In orienteering or treasure hunting, it is often valuable to count your paces in order to estimate the distance you've traveled in a certain direction. Knowing the length of your pace is useful for many things such as estimating the width or height of large objects such as trees, rivers, or cliffs. But, in wilderness hiking, I've actually found no real use yet for counting paces. I'd love to hear from you if you've used pacing for a real situation and I'll post it here.
Figuring Pace Length
To determine your pace:
- Accurately measure a distance - using a 100 yard (300 feet) football field is perfect.
- Walk the length of the field, counting each time your right foot steps down. Or, just your left foot if you prefer.
- Divide 300 feet by the number of paces you took and that is your pace length.
- It is a good idea to repeat this in the other direction and take an average.
Now that you know your pace length, you can estimate how far you hike. As you hike along, keep track of your paces. At any time, you can multiply your paces by your pace length to figure how far you've travelled.
But, here's why I personally don't find it very useful:
- Going uphill, downhill, across hill, through deep grass, over sand, through brush, over rocks all have an effect on shortening your pace.
- Wearing a backpack shortens your pace.
- Losing count of your paces means you go back and start over or guess and start again from your current spot.
- I'm in the wild to enjoy the wild, not count my steps.
- With my map and compass, I know where I'm going and about how far I have to go. I don't need to pace.
So, pacing is useful for competitions, for learning about how your body covers ground, and for doing specific distance estimating. It also may be useful if you ever become lost and have also lost your compass and map. In that case, you can estimate directions and then track how far you travel.
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Oct 16, 2016 - Hame
To the author's point, pace counting is probably not something most will use, nor even need to worry about based most general back country map and compass hiking-around applications. But, nonetheless, if you understand and can effectively use pacing, that's just one more nugget of knowledge and skill you'll have under your belt should you ever need to rely on it.
That was the hardest part -- finding the control after we hit our attack point/nearby landmark. It was particularly hard when the control was in non-descript forest.
I found pace counting was good over short distances to help us narrow the search area for the control. But I found it was pretty inaccurate over distances of about 60 to 90 paces. Probably because we measured our stride on pavement and then used the stride measurement in underbrush and rougher terrain.
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