Trail guides give specific miles between spots…how does the average hiker know when he has gone .75 miles, 1.2 miles, etc.?
ANSWER: Thanks for your question, Hank.
There are 3 ways to measure distances:
- Outdoor GPS units
- Map and compass
If you don’t have an outdoor GPS unit, the best way to know how far you’ve gone along a trail is to get a good map. The United States Geologic Society (USGS) has free maps that are available for download, or you can purchase printed maps. Another option is to get a fancier, easy to read map produced by National Geographic, Tom Harrison, or some of the other leading map makers. Check out Hiking 101: How to Not Get Lost, for more info on that subject.
Once you have a map, you can identify where you are by looking at features. If you know how to use a compass, you can generally find out exactly where you are on a map. If you see a big turn in the trail, and you can find that spot on the map, take a look at the scale and estimate how far you’ve gone. It won’t be completely accurate, since trails are never straight lines and hard to measure on a map, but you’ll get a very good estimate.
A very inexpensive alternative to a GPS? Pedometers!
For a mere fraction of the cost of a GPS, pedometers are nice devices to measure distance traveled. For about $20 there are pedometers that measure steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned.
If you are purely interested in how far you’ve walked or hiked, pedometers can give you a rough estimate. Pedometers need to be calibrated before their first use. Just make sure the pedometer is one like this that can count steps, calories, and mileage.
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