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aloomens
2003-12-10, 11:56
I am new to backpacking and would like to do a week long trip this spring. I've been trying to walk more and more (3 miles or so approx. every other day, with some longer walks). I've been starting to carry a pack with some weight in it too. How many miles should I plan on per day for a first backpacking trip? It will be a well a maintained trail with no elevation changes. Thanks for any advice!

PKH
2003-12-10, 19:57
As it is your first back packing trip, perhaps you should take a conservative approach. Don't be overally concerned with mileage. I suggest planning for hiking days of 4 to 6 hours at first. That will give you a sense of your hiking speed and ability without beating yourself into the ground. Relatively short hiking days will also give you plenty of time to practice and develop your camping skills and techniques which are an important and enjoyable part of the overall experience. The bottom line is, for your first time out take it easy on yourself - save the high mileage days for more experienced hikes.

Cheers,

PKH

aloomens
2003-12-11, 13:59
Yes, you are right. My only concern with milage is that the trail I will be hiking has specific camping sites along the trail, so for example, in planning for the trip, the next campsite may be 3 miles, and the next one after that may be say 15 miles. Since I have no experience to go by, I don't have a basis to decide if I should plan on making camp at the 3 mile mark (which I know I can walk in an hour os so with no problem), or if the one at the 15 mile mark would be no problem. I guess what I trying to determine, is not what my goal should be for daily milage, but what I should use as my daily milage limit for planning.

PKH
2003-12-11, 15:36
Fair enough. In a well maintained trail system with no elevation gains - unless your load is very heavy you should be able to average 2 miles an hour, perhaps more. You're are dealing with established campsites so you just can't stop where ever you want. 15 miles for a first hike would probably be too much, although certainly doable - about 7 hours of hiking. If at all possible for the first day or two try for intermediate distances, say 8 to 12 miles if the campsites will allow that. One or two days is all you'll need to establish your hiking pace, then you can go for those 15 to 20 mile sites.
Your questions are entirely sensible. When I first started backpacking it looked to be a tremendous distance between camps - on the map at least. In practice it isn't really all that far. A good idea is to try for an early start to your hiking day and give yourself plenty of time. I'm sure you'll be fine.

Cheers,

PKH

rickboudrie
2003-12-12, 10:16
I'm curious, where can you hike for a week on well maintained trails with no elevation changes.

There must be a catch ;-).

Rick B

aloomens
2003-12-12, 12:38
Originally posted by rickboudrie
I'm curious, where can you hike for a week on well maintained trails with no elevation changes.

There must be a catch ;-).

Rick B

Well, yes, the catch is: there's no mountains around here! :( I'm in Illinois. The trail I am planning on hiking is the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail. I've walked some small sections of it, and did a short (~ 3 miles) overnight trip with my 6 year old son, in November no less. It's 61 miles long and runs along the Illinois river and the I&M Canal. Just about right for a first hike of about a week, I think.

cldphoto
2003-12-15, 12:56
I concur with the above advice. Don't worry so much about mileage. In fact, I'd start out lighter (10-12 miles max the first day), and if you fell up to it, kick it in the butt after that. It's all going to depend on how you feel the next morning. Every once in a while, I hike with a buddy who doesn't do much legwork during the year, yet he's convinced that he can hike 15 miles with a heavy pack every day for a week. After too many sore, achy mornings on Day 2, he's finally realized tha distance ain't everything.

Think of a week hike as a road race. If you come out of the block sprinting, or even running too fast, you're not going to finish the race if you're not in top shape. So, pick a pace and stick with it, varying if needed.

Sit down with a map and plan out your route from campsite to campsite, using easy-to-recognize landmarks (hiking guide if you've got one) as indicators of how far it is to the campsite. Set realistic time and distance goals based on your knowledge of your pace with a pack on. Then, adjust as needed. If you find you're 3/4 of the way to your first campsite at lunchtime on Day 1, you're either going too fast or have set your first leg too short -- slow down or fix the plan, as appropriate.