Having a solid idea about your average hiking speed before hitting the trails can make a great difference to your general outdoor experience. It helps you be more prepared, enjoy the hike better, and plan the days ahead.
Here’s a guide to help you estimate your average hiking pace accurately and tackle the hurdles nature puts in your way!
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Intro to Estimating Your Average Hiking Speed
If you are new to hiking, you may want to know every possible detail about it to get ready in advance. Well, one of the primary factors to consider when planning your hiking adventures is the duration of your trip. How long is it? How many days or hours will it take? Keep in mind to start with shorter trails and build up to multi-day hikes.
As I’m also working on honing my hiking skills, I reckon the element of hiking with others can also put pressure on how we manage our energy on the trail.
If you are going to hike a relatively popular trail, it’s not difficult to know its length, and the expected time to complete it. But, here’s the thing: every person’s hiking pace is different. Plus, as many other factors can have an impact, being mindful of your natural hiking speed will help you plan accordingly.
Why Is It So Necessary to Calculate the Hiking Speed?
Calculating your hiking pace not only helps to know the duration of the hike but also brings a host of other benefits. If you have a ballpark measure of your speed, it’s easier to know the time at which you will reach a certain place like the top of a hill or the camping ground.
You would also be better at avoiding obstacles like rain before it’s forecasted to hit, miss low-tide crossings, or end up hiking at nighttime. In situations where you start hiking later than planned, or the weather decides to play a trick on you, you can easily change your plans and manage your energy efficiently. Overall, regardless if you’re new into this activity, a female hiking solo or an enthusiastic tramper, grasping your hiking speed helps you stay safe as well.
What Factors Can Affect Your Hiking Speed?
Here are some major factors that affect your hiking pace.
Your fitness level determines how well you can keep up with rough terrains while handling the weight you carry. If you work out regularly and have developed a quick natural pace with better muscle strength, you would have less trouble moving steadily along the trail.
Everything from your core strength, leg strength, and stamina will keep you moving faster. This is also why regular hikers should pay attention to their fitness level and develop a comfortable intensity for walking.
You can face diverse terrain conditions depending on the difficulty level of the trail. If you have to go through rocky climbs, winding paths, slopes, and muddy tracks, the journey will be longer than walking on flat terrain. This can also happen if you need to put on different pieces or gear -like water shoes if walking on wet rocks– with causes delays. So you need to take this into account when calculating your average hiking speed per mile.
Having a sound idea of the weather forecast for your hike can save you a lot of trouble. You should be prepared for any winds and rain that can slow down your natural hiking speed. It’s also important to be cautious of each step on slippery grounds and look out for storms or inversion layers.
Once we had to go back when we were climbing Mt Oxford because the wind was crazy! I was grabbing tussock grasses to move along until we called it quits. Of course, going back down took longer than expected until we reached a sheltered forest. All this to say that you should always allow extra time for changing weather conditions.
The weight you carry
Unless you are heading on a very short or a 1-day hike, you are bound to carry a significant amount of gear, which undeniably affects your speed. It’s important to know that your hiking speed can be slackened depending on the weight on your shoulders.
As an example, I’m 54kg and find that if I’m carrying over 11kg I can feel the impact of the weight on my hiking speed. It’s like you end up even bouncing as you step, making you spend more energy.
A set of trekking poles will assist your balance and help ease the weight pressure as your movements will become more efficient.
Many hikers have a set of goals they want to achieve, which also affects their overall hiking pace. As an example, if you are more excited about the nature-bound experience of hiking and don’t mind walking slowly enjoying the surroundings, your hiking speed can be slow.
On the other hand, if you are eager to cover a specific number of miles per hour, then you might have to focus on your hiking pace more than other factors.
So, at the end of the day, it depends on your priorities, the effort you put in, and your level of experience.
How Fast Can the Average Person Hike?
It is estimated that the average walking speed of a human is 3-4 miles per hour, and it primarily applies to easier terrains with a lightweight on your shoulders. So, depending on the number of hours you plan to hike, you can determine the average hiking distance per day.
If you are backpacking, this can be reduced to around 2 miles per hour.
For rough terrains with a lot of elevation, an average person can clock half or one mile per hour.
If you need a more specific pace for your age, take a look at this average walking speed by age chart.
What Is a Good Hiking Pace?
The ideal hiking pace for you may differ from others for the reasons listed above. This will also vary depending on your hiking experience level.
If you are a beginner, it’s better to start off slow without worrying too much about covering a long distance within a day. If you go too fast and end up tired too fast, you might not even like your first hiking experience!
This takes me back to what I said at the beginning regarding hiking with others. Some folks put a lot of peer pressure on hiking speed just because they can, or maybe because they have a ferry or bus to catch, and can’t afford ‘wasting’ time.
If you are just getting started, join a meetup hiking group, and give yourself some grace! I’ve got super fit friends that are the slowest hikers, whereas others even get lost because they go so fast.
