Best Pack Weight for Backpacking Trip?
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?