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Dallas Sierra Club Backpack Ratings

How we rate our hikes.

All Dallas Sierra Club backpack trips are given a difficulty rating.  This rating system has been developed to help give you an idea of the difficulty of a trip compared to other hikes that you may have done.  If you went on a "moderate" trip and had no trouble you can probably do a "moderately strenuous" trip and enjoy it.  If you felt like you were going to die on the moderate trip, then you probably need to put in a little more time working out before you try a "strenuous" trip.  Reducing pack weight and your weight will help too.

Keep in mind that no rating system can perfectly describe in one word what a particular backpack trip will seem like to you.  This is just our attempt to give you an idea how a given trip will seem compared to other trips.

Do not get overly concerned about the names given to the different ratings.  They’re just names and not intended to scare you or impress your buddy.  A “moderate” trip may seem anything but moderate to you.  To someone else a “strenuous” trip may not seem all that strenuous.  But you can be pretty sure that the “strenuous” trip will work you out more than the moderate trip will.  Keep this in mind if you are signing up for your first trip since you will not have anything to compare with.  Sign up for something easy or moderate.

Note how altitude affects ratings.  This reflects our real world experience with how people who have had little time to acclimate will perceive a hike.

The three main numbers considered in rating a trip are the miles hiked per day, the "total climb", and the average altitude of the trip.  Note that "total climb" is not the same as elevation change.  If you have a 1,000 foot climb followed by a 1,000 foot downhill your total climb would be 1,000 feet even though you ended up at the same altitude as the trailhead.  These numbers are determined for each day of a hike and the rating is determined for each day.  The hike overall gets the rating of its hardest day.

There are many other things a leader will consider before a final rating is assigned to the trip.  Here are some things that can make a leader give a trip a harder rating than the numbers alone would indicate:

Rough or no trail.
A long downhill.
A “Dry” trip where you must carry all your water.
A winter trip where you are carrying extra clothing and fuel.
Trips longer than 3 days.

These are the rating categories used in outings lists and trip handouts of the Dallas Group:


Classification Mileage for one day Total Climb (Feet) for the same day Average Altitude (Feet)
Easy 0 to 5 0 to 500 0 to 4,000
Moderate 5 to 7 500 to 1,000 0 to 4,000
0 to 5 500 to 1,000 4,000 to 8,000
Moderately Strenuous 7 to 9 500 to 1,500 0 to 4,000
5 to 7 500 to 1,500 4,000 to 8,000
0 to 6 500 to 1,500 8,000 to 12,000
Strenuous 9 to 11 1,000 to 2,000 0 to 4,000
7 to 10 1,000 to 2,000 4,000 to 8,000
5 to 9 1,000 to 2,000 8,000 to 12,000
Very Strenuous over 11 over 2,000 0 to 4,000
over 10 over 2,000 4,000 to 8,000
over 9 over 2,000 8,000 to 12,000




















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