How Much Should Your Backpack Weigh When Hiking?
The recommended backpack weight when hiking remains a hot topic among both starters and more experienced people. How much should your backpack weigh when hiking? When is it too heavy for you, and when can you add some more extra essentials to it? Let’s have a look into the basics and also some tips on how to reduce the excess weight if you find yourself struggling with how much your backpack weighs.
How Much is Too Much?
There are plenty of factors we need to take into consideration when we decide on the appropriate weight of our backpacks. This makes it difficult to have a one-fits-all recommendation, but there are some guidelines to get you started. Generally, most specialists recommend that your backpack should not be more than 10% of your body weight when you go hiking. For instance, if you weigh 150 lbs, your backpack should not weigh more than 15 lbs.
However, this general rule does not apply to everyone. For instance, if you are a petite hiker weighing much less than 150 lbs, you will find yourself carrying more than 10% of your body weight. For this reason, we need to look into other potential factors that might affect you and what to do in those specific situations.
Long Trips and a Base Weight
If you decide to go on a more extended trip, you might have to account for that with more food, water, and essentials. However, even if you go for a long trip, you should not carry a backpack that is more than 20% of your body weight. In this situation, you could carry more than the recommended 10% because most of your essentials will include water, food, and other consumables, which will reduce the weight of the backpack as you go.
This means that you should weight the backpack with all non-consumables – such as tents, gear, equipment, clothes, and others and then account for water and food, which will decrease during your trip.
How to Decrease Backpack Weight
Once you have figured out the ideal backpack weight, which is a maximum of 20% of your body weight, you might realize that it is difficult to keep under this limit, especially if you plan a long trip. Luckily for you, there are quite a few tricks to help you reduce unnecessary load.
First of all, sort all of your items into three main piles: items that you use a lot, items that you use occasionally, and items you never use. Make sure you give a second thought to the second pile, as you might be able to make your trip without some optional items. However, ensure that you consider carefully; there might be some items you don’t usually use, such as a first-aid kit, but it is an absolute must-have in your backpack for your safety and health.
Some unnecessary items might include an extra pair of underwear ‘just in case’ or maybe some sweets you didn't eat the last time. It is important to keep a checklist of your essentials and follow it. Others might also add some useful, but only one-time use items. If you plan to camp over one night, do you really need that pillow, or you can just roll up a jacket instead?
Next, plan all your meals ahead. Most specialists state that hikers tend to grab a lot of food with them when they go hiking. It would help if you planned your meals to contain from 2,500 to 4,500 calories a day, based on your weight, height, and the level of activity you will make. This should be anywhere from 1.5 lbs to 2.5 lbs of food for one day per person.
Recommendations for foods with minimal added weight that can add some nutrients during hiking include nuts and dried fruits, nut butter in plastic containers, protein bars, crackers, chips or salty snacks, sweet snacks with high carb content, and freeze-dried meals.
Another way to reduce backpack weight is to consider repackaging your products. For instance, replace your full-sized toothpaste and toiletries with mini-sized ones, which are great for traveling. Remove items from their original packaging (when it is safe to do so) and repackage them in a smaller one. Food can be placed in simple, plastic bags, while sunscreen and others can be placed in small travel bottles. Make sure you keep all the original packaging of the freeze-dried meals, as you are not supposed to replace it.
Lastly, make sure you update all your gear regularly, starting from your backpack to all other items. Every year, more and more compact, lightweight, and comfortable items show up on the market. If you go on short trips, you might consider taking a frameless backpack, while longer trips require framed gear, which will better distribute the load.
Some people might find frame backpacks more comfortable since they are usually padded, and they offer better balance, while others prefer frameless backpacks because they are lighter.
You should also consider upgrading your shelter and other equipment, as well. Always choose the lightest, best alternative for shelter, depending on the climate. For instance, you don’t need to bring along a heavy tent if the climate is dry, with warm temperatures. All you need is a lightweight hammock or just put your hiking bed or a sleeping pad out in the open. For a little extra privacy, you can go for a featherweight tarp.
Overall, the weight of your backpack is a vital aspect of the success and degree of comfort of your hiking trip. It is recommended to have a maximum of 10% load out of your body weight, but it is also acceptable up to 20% if you go on longer trips, which require more food and water, as the load will become lighter and lighter as you go along.
Make sure you plan ahead and take only necessary items. Planning your meals and outfits carefully will help you have a lighter load, as most hikers tend to include extra accessories that they (almost) never use.