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How to Hike 25-Plus Miles a Day: A Thru-Hiker Explains

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Hiking 25 miles in a day is absolutely doable. That may sound unrealistic to some, but thru-hikers do 25 miles every day. For months on end. While sleeping in a tent every night.

I’ve hiked 5,000-plus miles in the past few years on the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail. Consistently doing 25 mile days is not as tough or brutal as it may sound. I’m going to tell you how.

But first, two caveats.

First, thru-hikers don’t go from sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day to immediately hiking 25 miles. At the start of a long-distance hike, you need to start slow and build up the mileage over a couple of weeks.

Second, thru-hikers are usually experienced in the backcountry. They know what factors they’ll be dealing with and have all the knowledge and gear necessary to handle them.

With that said, here’s how to hike 25 miles a day or more.

Lighten Your Load

Man sitting on a rock, looking at mountainous landscape

If I could offer only one piece of advice to someone looking to hike 25 miles a day, it would be to carry a lighter backpack. I could talk about cutting the weight of your hiking gear all day long, but lowering the weight of your pack is easier than it sounds.

Reducing the weight you carry on your back delays the onset of fatigue throughout the day. Less weight on your back means using lightweight trail running shoes for hiking is now an option. The old adage “1 pound off your feet equals 5 off your back” rings true, and you’ll have even more energy. More energy equals more miles.

Prepare Your Body for Thru-Hiking

Physical preparation for hiking long distances is something that often gets ignored. Being in great physical shape before attempting to hike 25 miles really helps. Yet, from personal experience, I can say that the first couple of weeks out on a long hiking trip are rough.

Being in shape in the “real world” helps, but nothing can prepare you for hiking daily for 4 months plus. Don’t expect to pick up a backpack and head out into the mountains without having a base level of fitness. You’ll be in for a surprise.

Most injuries out on trail are not twisted ankles but repetitive strain injuries. “Unidentified knee pain” and shin splints are extremely common and force many people to stop hiking. You can avoid a lot of these common injuries by preparing your body beforehand. Walk stairs, skip rope, go for regular walks, or take a yoga class a couple of times a week.

Hike More Hours: Start Early and Finish Late

The fastest you can expect to hike is around 3 mph over varied terrain, faster on easy terrain, and way slower over snow or rugged terrain. Your hiking speed is limited, but the amount of hours you can hike is not. To hike 25 miles at an average of 3 mph would take only 8 hours and 20 minutes.

Thru-hikers crossing a bridge to green and gold landscape

If you want to hike long distances, then hiking during daylight hours is a great goal to aim for. Depending on the time of year, that could be 14-plus hours of hiking. Keeping your breaks to a minimum also helps maintain forward momentum throughout the day.

Fuel Like an Athlete

A thru-hiker in his tent

Long-distance backpacking is not generally considered a sport. However, someone that consistently hikes 25 miles a day should be considered an athlete. Athletes need to fuel their bodies correctly for the best results. Hikers are no exception.

A lot of factors go into picking trail food. The most important is ensuring you consume a lot of calories. Thru-hikers can burn 5,000-plus calories a day, and all that energy needs to be replaced so you feel energized on the trail.

Get Into the Right Mindset

Getting into the right mindset when planning to hike 25-plus miles in a day is key. It’s important to prepare mentally for constant forward motion, knowing that it’s going to suck at certain points. Your knees will hurt, it will rain, and that uphill will suck. But all things pass.

Throughout the course of a long day, it’s normal to go through the full range of human emotions. Boredom, elation, frustration, sadness, joy — all these emotions belong on the trail. Your knee pain will probably subside, you can’t control the weather, and, eventually, you’ll climb to the top of the mountain. Focus on those things.

Go Do It

If someone came to me and asked for my advice on how to hike big miles, this is exactly what I would tell them. I’d also remind them to enjoy the journey. So much of modern life is lived at a fast pace. Getting out into the woods doesn’t need to be that way. Enjoy your time, and if you want to go hike big miles, take this advice and go do it.

If you want to learn more about my thru-hiking adventures, come and say hi at PieOnTheTrail.com.

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