The Calories Burned Per Hour in Hiking

Her favourite spot to trek to

If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t always have to confine yourself to indoor treadmills or ellipticals. In the warmer months, getting outdoors is one of the easiest ways to get active — and hiking or walking are some of the most convenient.

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Whether you’re trekking for weeks across the Appalachian Trail or doing a quick half-hour nature walk, your calories burned hiking can help you lose weight.

The calories you burn while hiking depend on a variety of factors, including how long you hike, how quickly you’re moving, what you’re carrying and your body weight. A 160-pound person hiking for one hour, for example, would burn around 370 calories.

Your Body Weight

The number of calories burned hiking, or doing any sort of physical activity, depends on how much you weigh. The first step of figuring out your calories-burned calculation is to consider your current body weight.

A smaller person will burn fewer calories than a heavier person per hour when exercising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that a 154-pound person would burn about 370 calories per hour when hiking, but this could be higher or lower, depending on where you’re hiking or how fast you’re going.

How Long You’re Hiking

Being outdoors on a mountain hike for several hours may actually be better for your overall mood than exercising indoors, a May 2017 study published in PLoS One found. That study found that people who did outdoor mountain hiking for several hours experienced more of an increase in calmness and elation, as well as a decrease in anxiety and fatigue, compared to people who walked on an indoor treadmill.

That may be reason enough to put in the exercise hours outdoors. Keeping your body weight in mind in your calories-burned calculation, if you’re burning around 300 calories per hour while hiking, that means hiking for three hours will get you up to burning some 900 calories.

Whether or not you’re hiking to lose weight, it would likely qualify as moderate physical activity, which can help reduce high blood pressure, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and even improve mental health, according to the CDC.

Mountains or Flat Hikes

While a brisk walk on a nature trail by your office might leave you feeling refreshed, a mountainous scramble for several hours may give you a more vigorous workout, leaving you with sore muscles the next day.

While you can lose weight from walking an hour a day, the calories burned during more intense hiking will be even greater. The type of terrain you’re covering on your hike will have an impact on the calories you burn.

Your body uses 28 percent more energy walking on uneven ground, like wooded trails or steep hills on hikes, than it would on flat terrain, according to a November 2013 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. That’s because the muscles in your legs, particularly around your knee and hip, have to work harder to twist, turn and step on uneven terrain than they would on a flat path.

Backpacks and Gear

What you’re carrying will also have an impact on the number of calories burned while hiking. That could include full camping gear, a backpack or even a light bag.

Soldiers in the military, for example, routinely wear packs — and historically used a mathematical equation known as the Pandolf equation to estimate energy expenditure based on weight, the weight of the backpack, the percentage grade of the incline, the hiking speed and the terrain.

The Pandolf equation may not be the best way to estimate how much energy you’re burning, however. A November 2017 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that the Pandolf equation under-estimated the number of calories burned while carrying a pack

That being said, you should be able to generally estimate the number of calories you’ll burn while hiking dependent on your weight, your speed, and how vigorous the walking or climbing is.

How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn Per Hour?

Amber Sayer

Hiking is an often-overlooked form of exercise in our modern, tech-obsessed society. Most guys are far more likely to go for a run in their neighborhood, hit the gym for cardio and weights workouts, or head to the tennis or basketball court with a buddy. However, hiking offers a welcomed departure from the hustle, bustle, and connectedness to electronics that largely typifies our everyday life these days, immersing you in the serene natural soundtrack of Mother Nature and giving your eyes and ears a break from screens, programming, and manufactured stimulation. It’s also a viable form of cardiovascular and muscular exercise, enabling you to burn calories and stoke your metabolism like other forms of exercise.

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Having a decent estimate of the number of calories you burn while hiking is helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, maintain your weight, or even put on mass, as your energy expenditure during physical activity factors into half of the ever-important “calories in versus calories out” truism of body weight manipulation. It also helps inform your fueling needs so that you can hit the trails with ample hiking snacks to power you up and down all the peaks you hope to summit without bonking from low blood sugar while you’re stuck thick in the woods.

Unfortunately, ballparking the number of calories you burn while hiking isn’t as simple as reading the calories readout on an elliptical machine at the end of your workout; rather, many factors affect your energy expenditure from hiking. However, as described below, it is possible to gauge calories burned hiking, so keep reading to see how hiking stacks up in your fitness and weight plan and what factors affect the number of calories you burn hiking.

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Factors That Affect the Number of Calories Hiking Burns

A smiling man carrying a backpack.

The number of calories you burn on a hike depends on numerous factors, including the following:

Body Weight

Two male hikers making a high five in a forest.

As with all forms of exercise, the number of calories burned while hiking is largely dependent on your body weight. Simply put, the more you weigh, the greater your caloric burn for any given hike. For example, a man who weighs 160 pounds will burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 425 and 450 calories per hour hiking, while a 200-pound man will burn closer to 550 calories per hour on the same hike.

