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Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Hiking Distance Estimates on 02/09/2008 04:28:49 MST Print View

I'm wondering if anyone has figured out a good system for estimating hiking distance capabilities. My preference is to start hiking about an hour after the sun starts to rise and end the day about 1 hour before total darkness. I want to walk actively all day with short breaks. My method to planning trips is to simply measure off 15 miles and figure I can pretty much do that. Problems arise with terrain (flat I cover too quickly, lots of terrain can slow me down terribly), sunlight (winter time....oppps is that the sunning setting), streams (how many times can this trail cross this thing), etc. The problem is some days I find myself running to get to camp location (for water) and others taking a nap to slow down. Any formulas you guys use to make this easy?

Neil Johnstone
(nsjohnstone) - MLife
Time/distance estimates on 02/09/2008 04:55:00 MST Print View

Naismith's formula from 1892 works well.
The basis is 3 miles per hour, plus an additional 30 minutes per 1000ft of ascent.
Obviously, terrain and personal fitness affects this - for example ploughing through deep mud is a lot slower, but overall this is still a useful method.

Google for 'Naismith's Formula'and you'll find a lot of variations on the original.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Time/distance estimates on 02/09/2008 05:21:42 MST Print View

I think the average walking speed with a full pack is more like 2 mph plus the slowdown for climbs.

Charles G.
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Re: Time/distance estimates on 02/09/2008 06:37:28 MST Print View

In the country where I travel, I think that Naismiths formula would be a bit unrealistic. For level terrain with no bad trail surfaces (eg. a graded dirt road), 3 mph is probably a reasonable figure and, pushing it, you could likely crank out 4 mph. The problem is that I almost never see conditions like that for any significant distance here in the west. Trails here are rocky, steep, muddy, washed-out, sandy or missing; or some combination of the foregoing. So, I usually plan on 2 mph and add 30 to 60 minutes per 1000 feet depending on how steep the climb looks and whether the trail is known to be good or bad. Even then, my estimates of travel time are generally just that, estimates, and typically will vary by 1-2 hours per ten miles, one way or the other. I just live with it and enjoy the ride!

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Hiking Distance Estimates on 02/09/2008 08:10:34 MST Print View

This is an area where I really like profile maps. They give me a much better idea of the difficulty expected overall. For actually hiking and navigating, I've found them to sometimes be fairly inaccurate, but they definitely help me figure mileage well in the planning stage. More maps than you would imagine offer profiles for longer distance trails.

James Ennis
(JimEnnis) - F

Locale: South
Hiking Distance Estimates on 02/09/2008 10:15:36 MST Print View

In the areas where I hike most (Ozark Mtns), with the usual ups and downs, I can usually figure on hiking an average of 2 miles every hour. I can usually knock out a mile every 24-26 minutes and when I figure in the rest breaks and lunch, I am looking at a 15-mile day taking right at 8 hours.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Hiking Distance Estimates on 02/10/2008 10:07:49 MST Print View

Most in-shape backpackers CAN move at three or four miles per hour but one must factor in rest breaks, scenic vista stops, eating, et al to the overall equation. When all is said and done, although I actually move at three or four miles per hour while hiking my daily average moves much closer to two miles per hour.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Slow-packing on 02/25/2008 15:05:10 MST Print View

We slow-packers usually average 1 to 1 1/2 miles per hour averaged over the entire day, taking into account lunch and breaks, a few thousand feet elevation gain/loss (as in the Cascades or White Mountains), rocky trails, etc.

So in an 8-hour hiking day we average about 8 miles if steep and/or rocky, and up to 12 miles if there are flat or easy sections.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Estimates for me and for kids on 03/05/2008 21:40:05 MST Print View

My lunchtime workouts are on a paved creekside trail, and I do 3.75 miles in an hour with a pack there. This weekend, I estimated six hours (1.5 miles/hour plus slack) for a 8.5 mile round-trip hike up Mt. Tamalpais with an 1100 foot gain, and we did it in 6:10. Four adults and seven boys ages 10-14. The boys tend to average 1.5 mph with packs on short backpack hikes (2-5 miles). The older boys leave me in the dust.

It was clear and very windy on Mt. Tam. My Six Moon Designs Starlite scrunched down decently to be a big comfortable daypack.

Edited by wunder on 03/05/2008 22:01:56 MST.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Estimates for me and for kids on 03/05/2008 21:50:15 MST Print View

I have to bring someone along if only to remind me to take breaks; otherwise I move at 3-4 mph nonstop for hours and get to camp by lunchtime.

A friend who studies Autism told me that i probably find repetitive motion (i.e. walking) soothing, and I can't disagree. I can't take a break unless I have someone to talk to or something to chew on, and when that finishes I'm itching to get rolling. Not fast, just constant.

I think that your pace and range are very personal things, and unless you're "the slow one" they depend far more on the group (and of course the trail) than they do on you.

It's basic math: if each person randomly needs to pause for something once every two hours, a group of 6 will have 24 random pauses per day whereas a soloist will have 4. 24 4-minute breaks add up, especially if some of them turn into full 15-minute breaks. Add a social dynamic, and everyone moving at the pace of the slowest walker, and your "cruising speed" and "maximum speed" can be 50% or less.

Not that that's bad, just that it's important to consider when planning.

An experienced group that has their routines figured out is another story, of course...

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Estimates for me and for kids on 03/06/2008 07:22:12 MST Print View

For me (35 year old, long legg-ed athletic guy), I can plan on 3.5-4 mph for my cruising speed. When I move to the 4-4.5 range, I'm really moving.

My wife is shorter and has a more casual pace- her cruising range is 2.5-3. At 3-3.5 she's pushing herself.

That's with varied elevation, etc.