Hike Long

6 July 2013 11:00 pm0 commentsViews: 60

Hiking long is a backpacking strategy that maximizes miles covered by hiking the longest days possible every day. A typical day of hiking long involves hiking from sunrise to sunset at your normal walking speed.


To attain big miles, your focus is elimination of inefficient stopping, which is in direct contrast to the concept of “hiking faster.”

Distance = Rate * Time

Rate and time are the only two variables that impact your distance hiked.

Your rate is decided for you almost entirely by environmental conditions. Your walking rate will be determined by the weight of your pack, the difficulty of the terrain, and your physical shape. Based on those factors, the trail will tell you how fast to go.

It is a dangerous temptation to ignore the rate of travel dictated by the trail conditions. Ignoring it puts undue stress on your body, which is short sighted. It’s short sighted because those “extra miles” today came with increased exposure to injury capable of ending your hike prematurely.

Hiking steadily reduces exposure to unnecessary injury. Rushing your pace does the opposite.

Maximize Walking Time

Time walked is the major variable by which you control your distance hiked for long term success. You increase walking time by starting earlier, ending later, and maximizing the efficiency of stops you make during the day. Your overall goal is efficiency.

Consider the techniques that follow, which are mostly things I learned from the Appalachian Trail Institute and from reading Trail Life.

1. Hike every hour of daylight.

By hiking every daylight hour, you add invaluable time to the day’s walk. You can’t get back those early morning hours if you are behind schedule later in the day but you can always take a nap later in the day to catch up on sleep if you find yourself further along than necessary. If you want to hike more hours than you have daylight, it’s best to do it in the hours just before sunrise because you will be more alert than at the end of a long day’s walk.

2. Hike without a backpacking stove.

Cooking on the trail is a time-consuming, un-enjoyable chore. The weight difference between bringing a stove-prepared dinner menu and a stove-free menu is far less essential than the time difference. A stove mandates an idle hour to consume a hot meal daily. This is in direct contrast to the stove-free mobile menu, which holds no pre-requisites to be idle for preparing a meal.

3. Take power rests.

Get the most out of the stops that you take.

4. Don’t filter your water.

This suggestion will likely ruffle some feathers. Obviously, it’s not a blanket recommendation. It’d be idiotic on trails like the Arizona Trail, where you often drinking straight from cow ponds and other suspect man-made water sources.

Filtering or treating water is time consuming, and it adds tangible logistical frustration to the most essential process of staying hydrated. Please research your water options for yourself (even if its simply preparation for emergency situations — or the likely event your filter malfunctions in the back country). Once educated on how to select good water sources, you may find yourself among those who opt not to filter.

Only drink unfiltered if you personally are willing to accept your educated actions’ consequences, which include hassle-free hydration from the abundance of water that springs from our mountains.

5. Take all rests at water sources or overlooks.

Yet another way to make the most out of the stops that you take. This both reduces superfluous stops and maximizes the enjoyment you get while resting.

Endurance >> Speed

Speed has its place but on the trail endurance is king.

Running for 15 hours takes exceptional training to accomplish. Even competitors breathing the rarified air of 100 mile races typically split the distance into both walking and running. Exceptionally exceptionally small percentages of ultrarunners go the whole way without walking and could do so day after day. For the most part, a 15 hour run will leave fierce runners depleted from the high stress.

Walking 15 hours has a substantially lower barrier to entry and lower physiological toll. Most people of reasonable fitness level can accomplish this with a little perseverance. And what’s more you can do it day after day after day.

It is no coincidence that the overall speed record for completion of the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail was completed by Jennifer Pharr Davis, who did NOT run the trail. She walked it. She hiked long during the days of the year with maximum daylight. She consistently averaged 47 miles of the AT on foot 46.5 consecutive days.

Walking is powerful.

Walking long maximizes your endurance performance in the back country. It is a beacon by which waste can be eliminated from your movements. It is the way to cover big miles with the long view of your health, performance, and relationship with the trail in mind.


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