Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Educate me about base weight.


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Mark Stalbird
(Off-road) - F
Educate me about base weight. on 11/23/2009 18:11:54 MST Print View

I've been recently attempting to reduce pack weight as I'm knocking on the door of 50 yrs young.

I've been diligently upgrading all my gear including footwear and have decreased my base weight significantly which leads to my question.

What is base weight?
Everything except food and water?

I actually use a tent and a hammock "not at the same time".
My base weight assuming i'm correct is 19lbs for the tent set-up and 15.4 with hammock set-up.

Are these figures high for a long distant backpacker considering i'm still clutching to my 5lb pack.

James Patsalides
(james@patsalides.com) - MLife

Locale: New England
Re: Educate me about base weight on 11/23/2009 19:30:57 MST Print View

Base weight = gear weight (not including consumables, food, water, fuel).
Skin out weight = base weight + weight of clothes/gear carried.

My (personal) formula is total = (base + 1.5lbs food/fuel per day + 2lbs for water). My base weight is a little under 8lbs for 3-season (still working on my winter setup). So, for a 5 day trip, I'd estimate 8+2+(5x1.5) = 17.5lbs fully loaded. Personally, I think below 10lbs is a good starting-out target, you should start by creating a gear list, then replace your big four (pack, shelter, sleep system, cook system), then methodically eliminate other stuff you don't need. There's a bunch of example lists on the site... here's my current list, fwiw.

Based on your post, I'd say you should probably start by getting a lightweight pack - aim for less that 20 oz... again, tons of options here on the site. A great starter would be a golite jam or something around that size/weight.

Why don't you start by:
1) make a list of your gear (most important first step)
2) weigh everything and update your gear list (I use a kitchen scale)
3) post it here for comments & feedback (be prepared for a TON of feedback)

Good luck!!!

Cheers, James.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Educate me about base weight on 11/23/2009 19:43:16 MST Print View

Base weight is generally defined as everything except fuel, food and water. In other words, the stuff you take on every trip regardless of length. Fuel, food and water are the items that vary the most with the length of the trip. Then there is "total pack weight" (pack plus everything in it) and "skin-out weight" (total pack weight plus everything you wear). Some lists on this site have other variations such as "skin-out base weight."

Definitions can get a bit hazy when people omit the weight of stuff in their pockets or omit the camera from their SUL lists even though they include photos of their trip.

As an accountant, I prefer to use the terms "fixed weight" and "variable weight." Makes more sense to me, although probably not to non-accountants.

There are lots of gear lists on this site and others, and you can learn a lot by studying them and comparing the weights of their individual items with your own. Once you've done that, you can publish your own gear list here and let everyone have a crack at it.

I suspect that once you get your other weights down you'll want to ditch that 5-lb. pack. There are plenty of very supportive packs around that weigh less than 3 lbs. and will carry 35-40 lbs. with ease. You shouldn't ever have to carry that much unless you're desert hiking where you need to carry gallons of water.

Mark Stalbird
(Off-road) - F
Hmmm on 11/23/2009 19:49:24 MST Print View

Thanks James,

Yes...with a 5lb pack and a 4lb tent I'm starting in a hole for sure.I did use a digital scale.

Wow...this is going to get expensive but to late to stop now.

Mark Stalbird
(Off-road) - F
I'm thinking on 11/23/2009 19:54:20 MST Print View

Thankyou mary,

I will post my gear list with weight,most of which i recently purchased.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Going to be Expensive on 11/24/2009 01:37:14 MST Print View

Mark,

Welcome to the world of lightweight gear obsession!

Yes, it can get expensive, but it does not have to be if you carefully think about what you "really" need.

The more that I have ventured into lightweight backpacking, the more I am realizing how much I don't need to carry and therefore don't need to spend money on.

I think that what gets expensive is going to something lighter, then getting comfortable with that new bit of gear and then gaining the confidence to go lighter while remaining safe.

I have gone through 3 packs so far and might be moving to another one that is not necessarily lighter, but "better" for me. (In my case, from a GoLite Jam2 to a GG Gorilla).

My advice, spend a lot of money on your sleeping bag...get as warm and light as you can because it is one bit of gear that you can have with you for many, many years.

Myself, I have a Marmot Helium EQ 15F and a Marmot 40F Atom which covers a lot of range...sometimes I regret getting the 40 F Atom vs. the slightly warmer 30 F bag they make as I am a cold sleeper.

Anyway, my point is that much of the expense can be simply from re-buying new gear to replace stuff as you get lighter and lighter....given a little bit of forethought and thinking about what your mental level of comfort is, you might be able to avoid the expensive baby steps.

For example...for me, it was a complete leap of faith to go to a MLD ponchotarp & bivy setup, having never used either before. Knowing myself and my desire to go lighter, I jumped to it realizing that it was the only way to go to get superlight.

It worked out for me in that I skipped the whole transition from tarptent to tarp/bivy to ponchotarp.

Hope that this helps and good luck to you in your gear quest.

-Tony