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Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried.
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Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 20:03:02 MDT Print View

I've often heard people say things like "a pound on the foot is worth 5 pounds on the back" and "I'd rather lose a few pounds than give up (insert luxury item here)". How big a difference does body weight make? I've lost 21 pounds so far this year and about 10 pounds from my pack (thanks to everyone here). I think the lower pack weight is a WAY bigger difference than the lost body weight. I'm starting to think it's the inverse of the pound on the foot. Maybe it's "5 pounds in the gut is worth 1 in the pack". While I'm a lot stronger,and surely healthier, I'm actually a little disappointed that it hasn't made a bigger difference. Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 20:28:07 MDT Print View

"I've often heard people say things like "a pound on the foot is worth 5 pounds on the back" and "I'd rather lose a few pounds than give up (insert luxury item here)". How big a difference does body weight make?"

It's been pretty well established that a pound on your foot equals 5-7 pounds on your back, depending on which literature you read. IIRC, army studies say 7 pounds, for instance.

As for body weight, the biggest difference is probably in the amount of stress you put on your joints, secondarily in the amount of calories your burn to move the extra weight. However, there is another way to look at excess weight: as stored fuel. Body fat contains 3500 calories/pound and, in the presence of adequate carbohydrate, either stored as muscle glycogen or from dietary sources, can be substituted for food caried in your pack, up to a point. It was a critical part of the food equation on the Arctic1000 trip, and many trekkers hiking long distances unsupported factor it into their planning. There have been a number of threads devoted to the subject here on BPL, which might be worth reading to expand your perspective on body weight/fat.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
IT depends on 10/28/2010 20:32:39 MDT Print View

It depends on how much you are pushing yourself and really exerting. If your just walking along humming your not gonna realize the difference VS pounding along as fast as you can. its true that 1lb on the foot is like 5-6lbs in the pack. AS far as pack vs body weight, a pack is going to be heavier because your strapping something foreign to your form. Your body becomes used to carrying whatever weight your carrying if its natural weight.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 10/28/2010 20:35:46 MDT.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 20:42:43 MDT Print View

It depends on how you're judging performance. We can quantify to some degree based off numbers for mass, speed of travel, type of terrain, nutritional intake, caloric expenditure, temperature, distance covered and any other number of factors you can find a number for and make a hugely complex or simple model to measure the performance gain. I like numbers, but they only get you so far.

Humans are not designed to be fast, which is the normal criteria most people think of when it comes to hiking. We are designed for endurance. If you want to be faster, you need to train your body similar to any other athlete, and walking inherently tops out around 4-5mph before you have to switch to running/jogging gait. Andrew Skurka can do 40+ miles a day, but he also is an ultra-marathoner with the associated training. AND he hikes up to 16 hours a day (16hr X 3mph = 48miles).

Really it comes down to how you feel. When you did a 16 mile overnighter before losing the various "weight" how did you feel at the end physically? Were you tired or exhausted? Sore muscles? How long did you have to spend hiking to do such a trip?

Now look at the same trip post weight loss, I'm positive (barring injury) that you feel better, more refreshed than before. So your energy levels are higher now, not because you have more inherently (with a gut, you technically have a larger store of energy to draw from than without) but because you use up a lot less. You're mind is also probably more alert and less exhausted from having to force yourself to plod along.

I guess really what I'm saying is that there are a multitude of factors, what do you want to see as an "improvement"?

EDIT: The posts above me better convey what I was trying to say in mine. One thing I would add is that going Lightweight or UL is more of a philosophy. It slipstreams your ability to get outside. For the physical benefits, they only truly shine when you start covering long distances, whether it be over a day or over a few months.

Edited by upalachango on 10/28/2010 20:46:42 MDT.

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 21:24:28 MDT Print View

I can tell you my experience from two trips I took this year...

The first in April, PCT section A, was about 112 miles. I trained quite a bit for this hike for about two months prior and felt great. Daily mileages were from 16 - 25, and it was easier than I had expected.

My second trip in August was from Mt Hood (Oregon) to Columbia River Gorge. I planned the trip kind of last minute, and I didn't really train for it. I was about 10lbs heavier than the April trip, and hiked only about 14-17 miles per day.

While the second trip was somewhat easier with lower daily mileage, I was still surprised that I didn't regret not training for it. If I had pushed myself, I'm sure it would have been a different story.

I'm planning a JMT thru hike next summer, averaging about 20 miles per day for 11 days. I will definitely train for it. My experience has been that pack weight makes a much bigger difference than body weight, but it all counts. The better condition I'm in, the more fun I have!