Body Composition

A man hiking in a forest.

Less significant than total body weight as a factor in caloric expenditure but still significant is your body composition, or the relative percentage of lean body mass and body fat. Muscle tissue is far more metabolically active than adipose tissue (fat) — especially during exercise — which means that if you have a more sculpted build, you’ll burn more calories per hour hiking than someone with the same body weight but a higher body fat percentage.


A male hiker checking the time on his watch as a dog walks behind him.

The faster you hike, the greater the intensity of the workout. Your pace dictates the distance you hike in an hour, which ultimately determines how many calories you will burn. Moreover, much like the principle applied with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, if you hike at a vigorous enough intensity, you’ll stoke your metabolism so significantly that you’ll continue to have an elevated metabolic rate, or burn additional calories, even after your hiking boots have come off. Using trekking poles can also increase the speed, intensity, and muscular demand of the hike, and thus the number of calories burned.


A male hiker standing on the summit.

One of the unique factors affecting the number of calories burned hiking — absent in controlled forms of exercise such as cardio machines like rowers, ellipticals, and spin bikes — is the terrain you traverse on the bike. Terrain refers to the topography in terms of uphills and downhills as well as the footing on the ground. Hikes over challenging and varied terrains, such as those with long or steep inclines or lots of rocky sections, burn more calories than flat hikes with even, smooth walking trails because the muscular work to power up hills or to stabilize when dealing with unpredictable footing burns additional calories. If you’re looking to torch some serious calories, take on that mountain peak you’ve been eyeing instead of the flat garden path that meanders around a small brook.

Pack Weight

A hiker carrying his hiking pack and gear.

It probably comes as no surprise that carrying a day pack or backpacking with a heavy pack burns more calories. A heavier pack may increase your energy expenditure by 50-100 calories per hour hiking, while a substantial pack may boost the number of calories you burn hiking by upwards of 300 per hour.

Fitness Level

A man carrying an orange backpack enjoying the view from a mountain top.

If you’ve ever hit a weight loss plateau despite following your diet plan to a T and keeping up with your usual fitness routine, it’s likely your body has adapted to the workout and become more efficient. Unfortunately, as much as it’s a relief when what was once a brutal workout starts to feel totally manageable over time, this reduction in necessary effort is evidence of the progress your body has made and the fitness adaptations that have occurred from the same exercise stimulus. In other words, if you haven’t been working out and then decide to run five miles one day, your body is going to struggle to get you through the workout.

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However, if you continue to run the same five-mile route at the same pace for the next six weeks, it will become easier and easier. Your muscles become more efficient at extracting oxygen from the blood, neuromuscular connections operate in a more coordinated manner, and your heart, lungs, and muscles become stronger. These adaptations improve your running economy and the number of calories you burn during the same run decreases. The same principle holds true for hiking. The fitter you are, and the more inured you are to the challenges of hiking, the fewer calories you’ll burn on your hike. With that said, this difference isn’t all that drastic, and certainly shouldn’t deter you from being a regular on the trails.

How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?

A man going on an early-morning hike in the mountain.

So, with all that said, determining the number of calories you burn on a hike doesn’t necessarily have an easy answer. Your best approximation will come from wearing a heart rate activity monitor. This will gauge your exercise intensity and the associated metabolic cost. If you don’t have a fitness tracker or an app on your phone, the metabolic equivalent (MET) formula can be used to provide a generalized estimate of how many calories you’ll burn hiking:

Calories burned = MET (6) * weight (kg) * time (hrs)

The MET value relates to the amount of oxygen used in the particular activity. It is generally between 6-7 for hiking. The more intense the hike (steep, fast), the higher the number you should use.

For example, if you’re a 180-pound (82 kg) guy hiking for 1 hour, you can expect to burn around 492 calories (6*82*1=492) for a moderate hike and around 574 calories (7*82*1=574) if you’re working a little harder. Of course, if you’re carrying a pack, you should add the weight of the pack to your body weight.

Though burning calories is certainly one of the perks of a challenging hike, even if you’re just out there to get some fresh air and move your body at a leisurely pace, you’ll reap plenty of rewards from any hike whether it leaves you breathless from exertion or breathless simply from the beauty of the nature surrounding you.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Hiking?

There’s a reason why many outdoor enthusiasts are generally fit. The combination of walking, carrying gears and backpacks, and even climbing promotes fitness and health. Backpackers who love going on long hikes are also known to have great stamina.

calories hiking burn

But how many calories do you burn hiking? In this article, we will explore the health benefits that you enjoy while doing outdoor activities. We will also identify common factors that help you burn more calories.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Hiking?

Hiking is not as intense compared to other outdoor activities such as running or swimming. However, the slow and steady rate that you take while hiking means you can last much longer. On the other hand, running takes about an hour or two.

