Average Hiking Speed: Why it’s Important and How to Calculate it

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Knowing your average hiking speed will help you better plan your next hiking trip. Here’s how to calculate your hiking speed and some tips on how to increase it on and off the mountain. 

By knowing how many kilometers or miles per hour you’ll likely cover, you’ll ensure that you safely reach your destination. It’s also critical to build in time for breaks and extra time in case you encounter rough weather or tougher terrain than expected. 

It’s also important if you’re doing a multi-day hike and trying to estimate how long it will take. 

Average Hiking Speed

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How to Calculate your Hiking Time

If you’re not sure what your average hiking speed is, don’t fret. There’s an easy way to calculate it.

Naismith’s rule is considered universal and was devised by the Scottish mountaineer William W. Naismith. It’s a great way to calculate how long it will take you to complete your chosen trail and takes into consideration both distance and elevation. 

It can be formulated as follows: 

One hour for every 3 miles (5km) plus an additional  hour for every 2000 feet (600m) of ascent.

So let’s say you wanted to calculare how long it would take to hike 6 miles (10 km) with an elevation gain of 4000 ft (1200m). You’d calculate 2 hours for the distance and another 2 hours for the ascent, for a total of 4 hours. Note: that’s only your hiking time. It doesn’t include breaks. 

Calculating your average hiking speed isn’tt an exact science and there are other factors to consider besides elevation and distance but it’s a starting point. That’s why I like this online calculator which also includes your pace, trail surface and pack weight in the calculation for a more accurate time. 

Recommended Reading: Hiking for Beginners: What you Need to Know to Start Hiking

How to Increase Your Average Hiking Speed

Keep a steady pace while hiking

1) Start off Slower than You Need to to Give your Body Time to Warm Up

I start off with a very slow hiking pace and often get passed by many hikers. But within an hour, I’m often passing them and am feeling great as they’re resting, looking burned out already.

2)Maintain a Constant Hiking Speed

It’s better to go slow and steady rather than fast, and take frequent breaks. That’s much harder on your body and you tend to expand way more energy than necessary.

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3) Try to Take Fewer Breaks

Even if you’re moving at a snail’s pace, it’s easier to go really slow and keep going, than to stop and go when you’re hiking. It’s fine to take breaks when you need to such as a lunch break or a quick stop to grab your water bottle. But try to go at a pace even if it’s super slow so that you’re not taking a break every 5 or 10 minutes. 

4) Pace Yourself on Longer Hikes

If you’re doing a multi-day like the Tour du Mont Blanc, Alta Via 1 or one of these mountain treks, then ensure you’re going at a speed that you can maintain for at least several hours. It will likely be slower than on a shorter hike, but you’ll feel so much better. You’ll also reduce your risk of injury.

Also, if you’re hiking with friends, don’t try to keep up with them if they’re faster than you. It’s important to go at your own pace.

Pacing yourself is important so that you save your energy for the following days.

Related Reading: Day Hiking Packing List: The Essentials To Bring On Every Hike

5) Check your Pack Weight

Heavy packs can impact your average hiking speed negatively. Make sure that you are comfortable with your pack load, especially if you’re embarking on a long-distance hike. If you’re not sure what to pack, then check out our essential packing list for ideas. 

6) Be Comfortable When you’re Hiking

Whether you are an avid day hiker or prefer multi-day treks, being comfortable while you hike is really important. If you aren’t, chances are you will be making more stops and will inevitably end up with an average hiking speed that’s much slower than you anticipated.

You should always have good hiking boots and outdoor clothing that lets you move freely, especially on rugged terrain.

Related Reading: Strength Training for Hiking: A Step-By-Step Workout Plan To Prepare You

Increase Your Average Hiking Speed Off the Mountain

Cardio is a great way t get your average hiking speed up

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Train When you’re Not Hiking

One of the best ways to hike faster is to train when you’re not hiking. You can choose cardio that you enjoy, whether that’s running, cycling,  dance classes or something else. As long as it helps you build stamina and muscle strength, it will help you get your average hiking speed where you want it to be. 

I also find high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to be very effective since it gets your heart rate up very quickly. Do a search on YouTube, and you’ll find lots of quick HIIT workouts (i.e. 5-10 minutes), although longer is even better. I try to do one of these at least four times a week, mixed in with other cardio.

Specific weight training also helps increase your average walking speed on the trail. Although you can focus mainly on leg strength, remember that some terrain requires you to use your upper body too.

Related Reading: Top 7 Health Benefits of Hiking

Knowing your average hiking speed will help you safely and more accurately plan your next hike or trek.  Happy hiking!