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What are your daily hiking mileage goals?
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Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 13:38:41 MST Print View

Doug Prosser and I started a PCT backpacking Meetup Group about 3 years ago with the intention of developing a lighweight backpacking hiking "community" in our area (Southern California). Here's the link to our group:

We plan hikes to include an average daily mileage of 20 miles. Our group has about 300 members but only about 10 are active and only about 3-4 of those seem to be willing to walk 20 miles+ per day.

I thought that one of the potential goals of "going lightweight" was to be able to comfortably walk 20+ miles per day, day after day? I understand that we all have our own goals. However, we're getting very few takers and some of the hikers balk at daily mileages in excess of 10 miles. Even some of the BPL'ers who have joined, stating that they "employ lightweight and ultralightweight techniques", seem to have trouble doing multiple 20 mile days.

I emphasize lightweight backpacking techniques in the group and make the trip descriptions as clear as I can. We have even had "clinics" to discuss gear and fitness but these don't seem to be "sticking" in the minds of the participants.

So, I'd like to know: 1. How far do you plan to go each day, assuming a "good" trail (like the PCT)? 2. Do you think that doing 20 miles per day is a "reasonable" goal?

I'd like to hear what you all have to say regarding your daily mileage goals, and your fitness levels. Thanks!

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 14:01:30 MST Print View

I suspect it's internet hyperbole; lots of talk of doing 20+ miles/day, day after day, without that many trip reports indicating 20+ miles a day, day after day...

First off, there's a difference between 20.5 miles and 26 miles, especially when it's cold and raining or hot and dry and you have another pass to climb in the next few miles....What does "+" mean?

I think we hear numbers getting thrown around so much that 20+ per day seems common, when in actuality averaging 20+ per day, with elevation, weather, and high altitudes isn't the casual feat that it sounds like on forums- especially for multiday trips. Keep in mind you're talking near marathon distances; many people do considerable training to WALK their first marathon, and that's often on flat surfaces.

Just because you have a "light" pack doesn't mean you can just get out and do this; I think a lot of people would have trouble simply walking 20 per day WITHOUT even carrying a pack. And even if they could simply get through it, I question whether they'd have any FUN doing it.

So if you're wondering why you have few takers, I think you're throwing out a number that intimidates people, realistically and rightfully so. Blisters, footwear issues, nutrition, all these things start coming into play to some degree at those distances.

If you're talking your average person without previous training or long distance, multiday backpacking experience (or commitment to a training plan), I think multiday trips of 20+ miles/day are unrealistic and are simply going to scare people off.

I certainly wouldn't try to do a 20+ mile/day multiday trip with strangers or people who didn't have some prior experience; sounds like a recipe for a bad time.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 14:28:11 MST Print View

It depends. (?)

I've done a few 20 mile days but generally like less. I don't get out too often so the first few days of a trip I prefer to take it easy. Unfortunately about the time I'm up to speed, the trip is ending.

Group trips are hard due to varied paces. I prefer the sort that see each other about twice a day vs. a nose-to-tail paceline.

(of course I'm in rotten shape which may have something to do with it)

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 14:35:34 MST Print View

> I think a lot of people would have trouble simply walking 20 per day WITHOUT even carrying a pack. And even if they could simply get through it, I question whether they'd have any FUN doing it.


While I know my body could do 20 mile days, my feet don't agree. I suspect that's mostly because I only get to do 1 major trip a year. I don't baby my feet in normal living (wear non cushy sandals) but they're pretty much done for the day after 15-16 miles, sooner if lots of sharp rocks. If I walked a lot instead of sat behind a PC maybe it would be different.

However, I also have no interest in long days. I want to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, sit beside creeks, etc., not keep walking (unless there was nothing to keep me from stopping).

Going lightweight allows me to get out and do things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. I couldn't have done a 12400' pass a day after coming from 600' with a heavy pack. I likely would only be able to do 5-10 miles with one, too.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
What are your daily hiking mileage goals?" on 02/06/2012 15:20:08 MST Print View

Even most thru-hikers start their thrus with shorter days. It's often several weeks into their trip before they regularly exceed the 20-mile-per-day mark. For most of those who sit in front of a computer 10 or more hours per day, there is no way they can keep themselves in that kind of condition! You definitely can't expect "weekend warriors" to do 20-mile days, regardless of how little they carry! One of those and they'll never be back--as you're finding out.

