There’s an expression used in many hiking guides called book time. Also known as Naismith’s rule, it refers to the minimum time that it would take an inexperienced hiker to complete a trail segment. It’s based on the following metric: 30 minutes for each mile of distance or 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
While it is a useful benchmark for rough time estimation and route planning, it’s often taken too literally by people. The truth is that hiking speed is dependent on many other factors including the difficulty of a trail, the number of people in your group, pack weight, season, weather conditions, and physical fitness.
There are times when I hike slower than book time, due to the difficulty of the trail or the weather. For example, in winter, I usually plan on 1 mile per hour when hiking in the White Mountains, as I’ve found this is a reliable pace for two fit hikers over a day, regardless of elevation gain.
However, for three-season hiking time estimates, book time tends to be remarkably accurate for predicting how long a hike will take and whether there will be enough daylight to finish a hike without a headlamp.
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