Best Pack Weight for Backpacking Trip?

by Anonymous
(Michigan)

How much is too much when packing a backpack? Read on to find out.

How much is too much when packing a backpack? Read on to find out.

I'm looking to do a 4 day back country trip, and I haven't done it in ages. What's a average weight a pack should weigh for a trip like this?





ANSWER: Well, the correct pack weight for a backpacking trip in the back country depends on several factors.

1. Are there any resupply points for food or water along the way, or do you need to carry everything with you for the entire four days?

2. How physically fit are you, and how much do you weigh? If it has been ages since you've backpacked, does that mean that you are out of shape or just that you haven't been backpacking recently?

Theoretically, you should keep the pack weight to 25% of your body weight or less. The less, the better, because on extended trips where you are covering long distances, a 25% pack might be too much of a strain, especially if you haven't been working out much recently.

So if you weigh 200 pounds, your pack should not weigh more than 50 pounds according to that formula.

Realistically, you should try to get the weight down considerably below 25% by cutting back on items you plan to carry, getting very light-weight equipment, and so forth.

I'm just over 200 pounds and I sure would not want to carry a 50-pound pack for 4 days. I managed to keep my pack to about 35-40 pounds on our extended Philmont Scout Ranch treks, and that wore me out in the high elevations.

STOP AND THINK very carefully about exactly what you need to take (don't skimp on safety, however). Refer to our list of The Ten Essentials to be sure you don't miss something important for your safety and survival.

Assuming you can go with a


very lightweight sleeping bag (I like SlumberJack) -- something around 2 lbs or less -- and an extremely lightweight tent, your biggest weight problem is likely to be your water supply (close to 10 pounds per gallon) and food, plus a way to prepare the food.

You could go with foods that you don't need to heat up (thus eliminating a stove and fuel), but on the other hand, a source of cooking hot food can be helpful in colder weather (are you allowed to build a fire in the back country?). If you take a stove, we like the MSR Whisperlight, although many people like to make their own alcohol stoves out of empty soda or beer cans.

If you do know that you'll have a ready supply of water on the trail, you still should plan on carrying at least 4 liters with you at all times (read the warnings in our Hiking Hydration article), and you MUST have a way to purify water. A water filter adds to weight, so you might consider some MicroPur tablets that can be dropped into your Nalgene bottles to purify water in an hour or less.

HOT TIP: Don't take everything. Leave the video recorder and extra batteries behind. Take the tiny, lightweight camera instead of your big Nikon DSLR. Don't take that collapsible stool unless you can stand the extra weight. And cut back on clothing to just one change, and keep it very light. Use the extra clothes inside a trash bag as your pillow. Cut, Cut, Cut, but keep the essentials.

If you're hiking with someone else, share the tent and other common supplies between you.

And after you get back, why not stop back here and leave a comment on this article to let us know how it went?

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What works for me NEW
by: Scott Fici

I have done a few 1 and 2 month backpacking excursions where when it comes to packing water to stay hydrated " I Don't " I carry a simple filtration tube called a " Lifestraw " that eliminates 99% of waterborne disease that are carried in creeks or rivers even lakes of animals that cross or bathe or those like the beaver who place dams across rivers and creeks. You either boil your water, or use pill purifiers or buy a
" Lifestraw " for $19.99 which will purify something like 100 liters. Go to " Lifestraw.com " for every 20 sold 1 goes to Africa for a child to be able to drink water without the illnesses that country is plagued with. My fire starter kit is cotton balls that I will swipe each with vaseline.
10 count wrapped in clear plastic wrap. The petroleum in vaseline will keep the cotton ball burning long enough to add tinder. I use a 3 green logs 3 to 4 inches in diameter as a 3 pole triangle that is forked above fire where I hang a light weight chain with hook to hold my aluminum coffee pot that I also use for my cooking pot. My food is dried beef jerky, tea,. I fish for my protein and if I want meat I will screw a Rat Trap into a pine tree to catch my squirrels or rodents and I have done quite well. My trap bait is a pill bottle full of peanut butter. For shelter I use 2 military ponchos snapped together longways that I put over military paracord a small tarp as my ground clothe and I sleep in a 3 layer snap and zippered military bag. Outer shell is camo waterproof. I do pack a break down 410 pump shotgun with trigger lock and 25 rounds. Lightweight quantum reel with a 2 piece berkley lightening rod. My entire pack weighs in around 40 lbs, with 1 warm hoodie, 1 warm pair sweat pants extra socks, lightweight med & hygiene kit. I weigh 180 pounds and that's perfect for me.

