There will probably come a time in your hiking career where you need or want to do a big day hike or a backpacking route that requires hiking longer daily distances than you’re used to. While training for bigger mileage in advance can help tremendously, there are often limits to how much advanced training you can fit into your schedule and the trails you can hike may be substantially different from those at your destination (such as lack of elevation gain.)
Here are a few tips and tricks to increase your daily mileage, despite these limitations.
If you can slash the weight of your gear, food, and water by 25-50% by weight, you will be able to walk farther, faster, and be less tired at the end of the day.
Wear Lighter Weight Shoes
Every pound on your feet is equivalent to carrying 5 extra pounds in your pack. If you can switch from heavy leather boots to lighterweight mids or even trail runners, you can add about a 1/2 mile per hour to your pace. That adds up over an 8 or 10 hour hiking day.
Wake up Earlier
Hikers waste a lot of time in camp in the morning. If you go to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up before dawn, you’ll have several more hours of daylight where you can pile on more mileage. This is especially important closer to autumn, when there are fewer hours of daylight left in a day.
Carry Less Water
Water is one of the heaviest things in your backpack. If water is relatively plentiful, don’t carry as much with you. Instead, pre-hydrate in the morning at breakfast by drinking a full quart and camel up at each resupply point by drinking another quart on the spot. You still want to sip water all day to keep your metabolism running smoothly, but for some reason water in your tummy feels less heavy than water in your pack.
Don’t Take a lot of Breaks
Maintain a steady pace throughout the day and don’t stop for a lot of breaks. Get a backpack with big hip belt and side pockets that you can reach into while you are walking, so you can drink water and eat snacks without stopping. I can’t emphasize this enough, keeping a steady pace will make the miles fly by.
Use Trekking Poles
Hiking with trekking poles has many benefits including better balance and reduced stress on your knees and leg joints. They can help you walk faster if you develop a steady rhythm of swinging them forward with your arms, like a drumbeat. It can get a bit hypnotic (which can be quite pleasant), and helps you keep to the steady pace required to pile on the miles.
You can really motivate yourself by planning your route and mileage goals in advance. For example, I always plan my route for the next day after dinner before I go to sleep. I read my map and figure out where I need to be at certain times during the day, I write these down and track my pace the following day. There’s a big mental and motivational component to keeping on a schedule if you have to do a long day and keeping on top of your segment times can be helpful to keep your goal in sight.