I once was hiking chair for a hiking and mountaineering club. We basically labeled hikes of 5 miles and under as "easy," hikes of 6-12 miles as "intermediate" and hikes over 12 miles as "difficult." A lot depended on elevation gain, especially when classifying hikes between 5 and 6 miles. If elevation gain was over 1,000 feet, the hike would be classified as "intermediate" even if shorter. Note that these were dayhikes so most of us were carrying very light loads, even though that was back in the "bad" old days. OK, we had one big strong guy whose daypack included his 2-year-old daughter and an enormous camera, but he was definitely the exception.

My limit back in those days (when I was in my 40's and in relatively good shape) was 10-12 miles per day for a dayhike. I got up at 5 am and hiked an hour and a half before making breakfast for my kids and going to work for the next 10 hours; usually that was at the expense of sleep. In winter (when I'd have been hiking in the dark the whole time) or during peak work times when my workday was 12-14 hours, I often bicycled to work (about 4 miles each way, not enough to do a lot of good) and walked for a half hour at noon. That plus one weekend dayhike was as much physical conditioning as I could manage with my home/work schedule.

Now I figure I'm doing well with 5-7 mile days, whether backpacking or day hiking. If it weren't for lightweight gear, I wouldn't be backpacking at all! Of course, I doubt that you have many members in their 70's!

I suggest you (1) poll your membership to find out what kind of hikes they want to do and (2) advertise hikes of varying length and elevation gain and see how many show up. Rather than dictating what for most is an impossible (or at least unpleasant) goal, tailor your hikes to the wants of your membership. Save a few trips for those of you who do want to do 20-mile days, but don't expect most people to be able to do that sort of thing.

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/06/2012 16:55:11 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 15:50:43 MST Print View

I think a better goal for most people is Hours per Day. The terrain, features, and water will determine how many miles you do. Of course everyone has different goals. For example last year Greg Gressel did the PCT in something like under 180 days; Sunshine and Balls in over 6 months. Who had the best trip? All of them!!

On some of my trips I have to measure progress in Hours per Mile, others miles per day. The determining factor is often what great spot do I want to sleep at, what distractions/contemplation areas will I lose significant time at, or what needed water sources do I need to hit. In the winter my daily goal might be 6 or 8 hours, in summer maybe 12 hours, and anytime of the year it could be 4 hours. For me it is what I want to get out of each trip. My wife and I sometimes do 18 mile day hikes. That is her upper limit. I can do more, but rarely have the motivation to do so.

Since Craig posted earlier; a couple years ago we did 25 miles one day because I made a wrong turn and also hurt my foot. It wasn't physically hard for Craig, but 14 hours of hiking is rather boring. Last year we did around 18 miles one day in 12 hours. It was a great hike, because we enjoyed a leisurely evening before retiring for the night.

On most hikes I can easily average 2 miles per hour, but it starts to loose its luster after about 10 hours. My average 3 day trip is somewhere between 40 and 50 miles. Some might be 30 or less, and some over 60. But like I said earlier, I am more focused on hours per day.

So the important thing is too find like minded people if you want to hit a specific mileage goal. But I should mention that I find the best hiking partner to be me alone.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 15:57:38 MST Print View

20+ miles per day sounds like it's getting up there in 'forced march' territory. I mean, unless you have a very specific goal, of say completing the JMT in exactly 10 days (with perhaps only 1 food pick-up at day 5), I don't know many people who would enjoy keeping that kind of pace.

First off, simply to limit oneself to hiking in the neighborhood of 8-9 hrs per day would require a pace of near 2.5 miles/hour. Now who is going to achieve that kind of pace except on a trail?

A big part of the reason I went UL, other than the obvious points of taking a lighter load, was to be able to cover more XC ground in a safe & sane fashion. I head to the high Sierra primarily to fish, and the best spots are far off many trails. I used to keep a base camp, and head out for long(ish) day hikes. But since going UL, I simply take my entire kit with me.