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starstarstarstarstar
What works for me NEW
by: Scott Fici

I have done a few 1 and 2 month backpacking excursions where when it comes to packing water to stay hydrated " I Don't " I carry a simple filtration tube called a " Lifestraw " that eliminates 99% of waterborne disease that are carried in creeks or rivers even lakes of animals that cross or bathe or those like the beaver who place dams across rivers and creeks. You either boil your water, or use pill purifiers or buy a
" Lifestraw " for $19.99 which will purify something like 100 liters. Go to " Lifestraw.com " for every 20 sold 1 goes to Africa for a child to be able to drink water without the illnesses that country is plagued with. My fire starter kit is cotton balls that I will swipe each with vaseline.
10 count wrapped in clear plastic wrap. The petroleum in vaseline will keep the cotton ball burning long enough to add tinder. I use a 3 green logs 3 to 4 inches in diameter as a 3 pole triangle that is forked above fire where I hang a light weight chain with hook to hold my aluminum coffee pot that I also use for my cooking pot. My food is dried beef jerky, tea,. I fish for my protein and if I want meat I will screw a Rat Trap into a pine tree to catch my squirrels or rodents and I have done quite well. My trap bait is a pill bottle full of peanut butter. For shelter I use 2 military ponchos snapped together longways that I put over military paracord a small tarp as my ground clothe and I sleep in a 3 layer snap and zippered military bag. Outer shell is camo waterproof. I do pack a break down 410 pump shotgun with trigger lock and 25 rounds. Lightweight quantum reel with a 2 piece berkley lightening rod. My entire pack weighs in around 40 lbs, with 1 warm hoodie, 1 warm pair sweat pants extra socks, lightweight med & hygiene kit. I weigh 180 pounds and that's perfect for me.

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A Trumpet? NEW
by: Anonymous

Why would you bring a trumpet? You might as well pack like that woman from "Everest" who brought all the unnecessary crap in her pack and got killed. Why don't we bring the whole high school marching band?

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Trumpet weighs 12 pounds NEW
by: Chris

On our first overnight backpacking trip I insisted on bringing my son's trumpet so he could play taps at dusk from the top of the mountain. I regretted it soon after starting the climb but changed my mind as soon as I heard him play while looking at that awesome view. Now I'm not suggesting musical instruments are a good idea on backpacking trips but every item presents a choice.

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Dehyrated Water NEW
by: Anonymous

Water is the killer it weighs a lot and you must have it and then there are area where they advise against drinking the water - I think at some point they need to put in wells maybe - but this may be to expensive ???

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Good advice
by: DesertTwang

I just returned from a three-day backpack in Arizona's backcountry. There was no water available, so I carried almost 4 gallons, plus a two-person tent, my sleeping bag, a pad and most of the food for me and my girlfriend. The water we took proved to be adequate.

We had a fantastic trip, but I learned two things: 1) Carrying half my body weight (I'm male and weigh 150 Lbs) up a 6000-foot mountain in the heat is not the greatest idea. 2) If I do another backpack in areas with no water, I'll either limit it to one night or stay at the same camp instead of shlepping all that stuff from campground to campground.

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too late
by: D

I found this article only after I went on a day trip and way overloaded myself. I carried 80lbs?, what was I thinking! I can say this it won't happen again, pack held too much, but hey she held up without fail! thanks Jansport

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Water Weight
by: Chris

As Water weighs about 8#/Gal. Carrying 4L of water will take up over 25% of your overall pack weight. With a 2# for day food allowance food and water will take 50% of your pack weight for your 4 day trip!
I have hiked east and west and with diligent planning have never had to go with more than 2L of water in my pack AND a purifyer (1.5#). I carry one on me at all times for a total 'water' weight of 5# (15% of pack weight). I carry a filter pump and refill after my 'carrying water' has dropped to less then 50% (1L). Of course there are segments where this ABSOLUTELY won't fit - unreliable water sources or longer than 1 days hike between sources!

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Very nicely answered
by: Gabrielle

I found your detailed reply very informative. Thanks!

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