The ability to estimate distance travelled is a fundamental navigational skill, particularly if you’re walking over featureless ground, such as moorland. Here's how to do it


There are two classic ways of calculating roughly how far you’re travelling – via a timing chart based on Naismith’s Rule (one hour for every 5km walked plus 10 minutes for every 100m of ascent) adjusted to your own fitness level or through an exercise to determine your own length of pace – as shown below:

This exercise will provide you with a fairly accurate figure indicating the number of double-paces you take to walk 100m and you can use this figure as the basis of calculating longer distances.

So if, for example, you know from your map that you need to walk 350m to reach a specific point, count out 100m in paces three times and then count out half the number of paces to take you the extra 50m.

In order to keep track of how many 100m distances you have walked, you can buy commercially available tally counters, attach toggles that you can slide up and down your compass lanyard, or simply carry one stone in your hand for each 100m you know you’re going to walk, and then drop it when you reach the end of that 100m leg.

Adjusting for terrain

Don’t assume that you will cover the same number of paces over different types of ground. If you’ve calculated your pacing in a very flat or urban environment, it’s definitely worth testing out the same exercise next time you’re out in the hills in an area where you can accurately measure 100m on the map.

Remember also that the following conditions could affect your pace count:

Photo: Stewart Smith