Predicting walking time

With the number of variables involved in predicting walking times it can be difficult to provide one rule which is applicable to all countries, for all people, in all conditions. The following 'rule', often referred to as Naismith's Rule, is one which has proved suitable for Australian conditions and has been used successfully for many years.

For an average walker with a medium pack, allow one hour for:

  • every 4 km of easy going
  • every 3 km of easy scrambling
  • every 1½ km of very rough country, deep sand, soft snow or thick bush.

Then add:

  • one hour for every 500 m up
  • one hour for every 1000 m down.

This rule has been developed for an 'average' group. For very fit and experienced walkers, reduce the total time by one third, and for larger, less fit or less experienced groups, this rule may be optimistic. Several bushwalking clubs recommend a variation of this rule, with one hour for 4 km of easy going, 2 km of rough track, and 1 km off track. The time allowed for rise and fall in elevation accounts for slower travel also and fatigue during both climbing and descending. Time must be allowed for rest and meal stops, and remember that the group will be slower at the end of the day.

Figure 3.1 can be used as a quick reference for applying this rule.

This rule is not directly transferable for ski touring, as strengths and weaknesses in skiing skills greatly affect the travelling speed of a group on skis. The fastest travel can be very quick, up to 8 or even 10 km per hour, but in difficult conditions, progress can be slower than walking. As a result leaders will have to apply their own estimates, based on skill levels of the group, and knowledge of the area and terrain.