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

Locale: SoCal
Re: New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 04/01/2011 14:05:01 MDT Print View

How many miles you cover is mostly about time management. My moving speed this winter seems to be about 1.5-2 mph. Even during the shortest days of the year I was managing about 20 a day going up and down mountain terrain from about 3000-6000 feet. I'm very overweight and pretty out of shape, but I have my routine down pretty well, and I push myself hard, so I still get my miles done. Well, maybe I'm in better shape than I think because the miles don't hurt even after doing them for over a week. If I was back down to 175 lbs, I might literally be jogging up and around mountains. I'm sure you could do a lot better than me.

Barry Pollock
(Barry1492) - F

Locale: Media
Thanx on 04/01/2011 16:12:52 MDT Print View

Did my replies not post? I can't see them. How does this web forum thingy work? Thanx for the help if you didn't see my previous thank you post.

Steve Scarborough
(zehnmm) - F

Locale: southern New Mexico
How many miles on 04/03/2011 15:48:37 MDT Print View

Speaking as one who has been hiking and backpacking for over 40 years and is about to turn 64, my answer: it all depends.

First, I live in southern New Mexico at about 7,200 ft. of altitude. If I am doing a smooth trail hike with modest altitude gains and a very light load, I am good for 3.0 to 3.5 mph. As an example, if I hike a local paved trail popular with dog walkers, joggers, and hikers, I usually average over 3.0 mph. But, with my pack on the mountain trails, my speed is more like 1.0 to 1.5 mph.

I would say that for folks sort of like me, not in too bad shape for their age, 8 to 10 miles a day on mountain trails is about right. That is really all I wish to do in my smell-the-roses philosophy. Honestly, I am absolutely amazed at quite a number of you younger tigers who can handle, and often do, 20 miles a day. I know I can do that, but I do not want to. I might point out that some of our local volunteer mountain search and rescue folks tell me they are at the 1.0 to 1.5 mph level.

Second, another point has to do with altitude. Around where I live the upper mountain trails range from 9,000 to 11,000 ft. I do not know about y'all, but when I hit the 10,000 point, I try to take things easy. If you are in Colorado, it is not unusual to be at or above 11,000 ft. Should you live at sea level and start out aggressively hiking at altitude, that could be trouble.

Third, if the trail is rocky or icy where you have to pick your steps, that is also a factor that decreases speed.

Hence, my suggestion is to start out by trying out a steady pace that works for you over a reasonable period, say 8 hours. Adjust that as you gain experience. Heckfire, you might just find you can do the 20+ miles like some of the astonishing horses that often post here.

Whatever, make sure you have fun!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Miles per day on 04/03/2011 16:30:22 MDT Print View

Nick nailed it in an earlier post. You can be capable of doing extrordinary mileage if you are willing to put in the hours. I will be doing a relatively fast hike of the PCT averaging 30 miles a day. While that may sound like a lot, it will be pretty much 10 hours of hiking on most days which is just about the same as a work day and commute. Yesterday I did over 57 miles with 15.6k elevation gain. It wasn't particularly hard, just long, 18h 20m averaging just over 3.1mph. The key is traveling light, my base is down around 8lb and enjoying the walk.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Miles per day -- little secrets on 04/04/2011 02:05:05 MDT Print View

I hope this does not sound "cocky." I can easily do 20 miles per day. 40 years ago 20 miles was very doable, but very uncomfortable with that heavy pack.

I am 60, and many my age (and older) can do 20 miles per day without much difficulty.

Lightweight gear has enabled me to continue to do long trips as I get older.

I am not in great shape, but in much better shape than most my age.

I am not overweight. I must have "good genes" which probably required a little luck. I think never being overweight in my life has helped keep my joints, ankles, and other body parts in decent condition, even though I have hiked and run all of my adult life, which has not caused any joint problems. Running has just been recreational. I have had many minor injuries from sports and hiking, but they heal quickly. I think that if you are not heavy, these injuries do less damage to your body. As I got older, I did have to make an effort to keep my weight stable... my food intake has declined over the years. But I do not really work hard at maintaing my weight or really think much about it. If my pants start to get a little tight, I adjust.

