Naismiths Rule for Hikers


Naismiths Rule

Whether in the Wicklow Mountains or any wild place – estimating how long it will take to reach your walking or hiking destination is a fundamental mountain safety skill. Naismith’s Rule is basically a rule of thumb to help you make such an estimate.It’s very useful in helping plan your itinerary, estimating time and in certain cases it could be invaluable in keeping you safe in the mountains.

It was devised by Scottish mountaineer William Naismith in the nineteenth century. Be clear that it doesn’t take account of stopping to sightsee! The basic rule is to allow an hour for every 5km going forward and an hour for every 600m of ascent. Essentially this means that the rule shows a relationship between distance and climb in time terms.

8 units of distance are equivalent to one unit of climb (5000/600 = 8.3). Thus if a chosen route is 10km with 800m of climb the calculations are as follows: 10+.8x8 is 16.4km. If an individual can maintain a pace of 5km per hour the route will thus take 3 hours and seventeen minutes. Many walkers suggest adding 25% on to the Naismith’s rule as there have been some corrections over the years based on a lot of walking research. Common sense should also prevail – for example in a group; Naismith’s rule applies based on the speed of the slowest walker!

Bear in mind changes in terrain as slopes get both steeper and easier across hiking routes in Wicklow and elsewhere. For example- hiking the Wicklow Way allows for a faster speed than say climbing Lugnaquilla! Regardless – stay safe and enjoy the mountains!