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Calculating Backpack Weight
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Tim & Shell
(McCargoe) - F
Calculating Backpack Weight on 06/23/2011 03:10:00 MDT Print View

How do you calculate your official pack weight? I've seen many people refer to it as their base other words the weight of everything without food and water. Is this the correct terminology for weighing your pack prior to food and water? The reason I ask this is because I am curious to know if the clothes you are wearing count towards your pack weight? When an ultralight backpacker states that he or she is carrying a 5lb pack, is that to say that he or she is not counting the clothes and boots they expect to wear into that figure?

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Calculating Backpack Weight on 06/23/2011 05:15:56 MDT Print View

Base weight equals weight carried in pack minus the consumables.

Skin out weight equals everything carried including the clothes worn.

Party On,


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Calculating Backpack Weight on 06/23/2011 13:05:50 MDT Print View

"Base weight" is primarily used for the sake of comparability. By leaving out consumables, the base weight number stays the same regardless of length of trip, whether overnight or ten days. You can, of course, cut total pack weight by taking less food (or, better, more calories per ounce of food so you can take less ounces without starving), picking a route where there is a water source every mile and no need to carry water, or reducing fuel needed by taking more cold meals. Base weight, though, is where most of us do the major trimming.

Not to be forgotten, though, is the fact that your feet and knees have to carry everything on your body, whether it's your pack or the clothing you wear. In other words, skin-out weight is, in the final analysis, your most important item. Interestingly, my two most significant weight reductions in the past few years have been in skin out weight, rather than pack weight. I switched from boots to trail runners and from aluminum trekking poles to carbon fiber. Both changes significantly increased my comfort even though they had no effect on base weight!

Also, remember that your clothing system includes what you are wearing. The clothes you wear should be analyzed as part of your total clothing system to avoid duplication--or gaps.

Edited by hikinggranny on 06/23/2011 13:48:32 MDT.

Will Webster
Re: Calculating Backpack Weight on 06/23/2011 13:25:09 MDT Print View

I'll go you one better: For many (but certainly not all) of us the cheapest most effective place to reduce weight is "skin in".

Tim & Shell
(McCargoe) - F
Excellent Definition Mary on 06/23/2011 14:45:05 MDT Print View

I like the way you defined base weight. It is something that always remains consistent throughout all types of trips regardless of length or duration. Therefore, consumables would not be factored into this figure since the weight of items in this category fluctuate as you proceed forward in your trip. Fantastic explanation. Thank you very much. Now I gotta figure out how to do some trimming ;)