Thursday, 16 July 2009

Pack weight

I've been spending some time lately exploring the excellent US site of Francis Tapon. He's presently backpacking around Eastern Europe with a view to writing a book. His account of the various trails he's done in the USA make interesting reading. He's obviously an experienced (ultra-lightweight) hiker but he has a habit of losing bits of kit and having quite hair-raising experiences. His packweight (excluding food, water and fuel) is around 6-7 pounds. Using his kit list, I reckon I can get mine down to around 8.5 pounds and hope to get a weekend away somewhere soon to try it out.


  1. What is the point in quoting a pack weight thqt excludes this, that and the other? When you load you pack onto your back at the trailhead then IT ALL COUNTS as weight. Don't see the point is excluding anything. Weigh you pack as you leave home. THAT IS THE PACK WEIGHT ON YOUR BACK AND FEET.

  2. Fenlander - I think the point is that the pack weight without food, water and fuel is pretty constant. The weight of those additional items depends on the length of trip or time between resuppling.

  3. Where is the kit list? I had a look around the site but got bored with the annoying style... Too much like hand wavey training courses at work! Or those 90s motivational posters.

  4. I must admit I tend to count everything on me and in my rucksack as a starter weight and include the water and food.

    but each person has a different system that works for them and thats what is important

  5. Thanks for mentioning my site, Litehiker.

    I'm not sure why Rob couldn't find the gear list given that you gave a direct link to it.

    For those who are curious about the weight with and food/water, my usual response is 2 pounds (1 kg) of food per day.

    So if my packweight (without food and water) is 6.5 pounds, then it's easy to see that four days of food will add 8 more pounds to the weight, or 14.5 pounds with everything.

    I wrote my thoughts about counting consumables in an article on my website called "Gear Rant."

    Here is an excerpt:

    It is funny to see anal backpackers account for every titanium stake they're carrying, but then they will carelessly toss in canned food. Or they'll carry three liters of water in the Olympic National Park (which has pristine water everywhere). Others brag that their alcohol stove weighs one measly ounce, but overlook the half a pound of HEET alcohol that they're carrying. In short, consumables matter.

    In the old days, gear used to weigh so much that consumables accounted for less than half of the total (or "skin out") weight. Today, it's quite easy to carry less than 10 pounds of gear, so food and water now accounts for the majority of the weight you're carrying. Therefore, it's unwise to ignore them.

    On the other hand, it's hard to get anywhere if you're starving and thirsty. I discourage hikers to select foods that have a high calorie to weight ratio. If that is your guide, then you'll end up carrying candy bars and butter. Hikers sometimes forget to consider nutrition. If you're going to be anal about food, be anal about getting good nutrition. Aim for nutritionally dense foods.

    Same goes for water. Anal backpackers obsess so much about having a light pack that they carry far too little water and end up under hydrating themselves. Err to taking more than you need. Drink more voluminously. Don't skimp.

    What about stuff like first aid, soap, fuel, toothpaste, sunscreen, and repellent? Although they are consumables, I put them under pack weight. Anal backpackers will measure the weight of the container and leave out the weight of the contents; they measure the liquid soap bottle, but not the soap. I understand the logic, but I prefer to err on the conservative side, because despite my best efforts, I rarely estimate the amount of these consumables I really need.

    When I walk into town for a re-supply, I usually find that I haven't used up all these consumables. With food, I'm more likely to get it right; however, with these types of consumables, it's harder to estimate correctly. As a result, I'd rather overestimate the weight I'm carrying and sacrifice some of the coolness that comes with having outrageously low pack weights.

    You can read the whole article here:

    Thanks for sharing light weight backpacking tips, Litehiker!

    Happy trails,

    Francis Tapon

  6. In Britain at Easter, we could be in full winter gear or down to running shorts and sandals. Probably both in the same day. So counting stuff on the body separately seems a bit dubious to me. Hamish Brown borrowed Naked Before the Mountain for a section heading (from Mazeaud?) so he clearly ended up with everything in the sack when the hills had a good snow covering.

    I enjoyed Francis's rant but was concerned by his regular loss of essentials. Hypoglycaemia, possibly, from pushing so hard? Thank you for the link, Litehiker.