Pacing & Timing

You’ve measured the distance from where you are to where  you want to go on the map… but how can you measure that distance on the ground? There are two proven methods, depending on the distance.


Everyone has a regular stride on flat or relatively flat ground. If you know how many double paces you take to cover 100m, you have a great way of measuring distance on the ground. For most people it is somewhere between 55 and 75 double paces. We use double paces, counting only every time either your left or right foot hits the ground, as it’s easier than counting every pace. To find the number of double paces you require to cover 100m, ideally you would pace along a 100m running track. If you don’t have access to one, look for a straight local path on a map which is exactly 100m, 200m or 300m. Chances are there will be one. Then walk along it, counting your paces.

Once you have established how many double paces you need, you can work out how many double paces you need for shorter distances. For example, if you need 64 double paces for 100m, then you need 32 for 50m, 16 for 25m etc.

Bear in mind, however, that the number will increase if you are going steeply up or downhill, walking through mud or tussocky grass, walking into a headwind, or walking in the dark. The only way you can work out how any of these affects you is by trial and error, but your pacing over flat ground is always a good base to work from.

When measuring distance this way, it is best practice to count in units of 100m. So if you need 64 double paces to cover 100m, on reaching 100m, you go back to zero. In order to remember how many 100s you have covered, use pacing beads, attached to the cord on your compass. (See the image at the bottom of the page.)


Pacing is generally considered to work well for distances up to 500m. Any further, and it can become a bit of a chore and is prone to human error. Therefore for distances beyond 500m you can use timing.

To establish how quickly you walk, walk a known distance on a map over flattish ground, and time it. Let’s say you walk 360m in 4 1/2 minutes / 270 seconds. You want to know how long it would take you to cover 100m at the same speed. So you need to divide 270 seconds by 3.6 (ie 360/100), giving you 75 seconds, in other words 1 1/4 minutes. Bear in mind again that any changes in terrain will make the time longer.

Pacing Beads