Milk Carton Bench

by Will Sadler

The easiest hiking bench I have seen is to get a metal milk crate, two pieces of 3/4" or 1" pipe, some screw-type metal hose clamps, some foam pipe insulation, and a strap. This all costs less than $10 (unless you have to buy the milk crate). 

Make the pipes long enough to support your weight. I think mine are about 3.5-4' long. Lay the pipes out on the floor a milk crate's width apart. Attach the milk crate about 8" from one end of the pipes to both pipes using the hose clamps. Make sure you get it secure. Put a foam pad on top of the milk crate. Attach the strap to the ends of the pipes using hose clamps. Put the foam pipe insulation over the exposed pipe (to keep it from scratching the floor.) 

There you have it. The milk crate is almost exactly the size of the laser deck. To be accurate place the milk crate the same distance back on the pipes as the distance from your strap in your laser. 

You can even rig up a pulley with a weight to do mainsheet practice along with this! 



1 metal milk crate. This may be hard to find, but is usually locatable.

2 6 foot or so long pieces of 1-1.5" diameter steel pipe.

Several hose clamps large enough for the pipe (like those on the radiator hose of a car, but somewhat smaller)

Pipe insulating material (it's round and gray) You want the more durable stuff.

Hiking strap (can be any long enough and wide enough piece of woven strap) block and line. For added workout, this can be led up to a block on the ceiling and down to a weight.

1 regular screwdriver


Lay two pipes on ground milk carton width apart.

Place milk carton on pipes about 1 foot from one end of the pipes.

Use the hose clamps to securely fasten the milk crate to the pipes.

Use the hose clamps to fasten the strap to the pipe at the end closest to the milk carton.

Put pipe insulation on pipes to protect floor, and on milk carton to protect posterior. I found rolled up towels good here.

Attach block for mainsheet to s suitable mounting point.




Hiking Bench Upgrades

We had a work party and built 4 on the plans in Dick Tillman's book "Laser Sailing for the '90's". Some refinements were made to the seat (deck) size to make it as close to the deck of a Laser as possible, so take some measurements off the deck of your boat before you start.

Practice on the hiking bench definitely helps, but it's MUCH harder than hiking on the boat, agonizingly so, in fact. It was so bad that both Marsh and I gave up on the thing until we were trying to get ready for this year's Masters Worlds. Since last fall we made the following improvements to more realistically duplicate hiking in the boat (and make it easier) :

1. Put some squishy Styrofoam pads @ 3" thick under the "outboard" ends of the bench supports. This angles the "deck" to a more likely angle that we might encounter when sailing (our boats are NEVER perfectly flat, as they should be, it's just too dam hard for a recreational sailor to be that perfect!) We used those Water Weenies they sell at Costco for pool toys. They also made the bench move just a little, more like the boat does in the water.

2. Put on a mainsheet - somehow. We hung an 8lb. dumbbell on the end of an old piece of a broken mainsheet, and put it over the end of the bench so it led approx. from where it does in the boat. The play in it is only maybe 9", but that's enough. When you're hiking in the boat, holding the mainsheet helps a LOT by supporting some of your upper body weight, plus it also works your arms a little. This made it so we could last way longer hiking on the bench than before. The theory is, a longer, easier workout develops stamina, where a shorter harder workout develops strength. A tiller simulator would probably help a little, too, but we didn't get around to that one yet.

3. Moved the hiking bench downstairs where the TV is, so watching the news distracts us from the pain . . . Like when you're sailing - you're watching for other boats, shifts, the lay line, etc. not just concentrating on hiking, which is really tiring! I think this is the refinement that helped the most. Buy a copy of Luther Carpenter's video (featuring Robert Scheidt) from Allan to watch while you hike - for motivation.


Lainie Pardey Vice President, North American Region, ILCA

How not to rig Your Hiking Bench

One word of caution to all you daredevil hiking bench builders:

I made the one in Dick Tillman's also but I did something pretty dumb.

While in the process of setting the correct strap height, I just casually used my staple gun to secure the strap until I could get just the right height. (about 5 staples on each side) With all 136 pounds of me, I was flat out and feeling the burn until.....

The staples gave way and I went flying. If you look at Tillman's plans you'll notice a 2X4 that would break my fall. Leaving a bruise across my back as thick as my top section. I'm still a little hesitant about finishing it. I guess I'll start hiking my gut off on that first day of Midwinters.


