Some time ago I had a discussion with a friend about the perfect distance. She thought that distance was important, you should walk every day as far as possible. Day distances of 35 km were not unusual. Personally I dont have the feeling that I need to walk as far as possible. Rather enjoy the trip than to walk as far as possible. So what is a good length and how should you plan a trip?
Clearly everyone has his own opinion, everyone likes something different, but for planning it is very important to know how far you want to walk every day. Some things could make planning easier. From experience I know that in the mountains the average speed will lay around 3 km per hour. This includes breaks and of course a backpack on your back. On good trails it will maybe be a bit higher while it will be lower when there are not paths. Last summer I did a hike in the mountains around Abisko in the north of Sweden. At the trails we walked around 4km an hour, including breaks we did around 3. When we reached the part where the trails disappeared, the speed went down to around 1 km an hour. At the end of the hike we reached Kungsleden, during the first two hours we did 11 km without any problems.
So when planning a trip, always take into account where you walk. Do you have to go up a lot or are you avoiding the trails? Know then that you will need more time which means you can’t cover the same distance as normal. Walking on trails will make walking easier while a heavy backpack makes it harder.
Personally I think it is important to enjoy my hiking trip. It is not the distance that makes a trip good, it is being outside. I like to take lazy mornings and want to put up my tent whenever I see a beautiful place. Therefore, I normally plan daily distances between 5-15 km which means 2-5 hours of walking every day. This gives enough time to enjoy nice views, take a lot of breaks and to put down your tent even after a short distance. Besides of this there is a safety feature in this. I can walk 30 km without problems, even with a heavy backpack. Would it be needed, I can do a large part of the planned trip within one or two days. Would I have planned 25 km a day, walking further would be harder. Staying a day at the same place would mean that you have to make up 25 km from the last day and that would be quite difficult.
The perfect distance doesn´t exist, but I would advice to plan shorter days in order to enjoy your trip more. Especially when you are not experienced, shorter distances will be better. But as said before, everyone has his own opinion!
So take into account when planning a trip:
- How far do you want to walk every day? Is it the distance that is important for you or just being outside?
- Take into account bad weather days. In the mountains weather can change fast which can lead to one or two days inside your tent.
- River crossings take time, just as altitude differences. During such days, plan shorter distances.
- If you are not used to hiking, the first days of the hike will be though. Plan shorter distances during the beginning and longer during the rest of the trip.