Knowing how long a hike will take you is important for many reasons. Primarily, it’ll allow you to mentally prepare yourself before the hike. It’s also a great way to decide what kind of gear you’ll need to take on the hike.
But how long does a 5-mile hike take, anyway? The duration differs from person to person, and there are several factors to take into consideration before answering this question.
If you’re looking for a short answer, I’d say that a 5-mile hike generally takes from an hour and a half to three hours. If we follow the rule of thumb given by William Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, it’ll be about an hour and forty-five.
There are a few variables that’ll affect how long it’ll take an individual to hike 5 miles. Allow me to break it down into the following 5 sections.
To help you out, I’ve put together a guide to help you calculate your own hiking pace. Let’s get started!
Hiking vs. Walking: What Is the Difference
We all know what walking is; after all, some of us started walking at the tender age of one! But we also know that walking is directly associated with hiking. So what exactly is the difference?
In a nutshell, walking is an exercise done in a casual environment, such as parks, roads, and/or sidewalks.
Hiking, on the other hand, is defined as a long, vigorous walk on trails or footpaths located in the countryside or anywhere surrounded by nature. When hiking, there’s usually a change in elevation involved, compared to the flat surface that’s typical for walking.
Both of these exercises are perfect ways to lose excess body fat and burn calories.
What to Consider Before Determining How Long a 5 Mile Hike Will Take
Overall Fitness Level
If you haven’t worked out in a while, chances are you’ll take a little longer to hike a mile when compared to someone who hikes every other week. A 5-mile hike is considered to be moderately strenuous and can be challenging for an unconditioned person.
As such, a lot of hikers make it their goal to decrease the time it takes them to hike a mile during every session.
Are you hiking over slippery roots? Do you have to cross flowing streams or rivers? Will you have to navigate through rocks and boulders? Your total hiking time surely depends on where you’re going.
So before you go hiking, especially if it’s your first time visiting the location of choice, it’s always best to do thorough research to see what obstacles will be present during your adventure.
Hiking in poor conditions with intense humidity, heavy rain, thick fog, snow, or hail will not only make your hike longer, but it’ll also make it more difficult.
For the sake of safety, it’s best to plan your hike in clear weather. If the weather doesn’t stop you, you’ll need to make sure you’re well prepared for what’s to come if you venture out in such conditions. Get a rain cover that fits your backpack, wear a waterproof jacket, and arm yourself with a pair of heavy-duty hiking boots.
The steeper the elevation, the harder and longer it’ll take you to hike. Keep in mind that the higher you go, the less oxygen there will be, especially at altitudes over 6,200 feet.
When you push your body to finish the hike, your heart will work harder to pump blood, which would tire you much faster.
Because of this, you’ll have no choice but to take longer breaks, which will increase your overall hiking time.
Equipment You’re Carrying
I suppose this one goes without saying. The heavier your backpack is, the more effort it’ll take you to hike a mile. Carrying lighter gear will help you in more ways than one, so make sure you’re only carrying what you absolutely need during your hike before going out.
Calculating Your Hiking Time
Now that you know what to consider when hiking, here’s how to calculate your hiking time:
In 1892, William Naismith states that we should estimate 1 hour for every 3 miles forward, plus an extra hour for every 2000 feet of elevation gain.
However, this isn’t a solid rule that every hiker can follow. For instance, this rule assumes the hiker is of average health, hiking on an average trail, during average weather conditions. It also doesn’t account for long breaks or any navigational obstacles one might face during the hike.
But although Naismith’s Rule is simply an estimate, it’s a good starting point to calculating your hiking time.
By using part of Naismith’s estimate and the estimate given by other hikers, here’s how you can calculate your approximate hiking distance.
Step 1: Determine Your Walking Speed
The average walking speed for a hiker is said to be ~2 miles per hour. If you take into consideration the hiking scenery, uneven terrain, or unexpected obstacles, it may take you a little longer.
This means that for slightly rough terrain, you can add 30 minutes for every mile you’re planning to hike. Thus, for 5 miles, it’ll take 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Step 2: Elevation
After calculating your average walking speed, you’ll now need to add an extra 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation.
Step 3: Adjust Calculation as per Factors Mentioned Above
How heavy is your backpack? Are you hiking in rainy weather? How long do your breaks normally take?
Step 4: Add the Numeric Total
After considering the previous steps, you should have the total approximate time you’ll take when hiking 5 miles.
The answer to “how long does a 5-mile hike take?” is that it varies from person to person.
If it takes you a little longer than the average hiker to finish a mile, don’t push yourself unnecessarily and tire yourself out. After all, hiking isn’t a competitive sport, but an outdoor activity that allows you to explore, exercise and reflect.