Ask 20 hikers how far they can backpack in a day and you’ll get 20 different answers. Some hikers are capable of getting extraordinary mileage when they’re willing to put in the work.
Getting 30 miles per day is nothing to the average thru-hiker, but what about the rest of us? How many miles can you backpack in a day?
How Many Miles Can You Backpack in a Day?
With lightweight equipment and easy trails the average person can hike 20-30 miles in a day if they’re really moving. That’s hiking for an efficient 10 hours at 2-3 mph. I usually try to limit myself to 10-15 miles per day so I can stop along the way for lunch, photographs, etc without feeling rushed.
When dealing with rough terrain(hills, rain, mud, snow, etc) and shorter days you might have to reduce your total daily mileage. Just make sure you get to camp a few hours before sunset. You don’t want to be setting up camp in the dark.
Think About Your Mileage Goals
Think about how far you can really go in a day. Don’t fall into the mileage trap and ruin your trip. Just because you can hit 30 miles in a day doesn’t mean you can do that over the course of a week.
Are you hiking for fun or trying set competitive goals? Most hikers are on the trail for the fun of it and only want to hike 13-15 miles. This allows you to keep a reasonable pace and gives you a few hours to relax in the morning/night.
Set a Reasonable Pace
Start out by setting a fairly easy pace of 2mph and see if that works for you over the course of 8 hours. Adjust your speed and hike time as you gain experience. If you’re in decent shape you’ll probably find that 15-20 miles per day is fairly easy.
Trail Time is More Important Than Speed
Extending your hiking mileage is actually pretty easy. Instead of trying to increase your hiking speed just hike longer throughout the day. If you wake up early(6am) you can easily get in ten miles before lunch.
Hike at a casual 2mph speed and you have 20 miles over a 10 hour span. If you need to go farther in a day just lighten up your pack enough to increase your pace a bit. Hiking lots of miles is less about speed and more about time.
Just remember that early spring, winter and late fall have less daylight hours. Try to make the most out of your day and be ready to go at sunrise.
You’ll Hike Less Miles in Tough Terrain
Make sure you factor in the weather and elevation gain into the equation. You won’t be able to maintain a 3mph pace hiking uphill and through rough terrain.
When hiking through mountainous terrain you’ll be lucky to hit 1-1.5 mph. Try to set realistic goals and remember that every trail is a little bit different. If the trail is rocky/icy/muddy where you’ll need to choose your steps carefully it’s gonna slow you down.
Tips to Hike Farther in a Day
- Pack Light: With lightweight gear you’ll be able to hike farther, faster and with less strain on your body. Make sure you set a pack weight of less than 35 pounds if you’ll be hiking long distances. You’ll have to cut even more weight if you’re trying to hit the 30 miles per day mark.
- Wake Up Early: You only have so many hours in the day. If you wake up right at sunrise you’ll have a lot more wiggle room. Getting 15-20 miles in a day is easy when you spread it over 10 hours. Just make sure you have all your gear organized and ready to go before bed so you can hit the trail bright and early.
- Skip Breakfast: Have a quick snack when you wake up and hit the trail fast. Don’t spend a couple of hours in the morning making breakfast/coffee. Wait until you’re already on the trail for a few hours and take a nice long breakfast break. If you really need your morning caffeine boost bring along some caffeinated electrolyte tablets (On Amazon).
- Take Lots of Breaks: To maintain your sanity over a 10 hour hike you’ll need to take lots of breaks. Take off your shoes, grab a quick snack, and kick back and relax for a bit. Personally I try to take a quick 10-minute break every hour or so. I might take 45 minutes to an hour around lunchtime, but I tend to get antsy.
- Pace Yourself and Keep Track of Time: Make sure you keep track of time and distance traveled so you can adjust your pace throughout the day. Maintain a moderate hiking pace of 2-3 mph and slow down in difficult terrain. If you dip below the 2mph mark shorten your breaks. I’d rather skip lunch to make up a little time than increase my hiking pace on the trail.