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New Backpacker - 30 miles?
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Jeff Landis
(jeff6605) - F
New Backpacker - 30 miles? on 01/06/2012 19:15:29 MST Print View

I am new to long distance hikes. I'm 31 and generally decent shape. I signed up with a group to do an overnight 18mi day 1, 12mi day 2. Should I do this type of trip for my first time? We will be packing light, around 20lb pack w everything. I just hate to cancel last minute although it would not cancel their group trip. Weather will be fine in Socal this weekend. Kinda worried about my feet/legs holding up...


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Go for it on 01/06/2012 19:25:04 MST Print View

I think you'll be fine on the trip. I think 18 miles will be a long day for you but you should be perfectly capable of doing it. Last summer I hiked about 17 miles in a day. That was probably the worst shape I've been in for a long time because I didn't do really any expercise over the summer due to a surgery I was recovery from.

Make sure your shoes fit well, if they're a bit tight you might not notice that at home but on the trail it will get worse. Also carry gooed socks and be prepared to deal with a blister if you get one.

Have fun!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: New Backpacker - 30 miles? on 01/06/2012 19:51:07 MST Print View

First time backpacking? What is the farthest you have backpacked in a day? Dayhiked in a day? I predict you might be hurting, but could make it.

Chad Anderson

Locale: N. California
Elevation? on 01/06/2012 20:43:52 MST Print View

Are you going along the coast? Or are you headed into some mountains? Since you're likely not going into the High Sierra, 18 miles is probably OK. The number of passes you have to climb will figure greatly into your speed and overall fatigue. You can roughly estimate that it will take 9 hours of movement, if that sounds doable.

Bring trekking poles. They will make things a lot easier on the first go round, IMO, especially on any climbs you'll be doing. You can probably get a cheap pair of "walking" or "fitness" poles at a department store if you don't want to invest REI-type prices at the last minute.

Jeff Landis
(jeff6605) - F
Doin' it! on 01/06/2012 21:10:53 MST Print View

We are doing the Pacific Coast Trail around Lake Hughes. I will have hiking poles. I appreciate everyone's response. I appreciate the encouragement :) I am going to do it. So, finish packing, bed, and I will let you know how it goes when I return Sunday! Thanks!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Doin it on 01/06/2012 21:27:58 MST Print View

Jeff if you're still there one more idea. Take some Motrin or Ibeprofin (whichever one reduces swelling). If you're in decent shape there's no reason you can't walke 18 miles in a day. You'll probably be sore but it won't be a death march. If you get sore you can pop a few of the pills (I know some people aren't fans of it but once won't hurt).

Jeff Landis
(jeff6605) - F
Re: Re Doin it on 01/06/2012 21:30:28 MST Print View

Thanks for that! I will pack that in case.

Mike In Socal
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Long day 1 but ok on 01/06/2012 22:00:38 MST Print View

Day 1 sounds like a long day but you should be ok if not a little sore. I would love to hear how your trip goes since I'm in SoCal too (I have not done the PCT).

It's a great weekend for a hike!


Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
18 miles first day on 01/07/2012 09:40:21 MST Print View

I am going to file a minority report.

Fist time backpacker? New equipment? No idea of terrain? 18 mile first day?

I think this is too much. Yeah, you could probably live through it. Is that what you want?

Just to give you an idea, I am double your age, but also in great shape, cycling 20-30 miles a day, and riding hard. I don't ever plan a trip that includes an 18 mile day. Why? Because I hike at about 2 mph over reasonable terrain with a pack. ANd by the time you add in a couple of hours for breaks, lunch, snacks, I gott tie my boots again, wait, I have to pee....that's gonna be more like 11 hours on the trail.

And I have to ask what kind of people would invite a newbie on a hike like this?

YOu are better off starting with something shorter that gives you a few options in case you are tired, blistered, or just sick of hiking.

