How to Set a Pace on Long Backcountry Trips

How to Set a Pace on Long Backcountry Trips
Setting a measured pace on long backcountry trips involves understanding your natural stride (the only one with which you will be comfortable), knowing the length and terrain of your excursion, and saving up some steam for the steep parts. Frequent (20 to 30 minutes) and short (5 minutes) stops from the outset will fight fatigue. A rushed or uneven pace will burn a hiker out well before quitting time, as will too flimsy boots. Most importantly, avoid feeling miserable---you are not in the wilderness to be unhappy.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Hiking boots
  • Backpack
  • Trekking poles
  • Easy-to-reach water
Step 1
Start out slowly and just walk spontaneously and evenly, keeping track of your body's comfort level.
Step 2
Feel your stride, the swing of your arms and the ease and cadence of your breathing. Think about the long game and find a rhythm and speed you can sustain for several hours. Listen to, sing or think about music, and glide to its beat. If you use poles, they become a part of this rhythm as well as restful balancing points.
Step 3
Shorten your pace on steep climbs, while maintaining your rhythm. Long steps on steep pitches will sap your strength quickly. Drink water frequently.
Step 4
When the trail is steep, lock the knee of your rear leg on every step or three, putting all you weight on that leg, and pause, allowing tired muscles a moment of rest.
Step 5
Adjust the speed of your pace, depending on your comfort. Speed up if it's too easy and slow down if you're despondent. It is difficult to recover from early exhaustion.
Step 6
Step over the many obstacles (rocks, logs) that litter a trail. Stepping up on them qualifies as uphill and it breaks your rhythm.
Step 7
Hiking downhill is a greater burden on your joints and is more dangerous than uphill. Locking knees can postpone pain, but it also increases the hammering they take. A flat-footed walk will give you more friction points with the ground and thus decrease the chance of slipping.
Step 8
In groups that plan to keep together, the slowest hikers need to lead, although spreading out a little allows everyone to work a comfortable pace. It's not a race.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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