I get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. This is not good, and I have been doing it for the past 20 years or so. It is starting to drain my energy level a little, so I am working on sleeping more. I drink way too much coffee everyday too.

I live at about 400 feet above sea level. 8,000 - 11,000 feet do not bother me at all, even with little or no time for acclimation. I have a yearly pass for the Palm Springs Tram. Sometimes I just hop on the tram, get off at 8,500 feet, do the 11 mile round trip to the peak (almost 11,000'), and go home. I suppose some of that is lucky genes too, and some is because I walk a lot.

I try to exercise at least 1 hour per day, 5 days a week. Sometimes I miss several weeks in a row, when life gets in the way.

I try to do a hike every weekend (day or overnights). Sometimes I miss this a few weeks in a row, when life gets in the way. Sometimes I can hike 12 or more weekends in a row. There have been a few years in the recent past, where I was able to do some sort of hike every weekend of the year.

Sometimes I run several days a week and exercise too. Runs are usually 30 minutes or less.

I eat fairly healthy food when my wife makes me. When I travel (quite frequently) I eat a lot of fast food, but always in moderation. 1/4 pounder with cheese combo meals, and Denny's ultimate omelets are favorites.

My long hikes usually involve a loop. I hate covering the same real estate twice, so often 20 or more miles a day are required to return in time.

I backpack solo, almost always. This probably enhances daily mileage or even miles per hour. Of course I have little to compare that to.

Being "older," mileage is not that important to me. Waking up above ground is. I often do shorter hikes. My wife and I enjoy day hikes together of 10-18 miles.

At times I do like to challenge myself, mileage-wise. Last summer I did a 3-day 90 mile trip in the San Bernardino's. Anything over 30 is probably too much, but I think I could do it... just not willing to try. For me it would not be fun at all.

I do not hike all day. I stop once an hour or so to drink and snack. Usually just a couple of minutes. I do take a 15 minute break each morning and afternoon -- have to look at the sights. I do not stop for lunch per se, just one of my normal hourly quick stops. I do not eat or drink while moving. In 3 season weather it usually takes 30 minutes or less to set up camp or break camp, including meals. I may not eat meals in camp. Sometimes I stop to eat breakfast or dinner on the trail instead of at the campsite. I am pretty efficient with those tasks. I spend little time collecting water. Fill the bottle(s), add chemical, and move on. Meals are boil and bag. I enjoy hiking until late in the day. I probably average 12 hours a day on the trail, including breaks. But with no one to talk to, there is no reason to stop earlier. I do not bring books or electronics, I just entertain myself on the trail all day, and then go to sleep shortly after I stop.

I am an early riser. Always on the trail by 6 or 7 am. I HATE to hike in the dark... exception is in the desert during a full moon, if it is warm. So I rarely do it.

Minor injuries usually do not stop me. I just keep going at my regular pace and the pain goes away.

Normally I hike at a fairly even pace, hour after hour.

Lightweight shoes enable me to hike a lot faster in poor terrain, compared to my old boots.

The mileage is not a big deal if you get out a lot. Even hikes in town or in local parks can make a big difference. To me, hiking just needs to be a part of your year round lifestyle. Not always easy in our busy lives, especially if you have kids. But if you have kids, just take them with you whenever possible. Family time on the trail is good, and they won't be obese.

I hope to keep up the pace for at least another 10 years, and if age slows me down after that I will keep on going until I can't.

I have been fortunate in life to be able to spend the past 40+ years hiking in the deserts and mountains of California. Life is good.

For a couple examples of 20 mile per day trips do a search in BPL for Jo Pond. On some of my trips, I write little stories for my kids, so they can remember me when I am gone. My son backpacks, so he likes them. Both BPL Jo Pond Trip reports I just copied from the story I wrote for the kids. The last Jo Pond trip with was with Craig Wisner (last year), and I was not in as good shape as normal, and had a pretty painful foot injury the first morning. But we still did some decent mileage. I will do the C2C-Jo Pond again this year (hopefully with Craig if he has time). For me it is becoming a yearly ritual.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Time Management on 04/04/2011 07:21:06 MDT Print View

I couldn't agree more with those fellows who simply mentioned time management (hours of hiking time) as the key ingredient. This inherently, but not necessarily, could mean a) getting up early, often around the twilight before sunrise, b) taking far fewer and shorter breaks, and c) hiking until very late in the day, possibly sunset itself.