Just my 2 cents

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
18 miles first day on 01/07/2012 09:53:21 MST Print View

I agree with Paul, for your first time out with no hiking experience and brand new gear over unknown terrain this will probably be too much for you.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: 18 miles first day on 01/07/2012 10:11:24 MST Print View

Depends mostly on your feet/shoes. At 31, in reasonable shape, you can walk 18 miles with that weight provided your shoes & feet get along. A lot of ups/downs can make it tougher, but I still think you can do it.

2-3 years ago I had no long distance hikes under my belt, sat in a cubicle 50hrs a week and did zero exercise. My two friends and I rattled off two back to back 20 mile days on the AT with 20lb packs. Was I sore?? Absolutely, but we made it.


Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: 18 miles first day on 01/07/2012 22:54:13 MST Print View

You're on your hike right now so not able to read this, and thus my advice is of no use to you. Instead this is more like me placing a bet on how the trip will turn out, and hopefully stoking the fire so that you'll have something to entertaining to read when you get back!

You're first day is going to be brutal. Definitely doable if you're not overestimating your shape and have no underlying injuries (especially weak knees or ankles). Without knowing how to set a consistent pace you'll most likely hike fast and take breaks a lot. Think hare rather than tortoise. And this is not the most efficient way to hike. You'll get to camp much later than anticipated especially with shorter winter days and you'll probably not eat enough dinner since you'll be exhausted. With a 20lb pack on your first trip you'll also probably be uncomfortable or cold much of the night.

However, if you do enjoy the solitude and nature and all that good ol' adventure stuff you'll probably wake up tired but happy and the second day will go by too fast leaving you itching for another trip!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: 18 miles first day on 01/08/2012 10:08:19 MST Print View

Come on guys. He is 31, in decent shape, on a moderate trail, with a group, and a total pack weight of 20 lbs. As long as his shoes fit he should be fine. He will probably have sore shoulders and legs; a minor inconvenience.

Jason Cravens

Locale: Cumberland Plateau
32 on 01/08/2012 10:24:36 MST Print View

I am 32 and in decent shape. I try to do no more than 12 miles day. I do this because that is the limit on my scale of fun. I CAN do more per day, but it becomes no fun. I think he will survive the 18 mile day, but realize he don't want to do that much. Just my two cents. :)

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re 32 on 01/08/2012 11:13:11 MST Print View

I feel better about it because he's out with a group. That ought to help with pacing etc. When I'm not trained up for it 15 miles is about the most thats fun but 18 is perfectly possilbe.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: 32 on 01/08/2012 11:32:59 MST Print View

I do not plan trips to hit a daily mileage average. But it is not uncommon for me to do 20+ miles in a day. That is not a super fast pace in moderate terrain. Now since I usually hike alone that statement cannot be verified. However I have hiked with Craig Wisner and the shortest full day we have done was 15 miles with a 9,000 foot elevation gain. The longest day was 25 miles, which included about 7 miles of snow some of it very deep on slopes. We always have time to stop for pictures, observe great views, check out neat stuff, take breaks, solve global problems, and enjoy lengthy evening conversations. I am in decent shape and only 61 years young.

Since our hikes have been in areas I am familiar with, I usually take the lead. I have gotten us lost (took a wrong turn) twice because I was enjoying our conversations so much I was not paying attention.

Some days I may do 10 or less miles. Everything depends on my planned route and how much time I have. Not posting this to brag because it isn't a big deal. Fishing poles and cameras can decrease mileage by 50% - 75% ;)

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Re: 32 on 01/08/2012 12:28:32 MST Print View

Nick, You describe my hiking pace and style exactly. I'm 43 and hope to keep it up at 61 like you. I agree that Jeff "should" not have a problem. Somethings that drive this are age and health and pack weight. Both look to be reasonable, but would think shaving 5 pounds off your back might be helpful.

Some considerations....
Does the 20 lb max truly include all gear, food and the most water you will carry on your back? Casual backapckers tend to carry more water than they often need to...Jeff how much water do you think you will carry when fully loaded. I am questioning this because you might end up with more weight than you think and lbs over 20 will reduce your chances.

