Learn how to hike faster for more time to adventure

“It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.”
― Steve Goodier

I’ve learned to hike faster to get to the summit, the lake, the waterfall, get to the canyon, or the climbing wall, or just to finish the loop. Sure, I’ll stop and enjoy the views along the way, but I don’t dawdle. I move much faster than the average hiker. That’s because I have too much to do to lollygag along the trail. I have a job, a family, Adventure School, community service, but I still make time to adventure regularly. How do I do it? I hike fast when I’m out. I plan carefully and I overlap when I can.

Fast hiking starts before you get to the trail

Organize your pack

Since the invention of the hydration bladder, water breaks are only for the ill-prepared. Having a water hose right where you need it throughout the day can save all kinds of time finding your water bottle and also helps you stay more hydrated.

Tie your shoes

Bring easy food

Navigate quickly

I use my Suunto Traverse Alpha watch to easily check my bearings as I walk. I program in my route before I leave the house and just follow the arrow on my watch to each waypoint and don’t have to think too much about navigation while I’m actually on the trail. This leads to fast hiking. I also pack a backup map and compass but haven’t needed it since using my watch. What I’ve seen some people do is wait until they’re confused about their direction of travel before they stop, then they have to take a significantly longer stop to break out the map and work out a heading — waste of time and also dangerous. Don’t do that, it’s a total rookie mistake!

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s hiking time

If you like to listen to music while you hike this can help. Many don’t like music when out adventuring (I’m likely to have a podcast playing). I also tend to have a naturally fast hiking tempo. You can make your tempo whatever you want it to be, you just have to adjust the distance of each step. Short, quick steps for a fast tempo and long striding steps for a slower tempo — both can lead to fast hiking, but the most efficient is quick steps (more on that it a bit). A fun game is to use a watch that tracks cadence and try to keep the same cadence on the uphill, the downhill, and everything in between.

Think like a cat

Be water

Get fit

On the downhill, fitness makes a difference too, but it involves a bit of technique and finesse. When there’s a gentle slope down, you can run taking longer strides and use gravity to your advantage. As the trail gets steeper, shorten your strides until you’re taking quick little shuffle steps. Again, think like a cat and keep a low center of gravity and keep your weight right over your feet. This will add stability and allow you to move safely even at high speeds. When you get to the bottom of the hill, use your momentum to run out on the flats with big strides. This isn’t always doable if you have a heavy pack, but works most of the time. The most important part is to keep a quick pace. Keep your feet moving forward the whole time and keep your balance.

Be efficient in any terrain

Sand

I also always try to stay on wet sand, rocky sand, or more packed sand where possible. It’s not always possible, but staying out of the loose sand is always more efficient. When you have to trudge through the soft sand, take a bit bigger strides and keep moving. I think like a running back. As long as my feet are still moving forward, I’m making progress.

Snow

If the snow is deep with a crust on top, you may be in for some fun postholing and that’s never fast! To avoid too much postholing, hike early in the day when the snow is harder or stay to the shade or out of the deep spots. Sometimes this type of terrain can be miserable, exhausting, and dangerous and is often best avoided without gear like skis or snowshoes.

Uphill on snow

Downhill on snow

Ice

Scree

Boulders

Cross country

When the terrain gets steep, take your time and always pay attention to your navigation target. The fastest way to slow yourself way down is to go off course.

Fast breaks

Mental prep

Hiking fast isn’t always the right thing to do, but hiking fast can be a great skill to have if you want to pack more adventure into less time. I hope this guide was helpful and that you can get out there and get more adventures in as you spend less time in transit on the trail.

Originally published at https://myadventureschool.com/hike-faster/ on February 25, 2019.

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Chris Allen

Hi, I’m Chris. I started Adventure School to help you get out on more adventures. Follow us and learn the skills you need to get out on your next adventure.