How to know your average hiking speed

by Sigita B | Last Updated: May 25, 2020
hiking path in the mountains

You might have wondered how to calculate average hiking speed when planning out a hiking trip. You will have to pack, arrange travel and accommodation depending on how many days it takes to complete your trip so it is very important. If you know the length of the trail, you will be able to approximate how much time it will take to complete it. Read on to find out how!

Average hiking speed

Your average hiking speed depends on the terrain and your fitness level. Flat terrains are easy and you will be able to get on quickly. Rougher terrains and uphill walks will take significantly longer. So how do you know how many hours or days will it take?

There are various average hiking speed estimates. Based on our research, the average walking speed on flat ground is between 2,5 to 4 miles per hour or 4 to 6 kilometers per hour. 

Note that you will move more slowly when walking uphill and more quickly downhill so mountain terrains can be especially difficult to calculate properly.

Naismith’s rule

In 1892, Scottish mountaineer William W. Naismith invented a rule that many hikers of today still follow. 

William-W-Naismith rule

Allow one hour for every three miles (5 km) forward, plus an additional hour for every 2000 feet (600 m) of ascent.

Formula: 1 h / 3 mi (5 km) + 1 h / 2000 ft (600 m)

Keep in mind that this formula is not universal. The walking speed is that of a reasonably fit person on easy terrain with no significant obstacles. You have to allow extra time for sightseeing, meals and breaks if you want your calculation to be correct. 

Because of all these considerations, Naismith’s rule actually works best to calculate the minimum time it could take to complete your hike. So take it just as a guiding principle and add more hours on top of what you calculated. 

How to increase your average hiking speed?

Experts believe that the use of hiking poles can increase walking speed. They increase your propulsive force and prevent you from getting tired too quickly. On rougher trails they also help your balance. While use of hiking poles had not been researched as much as we would like, some experienced hikers and trekkers swear by them and recommend using them to others.

Also, a fully-loaded backpack will slow you down. On single-day hikes or after you have reached camp, use a light daypack or even a lumbar pack on the trail. There are many ultralight packs with smaller capacity and they will allow you to walk quicker and prevent carry fatigue.

How much calories can you burn while hiking?

Hiking is aerobic exercise and it burns quite a lot of calories. Many people take up hiking not just because they love nature, but also to lose some stubborn extra pounds and get fitter, stronger and faster.

Based on estimates, an adult in healthy weight range can burn up to 400 calories an hour while hiking. If they are carrying a full hiking backpack, it might even be up to 500 calories an hour. It is a lot!

However, burning calories should not be the point of a hike, just a nice bonus. Beginners can easily get overwhelmed when they are trying to do too much too quickly. And even experienced hikers sometimes take up more than they should. Moderation is key because it’s the healthiest and smartest way!

With this is mind, you should be able to calculate how much time it will take to hike from your starting point to destination. It is not an exact science because there are many unpredictable variables but it should give you a good estimate.