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How to Determine the Perfect Pack Weight for Your Hike

The question of how much your backpack should weigh is common among both new and experienced hikers. Determining pack weight involves many factors, making it difficult to give a one-size-fits-all answer. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you manage your pack weight effectively.

Pack Weight for Backpacking and Hiking

When deciding on your pack weight, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Backpacking Pack: A loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to keep your pack under 30 pounds.
  • Day Hiking Pack: A loaded day hiking pack should not weigh more than about 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should be 15 pounds or less.

These percentages serve as useful benchmarks but may not apply perfectly to every situation. Smaller hikers, for instance, may find it challenging to stay within these limits. Besides body weight, other factors also play a significant role in determining your pack weight:

  • Trip Duration: Longer trips require more food, water, and fuel, which increases pack weight. To keep your pack close to 20% of your body weight on multi-day adventures, be mindful of the gear and clothing you bring.
  • Season/Weather: Cold weather necessitates heavier clothing and gear compared to warmer conditions.
  • Personal Preference: Some hikers prioritize comfort at camp and carry extra items like a hammock, additional clothes, and a thicker sleeping pad. Others prefer to go minimal, wearing the same clothes for days and using lightweight gear.

The Complete Backpacking Packing List - STINGY NOMADS

How to Reduce Pack Weight

Reducing pack weight can help you travel faster, farther, and more comfortably. However, it’s essential not to compromise your well-being by leaving out critical items like a first-aid kit and other essentials. Here are some tips for reducing your pack weight:

  • Know Your Base Weight: Base weight is the weight of your packed gear minus consumables like food, water, and fuel. Knowing your base weight gives you a consistent number to work on reducing. Ultralight backpackers aim for a base weight under 10 pounds, while lightweight backpackers target under 20 pounds. Most traditional backpackers keep their base weight under 30 pounds.
  • Weigh Your Gear: Use a scale to weigh all your gear, including clothing and equipment. Recording weights in a spreadsheet can help you compare items and plan for your next trip. This method allows you to make informed decisions about what to bring.
  • Replace Old Gear: Investing in newer, lighter gear can significantly reduce your pack weight. Focus first on the big four items: your pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. Aim for a pack and tent that each weigh around three pounds or less. The same goes for the combined weight of your sleeping bag and pad.
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Items: After each trip, lay out everything you carried and sort them into piles based on how frequently you used them. Consider leaving behind items you didn’t use or used only occasionally. However, always carry essential items like a first-aid kit.
  • Meal Planning: Plan your meals ahead of time to avoid packing too much food. Aim for 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food per person per day, depending on your size, weight, and activity level. A bit of planning can prevent you from overloading your pack with unnecessary snacks.
  • Repackage Items: Use small reusable bottles for items like toothpaste and sunscreen. Remove unnecessary packaging from food and other items to save weight.
  • Use a Gear List: A packing list helps you avoid adding unnecessary items to your pack. Customize a standard backpacking checklist to suit your needs, focusing on multi-use items and leaving behind single-use items like pillows (use a rolled-up jacket instead).
  • Share the Weight: If you’re hiking with a group, distribute shared items like the tent, stove, and water filter among everyone to even out the load.

Packing Your Gear

Packing your gear correctly is just as important as choosing the right items. Use a backpack large enough to fit all your gear inside rather than strapping items to the outside, which can make the load unstable. For specific tips on how to load your pack for balance and security, consult a detailed packing guide.

By following these tips and guidelines, you can manage your pack weight effectively, making your hiking and backpacking adventures more enjoyable and less strenuous.