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Build your steady sustainable pace » Ultralight Backpacking

Build your steady sustainable pace

The key to hiking many miles day after day is to figure out a steady pace that fits you.

One of the best things you can do is to get a heart monitor and figure out how to maintain a steady heart rate and pace on a trail in the mountains. It is confusing when you start out with the variance of uphill, level and downhill in the mountains. A  light or heavy backpack will change your heart rate and exertion level. A heart monitor measure your actual level of exertion whether you are training or out on a big backpacking adventure.

If you measure it, you can change it!

Learn how to vary your pace on uphill, flat and downhill to keep a steady heart rate. What you want to avoid is a high heart rate on the uphill that causes you to go anaerobic and to start burning a high percentage of glucose (sugar) for your energy. An anaerobic pace and level of exertion is not sustainable if your goal is to hike 20-25 miles for multiple days. The object is to stay in your aerobic, fat burning, zone as much as possible.  You have a large fat supply, but only a limited glucose supply.  You can only eat and digest food so fast.  And it is harder to digest while you are hiking down the trail.

With the help of a heart monitor you will begin to understand your pace, breathing rate and develop a habit of a sustainable pace under different conditions of the trail and your pack weight. Eventually it will become a habit and you won’t need a heart monitor to tell you whether your pace is too fast or too slow.

Hiking poles can also help you maintain a steady pace and rhythm.  Check out the hiking pole category.

Heat and altitude are two big variables that impact your speed and endurance.  It is helpful to learn how these impact you and what you can do to cope with their effect.


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