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How do you calculate mileage?
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Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 13:27:26 MST Print View

The majority of my hiking is done on trails that don't have published mileage. I've used mapmyhike.com to map out my hikes and keep track of my training, but have found that it comes up consistently short on trails that do have their mileage published. I'm thinking that if this is the case, it's probably coming up short on the other trails too.

While I can certainly train and enjoy the outdoors without that knowledge, knowing how I handle miles on different types of terrain would be helpful when planning longer trips. How do you measure it? GPS? Pedometers?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 13:31:19 MST Print View

TOPO usually is how I do it. GPS will work in most cases, but not always - it can shorten if it is dropping at all. But if you can take the two and combine them, you get a very good idea of not only miles, but the route and elevation gain.

Don't trust published miles either - they can be a guess based on a person's timed hiking. The wheel device though used by map makers works well but isn't realistic of course.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 15:41:05 MST Print View

A rough estimate from the topo map, knowing that my 'map miles' may be different from someone else's pedometer miles. Why worry?

Cheers

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 16:45:59 MST Print View

what level of accuracy do you want ?
within 20%
within 10%
within 2%

and over what general distances ?
5 miles
20 miles
100 miles

might determine the method you use.
I've heard GPS can be as much as 10% off depending on elevation changes, switchbacks, and tree cover.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 17:09:20 MST Print View

"knowing how I handle miles on different types of terrain would be helpful when planning longer trips."

Nate,
There are a number of things to consider when trying to gauge your "rate of travel" over various types of terrain. The short answer is "experience is the best guide".

Miles alone don't tell the whole story. You have to factor in elevation, temperatures, pack weight, elevation gain, AND loss (for many, 8 miles of steep down hill would be crippling.)

For instance, I did a part of the CDT last year that has had No maintenance over the last 5 to 10 years. Lots of down timber, creek-like trails, stock-trough trails, no signage. But a piece of the Colorado Trail was like a freeway. On the first I was pushing to get 1.5 mph. On the second 2.5 was easy. And the guidebooks read the same.

The best you can do is learn from your training hikes and then extrapolate from the guide books, trail notes, and hiker reports.

And after three or four 'long' hikes, you'll know what to believe and what to expect.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/28/2010 19:27:21 MST Print View

I'm kind of a one-speed hiker. I find my pace early on and "lock in" pretty much for the rest of the day. And thus, I'm usually pretty good at estimating distance and timing.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/29/2010 17:06:34 MST Print View

I use "My map miles" which means that I estimate the miles looking at the topo map. I know from experience how many of these I can do in an hour, so I can figure from there. How this relates to actual, accurate mileage on the ground is irrelevant, since the important thing is knowing how far I can go in an hour or in a day. When looking at maps of trails that have mileages shown, I ignore those and do it the same way, for the same reasons.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
GPS and Mapsource on 01/29/2010 17:50:57 MST Print View

Usually plot out course on computer, set a waypoint and then track with GPS. I haven't seen the inaccurracies unless they are in both the mapsource mapsets and GPS. I have no idea how they handle the added milegae up hills for example but that would cause the mileage to show up on the GPS as lower than actual so not a big deal.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
calculate mileage on 01/29/2010 18:09:00 MST Print View

Time it. I have a Polar wristwatch/heart rate monitor and I time everything.

There's uphill/downhill/ridge walking/uphill 500/600/800/1000!!! ft per mile. Doesn't take long for you to get it pretty well worked out.

Then there's Utah 4 corners canyon "stream" bed hiking. A unique category

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: GPS and The Brain on 01/29/2010 18:11:39 MST Print View

I usually always measure my distance out on runs and check the time for each miles. About 5 years ago i got it down to be accurate within 5 seconds.
Got it from when I first started running distance and only had road to run on in Key West, (yuck). I did weekly sprint workouts and was quickly able to pick up what my pace would be.

I still do this time to time, and when I do, it's now somewhere in the 2-3 second range. Even if I am running with a 10 pound pack and 14 minute miles.

While doing a 10k with my brother and his wife, I decided to run the first mile with them until taking off. About 4 1/2 minutes in, I told them our first mile is going to be about a 7:42.
Sure enough, right as we passed the one mile mark, (7:42)

So if I'm off for a hike or run I hardly ever take the GPS other than to just be able to guess the distance gone during the day.

I am in the military and we run a 1 1/2 distance all the time. When people as me to pace them, I can usually pace someone within a few seconds without even looking at the watch.

So the best way to calculate distance is to learn the distance and do it yourself.

Edited by awsorensen on 01/29/2010 18:13:21 MST.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Rough estimate from National Geographics TOPO on 01/29/2010 21:20:44 MST Print View

The rough estimate is all you really need. It's actually better not to try to keep track of your milage during the day as you are hiking. Why worry about it. I once hiked with a woman who kept counting her steps while we were walking. It was extremely obnoxious.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Rough estimate from National Geographics TOPO on 01/30/2010 08:24:18 MST Print View

One reason for keeping track of miles per day is knowing where you are on a map and as well....knowing you won't run out of daylight.