I prefer to hike this way but completely understand those who would rather invest time in enjoying the scenery and the non-moving aspects of the backcountry trail experience. I find it enjoyable while moving, but that's just my way of hiking.

As a random example, I'm setting up a three day, three night 71 mile hike for in May that we plan to break down as 9 miles at night on Thursday, 24 on Friday, 20 on Saturday, and the final 19 on Sunday. I'll be indoctrinating some newbies to the fun of long days and hope that with a steady pace and good attitude everyone will finish the trail and enjoy themselves.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Time Management on 04/04/2011 10:41:41 MDT Print View

My favorite way to hike:

Wake up at 6:30

Moving by 7:30

4 hrs at 2.5 mph = 10 miles

11:30-12 Lunch

4 hrs at 2.5 mph = 10 miles

4p-10p sitting around, doing nothing, making a fire, eating dinner, etc., etc.

Kevin Cody
(codycolor2) - F

Locale: Los Padres NF
Try it out on 04/06/2011 14:35:20 MDT Print View

I would advise getting all your gear together loading your pack and give yourself a goal for miles. Then setting out for a long distance day hike and if worse comes to worse you set up camp. Or you can just plan a trip with a goal and time and if you see yourself slipping on your time frame pull back and turn around.

I also suggest getting some (if you don't have any already) body glide. I tried a 24 mile day hike to see if I could do it and lets just say the chaffing in the nether regions kicked in at about 18 miles in. So I pretty much walked funny the next 6 miles back to the car but I managed & learned my lesson.

Good luck

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Time Management on 04/06/2011 14:40:26 MDT Print View

Back when I was trying to cover lots of miles, my rule of thumb was to get up and hike starting at sunup, and to cover ten miles by 10 a.m. Then I would cover another ten miles by 2 p.m. Then the last ten miles I would cover by whenever in the evening.


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 04/06/2011 15:41:52 MDT Print View

20 miles per day is very doable, as many have said, especially if you hike for ten hours. 30 mile days are also doable (haven't done many myself since I was a teenager though). Stringing together multiple 30 mile days is a bit more interesting :).

Currently my health isn't great (regardless of how fit I get myself), so I tend to hike for about 5-6 hours a day only, stopping every hour for 15 minutes, so I am actually on the trail for about 7 hours plus. I also start very late 10 AM, as this helps with my health problems. I would love to be doing 20-30 mile days (I love to be on the move), but just can't at the moment. However without UL gear and UL philosophy I would have to have given up backpacking and this would break my heart.

Edited by jephoto on 04/06/2011 16:24:02 MDT.

Barry Pollock
(Barry1492) - F

Locale: Media
. on 04/06/2011 21:13:09 MDT Print View

Hey, 10-15 miles a day is still an awesome trip! Better than 0 miles at the office.

Sky Horne

Locale: Vagabonding..
Take it easy man. on 04/07/2011 16:53:03 MDT Print View

Back in '09 I completed a 70 mile day coupled with a 68 immediately after. I was thru-hiking the AT, and was coincidentally in PA most of that stretch. I did it to test my limitations a little bit. It took me all 48hrs and no real sleep. Despite my light pack, I was pretty wasted of energy and didn't get to experience the culture of Pennsylvania as I had wished.

Most full days I'll prolly get in around 20 miles. I don't dawdle much except for when I eat or take pictures. I'll prolly be doing 30 milers on the PCT later this year. It should keep me happy, and tired enough to sleep at the end of the day.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
less on 04/08/2011 23:02:17 MDT Print View

if you are a newer hiker then i wouldn't even think about 20 miles a day. that's a sure fire way to get hurt or end up hating hiking. look towards an upwards goal of 15 until you get your legs...

i've not done any thru hike, which is really when one develops the ability to do 20s day after day after day, but can tell you the few times i've gone over 20 doing little 3 or 4 nighters. the next day i was hurting :D

Antti Peltola
(anttipeltola) - F
Re New to this - how fast can one backpack (miles/day)? on 04/09/2011 01:21:26 MDT Print View

I was once stupid enough to walk 75km in 24 hours and I did sleep 6-7 hours, being in not so good shape at that time. 75km = 46,6 miles.

