Sunday, June 26, 2011

"X" Factor

Hiking/Backpacking "X" Factor

The theme that runs through all of my pod casts is light weight hiking.  Several of my friends have tried hiking/backpacking with little success.  I will tell you more about how one of these hikes turned out later.  I developed a way I evaluate a friends ability to successfully complete a hike before we ever consider hiking.  This means of evaluation was developed solely on the observation of hikers by me during my 20+ years of trail hiking. The process is not based on any medical research and I used it only as an estimate of ones possible ability to complete one of my hikes. I excluded friends with medical conditions (example: high blood pressure, heart condition, etc,). I made sure that they had had a physical exam by a doctor and was determined in good enough condition to hike safely. The "X" Factor is a number that indicates how much more effort a hiker "friend" may have to expend to hike the same distance as an average hiker. I have taken into consideration the weight of the pack, the weight of the person,  age and physical condition. A person who is 40 years of age, in good physical condition, at their optimum body weight carrying a 30 pounds pack should be able to complete a 10 to 25 mile hike in one day without much effort. No effort was given to distance or speed of the hiker in this evaluation.

Score Points

The object of the evaluation is to add all "X" Factor points together while trying to get as close to zero as you possibly can. A hiker friend who scores a total of zero should be able to complete one of my distance hikes.


 10          20         30      40        50        60        70       80     Years

 -3            -2          -1        0         +1      +2         +3       +4     Points

Physical Condition

Excellent         Good            Fair             Poor       Condition

  -1                     0                +1                 +2        Points

Pack Weight in Pounds

     10                    20                   30              40            50      Pounds

      -2                     -1                    0              +1             +2     Points

Hikers Weight  in Pounds Over/under Optimum Weight

     -10            -5               0                 +5               +10           +20    Pounds
       -2            -1               0                 +1               +2             +3      Points

A hiker who is 30 years old in good condition carrying a 40 pound pack and is 10 pounds over weight would have an "X" Factor of +2. This means this hiker would have to exert twice the effort to complete a 25 mile hike in one day.

My Experience Before I Developed the "X" Factor evaluation

I have a friend I asked to go on a hike with me. He assured me that he was in good enough condition to hike and that he had just retired from the military and was used to taking 10 mile hikes with a full pack.  I planned a 3 day 2 night 30 mile hike. He was 55 years old in fair physical condition about 10 pounds over weight and carried a 50 pound pack. We hiked 9 miles the first day and he was too tired to finish the second days hike. The hike was too strenuous for him to complete.

If I had evaluated him using the "X" Factor method I would not had asked him to go on the hike. His fair physical condition scored him a +1, 55 years old scored a +1, 50 pound pack a +2 and being over weight by 10 pounds a +2. His overall score was a +6. That meant he would have to exert an effort of 5 times greater than an average hiker. In order for him to exert the same effort as an average hiker he would have to lose 10 pounds of body weight, drop 30 pounds pack weight and get in good shape before taking another hike. He never hiked again!

For an older person the weight of the pack is one of the most critical factors that a hiker can change. You can without too much effort reduce your base pack weight by at least 30 pounds and you will use less effort to complete a distance hike. That is why it is so important to go ultra light.

The above evaluation was used by me to help determine the amount of effort my friends would have to expend while hiking with me on a backpacking trip. It is not meant to be used by anyone else but only as information on how I evaluated hiker friends.

Psalm 61:2 - From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.