Benefits of using a hiking trailer

There are many benefits of using hiking trailer: it can help you to walk faster and easier. A hiking trailer can help you to do this because it takes the weight of the backpack off your body. However, hiking trailers can also make it harder to travel as explained in a separate article on this website. The Trekker’s Friend has been designed to provide the benefits of other hiking trailers, while addressing their shortcomings.

Studies done by the US Army and myself describe the benefits of using a hiking trailer in detail. My own experience with the Trekker’s Friend confirms the findings of these studies, as does other anecdotal evidence, found here. I have summarised findings from all of this below.

Using a hiking trailer can allow you to walk faster

Both studies found that you walk faster if your load is on a walking trailer rather than on your back. My research tested the effects of loads of 10 kg to 25 kg over a 7 km circuit. My testing showed that I walk 5% to 11% faster using a hiking trailer. The benefits increased with the weight of the load.

The US Army study typically dealt with heavier loads. It reported (p27) a 54% improvement in speed over a 3.2 km circuit. Unfortunately it didn’t provide any more details.

A hiking trailer can allow you to use less energy per km walked, even while walking faster

Both studies found that it takes less energy to walk if your load is on a walking trailer rather than on your back.

My testing found that I consumed between 3.7% and 13.7% less energy per km using a hiking trailer. The benefit of the hiking trailer increased with the weight of the load. This reduction in energy consumption per km occurs at the same time as the increases in walking speed described above.

The US Army study reported an 88% reduction in energy use when moving a 50 kg weight as opposed to carrying it (p27). Unfortunately it didn’t provide any more details.

An article on walking the Camino reported that “There’s 88% less energy expenditure when walking with a trailer. “

A hiking trailer can let you to walk more comfortably and have less injuries

When I take off a heavy backpack after carrying it for a while I have no doubts that I am more comfortable than I was when wearing it. I have done a lot of walking, and tried a lot of backpacks, and have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a comfortable backpack if it weighs more than about 10 kilos and you’ve carried it for half an hour or so.

The only real solution is to get the weight off your body. To do that, you can make your backpack as light as possible, but this can only go so far. To really take the weight off your body you need to either take your backpack off and stop walking, or put it on wheels.

But it is not just a matter of comfort, carrying heavy loads while walking distances can injure you as well. The US Army studied the effects found that this increases the incidence of the following conditions:

  • Foot blisters
  • Metatarsalgia (pain and swelling on the sole of the foot)
  • Stress fractures
  • Knee pain
  • Low-back pain
  • Rucksack palsy (upper extremity numbness, paralysis, cramping).

These are common complaints by those doing long distance walks with backpacks, as raised in a discussion forum on walking the Camino.

Hiking trailers are cooler

As you only wear a harness on your body with a hiking trailer your body stays significantly cooler and less sweaty than when you carry your backpack.

Hiking trailers do not help in all terrain

While there are many benefits of using a hiking trailer, is important always to bear in mind though that hiking trailers do not help you in all terrain. For example, you would not want to cross a deep river, or walk through thick undergrowth, or across a marsh, with your pack on a hiking trailer. On terrain that is possible to traverse using a hiking trailer, a hiking trailer may not make it easier – it may be easier to carry your pack. Therefore, the discussion on this page only applies when the hiking trailer is used in terrain that it can assist with.

Hiking trailers can help greatly in the right type of terrain. They can also be a hindrance in many types of terrain. Therefore, you need one, like the Trekker’s Friend, that can easily be carried when necessary.