Hike at your own risk.?!

Dave Perkowski

Simple Hiking Bench

The simplest hiking bench I have built is to make a box out of 3/4" plywood, reinforce the corners with 2 x 4's, drill holes in the sides of the box measured to be the same distance & height as a laser. put a seat of the correct measurement on top and support with more 2 x 4's, tie in a hiking strap (maybe adjustable with a clam cleat to practice reaching) you also might angle the sides toward the back so you won't hit the back wall when you lay flat out - great for hiking sit-up exercise! Its also a good idea to build it at the height your deck is off the water, so when your butt hits the floor, you'll know your drooping! (this also saves $ and can store under a bed.) then get on it and try to break it!


Rick Dominique
Mariner Resource Corp.

Avoiding Pain

Another avoid-the-pain tip: Put a couch cushion in the aft part of the bench (or just leave a floor pillow there, cheap at Target Kmart etc). Not only might the staples give way, a dog might jump in your lap just when you're at full extension.


Joan C.

Hiking Bench Plans

by Bruce Cattanach

The Hiking Bench-- 

Unless you are a great woodworker, the Tillman bench is out. The easiest one is to take a rectangular milkcrate (plastic and not the square one). You know -- find one, and then get a 2 X 4 by 8. Cut the wood in half. Take an old hiking strap and mount it on the ends of the two by fours. Measure the distance of the strap to the crate. (aproximate the distance of your strap to the inner edge of the cockpit) You now have a crate with two 2 X 4s underneath. Use some stapping stuff of anthing you can find to put the crate onto the boards (A lot of the boards extend begind the area which is the outside of "the boat" -- this keeps the whole thing from flipping backwards). 

That is really it. If you use your hiking pads you get a very good effective workout. All hard guys should not use the pads but create scar tissue on the backs of the calf and backs of the thigh. If you can stay out for 5 minutes at a stretch you should beat up on the armchair Laser sailors. Enjoy the pain!! 

Bruce Cattanach 
Monmouth Boat Club Red Bank, NJ -- 
Bruce Cattanach 
* In Yacht Racing each man fights with a 
* similar weapon. J. Schult from "Tactics 
* and Strategy in Yacht Racing"


Subject: Hiking Bench design
From: (Bruce Cattanach)
Date: Sat, 28 May 1994 11:26:47 -0400 (EDT)

The Laser Email Archives

Cement Block Bench

I have had some luck in avoiding back problems by a little exercising. The first two seasons I sailed a laser, I always had some back pain...nothing serious, but pain nevertheless. Below I describe an inexpensive hiking bench and some nice back exercises that have helped a lot.
Hiking "bench:" If you have an old set of barbells, two cement blocks, and a stool (padded is nice), you can make a satisfactory hiking bench. Set the barbell with about a 100 lb. of weight (whatever amount that secures you as you hike) on top of the cement blocks. The kind I use are hollow, so the weights sit in the holes and don't rock. You can adjust the height by putting wood or other weights under the cement blocks. All you then need is a stool that is close to the floor...a foot or so high. You can use it to do sit-ups or stationary hiking. Get a short line and wrap it around one end of the barbell and use it as a main sheet as you hike out. Switch ends of the barbell to simulate opposite tacks.

It helps to do a few back exercises. I do three and they have prevented back injuries during the last season. They are

Bilateral back extensions
Back extensions

Short description of each:

Press-ups. Lie on the floor and press up with your hands while keeping your hips on the floor. Hold your position and repeat a couple of times. Hold for up to 30 seconds or so. I just do it for 15 seconds

Bilateral Back Extensions. Get on all fours (2 hands and 2 knees). Balance on opposite hand and knee while extending the other hand and leg horizontally. For example, with your right hand down and left knee down, extend your left arm and right leg out horizontally. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch and hold again. Do this 2 to 5 times. I get away with doing it twice for 15 seconds. Looks odd, but works. If you have weights that you can wrap around your wrists and ankles, they helps..add these once you build up to 30 second-reps.

Back Extensions (also called back hyperextensions). These are upside down sit-ups. I use the barbell set up described above and use a bench about the height of a picnic table bench. Secure your legs under the barbell and lie face down on the bench. Lower your upper body to the floor and then lift back up to a horizontal position. Repeat as often as you can. Gyms often have "back extension benchs" that make this easy.

