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Thread: Estimating Hiking Time

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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    Estimating Hiking Time

    I am usually using the following rule of thumb: 1/2 hour per mile + 1/2 hour for each 1000 ft of elevation gain (unless I'm taking quite a few pictures .) I am a slow hiker, so I think these proportions seem to fit me better than Naismith's Rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naismith%27s_rule that allocates 3 miles / hour.

    I have also recently come across Munter Method which basically gives Travel Time = ( distance in kilometers + elevation gain in units of 100 meters ) / Rate where Rate depends on mode of travel e.g. walking or skiing, going down or going up. Sorry, but no Wikipedia article on this that I can find.

    Anything else out there worth looking at?

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    (Grumpy old man mode on) Probably not. Accuracy is in tension with simplicity. Pace varies from individual to individual and with conditions (e.g., with gear load, presence of ice), and so does sensitivity to slope. To get much better results than the AMC rule of thumb that you started with (multiplied by a personal fitness factor -- once upon a time I could count on going twice as fast as the AMC estimate if I was packing light in summer), you'd need a bunch of data about your own pace under various conditions, an impractically complicated formula, and a lot of detail about your route.
    If I used metric maps more often, I'd try out the Munter method. If you pick a reasonable Rate, the Munter and AMC are basically the same formula, except that AMC is about twice as sensitive to slope. Also, Munter explicitly states that you should adjust your estimate for downhills, not just uphills, which is worth considering.

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    With lots of practice, I got to be pretty good at visually looking at a topo map with my starting point and destination, and without making a direct on map length meaurement, I can come up with a good estimate of my hiking arrival time, whether it be via bushwhack or trail. I did this long before anyone could even spell "GPS". For relatively long distances, I will select a number of intermediate easy to identify terrain checkpoints on as much as possible zig-zagging direct route, made up of approximate 20 minute or so travel legs if possible. Arriival at each intermediate point verifies my location and resets my time and estimate to the next and final destinations. While paying attention along the way, if it gets confusing, I know I am no more than 20 minues from return to a positive known location.

    I treat timing as a dynamic changeable process, up or down timing refinements subject to logical changes encounteed along the way, based on any number of travel and terrain factors. I figured I could be most often accurate to within 10% of the estimated minute. Late arrival is most common with refinement on my thinking for future estimates in similar conditions. Early arrival of more than 10% usually means some kind of mistake, including arrival at a terrain location that is too similar appearing to what was intended. could have been a sharp bend in the trail, or intermittent creek crossing, or the begining of a sharp slope. Rethinking and better map study is always an option.
    Last edited by Nessmuk; 01-25-2023 at 02:26 PM.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    I keep it simple:

    Winter = 1 mph
    Spring = 2 mph
    Summer/ fall = 2.5 mph

    If/when I better these times I congratulate myself for what a septuagenarian stud I am.
    Don't let your mind write a check your body canít cash

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    I also find that the 1/2 hour per mile and 1/2 hour per 1000 feet works for me. To simplify the math, I'll divide the total distance by 2 and add 1/1000th of the elevation. For example, a 8.6 mile hike with a 2400 foot elevation change will take 8.6/2 + 2.4 = 6.7 hours. My actual times are usually a bit faster than my estimates, which means I return to the trailhead a little earlier than planned.
    Last edited by jfb; 01-26-2023 at 01:51 PM.

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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    There is a certain beauty in simplicity. When I don't know much about terrain I just assume 1.5 miles per hour. Yet I think it would be fun to analyze gps traces and figure out what really matters when it comes to hiking speed. I'm pretty sure most of these methods are based on what people think are important factors affecting speed (and clearly distance & elevation change are at the top of the list) but it would be interesting to see if anything else really matters here for hiking. Maybe one day someone will get their Ph.D. by doing this analysis...

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iAmKrzys View Post
    ... but it would be interesting to see if anything else really matters here for hiking. Maybe one day someone will get their Ph.D. by doing this analysis...
    Ambient temperature is a big variable for me. I'll happily cruise along on a fall day and crash and burn on an 80 degree summer day. (MMDO - My mileage does vary.
    Don't let your mind write a check your body canít cash

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iAmKrzys View Post
    There is a certain beauty in simplicity. When I don't know much about terrain I just assume 1.5 miles per hour. Yet I think it would be fun to analyze gps traces and figure out what really matters when it comes to hiking speed. I'm pretty sure most of these methods are based on what people think are important factors affecting speed (and clearly distance & elevation change are at the top of the list) but it would be interesting to see if anything else really matters here for hiking. Maybe one day someone will get their Ph.D. by doing this analysis...
    Snow conditions and weight of gear spring to mind. Breaking trail slows most people down considerably. And weight of gear has an inflection point, with a clear difference between "light" and "heavy". In the latter regime, on all but the smoothest trails, you have to slow down and pick your foot placements if you don't want to risk injury from a slight imbalance. (I'm sure the inflection smooths out with practice, but I avoid heavy hauls if at all possible.)

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    I have come up with a list of speed adjustment factors for when instructing a land navigation training course. Most of these are negatives for why I dislike the method of pace counting, but certainly many do apply to timing as well. For some reason I find it much easier to dynamically compensate when I am using timing rather than attempting to adjust count with pace counting. For the pace counters out there, don't get me wrong, pace counting does work, but it tends to work better for shorter distances. I have much better long range accuracy and success with timing when navigating over longer distances through the woods. i tend to pay more attention to my larger surroundings when I use timing.

    Accuracy Factors with Pace Counting
    • Distracts your concentration from observational nav & terrain following.
    • Easy to lose count while communicating with companions.
    • Slope - Pace lengthens on a downslope, shortens on an upward grade.
    • Wind - Head wind shortens the pace length and a tail wind increases it.
    • Surface - Sand, gravel, mud, snow, ice, etc. will shorten the pace length.
    • Precipitation - Snow, rain, or icing reduce pace length.
    • Vegetation - Heavy brush considerably shortens pace.
    • Obstacles - Frequently altering course shortens pace, increases distance traveled.
    • Clothing - Excess clothing and boots with poor traction shorten pace length.
    • Visibility - Poor visibility, such as in fog, rain, or darkness, will shorten pace.
    • Fatigue - Reduces pace length.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    Also how familiar you are with the trail. If I know slopes and how to pace myself beforehand, if I know the tricky turns, I am a lot faster.

  11. #11
    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    I totally agree that snow conditions and pack weight affect hiking speed in a significant way. My hiking speed on backpacking trips is always slower and wearing snowshoes on soft powder is a totally different thing than on packed snow. These are bits of information that would have to be supplemented to gps tracks if one wanted to some analysis and come up with some weighted formula for personal hiking time.

    Many years ago I bought a pedometer for jogging, but I never used it for hiking and I never tried pace counting. I think I would loose count pretty quickly as I always want immerse in observing nature when on the trail. Every once in a while I try to guesstimate how far is 0.1 mile from where I am or how far is that tree from me but I never really count paces for measuring distance.

    The hiking speed brings up related topics such as maximum speed in winter at which one is not yet sweating (many extra variables here) or how much energy is exerted in the form of heat when walking? I'm pretty sure this must have been studied in depth already.

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