Those are real issues if you are doing longer miles.

Rough estimates are often way off and a person can think "Oh I have done 8 miles so far" but in reality are hiking slower than they think and have done 5. If you are running against time that extra 3 miles may well be done in the dark.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Rough estimate from National Geographics TOPO on 01/30/2010 13:40:14 MST Print View

> One reason for keeping track of miles per day is knowing where you are on a map

If you keep track of where you are on the map, why do you need to know how many miles you have traveled?

I guess different folks do it differently, but I am used to knowing where on the map I am, and from that knowing how far I have come (if I care). Estimating how far I have come to locate myself on the map is not anything I have ever done -- sounds strange to me.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/30/2010 13:40:49 MST.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
App for mileage on 01/31/2010 09:07:58 MST Print View

For those of you that carry a smartphone, there are apps for this. For example, there's one for Android phones called "My Tracks" that tracks your mileage, speed, and elevation. It's free. I'm sure there are others for Blackberry and iPhone.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
GPS and its limitations on 01/31/2010 12:10:37 MST Print View

Beware that GPS receivers are all different and use different algorithms for calculating mileage traveled. For example, if you travel for one mile, then go through a mile-long tunnel (no GPS signals at all), then emerge from the tunnel for another mile, what will the receiver show?

Some will show two miles total. Some will show three miles total (by interpolating where you went through the tunnel). Some will have difficulty re-acquiring signal after the tunnel, so they will show about a mile and a half. It's a crapshoot!

Hikers get this problem when going under dense tree canopy or when going through steep, rocky canyons.
--B.G.--

M G
(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: Re: Re: Rough estimate from National Geographics TOPO on 01/31/2010 13:04:19 MST Print View

"If you keep track of where you are on the map, why do you need to know how many miles you have traveled?

I guess different folks do it differently, but I am used to knowing where on the map I am, and from that knowing how far I have come (if I care). Estimating how far I have come to locate myself on the map is not anything I have ever done -- sounds strange to me. - Bob"

+1 here.

If I know where I started and where I am at all time, it's easy to calculate my relative speed and to estimate how far I've come and how far I can get before dark, next water, etc...

Of course I need to adjust for terrain, trail conditions, stamina, weather but that is an ongoing thing. With experience you know what your body can do, under various conditions with various loads, and good map/compass/GPS work takes care of the rest.

Someone else asked the OP how accurate you need to be. I think that is a good question. 1:24k quads, TOPO and/or a GPS gets you in the ballpark. How much more precise do you need to be? to what gain?

Edited by drown on 01/31/2010 13:07:24 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
California standards on 01/31/2010 13:23:06 MST Print View

In California, we have two completely different standards for distance on a wilderness trail. One is called "park service miles" and the other is called "forest service miles." The two are randomly different.
It gets even more complicated when trail junction signs are juxtaposed. One sign will tell you that you are 5.0 miles to your destination, and then the next one tells you that you are 5.9 miles away, even though you were headed correctly. Once you have hiked past the same signs for a while, you figure out how they mis-planted the signs.
--B.G.--

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: California standards on 01/31/2010 13:44:19 MST Print View

"If you keep track of where you are on the map, why do you need to know how many miles you have traveled?

I guess different folks do it differently, but I am used to knowing where on the map I am, and from that knowing how far I have come (if I care). Estimating how far I have come to locate myself on the map is not anything I have ever done -- sounds strange to me. - Bob"

+2

I hike between 1/4 mile an hour and 6 miles an hour. Terrain, track conditions and weather are much bigger factors than distance.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How do you calculate mileage? on 01/31/2010 14:51:58 MST Print View

Miles don't count.
Hours do.

On Saturday we walked down a track - 6kph. Then we walked up a river bank - 1 kph. Then we climbed a peak - 500 m ascent. Then we went across a difficult valley, with mild scrambling to get out of it - 0 kph while climbing. Then we walked along a ridge - 3 kph until we hit some scrub, then about 1/4 kph with a lot of effort.

Position matters, hours matter, but distance ...

Cheers

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
distance on 01/31/2010 15:11:41 MST Print View

When trekking in Nepal, most of the trekkers would ask of our Sherpa guides, "How many miles is it to Namche?" The Sherpa guides never had a clear response, because they don't deal in miles or kilometers. They would answer, "About one day." Their concept of travel distance was how far could be covered in one day or two days or whatever.
Similarly, they had a poor response when asked about time within one day. In afternoon, the time was "Almost time for tea."
Too many western trekkers go there with rigid ideas about time and distance, and it takes them a while to mellow down.
--B.G.--