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New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)?
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Barry Pollock
(Barry1492) - F

Locale: Media
New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 21:43:32 MDT Print View

Hey all,

I'm new here but not new to forums. I need a place to get some good backpacking advice. First question is "how fast" and I know the first answer is going to be "it depends."

I live in Pennsylvania and most of the trails I've been on tend to be somewhat rocky and the mountains tend to be small but significant. My pace has always been around 2 miles/hour with a limit of about 10 miles/day. However, that was before I've adopted the new "light" was to pack. My old pack used to sit around 40-45 pounds (31-36 pounds without food/water/fuel). I also didn't use treking poles.

My pack is now down to a base weight of 14.3 lbs (funny....I don't seem to be missing anything either) and I've become quite proficient with treking poles. I've done a lot of training hikes recently with a 20lb pack and it seems as though I can just fly without any real wear on my body.

How much of an improvement can I expect with this weight? Do you think 20+ miles a day is reasonable? Note: I'm a former collegiate distance runner and Ironman athlete, currently weigh ~175lbs at 6'3" and still workout quite a bit. Thanx!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 21:52:22 MDT Print View

It depends.

Ah, I kid! Welcome to BPL.

But it does depend. You've got a decent base weight, but could possibly shed even more weight if you stick around here long enough. With light weight and refined loads, the only things limiting you are daylight (even then you can night hike), and desire. I prefer to keep it 8-13 miles a day because that gives me time to "smell the roses." Some on here frequently go 15 miles a day, and you'll even find people going 20+ miles, with a few freaks :) going 30+.

If you're conditioned to it, I don't see any reason you couldn't make 20 miles a day, provided terrain and weather permit.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 21:57:08 MDT Print View

10 miles by lunch is not uncommon for a lot of folks here. Depending on terrain 2.5-3.5 mph.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 21:58:06 MDT Print View

Conditioned and not carrying a heavy load? 30+ miles is very doable. Lots of thru-hikers do that.

OTOH, what's the hurry? You will see a lot hiking far and fast, but you will miss out on a lot too.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 21:59:23 MDT Print View

I plead guilty. Way back when I was Barry's age, I planned an ultralight trip around the high country of Yosemite, with 3000-5000 vertical feet per day. The loop was 65 miles. Initially, I thought four days would be a challenge. I planned it for three days. Finished it in two days.

Not recommended, unless you only want to prove something to yourself.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 22:00:17 MDT Print View

At 2mph you can already do 20 miles a day. All you have to do is hike for 10 hours.

If lightening your pack allows you to walk faster or longer, then you can get to 30 miles per day easily. Hiking lots of miles has only a little bit to do with speed and everything to do with time.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 22:04:21 MDT Print View

Piper makes a good point about time. You really can't be spending hours per day packing and unpacking. You can enjoy the scenery as it goes by, but you can't really spend lots of time maintaining your system along the way.

If you can walk and eat food at the same time, it helps.


Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 22:06:42 MDT Print View

Another factor is the length of the trip. Two 25 mile days can be very different than ten 25 mile days. It's easy to over-plan long trips when basing them on what you are capable of for short ones.

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 03/31/2011 22:08:24 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 22:07:30 MDT Print View

Chris makes a good point.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 03/31/2011 23:03:02 MDT Print View



So are your goals to do certain miles a day (personal competition), or just get a feel for what you should plan trip-wise? If you want to just do miles, then 30+ a day is reasonable for the condition you say you are in. Most of use do it for the fun, but occassionally push ourselves for personal reasons. Some do epic trips and need to average a certain amount to complete the trip within a certain time frame. And some want to acheive certain miles for the challenge to see if they can do it.

As Piper said, 20 a day is fairly easy if you hike for 10 hours.

Of course there are other skills involved to make sure you are safe.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
miles on 04/01/2011 00:25:10 MDT Print View

I've hiked 62 miles in a day.


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: miles on 04/01/2011 00:39:18 MDT Print View

You crazy SOB.

Edit: :)

Edit #2: 62 miles into 24 hours in a day = 2.5833333 miles an hour. That's for 24 hours straight. Did you run much of the day, or not sleep?

Edited by T.L. on 04/01/2011 00:46:50 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: re: miles on 04/01/2011 00:58:39 MDT Print View

100% walking. A bit less than 20 hours. 18,000 feet of elevation gain.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Crazy on 04/01/2011 01:02:31 MDT Print View

And then there are 100 mile ultras.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: re: re: miles on 04/01/2011 01:24:24 MDT Print View

David-- props, man. Props.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
20-mile PA hikes on 04/01/2011 02:08:32 MDT Print View

I did the last 20 miles of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail into Ohiopyle this past summer. I started late- around noon- and had planned to stop and camp for the night but I made it to Ohiopyle before sunset. And I'm a fat guy who doesn't get out nearly as much as he'd like. (Though, granted, my most recent stomping grounds are in colorado and thus a bit more vertical...) But I think 20 miles a day is CONSERVATIVE for you in most Pennsylvanian terrain, so if you start planning for that at least you won't find yourself short. Once you have a better feel for your pace you can plan for longer daily mileage. I mean, especially with the stride you must have if you're 6'3" !

Edited by acrosome on 04/01/2011 02:12:06 MDT.

Jeffrey List
(jlist) - M

Locale: Cape Cod
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 04/01/2011 06:29:53 MDT Print View

"How Far, How Fast, How Heavy?
Calculating the range for unsupported, long-distance hiking"

There's even a distance/weight calculator in there.

(you will need to be a member to read it though)

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Miles Per Day in PA on 04/01/2011 06:47:18 MDT Print View

Before my conversion I was hiking the Old Logger's Path in PA. We did a long 10 miles the first day and then another 10 the second and we were hurting - I was carrying around 42 pounds.

As we were packing up camp around 9:00 am to do the final 7 miles to our car a hiker going the other way stopped to say "hi". He was carrying a daypack with four liters of water. We asked how far he was planning to go and he replied "the whole loop, but I've got what I need in case I need to spend the night". We knew that was 27 miles, but he had already driven to the trailhead and had 7 miles under his feet by 9:00 am.

In shape with a light load hiking in PA? 20-30 miles should not be a problem. As a previous poster mentioned you'll just need to be efficient in camp and on your breaks.

One of my favorite maxims came from another BPL member:

"Get up early...Hike all day...Repeat"

Mike S
(MikeyLXT) - F

Locale: Maryland
Re: Miles Per Day in PA on 04/01/2011 13:11:01 MDT Print View

Yall are crazy. I am much more of the break every 90 minutes and look around/explore type backpacker. I like to get to camp by 4 at the latest so I can goof off and relax.

Hike your own hike :)

James Rutter
(Medicjimr) - F
Not a high miler on 04/01/2011 13:17:00 MDT Print View

I am happy doing 10-15 miles per day with a 20something pound pack. I like to enhjoy the sites and I am 6 ' 240 and 45 years old out of shape and over weight but backpacking is my new weight training regament.