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Good points on 10/28/2010 21:28:18 MDT Print View

Those are all very good points. I don't hike really cover long distances. 12-14 miles is probably average. And the usual elevation changes in the mountains. I definitely feel a lot stronger hiking but I was attributing that to just hiking a lot more. (I haven't dieted at all just hiked more.) I guess the reason I'm disappointed is that I don't seem much stronger when going up steep trails. I'm feel better when I'm done at the end of the day. But I'm still really slow when the going gets steep. I thought with a lighter pack and less body weight that I'd fly up them. And maybe I will some day but I thought 30 lbs lighter in total would have a greater effect.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 21:50:56 MDT Print View

There are a lot of variables. I've lost 10 pounds in the last couple months via diet AND exercise. I definitely notice the difference on the trail. Weight is one variable, aerobic efficiency is another, along with muscle conditioning, better electrolyte balance, vitamin levels, sugar and triglyceride levels, fats, etc, etc, etc.

I think there are some perceptual factors at work too-- just the way the straps dig in with a heavier load, more sway and stress on muscles and ligaments as you maneuver with a heavier and bulkier load, and so on.

I vote for getting the weight off me AND the pack.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 22:34:20 MDT Print View

Don't forget that a backpack sits further away from your body that your love handles, so there is considerably more torque. Each time you take a step or twist while hiking, you experience more stress on your body because of that.

I'm not sure if there is a similar rule of thumb concerning weight on your back vs on your butt (like the 1:5 lbs for your foot), however I doubt it's 1:1.

Edited by TomClark on 10/28/2010 22:36:58 MDT.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/28/2010 23:08:48 MDT Print View

Ah, it's going uphill...well that's the problem. Uphill is uphill and will always torch your quads unless you train them. Weekend hiking doesn't build them up as much. Remember with training, you want to put more stress on your body than you will when performing (aka an actual hike). Your body adapts to the higher stress level and that makes lower stresses easier for you. Unless you're hiking everyday with a pack, hiking alone won't build up the quads to the level you want.

Any of the obvious cardiovascular workouts that focus on leg power (running and biking) will help with the uphills. Make your quads stronger, give them more blood, and make them burn less.

Technique may also come into play. Using the rest step so that your skeleton is taking your body weight for some time instead of your muscles supporting you 100% makes a big difference. It's a mountaineering technique, but basically boils down to locking your rear leg, however briefly, to give your quads and hams a micro rest as you step.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/29/2010 00:15:10 MDT Print View

There are really too many variables to make a general statement. However, if a person is overweight, then they are already behind the proverbial 8 ball before they start the hike. Another huge consideration is terrain and elevation gains. For epic hikes like the PCT many other factors should be plugged into the equation.

So to generalize... if your BMI is under 22 an you got there by some sort of regular exercise and reasonable nutrition, your skeletal structure is better suited for hiking and carrying, and your FSO weight is starting from "zero."

A few months ago I did a hike with Craig Wisner. It was 2 1/2 days, ~ 60 miles, and elevation gain/loss of ~20,000 feet. Craig is in ultra marathon shape. I am in average shape for my age, and my BMI is under 22. Also I am almost twice as old as he is (I will be 60 in two weeks). IMO, the only reason I could do this hike, which is very strenuous, is because I am not over weight. This is not to say if someone is a little overweight they cannot do it, but more conditioning of muscles would be needed.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
big bellies on 10/29/2010 00:39:34 MDT Print View

no offence to krispy kreme lovers

but i really dont see the point in trying to count every gram of you pack weight before counting every calorie you eat if yr overweight

sure you want to travel as light as possible and shed unnecessary weight, but you should be training to slim down yr belly even more

not only will you get in better shape and carry less pounds, if you do it through a series of elevation intensive day hikes in all kinds of weather, youll learn more efficient movement

look at it as an opportunity to test yr gear

i think the reason why so many UL backpackers (note that i didnt say BPLers) are focused on gear is because you can sit around and make gear lists on yr iPad sipping a skim milk latte

and buy lighter gear on the couch ... you cant buy lighter bellies ... lol

dont worry about gear ... just go out and do it ... it costs nothing to lose weight except for the effort

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Body weight vs. carry weight on 10/29/2010 12:08:45 MDT Print View

I've thought about this one a lot. Over about a year, I lost 100 pounds, from 245 to 145. I started walking to lose weight, and kept walking because walking became more of a joy with every pound I lost.

At the peak of my weight-lost efforts, I was walking 12 miles a day, every day -- and hating it. The 35-pounds of gear I was carrying was nothing compared to the agony of carrying around 245 pounds.

Now I carry a 5.5 pound base weight, and i walk for pleasure, not for weight loss. I'm not sure that I could even carry 35 pounds anymore.


Edited by nerdboy52 on 10/29/2010 12:10:14 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
differing approaches on 10/29/2010 12:18:00 MDT Print View

There certainly are different approaches to this; I've become a bit more relaxed about it, such that I'm approaching my third thru-hike next year with the attitude that I'll probably gain 15 pounds or so from what I finished the AT at this year, and that's fine (I've probably gained a lot of it already). So long as I'm reasonably strong to start with, a little body-stored food and body insulative fat aren't a bad thing (starting in Montana in June).

