DeterminING time

I have figured the distance for a trip a friend and I want to do. How do I figure how long it will take? Thanks in advance for any tips!

distance divided by ave speed
Well, it is distance divided by average speed. You have distance, but what is your average speed? How far have you gone in an hour or a day? Are there currents which will help you or hurt you? How long is the trip?

For a touring kayak on flat water (no currents), a 10-15 mile a day average is common for a relaxed tip. For short trips (less than a day), a 3 mph average is common.

Recreational or sit on top boats may be a bit slower. Athletes/advanced paddlers could go faster/farther.

Multiple day trips often also allow rest or weather days - expect 1 or 2 days a week when you won’t be able to/want to paddle.

Most difficult piece of navigation.
I’d say without a doubt, estimating speed is the most difficult piece of the navigation puzzle.

1st you have to estimate the speed of the slowest paddler given the equipment of the trip. Then you have to look at the waters you’re traveling - currents, exposure, fetch. Then you have to estimate the speed of the slowest paddler given all the different conditions that you may encounter, including realizing when you will no longer be making any progress at all, or when your 4 hour trip in ideal conditions becomes effectively a 16 hour trip given the conditions - such things as that. Is this real? Absolutely. Read about the recent unintended CT to Long Island incident. Know and understand these things about your waters, yourself, and your paddling partners wherever applicable.

On a long crossing, you may have to figure ferry angles. Current speed divided by paddling speed X 60 degrees is one rule of thumb. Example: 2 knot current divided by 4 knot paddling speed X 60 degrees leaves you bearing 30 degrees towards the current to make a straight across A to B course made good. Of course, now you have to figure a different distance paddled than the A to B distance, so you can figure the increased amount of time it will take.

This is all made much easier the less significant the outside factors that can cause changes. Such as protected waters, predictable constant current - or lack thereof, lack of exposure to the wind, highly skilled paddlers whose forward stroke won’t be as negatively effected by more challenging conditions, etc.

You really just have to get to know yourself well in your paddlecraft in different ranges of conditions to make any reasonable crucial decisions. Let us know exactly what your trip is, exposure potential, currents, etc, and I’m sure folks will help you with many things important to bear in mind on your given trip. This kind of planning and contemplation is also very useful in knowing when to pull the plug on a trip given conditions.

You get there when you get there …
The problem with defining how long it will take depends on if mother nature cooperates. Lots of expeditions have spent a lot of time sitting around in rain/wind. If you have significant head winds even though safe to paddle it can take forever.


– Last Updated: Jun-29-16 6:59 PM EST –

The previous posters are all correct.

As another example, if you are on a river, a change in water level of as little as one-half foot can shorten or lengthen a trip by quite a bit. It wouldn't be uncommon for what "should" be a four-hour trip to end up being either three or five hours, depending on whether the water rose or dropped, and the difference will often be greater than that. You can see how on a long trip, this can really add up. Windy days will usually slow down travel time on rivers too.

The idea that your average speed will be 3 mph when underway is as good a starting point as any. Then realize that stuff happens that changes that.

As a specific example, on a big lazy river here that I go boating on a lot, my average downstream speed has been as slow as 1 mph (terrible headwind) and as fast as 8 mph (and that wasn't even high water, just good conditions and being motivated to not waste time), all with the same boat.

also figure in shuttle time

– Last Updated: Jun-30-16 9:50 AM EST –

and staging time (getting the boats ready and launched), time to break camp if over-nighting. It seems on day trips after the shuttling and the loading is done that I'm only averaging 2-3 miles per hour. While I might be moving faster than that, I find stopping for a break, and all the other stuff eats up time. Portaging and scouting slow everything way down.

In a trip format with lakes I like staying ahead of the conditions- getting up early and getting into a campsite early- beating the wind, allowing time for changing conditions. I do more miles per day on overnight trips- particularly in the summer when days are long. 10-15 miles or more in that situation while a typical day trip for me now is less than 10 miles. I do a lot of short paddles when on whitewater. I can wear myself out working the river in just a few miles that may only last an hour or two. Brings the average way down.

6 miles is my average trip length over the course of a year. I'm fortunate that I can go out and paddle a few miles after work with daylight savings time. Its like a mini vacation during the week.

All of this stuff is highly subjective, but ask yourself how many hours of the day are you wanting to be in the boat? Assuming its not to demanding I feel comfortable planning on at least 2 miles per hour. On a river with current I'd go 3 miles per hour or higher.

Some folks like layover days when camping. I get bored and would rather paddle but they do provide a cushion when planning longer trips that are subject to wind or other potential obstacles. If your planning on fishing you have to budget extra time specifically for that or it won't happen.

read Burch


What kind of trip? day trip? overnight? a month? thousand miles? Too many variables.

What experience do you have?

Bill H.