I try to average around 12+ miles per day. Even at that rate, I find very few takers, hence I'm almost always solo. I think the vast majority of 'regular' folks prefer somewhere under 10 miles per day - in fact, more in the range of 6-8 miles/day.

As a point of reference, if you look at some of the common back-end Whitney trip planning guides, they typically involve around 5 days to cover approx less than 40 miles.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 02/06/2012 15:59:03 MST.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 16:14:38 MST Print View

I looked at your meetup page before and could tell that the group was about 20+ mile days. Maybe I didn't look at it right. That's my goal too, or is what I've been doing. I haven't been as comfortable as I'd like, so I'd like to be at comfortable 20 mile days soon and capable of 30's with the same level of discomfort.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
March on 02/06/2012 16:27:19 MST Print View

People don't generally do 20+ as a social activity.

People look for groups, generally to be social.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
High Mile Days on 02/06/2012 16:57:58 MST Print View

I am normally one that does do high mileage, partly because it is one of the few ways to get into cool places in the Sierra in my short timeframes and also because I love the physical challenge. As Nick indicated, I hiked the PCT last year in 98 days starting off the trip with 30+ miles days from the beginning. BUT, I also trained a year and half on the AT to be able to do that mileage. I also am VERY goal oriented and I knew that I had to start strong in order to hit my limited timeframe of 100 days.

Outside the thru-hiking community I suspect that you will find few that consistantly do 20+/day with any kind of elevation gain. Two reasons, one you have to be in very good shape and second, most people don't have fun doing high miles. You have to love HIKING and we saw a couple of years ago on this forum that there are many that hike just to get between places they want to camp. Because of these factors I think you will find that most folks doing high daily mileage are primarily solo hikers.

One other fact to consider. The inefficiency of the group will be a square of the number in the group. So it will become harder to do high mileage as the group gets larger unless you do what many thru hikers do and hike solo to more less a group destination.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 17:09:48 MST Print View

With the group trips I have gone on and ones that I have set uo I have noticed that the fun factor starts dropping pretty fast after 8-10 miles. Most are ready to stop at that point. 20+ miles a day is a lot to expect from people who you want to come along and enjoythemselves. Group trips I shoot for no more than 12 miles. Hard to get that o crack thirty start with an increase of numbers too.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: What are your daily hiking mileage goals? on 02/06/2012 17:10:26 MST Print View

"On some of my trips I have to measure progress in Hours per Mile, others miles per day. The determining factor is often what great spot do I want to sleep at, what distractions/contemplation areas will I lose significant time at, or what needed water sources do I need to hit. In the winter my daily goal might be 6 or 8 hours, in summer maybe 12 hours, and anytime of the year it could be 4 hours. For me it is what I want to get out of each trip."

+1 to this and your post in general, Nick. Why the obsession with mileage that seems to pervade the BPL community? I rarely average over 10 anymore and, even when I was eminently capable of doing 20+ day after day, never did so. My daily mileage varies all over the place according to my mood and where I am at. I have always been more interested in enjoying my surroundings, and carefully plan my trips to take me to areas most likely to offer maximum beauty and solitude, neither of which can be appreciated if my eyes are 1" apart as I crank out the miles. That said, to this day I train to be able to do 20 miles if the occasion requires it. I think you would be a lot better off planning quality trips and letting the mileage fall where it may. That way you would be more likely to attract, and keep, more members. BTW, this would not prevent the few that really like to crank out the mileage from arranging their own trips. Rather it would make your group more attractive to the majority who don't.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: High Mile Days on 02/06/2012 17:20:54 MST Print View

>"The inefficiency of the group will be a square of the number in the group."

+1, Greg.

N^2 is the number of minutes after the stated departure that you will actually be packed and on the road or have broken camp and actually be hiking. 5 people - a half hour late. 11 people - two hours late.

That's why with 20+ people, there's an officer with a sidearm authorized to shoot deserters and slackards.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: High Mile Days on 02/06/2012 17:26:45 MST Print View

Lots of good thoughts here. I think to most people 20 mpd sounds crazy if you haven't done it, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to find they could do it. Suggesting hours per day as Nick suggested, or maybe even suggest a "style" (hike the whole day, hike a couple hours after dinner, etc). My wife and I typically hike 15-25 mpd depending on the terrain, whether we're off or on a trail, weather, hours of daylight, etc. That's at a comfortable pace with several breaks throughout the day, but we also like to hike the entire day. Like Greg said, I think the more people you add the trickier it gets due to different hiking styles.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Do it in town. on 02/06/2012 17:27:48 MST Print View

I find that to enjoy high mileage days, I have to been doing consistently at least half the mileage in training. And who is doing 10+ miles/day EVERY DAY with PACK? An alternative is 20+ days without pack as training, but that's even harder to schedule.

