Written by 10:38 am Wilderness Navigation Masters

14) How I use pace count to measure ground distance

Hello and welcome to this lesson of the online course Wilderness Navigation Masters, where you will learn how to use pace count to measure ground distance.

Why I should measure it in the first place?

You may have this question: but why should I measure a distance if I already traveled it?

I understand if you see that as a needless thing to do, especially when you are outdoor and you don’t want to burn your important calories counting your paces.

But it’s the total opposite because when you measure your traveled distance:

  1. You get an idea of how much you walked
  2. How much you have to walk
  3. When you should make a U-turn to avoid getting lost
  4. Counting your paces is also very useful when you want to get around an obstacle in your way.

Other than that, it’s also useful if you have to walk in the darkness, or when you don’t have enough landmarks to use as checkpoints, or if your destination landmark if not distinguishable enough, and there is a chance of missing it.

What is the pace?

If you think of pace count as counting every step you made, and that this is too much for you, it’s not the case.

Because one pace equals two natural steps. I mean, when one of your feet (let’s say the left feet) touches the ground and you step with your right feet, that’s only a half pace.

You should count a completed pace when the same foot touches the ground.



And to make things easier for you, you are not supposed to count till 200, 400, or 600 paces, no.

There are many tips for counting.

  1. The first tip is having little rocks in one of your pockets, and every time you count 100 paces, you move one of these little rocks to the other pocket and restart your counting from zero.
  2. Tie a knot in a string.

That’s my two tips for you.

The important thing is to not try to remember the count, use one of these tips, or create your own method.



Before I move to show you a scenario when pace count becomes useful, I want you to know that this technique is only effective in short distances.

When you see that it’s too much for you to count your paces, you can use the walking speed and time method, as we’ve seen in one of the previous lessons.

Pace-count scenario:

This is a map excerpt from the USGS Joseph Peak quadrangle.

This blue line represents the Fan creek. And this gray dashed line represents the Fan Creek Trail.

Let’s say we are at point A and we want to hike to the point B.

We can walk directly to point B through the forest but it can be risky, especially if it’s a dense forest. So, it’s easy for us to deviate too much from our route.

The less risky way is to walk following the Fan Creek Trail till you get to this point, then you measure the forward bearing to point B and follow it.

But how can you know if you are exactly here, here, or here?

In these scenarios, measuring your traveled distance with the help of pace count becomes useful.

All you have to do is to measure the distance from point A to this point on your map, let’s say you get 1500 feet, if you have a 5-foot pace, then when you count 300 paces, you are at this point.

Then you can shoot your bearing, and follow it.


Things that can affect your pacing:

There are things that can make your paces become longer like going downhill, or make them shorter like going uphill, having a full backpack or hiking on the sand, etc.

For that, I’m not gonna ask you to measure your pace length for all these cases, but the important ones are going uphill, downhill, and flat terrain on a surface that you are likely to hike on. So, if you will hike on the sand, measure your paces on the sand.


How to measure your pace length?

  1. Walk for 500 feet, counting your paces.
  2. Divide 500 feet by the number of your paces.
  3. This is your pace length.

Repeat that for the other cases, and do not forget to take notes like, are you having a backpack or not, if yes what are the weight of your backpack, etc


In the exercise of this lesson:

  1. I want you to go outdoor with a map of this area.
  2. Choose a trail that has two easy-to-distinguish landmarks, to use as your starting point and your destination.
  3. Measure the distance between these two points from your map and calculate your needed paces to arrive at the other point
  4. Start walking and counting pace.
  5. When you arrive, compare how many paces you counted with how many you were supposed to count, to see your accuracy in that.


That’s all for this lesson, like I say always, do not forget to interact with us in the comment section below, like letting us know how many measures your paces in different conditions for example.

Thank you and see you in the next lesson.

Updated on June 7, 2021 by Ben

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