Even a day of hiking on an easy trail will burn more than running. Hours on your feet can add to the total calories burned. While running burns more calories per hour, hiking is a much more leisurely activity, which means you can last for a few hours up to a day.

For example, a person that weighs around 160 pounds burns around 850 calories when running at 8 miles per hour. On the other hand, if the same person goes on a hike, he would burn around 500 calories per hour. Spending three hours on a trail would burn around 1500 calories.

Here’s an example of calories burned by a male and female with typical weights during a hike. We assume that they are not carrying any gears and the trail is fairly easy with minimal elevation. Additionally, we assume a moderate pace of 4 miles per hour:

Additionally, the calories you burn will depend on various factors. The length of your hike, your weight, the terrain, and the weight of your backpack contributes to the overall calorie burn.

calories hiking burn desert

Factors That Contribute To The Overall Calorie Burn During Hiking

Hiking is one of the most versatile activities that you can do to lose weight. Aside from the opportunity to explore and travel, you can burn more calories as you adjust various aspects of your hiking. Of course, the more you hike, the more calories you burn. It is especially true if you go on extended hiking trips.

1. Body Weight and Fitness

Just like any physical activity, the body weight of a person plays a significant factor in the calories burned. A higher body weight means a person needs to work harder for any activities.

For example, a person who weighs around 130 pounds will burn up to 370 calories per hour of hiking. On the other hand, someone who is about 200 pounds can burn up to 570 calories with the same activity.

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Additionally, your fitness level also determines how long you can hike. While fit people burn fewer calories during hikes, that just means the body is adjusting to such physical activity. It is a great opportunity to go on longer hikes or take on more challenging terrains.

2. Length of Hiking

A study in PLOS One showed that hours of outdoor activities would improve your overall mood better than physical activities indoors. The research showed that people who spend a lot of time mountain hiking for hours showed more increase in elation and calmness. This also helped decrease anxiety and fatigue.

Because it improves one’s overall mood, many people are likely to spend more time doing outdoor activities. Hiking is qualified as moderate physical activity. That means, walking leisurely for 10 miles can burn about 900 if you weigh around 180 pounds. You will also burn more calories if you are carrying gears or walking much faster.

calories hiking burn snow winter

3. Gears and Backpack

Much similar to your body weight, the extra weight that you are carrying while on a hike will contribute to how many calories you burn. You will have to do more work and use more calories if you are carrying a heavy backpack.

For example, a typical backpack with essential supplies would weigh around 40 pounds. This will increase the calorie burn to up to 750 calories for a male hiker and around 650 for a female hiker assuming a fairly challenging trail.

Longer hikes will require more gear and supplies. Water will probably be the heaviest supply to pack. As such, extended hikes with a fully packed backpack will burn more calories. Consequently, it is important to bring along the right backpack to help you manage the weight of your supplies and gear.

4. Type of Terrain

A hiking trip on a mountain will definitely burn more calories than a leisurely walk on the flats. Just like any exercise, the more you increase the intensity of the physical activity, the more you will expend energy.

If you are looking to lose more weight during your hikes, try a rugged trail with significant elevation. You will use around 28 percent more energy on uneven terrains such as steep hills or a forest trail. Your leg muscles, especially your hips and knees, will be harder when you walk on uneven ground.

For instance, hiking on a moderate elevation will burn about 600 calories per hour for a hiker with a weight of 185 pounds. The calories burned will further increase to up to 750 when the same hiker navigates a steep uphill terrain.

calories hiking burn terrain

5. Intensity of Hike

Increasing your general pace during the hike can also contribute to the total calories burned. If you are able to maintain a vigorous pace throughout your hike, your body increases its metabolism and even keeps burning calories 14 hours after the hike.

For example, if you are about 165 pounds, walking at a speed of 2 mph will burn around 185 calories per hour. If you go faster to about 3.5 miles per hour, you will increase the calories burned to up to 275.

Of course, the terrain and the pack that you are carrying will affect your speed. A general flat terrain is much easier to hike. You can reach around 4 miles an hour on average on this trail. However, an uphill hike may reduce your speed down to about one mile per hour. However, take note that you will be working harder on this trail, so you have the opportunity to burn as many calories (or more) even at a reduced speed.


calories hiking burn field

The number of calories burned during your trip will depend heavily on your weight, fitness level, and the intensity of your activities. Additionally, if you will be covering more miles in one hike, then you have the opportunity to burn more calories. Furthermore, the extra weight that you are carrying and the terrain will have an effect on how much energy your body will use.

Aside from burning calories, hiking, or any outdoor activities will provide great benefits to your overall mental health. Exploring nature will also take your mind off your tiredness, which can encourage you to challenge yourself further.

On the same note, you should always come prepared when taking on challenging trails. Make sure that you have all the gear, such as a multitool. You may also want to bring along a backpacking tent that best fits your needs during the trip.




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