Ever hike with a postal carrier who walks his route? Those few park employees who get to hike their patrols? They can do big miles and be smiling the whole way. I find I can only if I work it into most days, every week. Never drive to town 4 miles away but make it an 8-mile RT hike. That sort of thing.

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
Wow! Good responses! on 02/06/2012 19:46:11 MST Print View

Now I know why I've had such low turnout. I'm probably "weird" but I like to walk - all day. I figured that "most people" could hike at a 2-3 mile per hour pace (depending on the altitude and terrain) for 7-10 hours per day. So, a 20 mile day would be "all in a day's work", as it were. However, from the responses, I think my 1% of the population 20 mile hike turnout is probably to be expected.

I like to walk the whole day and, since I sit on my a$$ all day at work, I'm not that interested in campfire discussions or fishing. I've sent out e-mails to members who want lower miles to let me know and I'll help them plan some lower mileage trips but, so far, not much interest there. I'll try this again, though. I just thought that, with the emphasis on lightweight equipment and walking vs. "camping", I might find more people interested in walking all day.

I'm 51 years old, in what I would call "pretty good shape", not an endurance athlete by any normal definition. I do enjoy getting my pack weight down as low as possible and have tried, discarded, and modified piles of equipment. I guess it's always hard to find like-minded people. My hiking partner, Doug Prosser, and I are very compatible hikers as far as daily hiking goals, level of fitness, experience, etc. so I should be grateful for that. I just thought there would be more "like us".

By the way, I'm not obsessed with mileage; however, I like the almost "meditational" aspect of walking for hours at a time. I rarely take breaks: I divide the day into thirds and hike from about 7am until 10:30, cook/eat breakfast; hike on until about 2pm, cook/eat "dinner"; and hike until 1 hour before sunset; set up camp, have a snack, read my Kindle for an hour, then sleep. I calculate my mileage based on hiking from Sunrise to 1 hour before Sunset, so my mileage will vary with the seasons.

Thank you all for your continued responses!

Edited by todd1960 on 02/06/2012 19:56:43 MST.

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Plan it and they will come. on 02/06/2012 20:26:21 MST Print View

Let me tell you about my neighbor. She is over 70 (I am to polite to ask more specifically) and really enjoys hiking. She belongs to a group of fellow hikers, all her age or older, who hike one specific area every Tuesday. This group has been going for several years and there are seldom less than a dozen participants on any given Tuesday.

Your meetup group was focused on lightweight backpacking, not high milage hiking.
Start a new group that is focused on the activity you enjoy. Plan the hike, let people know about it, and they will join you.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Wow! Good responses! on 02/06/2012 20:35:39 MST Print View

I don't think it is matter of 20 miles, that is only 10 hours at 2 mph, but many folks seek other goals. Also, I like to stop once an hour for a 5 minute break. Helps dissipate the lactic acid build up in my leg muscles; there is probably some basis in this from something I might have read a long time ago... anyway, I have done it this way for a long time.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Wow! Good responses! on 02/06/2012 20:44:07 MST Print View

"I'm not that interested in campfire discussions"

Then why are you looking for people to hike with? Do the miles, but don't talk to me?

Group trips have that social aspect that does not exist when you have a single partner that you have spent considerable trail time with.

Consider yourself very lucky to have that one partner in Doug.

See the both of you soon! Around the campfire.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Wow! Good responses! on 02/06/2012 20:44:11 MST Print View

Nick, that's how I did my hike last week. On the only full hiking day, I took at least an hour off in the middle, and took short breaks every 1-1.5 hours. I did hike from dark to dark (barely), but that got me 24 miles.

As long as this group hike only needs to be a group at the beginning, end and at camps, then it's good enough for me. I don't want to actually hike with anyone.