Pacing (surveying)

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Pacing is a reasonably easy and quick method of measuring distance in the field.[1] it is used to measure a distance and is often used with a sighting or a hand compass. Most commonly, pacing is split up into segments, such as chains, which are set measures of distance. By determining one's own pace, distance can easily be estimated.


To estimate one's own pace, a measure of known distance, such as 66 ft (one chain) or 132 ft (two chains), should be marked in a straight line on level ground. One pace is defined as two footsteps. The distance is paced several times and the number of paces that it takes to walk the distance each time is recorded.

If the distance paced is longer than one chain, the number of paces is divided by the number of chains paced. To determine the average distance of one pace, the total distance walked is divided by the number of paces that it takes to pace that distance. This pacing chart has paces per chain and feet per pace.[2]

Pacing can also be applied to the more commonly used metric system by simply walking 100 m and marking down the number of paces required. Doing that several times and using the average will give a good idea of how many paces are made every 100 m. In the field, paces are counted until the target number for 100 m, which is then repeated.

It is commonly done with pacing beads, with every 100 m being counted with a bead. As noted above, terrain alters pacing and requires practice to master.


Common uses of pacing consist of measuring tree height or measuring the distance between plots. Pacing saves time but is not as accurate as using a tape measure and can be affected by terrain such as steep slopes, rocky areas, streams, and thick brush. A common practice in pacing when an obstacle is encountered is to offset or pace around the obstacle.

However, sometimes pacing around an obstacle is not always an option. Good pacing can only be accomplished by practice. Knowing the distance of one's pace will help to ensure accuracy and precision of pacing distances.

Other uses[edit]

Pacing can also be used with a map. In the field, pacing can be used to accomplish the correct distances referred by a map. Traversing a property line or boundary where distance and length are important produces opportunities for pacing to be applied to record accurate data.

See also[edit]