Six Interesting Facts about Traveling During the Medieval Era


Norwescon is a fantasy and science fiction themed conference in Seattle each year. This year George R. R. Martin was the guest of honor. Possibly for that reason, or maybe because it is always of interest to writers and history nerds alike, there were panels than revolved around medieval history. Because I write a range of fantasy that takes place during various time periods, I thought it would be useful to get some facts about travel. In my published novel, Silent Moon, and the sequel that I am currently working on titled, Shadows and Starlight, there are scenes that involve travel through the forest and I wanted to make sure I am getting my facts right.

Below are five useful and interesting facts about archaic travel.

Horses can travel about 45 miles a day at top speed. This really wears out horses so that speed is for horses you ride to death or you switch out along the way.
At a relaxed pace horses can travel about 30 miles a day, giving them breaks and riding them and then walking alongside them.
A person carrying 80 pounds of gear can travel about 20 miles a day. Stronger people can carry more, and weaker people less. The terrain and climate make a difference in speed and weight.  A person like me carrying 80 pounds can travel two steps.
The ruts in roads affected wagons and their speed in the medieval era. Each city made wagon wheels a certain size in the region which then fit their roads, but wagons from afar didn’t’ always fit and the ruts that built up over time and it could cause a bumpy ride.
When travelling, many soldiers hired a servant that they shared who might carry more items.
To find the maximum weight and distance people can travel by various animals or on foot, like horse, camel, elephant, dog sled, etc. the U.S. Army has free manuals online that list these details. One manual that was recommended was: FM3-05.213.

To learn about Battle or Fun Historical Food Facts check out the next blog post.