The question of how far can you walk in one day recently came up in regards to bugging out. This led to quite a discussion, and many different opinions. For the last twenty-five or so years, I have done a lot of hiking in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and can cover some pretty good distances.
However, most of the time I am with someone else who also is in good shape and we are not carrying much weight. A 7 mile hike in about 2-3 hours is quite doable, and I am 70 years old. But that brings up the question of how much weight could I carry and could I do it day after day, while sleeping on the ground and making camp with no nice soft lounge chair in which to recover?
I’m not 100% sure I could do that.
A young man in good shape normally walks around three miles an hour and can do it all day, on level ground, carrying little to no weight. But remember, the speed of the march is determined by the weakest member of the group, not the strongest. When bugging out, the weight of a pack is going to slow this young man down.
Other factors that determine your speed are the weather, terrain, the condition of the trail, and what you are carrying. Do you have children or elderly people with you? Do any of your group have medical conditions that slows them down? Another factor that will affect your distance and speed is threats. Are you having to hide to avoid other people?
The U.S. Army Ranger Training includes a 12-mile forced, tactical ruck march with full gear from Camp Rogers to Camp Darby. This is the last test during one phase and is a pass/fail event. If the Ranger student fails to finish the march in less than 3 hours, he is dropped from the course. With the ruck and their other gear, they are carrying 65–90 pounds. Now this is an extreme case, very few of us could even come close.
Many of us would be traveling with a family and might even have to carry younger children or infants. In addition, we would have to carry our food and other supplies, set up a camp each day and take care of other chores.
I have done a bit of research for this post and looked at the speeds that were considered fast in traveling across the American plains.
A pioneer wagon might do 15-25 miles on a very good day, if it was being pulled by horses or mules. Oxen on the other hand only traveled one or two miles and hour but didn’t require as much rest or as good a forage as horses or mules. They might do 10-12 miles in a 10-hour day
A horse will walk 3-4 mph, trot about 8-10 mph and gallop depending on the ability of the animal and the terrain at 30-40 mph. According to the U S Cavalry, a horse can cover some 30-40 miles a day, but can be pushed to double that, but then will be pretty much spent for several days while he recuperates.
I spoke to a local scout leader and was told that many of the young boys would struggle on a three or four mile hike in the mountains when carrying a full pack.
Now I see some preparedness books that tell you that when bugging out your pack should weigh up to a third of your body weight. Now this may be a good guideline for a twenty year old in good shape, but it won’t work for the rest of us.
One old friend of mine and an old special forces guy, says most people way overestimate their ability to walk in planning for bugging out. He feels that most family groups with children or elderly will travel closer to 3-5 miles a day when walking cross country. A lot will will depend on you and your families physical and emotional condition and don’t forget very good foot ware.
After talking with several-experienced hikers and some friends who have seen a real evacuation by foot I believe that most people over estimate the distances they can walk. This is largely the result of having to travel at the pace of the slowest member of your group.
Most family groups with young children or elderly would average closer to 5 miles a day. Young people in average shape should do 20 miles or so in good terrain for the first couple of days, then blisters, light rations and other problems will slow them down.
So plan on your bug out taking longer then you expect if you are traveling by foot.