When on the trails, do you ever wonder just how your hiking speed compares to that of other hikers? There IS a way to track your hiking speed, called Naismith’s Rule. When on the trails, there are going to be variables that will affect your hiking pace, such as steep inclines, pack weight, fitness level, and trail conditions.
Naismith’s Rule was invented by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892. Naismith calculated that an adult hiker should be able to hike 3 miles an hour on relatively flat ground. Add a half an hour for every 1,000 feet, or 300 meters, of elevation gain. For an example, a hiker traversing a 6-mile trail with an elevation gain of 2000 feet, the hike should take a total of 3 hours – 2 hours for the 6-mile distance plus 1 hour for the elevation gain. So, according to Naismith’s Rule, the calculation is: Distance ≈ Speed = Estimated Time.
Naismith’s Rule is useful in determining rough estimates, but Naismith does not take into account any stops or the difficulty of the hiking inclines. As a result, his fellow countryman, Eric Langmuir, came up with a slightly more forgiving basic hiking speed of 2.5 miles per hour. Langmuir also added 10 minutes per 1,000 feet of incline over 12 degrees, then subtracting 10 minutes for every 1,000 feet of lost elevation on descents that range from 5 to 12 degrees.
When using either man’s technical formulas, there are variables that are going to impact your average hiking speed. Your average hiking speed is basically the standard pace at which you walk within a certain amount of time. Studies have determined the average hiking speed for adult hikers is roughly 2.5 miles per hour. According to other sources, the average hiking speed varies from 1.5 to 3.5 miles per hour, and will significantly vary from one person to another.
One of the variables that will greatly slow you down on the trail is steep inclines. They can actually slow you down by as much as 20% on sections of trails with more than a 12 degree incline gradient.
The weight of your pack is another determining factor for a variable in your hiking pace. You can expect to be slowed down by as much as 10 seconds per mile for every 1% of your body weight that you are carrying on your back. So, a 200 pound man carrying a 20 pound pack is going to be 100 seconds slower per mile.
A hiker’s fitness level is a large variable in their hiking speed. When going for a hike that is longer than planned on, you can lose 5% of time per mile when you hike beyond your normal distance’s comfort zone.
Trail conditions are probably the largest variable in hiking speed. When going from a well-maintained trail to a very rough or rocky trail, or especially off the beaten path altogether (not recommended, by the way!), you can expect to be slowed down by as much as 50%, depending on just how rugged or challenging the trail is.
There are a few reasons when knowing your average hiking speed comes in very handy. Probably the most important reason would be planning your hike. When you know your average hiking speed, you will be able to calculate approximately how long your hike will take. This will give you a better idea of when you will complete your hikes and keep you from getting caught on the trail after nightfall, or getting caught in any approaching severe weather.
Secondly, you will be able to give your family and friends a close estimate of your finish time. That way, just in case something happens to you on the trail (GOD forbid!!), your contacts will be able to have a closer estimate of where to start searching for you if you are not able to complete your hike.
Finally, knowing your average hiking speed may inspire you to work on stepping up your hiking pace. Your hiking speed should be a speed that YOU are totally comfortable with. The important thing to remember is that every hiker has their own personal hiking pace, and there is no right or wrong pace. Hiking should not be considered a race, but a time to escape into the peaceful, natural beauty surrounding you. The point of knowing your hiking speed is not to be the fastest hiker, but knowing how to be safer on the trail and plan your routes accordingly. However, most of us are always striving to reach new goals for ourselves. What are we without our dreams and goals, anyway? That is what motivates us and keeps us going! If you find out your hiking speed leaves something to be desired, we will look at a few ways to help increase our hiking speed, along with our stamina, in my next article, titled Ways To Pick Up Our Hiking Pace – Along With Our Stamina.
I hope you will join me there!!