Estimating the amount of time you take to take an 8-mile hike helps you decide how much food and water you need to bring on the hiking trip. When planning a hike, it is crucial to overestimate the amount of time you think it will take for you to finish the hike, as there may be different factors that will slow you down on the trail.
An 8 mile hike can easily take 4 to 7 hours depending on the speed, terrain surface, pack weight, elevation gain, and the number of rest breaks you need to take. There are several variables that will determine your actual hiking time. Advanced planning and preparedness will be critical to ensuring a safe and enjoyable hike of this length.
The rest of this article will explain how long it takes for an average person to hike 8 miles in various types of trail surfaces such as hilly terrain and flat, the use of hiking calculators, how to prepare for an 8-mile hike, and how much water you should drink on an 8-mile hike.
How Long Does It Take the Average Person to Hike 8 Miles?
It is essential to know your hiking pace compared to the average hiker when planning a hiking trip. Most amateur hikers ignore keeping track of their hiking speed, but it helps you plan your hiking trip. For instance, keeping track of the time it takes enables you to decide what time to begin and what time it will end.
The average hiking speed depends on the hiker’s physical condition and the terrain of the trail. Usually, the more fitter and experienced you are, the quicker and longer you will last on the hiking trail, so the speed you hike is different for each person.
The only way to boost your endurance and increase your stamina is to walk and hike some more, so do not get frustrated by others on the trail. Once you get tired out, you will slow down and take breaks, so make sure to factor the rest time into your hiking time estimations.
Hiking on Hilly Terrain vs. Flat Terrain
Many different variables can affect the time it takes for you to finish an 8-mile hike. For example, an average person can walk approximately 3 miles for every hour they walk on a mostly flat and easy trail while carrying a light pack. If the average person is in somewhat reasonable condition, they can quickly speed up to 5 miles an hour.
When holding an average amount of weight in a moderate flat trail with some rough terrain, a person can walk about 2 miles for every hour they walk with an average amount of weight in their backpack. It is possible to cover up to 18 miles in a day when factoring in short rest breaks.
An average person will most likely hike 1 mile per hour or even less with a full pack when walking in a steep incline on rough terrain. Rugged terrain is exhausting for the average person to hike, so the speed will slow down as the body begins the tire faster than flatter trails.
Factor in Elevation Gain
There are many differences in the time it takes when hiking mountainous terrain compared to flat terrain. Elevation gain is probably the most significant variable in measuring the time it takes to calculate the time it takes to hike 8 miles.
Elevation gain or total ascent refers to the growth in elevation over the distance you are climbing. Hiking 8 miles of flat terrain with no elevation gain is much easier than trekking up and down 8 miles on hilly terrain despite the same distance.
You will end up hiking slower the steeper it gets, and will most likely quicken your hiking pace when going downhill. But it would be best if you didn’t overestimate the rate you descend as there are cases when you slow down when navigating steep drops or rocky terrain.
Using a Hiking Calculator for an 8 Mile Hike
While there are any hiking calculators such as TrailsNH and other principles such as Book Time and Naismith’s rule that you can use to predict the amount of time it takes to finish your hike, you should take them with a grain of salt. In actuality, your hiking time can vary as it depends on your fitness level, pack weight, weather, number of people on the trail, condition of the course, and terrain type.
Many hikers leave reviews after their hikes on trails and write tips to other hikers regarding the type of trail condition. If you search online, you can also find hikers that have recorded the time it took for their hikes so you can see how you typically stack up.
Hiking calculators also do not take into consideration if you plan on hiking in a group. If you walk with a companion or in a group, you will most likely need to slow down or speed up depending on everyone’s fitness level. Especially in a group of hikers with various hiking experience levels, you will have to adjust to the group’s speed.
How Do I Prepare for an 8 Mile Hike?
There are some things you should prepare before your 8-mile hike. Invest in your physical stamina to avoid tiring out faster on the trail. Begin going on shorter hikes. It takes up to 3 months to see a significant improvement to your fitness level, but it is essential to work your body to adjust to the distance.
Practice on shorter hikes with various terrain types as it will allow you to break in your new hiking boots or figure out if the hiking boots you have on are not supporting you correctly. Eight miles is a long distance to hike wearing improper, painful, and poorly fitting hiking boots!
Throw in some cardio exercises to get your heart rates pumping, such as jumping jacks or squats. These require no special equipment at home. Squats and lunges are especially critical as they improve leg strength, which is essential for hikers.
If you plan on hiking in places with higher elevation, try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as it will prepare your body for bursts of strength you will need to ascend rough terrain. Lastly, work out your core with planks and push-ups to build up essential muscles that will prop you up and improve your balance.
What to Pack for Your Hike
The American Hiking Society lists “Ten Essentials” that every hiker should pack when they head outdoors for a hike. This list is critical for every hiker, whether you plan on hiking for an hour or many months.
These ten essential items for hikers are:
- Hiking Shoes: When selecting hiking footwear, consider the protection, traction, and support you will need depending on the type of terrain you will be facing on the trail. The lighter and minimal hiking footwear might feel great to wear right out from the box, but the more rugged leather boots need some treks before they comfortably conform to your feet.
- Navigation: Phones can become unreliable, especially in the backcountry due to lack of cell service, so make sure to carry a map and compass.
- Water: Make sure to bring extra water just in case your hiking trip gets extended. You should also check in advance to see if there are water sources available outdoors to fill up your pack. Have a filtration system to purify water from these sources to avoid becoming ill.
- Food: Pack calorie-dense food on your hikes with an extra portion just in case it takes you longer than expected.
- Clothing Layers: Dress in multiple layers of clothing to prepare for shifting weather conditions.
- Safety: Take items with you, such as a flashlight that can help you see the dark path and things that can help you start a fire.
- First Aid: Learn to administer first aid and CPR, and bring a first aid kit with you on the trail.
- Tools: A knife or multi-tool is beneficial. For instance, it can help open up packed food and remove thorns from your fingers.
- Sun Protection: Getting a sunburn can be dehydrating, so slather on sunscreen regardless of the weather.
- Shelter: Having an ultra-lightweight space blanket on hand can keep you warm in emergencies.
How Much Water Should You Drink on an 8 Mile Hike?
While the amount of water you need to drink depends, you will most likely need to drink about 0.5 liters of water every hour. This volume of water may increase or decrease depending on the intensity of the hike and the temperature. Hiking on hilly terrain in hot climates will require 1 liter of water, if not more per hour on the trail.
Before heading out to your hike, pre-hydrate by drinking about 20 fluid ounces approximately 2 hours before hiking; during your trek, rather than chugging water, take smaller sips to hydrate continuously. Sometimes hikers tend to lose track of time during their hikes, so set a timer on your watch to beep every 20 mins as a reminder to drink some water.
During the 8 mile hike, you will be sweating, and it is crucial to replace the electrolytes you lose while you sweat. You can drink a sports drink that helps with electrolyte replacement that can compensate for the loss. You can mix many powders or tablets with water or carry them out with you to consume them during your hike.
Some days you will breeze through an 8-mile hike, and there will be variables during your hike that will make the same trail take an hour or two longer. No matter how much you prepare, things happen, and you can’t control everything – how you respond to shifting conditions is what ultimately matters.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.