How often should you take a break while hiking? How long should your break be? We broke it down to show you the optimal break strategy to hike more miles in a day.
Break Time Optimization
I have always wondered if longer breaks are better than shorter breaks for long-distance hiking. There are so many variables on the trail it is difficult to determine optimal break time with any accuracy. When you are hiking the terrain changes, you must stop to refill water, the weight of the pack changes… the list can go on.
I decided to test the effect of different break times on the time it takes to hike using a 15.3-mile trail from Humber Park in Idyllwild, California (6,479 feet) to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto (10,833 feet) and back. I chose this trail because of the relative constant elevation change and trail length. This hike can also be completed in a normal day of hiking.
For each test hike I carried a backpack with a total weight of 30 pounds and more than enough water, so I did not have to stop to refill water. The weather and departure time were also about the same for each hike. I rested for at least 48 hours between hikes to make sure I was fully recovered for each hike. I decided for this experiment that I would hike exactly 2.5 miles up the trail (12% uphill grade) and the level of tiredness I felt would be the same required to trigger each future rest break.
When I took a break at my pre-determined tiredness level, I rested for that specific day’s experimental break time. For example, during the 5-minute break experiment I took only 5-minute breaks for the entire hike to the summit and back down. For that hike I took a total of sixteen 5-minute breaks: eleven 5-minute breaks going up to the summit and five 5-minute breaks going downhill. I repeated the experiment four more times (on four different days) with 10-minute, 15-minute, 30-minute, and 120-minute breaks. The 120-minute break took so much time, I had to stop the experiment prior to completing the entire course, so I estimated my completion time. As you might expect, I had to take more breaks the shorter the break-time because I was not able to recover.
I recorded the total hike time for each experiment to see which break-time resulted in the fastest hike. Interestingly, I hiked the fastest during the 5-minute-break experiment even though I had to take a lot more breaks. But 5-minute breaks meant that I was tired almost the entire hike. It was uncomfortable and took almost all the joy out of hiking. The 10-minute-break experiment was almost as fast and was much more enjoyable. 15-minute rest breaks resulted in more enjoyable hiking but started showing a real increase in overall hiking time.
From this experiment I learned:
10-15-minute breaks result in optimal performance and enjoyment
If I am on any kind of time line, I should avoid 30 minute or longer breaks.
Of course your ideal break time and hiking plan will be a little different than mine, always hike within your own personal limits.
By Paul Bodnar of Guthook Guides on May 11, 2020 (photos by Paul Bodnar)
(Sunday, March 21, 2021)
Good Morning everyone,
Vaccinations are starting to move along quickly and effeciently. The dates for Ontario's Vaccination plans have been moved up accordingly. For example, I fall under PHASE 3, origionally scheduled to begin on August 1st. It has been moved up to July 1st. This is very good news! A new backpacking trip has been added for Mid-May. A primitive 3 day backpacking trip in the Owen Sound area covering 55kms in 3 days. We will utilize completely primitive campsites! This means, no showers, no running water, no bathrooms. Just nature and our ingenuity (and a bunch of expensive gear)... After speaking to Ontario Parks, NAC will not be able to plan a Superior Coastal Trail backpacking trip this year as all the permits sold out very quickly. The maximum number of permits per person is 8, and I could only get 3 currently making the trip unfeasible. Like many corporations during this time, Eddie Bauer is cutting back on promotions and discounts. So, at this time I was not able to negotiate a new NAC Member Discount with Eddie Bauer. But they have assured me it will be reconsidered in the future. Melissa, the Store Manager has offered free shipping on any online orders. Just visit the store, and ask Melissa to complete the online order for you to recieve a free shipping benefit.
That's all the news for this week. As always, stay safe, and happy hiking! Lenny Burch Niagara Adventure Club