If you were planning a trip

How far would you estimate you would go in a day of canoeing/paddling on a lake/flatwater?

I understand it would depend on weather conditions - but as a general rule - how many miles/hour of easy tripping???

I am considering a trip but am wondering how many days based on maps…

Plan On Maybe 2-3 MPH
You should be able to do better than that, but that is a very conservative estimate that would allow for pushing into a stiff wind part of the way.

I agree
with Barracuda on the speed. It also depends on how many days you will be paddling since your tiredness/soreness (depending on your condition) could increase a bit each day–you might make more distance the first day than subsequent days. Also allow for stops to stretch, etc. when you are estimating your paddling time.

Have fun!




– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 6:45 PM EST –

Barring unforseen poor weather(lightning, heavy wind, etc)...... I would agree that you should be able to average 3 mph, take breaks "when you want to", have a "leisurely" lunch, and "easily" be able to cover 15 to 18 miles per day. Probably be able to pull over & make camp early. Lots of light this time of year.
The key words "you" used were "easy tripping", and that's what I based my opinion on.


Thanks everyone!
That helped ALLOT!

Our nature watching pace is …
about 15 miles a day.

This allows for stopping for lunch and a little exploration here and there.



Slow down a bit. A 15-18 mile per day average (with or without a leisurely lunch) on any lake is unrealistic. Sure, maybe you can do if for day, or two, but eventually the weather - wind, storms, etc. - will make you sit out a few hours, or a few days. That’ll toss a big monkey wrench into the plans.

Let’s not forget about any portages that might need to be done. A standard double portage, including loading and unloading, averages in the neighborhood of 3/4 of a mile per hour. Hardly in line with a 15-18 mile per day pace.

A more realistic approach to lake paddling is to plan on no more than 10-12 miles per day, less if there are long or numerous portages. That way, if you get wind bound or find a particularly spectacular campsite, you won’t get behind schedule. If things go well and the weather allows you to get ahead of sked, then simply take side trips to fill in the remainders of the day.


Guiding advanced groups
whose participants were fit, could roll etc., I’d plan no more than 20 knots / day. Exposed coast and I’d drop that to 10 due to high wind / seas. We’d often make more, but the plan was conservative. After a few days people get fit and can go further, but important not to get into a slog mentality. Alone I routinely cover 40 knots / day sometimes 50. Those are long days, but I’d rather paddle than sit on a beach. In good conditions fit groups can make 4 knots avg. Throw in some wind and this drops. 2-3 is a better estimate for beginners. Always have plan B. Also I found it worked well if I was out in front a bit and had a good sweep person at the rear of the group. When your slightly ahead the group knows where to go, and you don’t have people veering off course as much. Everyone gets a chart and knows the plan.

Also… where are you camping?

– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 10:18 PM EST –

I ask, because you might have to knock off early to have a good chance of getting a decent camp site. So your paddling day might only stretch from, say 9:00 to 2:00-3:00, with a lunch break. That's a nice pace in any case, as it leaves time for some afternoon leisure after making camp. If you still have time and hanker for more paddling, take an afternoon loop to a nearby byway.

At least that's how I did it in my canoe-camping days -- figured 8-12 miles/day. But I'm no athlete, and my wife less so.


Alone or with others?
For you, if you know what distance you paddle comfortably on a typical day paddle, use something slightly lower than that as a daily average for a longer camping trip. You can easily up the mileage after a few days if it seems like not enough paddling.

I have to wonder why you are asking this question, though, if it is only for yourself.

Are you taking other people with you? Have you paddled with them before, on comparable-mileage days?

If you have only paddled 7-milers with them and think you will average 15 mpd, day after day, better ratchet down for at least the first few days. It may very well be that they have NEVER paddled longer than 7 miles in a day. What happens then is that they go hard for 7 miles and fall apart (seen it happen more than once). It’s not that they would not necessarily be able to do more than 7 miles, but you can’t base a 15-mpd speed based on their 7 mpd speed if they never “train” longer than 7 miles.

Also, one thing to be careful of with a group is that it only takes one noticeably slower person to drag the entire group down. This would not matter much on a day trip. On a multi-day camping trip, it will cause problems.

I won’t even start in about personality clashes or other “group dynamics” issues.

The original trip we had planned had to be scrapped due to the simple fact that we cannot get to the put in spot because of a washout in the road. This is normally not an issue - except for this year where water levels are at record highs. We can’t get there - simple as that.

So, not wanting to cancel the trip, we decided to go to a different lake. Now this lake is large, dotted with many many islands - and while I have all the topographic maps - I must concede that I have not paddled this lake, nor have my companions who range in experience from rank green to moderately experienced.

And so, I have a small lake in mind that is a short portage off the big lake - but it is a ways up the shoreline…was wondering if we could make it in the time constraints we have given ourselves for the trip.

Of course, weather is a major consideration too. Our schedule is six days. If it takes us three days to get into the said small unnamed lake - then it is not worth trying to get here - as we would just have to turn around and head back. That is why I was wondering how many miles per day is a reasonable goal to work with.

After reading all the posts - I am thinking 7-10 miles per day is reasonable. If we do better - then great - and if not - no worries.

shorter trip days
like 8 or 10 miles is what we usally plan so that we can get up early and beat the wind but still have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the area. I think that some people get into the mega mile syndrome and forget to relax and enjoy the area. I love too paddle, but love being out in the wilderness also and not having to rush for me is a big plus. Shorter distances gives you time to set up camp early and also go out and explore some of the areas around camp, and when the weather turns ( which it usally does on a multi-day trip)you are not so rushed.