If you don’t live in a mountainous area of if you aren’t used to carrying a backpack with weight, it can be difficult to tell if a specific trail or trip is the right fit for you.  In addition to understanding the experience levels and fitness levels we use, there are a few ways you can assess your own abilities compared to the trip you’re planning to join.

Walking on flat ground is a great way to judge how your training is going!  But elevation has a huge impact on your body.  For every 1,000ft of elevation gain on a hike, it’s equivalent on your body to adding an extra mile to the hike.  If you’re hiking 10 miles with 2,000ft of elevation gain, it has approximately the same impact on your body as hiking 12 miles on flat ground.

Another good rule of thumb is that you can hike about 25% farther with a day pack than a backpack on the same type of terrain.  So if I head out for a day hike on the AT and can hike a maximum of 10 miles, I should expect to backpack a maximum of 7-8 miles per day on the same section of trail.

Terrain also plays a role in how far you can hike.  Rocky, rooty, or uneven trails are harder on your body than well groomed trails, and often require folks to slow down a bit.  Many of the trails we hike on in Western NC are rocky, rooty, narrow trails.