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Pack weight?
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Kurt Suttell
(krshome) - F
Pack weight? on 04/27/2011 12:17:05 MDT Print View

Ok my buddies keep asking about my pack weight. What does my pack weight include? I include everything food, water, fuel, hiking poles and toiletries. For three days I usually hit just a hair above 20 #'s. Heres the question, am I a light hiker or an ultralight hiker? Do you include clothing you have on at start? Do you include hiking poles if their not in you pack? I do! Where is the rule book? I think it's funny how my buddies are obsessed with their pack weight by grams. I just like getting out of the house but a light pack doesn't hurt.

Edited by krshome on 04/27/2011 12:17:58 MDT.

Jake Palmer
(jakep_82) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Pack weight? on 04/27/2011 13:36:18 MDT Print View

Most people here refer to base pack weight. That's everything inside your pack except consumables (food, water and fuel). You'll also see skin out weight which includes absolutely everything. I think different people have varying opinions on what constitutes LW versus UL.

Mike Dombrowski
(Bivy_Hunter) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Guidelines on 04/27/2011 19:18:01 MDT Print View

I too would be interested in hearing how various pack weights are rated...

Eric Palumbo
(palumbo) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Guidelines on 04/27/2011 20:11:33 MDT Print View

Doesn't matter

Do what works for you.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Pack weight? on 04/27/2011 23:33:17 MDT Print View

It's also good to know what your total pack weight is... as a percentage of your body weight. That will help you judge how fast you will be able to travel.

As an example, a few people can carry 12% of their body weight and go very fast. Get them carrying 25%, and they will slow down a lot. If you are in very good condition, you can carry upwards of 35% and still maintain a steady pace. 45% will almost bring you to your knees.


Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 00:09:38 MDT Print View

Pack weight can be a userful measurement and/or proxy for how comfortable a load is to carry, how efficient your gear selection, what "category" of hiker you are (Tradition, LW, UL, SUL), and possibly several other things. Several years ago, you heard a lot about minimizing pack weight on the BPL forums. It seems we have all matured some since, and now it's more about simplicity and enjoying the experience - both of which many folks here would argue is enhanced by a light load.

In any event, measure or compare what works for you. But here's some loosely defined terminology and references...

I track my 'base weight' which includes that will be in my pack for a majority of the trip, excluding those items that are to be consumed along the way. So for example, raingear is in my base weight, but my hat and trekking poles are not. My sleeping bag is in my base weight, but my pocket knife is not. Base weight is useful as a reference for comparing across different trips and seasons. This is also probably the most commonly referenced 'pack weight' around here. I think you'll find UL defined here as a base weight under 10 lbs, but it really shouldn't matter to anyone other than to you as a frame of reference. My own base weights range from 8 to 15 lbs depending on location and season.

I also calculate my 'consumables' weight, which is food, water, sunscreen, TP, etc. For me the only big variable there is trip duration, so this is primarily a calculation to get to total pack weight. Far more useful is to look at consumables in terms of optimization - maximizing calories/ounce in my food to minimize weight, for example.

My total pack weight is everything in or on my pack. It does NOT include those items I wear or carry a majority of the trip. So still no trekking poles! Total pack weight is the true measure of pack comfort, but it varies continuously along the route as food is consumed and water is drank or refilled, so most people hate to quote an exact number. I personally prefer to keep this number below 25 to 30 lbs at all times, and to average more like 20 lbs or less.

People also measure 'skin-out' weight, which is said to include everything you weren't born with. Frankly, I couldn't care less. I mean, really, who cares what my socks weigh (64.7 grams by the way)!?!

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 07:13:09 MDT Print View

Pack weight? Well, that is what I carry in the pack, just before I put it on at the trail head. This is NOT base weight, FSO weight, or any text book definitions. No tricks, no fooling around with full pockets, etc. I consider this to be the most honest weight since it IS what I will be carrying.

