New to this – how fast can one backpack (miles/day)?
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Mar 31, 2011 at 8:43 pm #1271497Barry PollockMember
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!Mar 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm #1718116
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.Mar 31, 2011 at 8:57 pm #1718119Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
10 miles by lunch is not uncommon for a lot of folks here. Depending on terrain 2.5-3.5 mph.Mar 31, 2011 at 8:58 pm #1718121EndoftheTrailBPL Member
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.Mar 31, 2011 at 8:59 pm #1718123Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
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.
–B.G.–Mar 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm #1718125Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
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.Mar 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm #1718129Bob GrossBPL Member
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
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.
–B.G.–Mar 31, 2011 at 9:06 pm #1718130Chris MorganBPL Member
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
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.Mar 31, 2011 at 9:07 pm #1718131
Chris makes a good point.Mar 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm #1718159Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
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.Mar 31, 2011 at 11:25 pm #1718192David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Queen City, MT
I've hiked 62 miles in a day.
FWIW.Mar 31, 2011 at 11:39 pm #1718197
You crazy SOB.
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?Mar 31, 2011 at 11:58 pm #1718201David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Queen City, MT
100% walking. A bit less than 20 hours. 18,000 feet of elevation gain.Apr 1, 2011 at 12:02 am #1718203Chris MorganBPL Member
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
And then there are 100 mile ultras.Apr 1, 2011 at 12:24 am #1718210
David– props, man. Props.Apr 1, 2011 at 1:08 am #1718212Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
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" !Apr 1, 2011 at 5:29 am #1718233Jeffrey ListBPL Member
@jlistLocale: Pacific Northwest
"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)Apr 1, 2011 at 5:47 am #1718239Kevin BabioneBPL Member
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"Apr 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm #1718458Mike SBPL Member
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 :)Apr 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm #1718465James RutterMember
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.Apr 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm #1718507drowning in spamMember
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.Apr 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm #1718581Barry PollockMember
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.Apr 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm #1719393Steve ScarboroughMember
@zehnmmLocale: southern New Mexico
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!Apr 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm #1719419Hiking MaltoBPL Member
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.Apr 4, 2011 at 1:05 am #1719658Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
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.
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