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  1. #1
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    Default Are you more limited by miles per day or miles per week?

    Are you more limited by miles per day or miles per week?

    I've done a lot of backpacking trips over the past 40 years but very few have been more than 9 days and only one had a "town stop". Next summer hopefully I'll do a 5 week hike with several interesting towns to stop in (thinking of the Colorado Trail).

    Reading many trail journals I appreciate how much the body has to endure, and heal from, in the course of weeks and months on the trail. It seems many mere mortals are able to crank out amazing daily mileages, but often need recovery from these big feats.

    So for a 55 year old like me... Is it likely the daily miles or the weekly miles that is more limiting? I'm aiming for about 90 miles per week. That works out to about 13 miles per day. If I hike 6 days it's 15 and if 5 days it's 18. I'm thinking a solid two-nights in town sounds pretty sweet, but it means more miles per hiking day than with fewer zeros. From my sofa it seems that the zero-day recovery (and drying out, and eating...) is worth more miles on hiking days.

    What do you experienced thru hikers think?

    Thanks.

  2. #2

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    My mileage is mostly determined by the spacing of suitable camp sites. I always go for a designated or well established, documented site. Which generally works out to about 10 to 15 miles a day, depending on the difficulty of the terrain. Up to 20 if I really have to, but not very often. Resupply along the AT is still every 3 to 5 days at that pace.

    Two nights in town is nice -if it's raining when you get up. That's the usual excuse. Otherwise, one night is sufficient.
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  3. #3
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    When I got my trail legs and went from 15 mpd to 25 mpd it was like warp drive. A 75 mile between resupply dropped to 2 overnights instead of 4. No matter what the distance between trail towns was it was full out mpd to get there. Once there I relaxed and recovered. As the AT is made of of a bunch of small generally 3-4 day backpacks linked together for 2000+ miles, the limit was mpd, that's what stopped me from getting their sooner, I didn't need recovery time on trail.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    When I got my trail legs and went from 15 mpd to 25 mpd it was like warp drive. A 75 mile between resupply dropped to 2 overnights instead of 4. No matter what the distance between trail towns was it was full out mpd to get there. Once there I relaxed and recovered. As the AT is made of of a bunch of small generally 3-4 day backpacks linked together for 2000+ miles, the limit was mpd, that's what stopped me from getting their sooner, I didn't need recovery time on trail.
    On my first 5 day hike in VA I planned on 12 mod but ran out of gas after just 3 days. I hobbled to a camping spot at the end of day 3. Just then a long distance hiker about my age comes cruising through at warp speed. Made me feel even worse. My choice for the next day was to take a zero in the woods or to go very slow 7 miles over one mountain (Dragon's Tooth) to a road crossing with a hostel and resupply. I went up and down DT on one leg an took a zero there.

  5. #5
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimqpublic View Post
    So for a 55 year old like me...
    Last year, as a 55 year old, I did my longest single day, longest 2 day, and my longest 4 day, all independent of each other. Don't defeat yourself mentally before even getting out there. I have found that for me I seem to hit different "gears" at 3 and then again at 5 weeks. But I do start in pretty good shape. The most important advice I would give you is to not over think it. Make a base resupply plan and hit the trail. It will all fall into place and you will quickly get a "feel" for what works for you.
    Lonehiker

  6. #6

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    Every body is different dependent on conditioning. As a personal trainer for 20+ years I always tried to teach my clients to make sure they had "adequate recovery." And yes this varies by person. But the one thing I would say is that you need to work on recovery every day as much as you are able while on trail and then take a zero, as necessary, before you NEED 2 zeroes. You also end up risking injury by constantly pushing yourself that long. (If that's your current capacity) However, over time, with good recovery protocols, one would hope to be able to increase their capacity to where maybe you can hike 4 full days, plus a nero. Then graduate to maybe a 4.5 day hike with a little shorter recovery "day" and thus boosting your overall weekly average of hiking miles/hours/days.

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  7. #7
    Garlic
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    I like to plan on no zero days. I really enjoy trail days more than town days. So I hike accordingly. My long days are never more than 25% longer than my average days. So "miles per week" works well for me.

    On my AT thru (aged 51) I only took three zeros, and those were mainly to see friends and family near the trail. Okay, the rest and food was good too.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  8. #8

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    The most successful hikes for me have been the ones I planned for the least.
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 116.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  9. #9

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    I know this was posted in an AT general forum and so that could imply a strict context to the question. However, I think it's more about terrain than miles. Many expedition guides seem to subscribe to the notion that the limiter is total change in elevation with vertical gain being a primary classification. I know Andrew Skurka has graphed this out in his own trips; when represented visually in a chart there is a consistent data story. (see the case studies section of this article: https://andrewskurka.com/high-route-...ment-vertical/)

    I do a lot of off-trail and this theory holds true for me. I've been wiped out by 2 miles of bush whacking and done 27 mile days on open trail. But even on open trail, the elevation change is factor.