These do not take very long. Do them 2 or 3 times a week and it should help tremendously. It helped me eliminate all back problems I had sailing a laser.

Also heed Mark Schroder's warning by getting into the exercises slowly, especially the Back Extensions...the other two are no problem. Hope this helps someone.

I also understand bike riding is good for the leg muscles used when hiking; but if its too nasty to sail, its probably too nasty to bike!



Subject: RE: Fitness, Hiking Bench, etc
From: pjf <pjf@CLEMSON.EDU>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 20:37:54 -0500

The Laser Email Archives

Traveling Hiking Bench

by Rick Dominique 

I've used this system when traveling and packing a bench is not possible: get a length of nylon webbing, tie an overhand knot in each end, then tie short lengths of line around the overhand knots. Add a little pipe insulation for comfort. 

When traveling, I feed the ends of the rope with knots on ends, under a closet door, or the door to the room ( lock it, so you won't go flying if your roomate returns) and use a stool, chair (sideways) or an upside down milk crate if you can find one. 

You can adjust the knots in the ends of the rope to set a correct height for straight-leg hiking on whatever chair, stool or milk crate you use. 

good luck, work hard! 

Rick Dominique 


Subject: Hiking Bench - cheap!
From: Gurulaser@AOL.COM
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 10:13:34 EST

The Laser Email Archives

Hiking at the Office

By Douglas O'Heir

Probably someone has mentioned this previously, but I figure it's going to be a long winter, and I need all the help I can get to keep in shape.

Anyway, I have an office chair at work without side arms, and with a little bit of imagination, it easily becomes a hiking bench.  Presently, I turn the chair sideways and hook my feet under a heavily loaded bookshelf or the second drawer of a filing cabinet to get a good hiking workout.  My employees look at me oddly (fortunately, I'm their boss), but they already thought that of someone who takes a Laser out in cold weather.

When they come to complain to me about work issues, I take a few seconds either to do a wall sit or hike out from the file cabinet and listen with a concerned look on my face.  It's not much of a stretch to say to them - "I feel your pain".

Good sailing

Doug O'Heir
Waterville, Maine


To: Laser Mailing List <>
Subject: Hiking at the Office
From: "Douglas O'Heir" <>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 18:53:08 -0500

The Laser Email Archives

Realistic Hiking Bench

Just have to print this reply from Jeremy Millar about my suggestions on cutting up somebody else's Laser to make a hiking bench. Just love it - does this man speak from experience: 

"I agree, a sawed down laser does make the ideal thing. I also recommend buying an industrial strength fan, and a lawn sprinkler. With the use of all three it is possible to produce a very realistic simulation of sailing, especially if find a decent video to watch at the same time. 

PS for bonus points, set the whole apparatus up in an x-girlfriend (wife, mother-in-law, etc) living room to try it out.)" 

Allan B 1416


To: laser@polecat.Law.Indiana.Edu
Subject: Hiking Bench
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 1995 17:43:33 -0500

The Laser Email Archives

What to do With an old Boat

by Malcolm Osborne

>>> <> Tuesday, 1 April 1997 1:38 >>> 

Does anyone have any specs. that would help make a good hiking bench??? Im looking to make one and want it to be the right size, shape, and color. I have a slight idea of how to make one, but does anyone have any idea's to make one that will give you a really good work-out??? 

Ed O'Donnell #152057 

Take one Laser hull - preferrably not the one you use to sail. Tools- circular saw. 

Using the saw, cut the hull thru' forward of the cockpit, discard the front bit. Cut off the rear section of the hull behind the cockpit. Make up a wood or metal frame to support the centre bit thats left. 

Now you have a hiking bench that's exactly the right shape, size etc. It should even be of an acceptible color. If there's still a mainsheet block you can even rig up a weight system so you can practice sheeting while hiking. 

Even tho' its 1 April, don't laugh too loud - its been done! There was an article in the Laser Beam Reach on this some years ago (or was that also an April edition?) 

Malcolm Osborne (L160100) 
Pretoria South Africa


Subject: Blue-Prints for a Hiking Bench -Reply
From: Malcolm Osborne <>
Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 10:13:51 +0200

The Laser Email Archives

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