Routes, Distance & Time

Some people, it seems, plan a backpacking route meticulously, deciding in advance how far they are going to walk each day and where they are going to stop for each night. Others are much more casual about it, they have a reasonable idea of a route and they just take it as it comes. I am one of the latter.

In my early years of backpacking, I didn’t even know the length of the routes I intended to do, I just went and did them. In truth, they were nearly always overambitious, not only in length but also in terms of the terrain I expected to cross or the climbs involved. But that doesn’t matter a bit in Snowdonia, where shorter or easier ways can always be found and corners can be omitted. My routes are always circular, so they have the advantage that they are easily shortened if the weather is bad or if I simply don’t feel up to it. Without stopping now to count how many (maybe I will do that later!) I have shortened numerous circuits by cutting across the middle of them. Again without counting, there are probably very few where I walked all that I had planned. It doesn’t matter to me, just being there is enough.

So how far do I walk in a day? Walking from roughly 10:30 am (due to how long it takes me to get ready and pack up in the morning when wild camping) to 1:30 pm, and 2:15 pm to 6:00 pm, is about 6.75 hours. With my walking speed slowed from carrying a heavy backpack, particularly on rough, pathless or steep ground, I complete about 9 miles a day. That gives an average walking speed of 1.3 miles per hour, which sounds extremely low, but I know that even on day walks carrying very little, my speed is about 2.25 m.p.h. Conclusion? I am a slow walker! So what, I can live with it.

For someone like me who doesn’t plan in too much detail, it is important to remember that on a three-day walk you need to look at your map in the middle of the second day and ask yourself, “How much of it have I done / how much have I still got left?” Half a day spent walking further on means another half a day will be required to walk back, which your timetable or the amount of food you have left might not allow.


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