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.
Where can you grow chili beans?
At the south pole!