Next concern is not legs holding up but is blisters. Do you feel comfortable that your shoes will not blister on mile 7? Severe blistering can be hard to manage.

Pace, this should not be a problem, except that this is a time of year when day light can be your enemy. I have found that you can cover 2-2.5 miles/hour at a leasurely pace (including breaks and sightseeing). A safe bet is 2.0. Now this means you either need 9 hours of hike time or you need to up your pace. My observation is typical backpackers hike for far less time than I do and sometimes try to make distance by hiking at a fast pace, especially if they are young and in shape. If this group is planning to hike for 6 hours (i.e. 11 am to 5:00 pm) and cover 18 miles I would suggest this will be hard for you and not enjoyable.

Often more important than distance is elevation gain (loss isnt much better). Elevation gain over short distances is the most difficult to deal with. My rough guideline is once getting over 3000 feet of elevation gain your are dealing with enough that may really slow you down. Even just 1000 feet over a short distance like a mile is hard and can slow you down to a snails pace.

So here is my thought. If you can really keep your pack weight down to <20 lbs total; if you feel good about not blistering; if you will be hiking for 9'ish hours to cover 18 miles; and if the elevation gain will be under 3000 feet over the 18 miles then my opinion is you should be fine.


oops. I missed the post were he said he was going for it. It will be interesting to hear how it turned out.

Edited by jshortt on 01/08/2012 12:29:50 MST.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Exactly on 01/08/2012 14:29:00 MST Print View

Good points Jamie

And my concern was that he was starting with a lot of new equipment, and with a group that wasn't going to be very happy about cutting their hike short if he had a problem.

It's now how I would design a trip to introduce someone to backpacking.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: New Backpacker - 30 miles? on 01/08/2012 15:51:18 MST Print View

Can't wait to hear how it went.
My bet though is that it was somewhere between super tiring and miserable.

At 27 and 30lb pack, my last trip in the sierras consisted of a 1.5m/h pace, and at the end of a 10mile day I was ready to stop. Sure I probably could have taken a break and went a few more miles, but certainly not 8 more...
I was also running 4.5 miles every day prior to this trip.

I have no idea how people clock 2-2.5 m/h paces, unless they r on completely flat terrain, or never stop for lunch, snack, or potty breaks.

Let's just say I'm glad you are with a group!

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Re: New Backpacker - 30 miles? on 01/08/2012 20:26:42 MST Print View

Nick, I am 43 and am decent shape, but not nothing extreme. To stay in shape I try to walk 45-60 minutes a day, that's it. I don't have any problem doing 2.0-2.5 miles/hour and this includes any breaks. Other than stops for photos, gathering water, and a quick snack I do not take rest breaks all day. I just walk. It would not be uncommon for me to see 10k elevation change over 3 days. In other words flat is not common. I do admit that at time I have to push myself when the elevation the steap for long distances.

I have come to the conclusion that a light pack and hiking efficiency is the only reason I can do this. As teenager I was in much better shape than I am now. My pack typically was typically 30+ pounds including water and food. I don't think I ever hiked more than 12 miles in one day back then. I remember dropping my pack on the ground collapsing for a breaks not wanting to get up.

Now my pack rarely leaves my back and when it does its because I want to get something from a pocket. More often than not this doesn't even mean I have to stop. I drop the pack off my shoulder, swing it around, get what I need and keep walking. Realize I don't have a waist belt or even a sternum strap so this is easy to do.

My base weight ranges from 4.0-6.5 lbs. It was 4.0 on my last trip which saw rain and snow. I carry about another 4 lbs of food and water (2.5 days) and worn/carried items of 4.0 lbs. I can only describe a really light pack as feeling like you have super powers on the trail. 90% of my hiking is done solo.


Edited by jshortt on 01/08/2012 20:27:41 MST.