That was with really light load: no rain gear (keep walking to dry it up), no pack (everything I needed was in my pockets + big water bottle on my shoulder), no shelter (sleeping under a big tree), no stove (eating dried fruits and bars). The weather was great and I completed, felt success in the end etc. But I did not enjoy the places I went through, it was just kind of physical exercise. I could push that further by training better, but would it be worth it? For me, not.

IMO the only way to find out what is one's own enjoyable distance is to try different ones.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Geezer mileage on 04/14/2011 00:58:52 MDT Print View

Nick, I hear you. At a fit 68 I'm now training for the southern half of the Colorado Trail. Luckily I have the Speing Mountain range just northwest of 'Vegas where I can train at 9,000 to 10,000 ft. a few days a week.

And luckily my knees are still in good shape.

Like you I have become a lightweight backpacker (not UL) with an 18 lb. base weight.

When I'm with a Sierra Club group I am the designated 1st aid guy (I'm a ski patroller) and tail sweep. That means 10 to 18 mile days, some in mountains in California, Nevada and Utah and some walking in S. Utah's streams for miles, which is harder than you may think.

Solo mileage tends to be 15 to 20 miles in moderate terrain when I'm in a hurry and 10 miles when I want a lot of photos. "It all depends."

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Geezer mileage on 04/14/2011 02:52:26 MDT Print View


Maybe we should set up a trip with some of us 'senior citizens' one of these days ;-)

I am very familiar with the Spring Mountains and other locales near Vegas. You live in Henderson, don't you?

I have many in-laws in Vegas, so we go there several times every year. I park my tent trailer at Lake Mead; my wife visits relatives and I go hiking. I really like some of the areas near the lake. You can find a lot of red rock formations that are away from the crowds.

My son just got a job as a field biologist and will be working mostly in the Vegas and St George areas, so hopefully I will be able to do even more hiking out there... especially Utah.

Don't know if you saw it, but I did a pretty cool 4 day loop in Dec 2009 near Lake Mead. Actually it was more like 3 days, as I started around noon of day 1 and finished around 2 PM on the 4th day. It was maybe 50 miles... not sure I really didn't calculate it that closely, since I am fairly familiar with the area. Doing 15 - 20 miles a day isn't that hard (even for us geezers) if you just keep a steady pace, and don't stop for too many pictures.

I don't know why I didn't post this picture in the TR. It is a Google map, which I thought was pretty cool.

Google Lake Mead

obviously on 04/20/2011 21:17:15 MDT Print View

Obviously it depends on: terrain, physical condition, pack weight, and how much time per day one wants to spend walking, stopping, looking, eating, resting, and goofing off. Simple.

I read long ago that 20 miles per day on foot is a rough average for travel from about 8am to 4pm with a break for lunch, in decent terrain. True for armies, wagon trains, travelers, etc throughout history.

Some yrs ago I met a guy at a campground that said he did 40 miles per day, on roads, every walking day. He was retired, widowed, and he decided to spend his time walking around the US, seeing it on foot, and meeting people. A different kind of backpacking from most here, but one that would be rewarding in its own way.

He also swore by the Dr. Scholls gel insoles.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
I'm in the other direction on 04/20/2011 21:46:38 MDT Print View

I don't like more than 10-12 miles per day, and am often happy with 6-8. But I like to fish, birdwatch, sit and think, catnap, read and hate rushing.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: I'm in the other direction on 04/20/2011 21:50:51 MDT Print View

Cary, see my first post in this thread :)

"I prefer to keep it 8-13 miles a day because that gives me time to "smell the roses."

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: I'm in the other direction on 04/20/2011 23:32:44 MDT Print View

I remember reading Colin Fletcher years ago on mileage. He said that on flat ground he averaged about 3 miles per hour, including a 10 minute break. Also said he generally did about 2 mph on trails. That was with a 40lb pack and boots. But he was not one to hike more than 7 or 8 hours per day. So it puts us right back where we started :)