I bring a bike scale and simply hook the pack up befory slinging it on my back. It includes water, food, fuel, etc for the whole trip. It does not include my treking pole, worn cloths, car key, pocket knife, lighter, a nut bar, glasses, map or compass. These are in my pockets or on a string around my neck.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 07:36:25 MDT Print View

if you have pockets, what you carry in them should be added to pack weight (my personal opinion) since it is stuff you will be carrying, and it "could" be in your pack. So include that pocket knife, nut bar, lighter, glasses, map, compass, car key, etc in your pack weight.

whether or not you include trekking poles as pack weight depends on if you strap them to your pack or not. Here is the formula :

percent of trip time poles are strapped to pack (divided by) total trip time (times) pole weight = amount of pole weight you must include as pack weight

( my socks weigh 48 grams ... not part of pack weight )

Edited by asandh on 04/28/2011 07:38:48 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 07:58:22 MDT Print View

My version of backpacking weights.

(1)Worn Base Weight- What you wear or carry
(2)Packed Base Weight- Pack plus contents minus food, fuel, water
(3)Consumables Weight- Food, fuel, water
Total Base Weight (1+2)
Total Pack Weight (2+3)
Skin Out Weight (1+2+3)

Gregory Petliski
(gregpphoto) - F
Re: Re: Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 09:38:00 MDT Print View

Maybe not socks by themselves, but when you add up your socks, boots, pants, shirt, hat, and underwear, you got a few pounds for sure. And while it may not be on your back, per se, it is on your body, and your muscles still have to carry it. Consider: If you were to save just 1 pound by going from boots to runners, you're saving your leg muscles about 2,000 lbs of effort EVERY MILE you hike! (assuming you take ~ 2,000 steps per mile or 2.64 feet per step). Go for 20 miles a day, and the difference does become significant.

Richard Hanson
(RHanson) - F
Re: Re: Guidelines on 04/28/2011 10:50:30 MDT Print View

+1 Eric

It is very easy to minimize pack weight.... just take an empty plastic shopping bag. You are now a super-nano-ultra-light elite (SNULE) backpacker with a sub ounce base weight. Congratulation!

My goal is not to have the lightest pack, easily accomplished, but to maximize my enjoyment of the limited time I get to spend traveling in the outdoors. Equipment selection significantly impacts my enjoyment and gets a lot of attention and weight is certainly a very important characteristic of any item I am evaluating, but whether or not my pack is lighter or heavier than the packs of my friends is not a factor I consider (anymore).

If you love to read a good book while sitting next to a remote alpine lake, if this is what you enjoy doing in the outdoors, then take a great book or an entire library in the form of a Kindle and indulge yourself.

I love thinking about gear, it is a border-line obsession, and I derive much entertainment just from the carefully considering my next purchase. That is part of why I read this forum. As pack weight is so easily quantifiable it is not at all surprising that people compare pack weights, but I think this is something of a trap. What are the best gear choices? When the desired outcome in selecting equipment is maximizing enjoyment, than the answer to this question is highly subjective as enjoyment is qualitative and not quantitative.

The best equipment choices begin with honest introspection. It's your gear, your enjoyment, and your choices.

Edited by RHanson on 04/28/2011 10:53:39 MDT.

Eric Palumbo
(palumbo) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
SNULE on 04/28/2011 12:26:30 MDT Print View

"super-nano-ultra-light elite (SNULE) backpacker" HA!

Seriously though, when you're out in the woods if you're thinking "boy, if I could only shave a few more ounces I'd be having so much more fun" then maybe you should examine why you're there in the first place. Mindfulness in the backcountry can be a beautiful thing.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Pack weight? on 04/28/2011 14:04:59 MDT Print View

"Who cares what my socks weigh?"

I don't, but your feet do, because they have to carry the weight of everything you wear or carry that isn't in your pack! That's why "skin-out" weight is important, and why you don't want to "cheat" by omitting the stuff in your pockets.

I list my "clothing worn" right next to my "clothing carried" so I can make sure there are no duplications or omissions. Besides, having every item taken on my list (which I print out to use as a checklist) means that I won't drive 50 miles to the trailhead only to discover I've forgotten my trekking poles....

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/28/2011 14:06:05 MDT.