Certainly trying to keep my weight at thru-hiker level in "normal life" would be (for me at least) very difficult. The real issue is just establishing a good diet and exercise plan to keep me *reasonably* fit once I stop taking long walks. It's the day-to-day steady state stuff that's tough. Friends that I have that aren't able to do long trips but keep themselves lean and fit --- they're the ones that I admire. Anyone can get at least temporarily thin if they walk all day for months (!).

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Here
Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried on 10/29/2010 16:39:51 MDT Print View

With shoes apart from comfort I see very little difference in effort between lifting a a one pound shoe and another.

With pack (to me ) it is an entirely different ball game.

Try strapping on a 35lbs sack of potatoes and the same weight in a correctly set up framed pack...

(BTW, to me most frameless packs at 30lbs plus do look like a sack of potatoes...)

I would love to know how much energy folk use in balancing those swaying bits dangling from their packs or loads positioned well away from the center of gravity...


George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Weight carried vs, uh, weight carried. on 10/29/2010 17:49:26 MDT Print View

Congrats Randy on your lifestyle change!

A few tips for you from someone who transformed from a +225 pounder to a 175 pounder...

Now that you've dropped the big bulk, forget about spending to much time studying your scale. Pay more attention to your waist size. If your waist stays the same or you go to the next tighter belt hole AND you gain a few pounds - that's muscle.

Also, when you can't hike on a weekend: set up a pack weighted with 20 lbs or something more of less and hike a couple of hours going up and down steps or hills (assuming you don't already live on a mountain).

If you are healthy and your doctor gives you the green light then PUSH yourself. Early on I used to kinda of dread ascents, but now I crave having to go for it.

Keep in mind one of my favorite quotes...

It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy.
Mother Teresa


Did I read above... Two weeks and Nick is 60. Happy Birthday to Nick! I'm 57 in the Spring, but I'd bet Nick could run circles around most of us.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: differing approaches on 10/29/2010 17:51:18 MDT Print View


Third thru-hike! Wow. Good luck on your upcoming trek.

I've not done #1 yet. But sooner or later : )

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Body weight vs. carry weight on 10/29/2010 17:58:32 MDT Print View


100 pounds. I agree with you about walking.

Really nice to drop excess body weight AND carry a low base weight.

A good reason for living IMO!

Mark Hudson
(vesteroid) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Sierras
weight loss on 10/29/2010 22:00:10 MDT Print View

when I started the summer I had a difficult time going 2 miles with 700 feet of elevation gain. I did it, but I huffed and puffed the whole way.

I have lost 30 some odd pounds and hike 20 mile days with my largest single day elevation gain of almost 5K feet.

I still slow up, going up steeps. I still get winded and have to slow down.

I did a 10 mile day hike today to test my new pack. I loaded it up to 20 lbs and went a climbed a 2700 foot hill over 5 miles. Not a terrible climb, but steep in places. I averaged 2.7 for the out and back with only 2.4 going up. As compared to last week, where I did 14 miles with a lesser weight and about the same climb at an average of 3.3

Long story short, you are probably better than you think you are. My suggestion (and what I have been doing lately) is to work on interval training. I go run (if you can call it that) during the week. I run flat out till I am about to die, then walk for 3 minutes or so. Rinse repeat. Of course over the miles my runs get shorter and my walks get longer, but I keep on trying to do those intervals till I am flat pooped. I usually get around 3.5 miles in doing this before I get too tired.

I think this is starting to make a big difference.

According to BMI I still have a ways to go, but I think I am going to look like a walking stick if I ever get to a "healthy" bmi.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: weight loss on 10/30/2010 05:15:15 MDT Print View

Good work Mark!

>> According to BMI I still have a ways to go, but I think I am going to look like a walking stick if I ever get to a "healthy" bmi.

I know the feeling : )

A few years ago I deluded myself that I had too much "muscle mass" to ever hit my BMI. LOL. Found out it was really blubber mass.

Agree with you about training. It keeps you burning it off and makes you stronger. Best part of it is you feel so much better after a good work out compared to early efforts that were more like torture.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Winded on 10/30/2010 09:09:09 MDT Print View

Thanks for the kudos, support, and suggestions.

>I still slow up, going up steeps. I still get winded and have to slow down.

You nailed it. It's more lungs than legs. I've improved a lot on moderate climbs. I charge up stuff that I used to plod up. But when the going gets pretty steep, I feel like I've made no improvement at all. Some of it is altitude, of course, but I live at 8600' so I should have a bit of advantage there. Maybe my expectations aren't realistic. One thing that was mentioned earlier that I don't do unless I'm on a real hike instead of daily walking, and that's carry a pack. I battle back issues so I thought I'd skip carrying a pack. I'll have to add that in. Since I normally only find time for 60-90 minutes a day of walking, it will help to add difficulty since I can't add time.

Nick said "It was 2 1/2 days, ~ 60 miles, and elevation gain/loss of ~20,000 feet. Craig is in ultra marathon shape. I am in average shape for my age ... (I will be 60 in two weeks)"

You're definitely above average in the humility department. That's a tough hike by probably 99% of backpackers standards. I can't wait to be in average shape for a 60 year old!