Whenever possible, be self-sufficient as a hiker: carry your own gear, first aid kit, whistle, water, and snacks. This is because if you end up hiking alone for a good part of the day, knowing you have everything you need with you will help you stay calm until you catch up.
How Many Miles Should a Beginner Hike?
There is no hard and fast rule as to how many miles you should cover per day unless you are set on a specific goal. But, for beginners, it is better to settle for a hike under 5 miles that involves less climbing, so that it won’t be very tedious. It’s also a good way to get the hang of the overall experience too.
This means you will be hiking for 2-3 hours a day at a moderate and manageable pace. Ultimately, it all comes down to your comfort and capability. You don’t want to exhaust yourself too much with a long-distance hike, especially if you are just getting started.
How Can I Get Faster at Uphill Hiking?
Hiking uphill naturally tends to slow down your usual pace as it requires more effort and energy. But, if you want to increase your current speed, there are a variety of ways to do it. The key factor is to practice more often and build strength and endurance, so speed comes naturally.
Getting into the habit of an early morning run, working out regularly, and even walking up the stairs can aid greatly in preparing yourself for uphill hiking. Power-vinyasa yoga has been the game-changer for me. I’m not fond of running because it kills my neck and knees. The Yoga practice I do builds strength, lung capacity, and flexibility, all at once without impact.
Using hiking poles can provide adequate support and the firm grip required to climb up steadily. They reduce the pressure on your joints and ease the stress involved in uphill hiking. They are also super handy when hiking downhill as the grip and balance provided protect you from slipping.
Finally, you can also focus on how much weight you carry and try to reduce unnecessary gear as much as possible.
When I’m going uphill, I prefer to go slow and steady and stop for only 1 or 2 minutes to stabilize my breath and drink water. Still, my ‘slow and steady’ may differ from someone else’s!
How Can I Effectively Calculate My Average Hiking Speed?
Naismith’s Formula is one of the simplest and most recognized ways to calculate hiking speed. The simple Naismith’s rule is to estimate 3 miles per hour of walking, and an additional 30 minutes per 1000ft -305 m- elevation.
Some recommend including downhill walking time to this hiking speed calculator, as it also consumes a considerable amount of time. This is usually applied to moderate trails without tough terrain challenges.
If you feel going down is the easiest thing and you think it’ll take you 1/4 of the time it took you to go up, then you are fooling yourself. Going down may be easier on your heart rate, but you need to pay a lot of attention to where you step, and engage your muscles to avoid pain in your knees, neck, or back!
If you are heading off-trail, you would have to add more hours for the hiking calculator. You can also use a hike difficulty calculator. It’s also important to consider the intervals you will be taking in between as rest or meal breaks when calculating the total duration of the hike.
In summary, divide the entire distance of your hike by your average walking speed and add the breaks to calculate the minimum time your hike would take.
How Can I Maintain My Energy on the Trail?
While hiking is such a compelling adventure, there’s nothing more disappointing than losing your energy halfway through. So, in addition to knowing what the average walking speed is, it’s also important to know how to maintain your energy levels consistently.
Build up strength
You can build up your strength by walking a couple miles a day. However, if you are serious about getting into hiking, carry a loaded backpack so you can get used to the feeling of it.
This is obvious, but make sure you eat a nutritious diet. Years ago I hiked Machi Pichu, in Perú. Back then, my diet barely contained any iron-rich foods, which led to severe anemia -I was taking 4-hours naps.I started recovering about a month before heading to Perú, but it wasn’t enough. Even though it was an awesome experience, I was dreading every step!
Keep a steady pace
During the hike, maintaining a steady pace is important to prevent your energy waning too fast. For sure, you can speed up on easy terrain, but don’t overdo it! You’ll burn calories faster, making it difficult to get through tough paths later. And you’ll need longer breaks, making it harder to get back walking.
Plan your hiking meals
The most vital requirement for maintaining your energy is to provide fuel for your body: food. Having a proper meal plan that fulfills the estimated calorie requirements can help here.
At the same time, it’s important to map out your meals efficiently to give you the right energy boost at the right time. So, once you have estimated your average hiking speed and duration of the entire journey, it’s better to decide on the intervals you will be taking in between.
It’s equally important to stay hydrated throughout the hike. An average person’s walking speed can reduce significantly due to fatigue caused by dehydration.
Learn to breathe efficiently
Finally, learn a few breathing techniques to keep the oxygen flowing into your muscles. I’m not a breathing expert at all, but something I learned from yoga is to breathe in and out through my nose and try to keep it steady, even if I’m getting agitated.
Deep breathes are better than shallow breathing through your mouth. Of course, it seems sometimes you have no other choice, but as you build up your hiking skills, you’ll also increase your lung capacity.
I hope this guide helped you estimate your average hiking speed by factoring important elements! Hiking is an amazing experience with a whole host of benefits for your body, mind, and soul, so become a savvy-hiker and hit the trails!
Hey u! I’m Martina, from Argentina. I’ve been combining travel and life overseas since 2013 in a quest for living alongside with creativity, joy and personal growth.
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