  10. #10
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Bushwacking mileage does not even remotely equate to trail mileage.
    Lonehiker

  11. #11

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    When I plan a trip, I plan on a conservative average daily mileage where one day may be less or more depending on the terrain. I may end up with a higher average, but my food won't run out and I hike in a manner that I can do the same thing again the next day where I'm not noticeably wearing my body out more each day. I do assume I will take a day off each week (even if that 24hr period is spread out over 2 days; 1 hiking into town and other hiking out at least 24 hours later). Total pack weight, fitness, and terrain are definitely a factor in determining how far you'll hike each day. I do enough hiking so I have a rough idea what to aim for on the next trip. Putting in a long day at a reasonable (not fast) pace with plenty of breaks gets the miles in. Waiting too long to take a break will require more overall recovery time then taking shorter more frequent breaks in my experience.

  12. #12
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    I am a little younger than you by 4 years but I still try to think that I am still young until my body tells me I can't. I walk quite a bit when not hiking which helps keep my legs fresh.

    I like to push myself, so I set high goals for myself. Recently I was able to surpass the 3 mph barrier that eluded me for the first few years hiking. It was two moderate sections of the AT in SW Virginia but still that gives me confidence that I can do it if I need to. (I don't expect to repeat that time on every trip)

    I like to plan my daily mileage and average 20 mpd and adjust up or down from there if needed. I usually have a specific shelter area that I plan to stop. I use 20 mpd as a rough gauge of how long a trip will take.

    Sometimes in normal life, it is a pain waking up very early which often happens to older males, but when hiking I like to put it to my advantage. I am often on the trail well before the sun. I have never been able to yet make 10 by 10 but I have made 12 by 12. I also never plan zeros, because for me, getting to the trail takes so much effort and expense that I want to hike as much as I can. I want to "leave it all on the trail" if you will. Home is for recovery. (I could possibly feel differently if my trips were longer that 4-7 days)

    I definitely agree on taking breaks like Miner suggested. For me, if I had a good morning and make 12 by 12 then I take more frequent breaks in the afternoon.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    The most successful hikes for me have been the ones I planned for the least.
    True for me as well, my only expectation is to walk.
    "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change". Charles Darwin

  14. #14

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    I like a zero after the first 7 to 10 days. Happening to be in town and waking up to rain is a good excuse. After that it's one night stands about once a week to shower, eat and do laundry.
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  15. #15
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Default

    No matter how many times I read and think about the original question, I still cannot think of an answer applicable to my long distance hiking. The only thought I have is that when I plan a long hike, I do think in terms of "weeks", and I use 100-125 miles/week, depending on the perceived difficulty of the hike, as a general rule of thumb.

    Translated to miles per day, I would simply use 15-19 with an occasional nero day, so pretty close to 100-125 a week.

    I just don't distinguish miles per day vs. miles per week. It occurs to me perhaps why; I just plain don't take any zeros. As I get older, this is even more true; a zero does nothing for me except make me stiff and sore. If I hike every single day, I stay loose and strong, plus I cannot stand to stay two nights in the same town/hostel/hotel, makes me crazy. I'm out there to hike.

    Just my own MO, but as I said, even more so the older I get (I'm 64).

  16. #16

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    FWIW - time is the better scale for me to use as opposed to mileage. I can hike at 4-mph and reach a waypoint 12 miles distant in about 3-hours, a tiring pace to maintain and an increase of injury potential. On the other hand, one can walk that same trail at 2.5-mph and reach the same waypoint in 4.8-hours, lowering the injury potential and have a lot more gas in the tank to use if needed.

  17. #17
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    15 mpd, or about 100 mpw is about the max I can sustain. I've had a few 18 mile days, but they always involve pushing through fatigue at the end of the day, followed by lower mileage the next day.
    It's all good in the woods.

  18. #18
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    Itís easy to talk about mileage but itís not the only variable and Iím learning that itís not the most important measurement for me. I have recently learned to pay a lot more attention to elevation change. Iíve found that about 5500 feet of vertical change per day is usually an easy day, about 7500 feet would be a moderate day, and over about 8000 feet isnít something that I think I could sustain every day. On the AT with its average grade of about 400 feet per mile, that puts me at about an 18 mile ďaverageĒ day. From Harpers Ferry through Southern PA, I could make out 20-28 mile days, but if thereís a lot of vertical I might only do a 14 mile day - like Maupin Field through the Priest, which was about 5000 climb and 3800 descent, for a total of 8800 feet vertical.

    In addition to vertical planning, donít forget to account for daylight hours. Hiking in February with only 10 or so daylight hours is very different than hiking in late June with nearly 15 hours of daylight - thatís a 10 mile/day difference in potential.

    Of course, thatís all ďplanningĒ and ďaverages.Ē Some days you feel like going more and some days you feel beat down before you get your of bed. Thatís all part of the adventure - roll with the punches as they come.


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