View Full Version : Base Pack Weight

bird dog
2005-06-28, 01:33
Okay, I know that this subject has been beaten to death by the ULTRLIGHTs but I couldnt find it anywhere else on this site. What gear should be included when determining what your base pack weight is? i.e. just summer clothing, how much food and water is counted, if any, etc?

I am trying to lighten my load and read Rocks article about it, but didnt see what all should be included when weighing your base pack weight.

Bird Dog

2005-06-28, 02:44
I'm sorry, I'm new to this forum and don't mean to offend anyone, but I don't see how coming up with a "base pack weight" is beneficial to you - except in competing with others to see who can come up with the lightest load.

What you put in the pack and it's weight is going to change with every trip you take (except for a few of the "needs" that are not effected by weather, locality, availability of restocking, and/or the length of trip) .

I put what I need to have, and want to have, in my pack and if it's too heavy I reconsider the "wants".

Now the weight of individual items, and cutting that down.......

SGT Rock
2005-06-28, 07:22
As a way of tracking what you plan to bring on most trips, I find it beneficial to calculate base pack weight. In my case I calculate it off a summer trip then have a set for under 50F and under 30F using a layering system that just adds to what I already have set in my summer list.

To calculate base weight, count everything that is in your pack and including you pack except for consumables such as food, water, fuel, and packaging for your food. When I write for Backpackinglight.com, I also don't have to count my toilet paper iodine tablets since they consider them consumables as well.

Just Jeff
2005-06-28, 09:37
Count all of the things you take on every trip, except food and water. If you take luxury items that you absolutely don't want to hike without...that's YOUR base pack weight so include them. If you want to compare your base weight with others, you might remove the weight of luxuries that you know they didn't include to get a more accurate comparison (e.g. a bakepacker, or musical instrument).

Just one example of when base weight is useful:
My pack can hold 30 lbs comfortably, and I know my base weight is ~13 lbs. I like to carry ~6 lbs of water (heavy I know, but that's me), which leaves me ~12 lbs for food and luxuries. If I carry ~2 lbs of food per day, I can plan my trip for 6 days between resupply. That's an important number to know, and entirely dependent on my base pack weight for any particular trip.

I've weighed all of my gear, so I can just change out the pieces I need for seasonal changes in base weight. E.g. substitute the heavy bag for my quilt, add in a heavier jacket, etc.

2005-06-29, 10:23
I work with a Venturing Crew and we use a program to calculate pack weight before outtings. When we come back we go over what we used and did not use. This helps with identifying items not needed for the next outting and help drop worthless weight. It is a free program on the internet and it is called Gear Weight Calculator. You can find it at the following website.

2005-06-29, 11:35
I'm sorry, I'm new to this forum and don't mean to offend anyone, but I don't see how coming up with a "base pack weight" is beneficial to you - except in competing with others to see who can come up with the lightest load.

What you put in the pack and it's weight is going to change with every trip you take (except for a few of the "needs" that are not effected by weather, locality, availability of restocking, and/or the length of trip) .

I put what I need to have, and want to have, in my pack and if it's too heavy I reconsider the "wants".

Now the weight of individual items, and cutting that down.......

it's not a competition... it's a relative standard, and there's no reward for being lightest. if you read ray jardine's book, you may have noticed that some ultralight backpackers go a little extreme... i don't feel the need to go there... he, like everyone else, adjusts to the terrain, weather, season, and so forth...and that's ok. it's his neck. he can do as he likes, as can you. but the book does make you think, which is good.

i think the important thing to take away from it all it 'use the lightest item you can afford to do the job'. i'll discuss each portion of that statement and what it means to me in turn...

'lightest item'... there are 4 oz flashlights, 2 oz flashlights, and 1/4 oz light sources. the heavier ones can take a fall off cliffs onto rocks and live. the lightest aren't even waterproof. you decide yourself, based on 'do the job'.
there are times i take only a 1/4 oz photon. other times, when i know i'll be hiking in the dark, i take a 2oz headlamp too. i choose not to carry matches. ever. i do carry two bic lighters. i will NOT use any brand but bic, as they are not as reliable.

then there's 'you can afford'... i've read a review of sleeping bags by a guy who had what he called 'a quiverfull of western mountaineering sleeping bags'. if you don't know, WM bags are high-quality, lightweight down, and VERY expensive. if he can 'afford' a 40 degree bag, a 30 degree bag, a 20 degree bag, and so on by 10 degree increments, and owns 'several' bags at 250-500 each, that's great. for him. i can't afford that. i saved 5 a week for a year to buy my own WM Caribou 35 degree bag. i saw a post by what appeared to be a young boy scout on this site who'd just bought his first hennessey hammock... god only knows how hard he worked to earn the money for it. or maybe he's got a rich dad who just bought it with an hour's wage... i have no idea. the point is, everyone is different. if you can afford the lightest materials, great. but if you can't, that's ok. 'base weight' simply gives you a goal, something to shoot for... you may never ever get down from say 20 lbs to 15 lbs because of a combination of cost and desire to carry a heavy camera because photography is your hobby, and reason for being out in the woods. ok. it's your pack. you have to carry it. but somewhere out there is a guy who figured out how to make a 1 lb 4 oz down sleeping bag for $250. some other guy out there (me) decided it was worth the cost to lighten my load by about 2 lbs in shedding a 3+ lb bag he had been using. that young scout may still be carrying a 3 lb bag... but he decided to cut probably 4 lbs off his 'shelter' weight first. in another year, maybe he'll do his sleeping bag.

you know when you feel like you've not brought the right equipment on a trip. so read others' lists. look at what they're using. if you can use it, take it. use it alongside yours. perfect example is tarp and tent... bring both. set up both. sleep under the tarp. if you don't like it, move back into your tent.... only cost you carrying around an extra 13 oz for a few days... if you decide you liked it, that it works, that you can be safe and warm and dry and comfortable in it from now on, leave the tent home next time.

all that said, YOU decide what makes sense to you. because of 'base weight', i'm now more AWARE of what i'm doing, and its effect on my overall packweight. and it makes me a better outdoorsman, less dependent on equipment, more dependent on my skills. and i like that.

hope that doesn't sound preachy, but sometimes i get on a roll and can't stop. none of it was directed at you personally... one thing i've found about the lightweight community, especially the over 30 crowd, is a tremendous patience and desire to help other backpackers/hikers... there are tons of info out there... we'll help you sort through it.

so go get your stuff, get it over to the post office after hours so no one can see you, and weigh it. to the 10th of an oz. then add it up. then make a dream list of stuff, heaviest first (tent, sleeping bag, stove), that you might someday want to replace. and welcome to the world of stove tinkering, homemade gear making, and idea exchanging... it's a great place.

Just Jeff
2005-06-30, 11:29
Excellent post, Seeker. Thank you.

2005-06-30, 16:07
Excellent post, Seeker. Thank you.

you're welcome.

bird dog
2005-07-01, 00:21
Seeker - I didnt mean to get you riled up when I started this thread....I just wanted to know what the "standard" was to arrive at my base weight. I have heard different definitions about what should and should not be included in your base weight, but now I know....And Knowing is Half the Battle! It was a very eloquently written reply and you definately put the whole idea into perspective. On my last few trips I started including notes in my journal about what equipment wasnt used and what could serve double duty. As it turns out, those notes are invaluable in each AAR. I have been able to dump several pounds. I have recently (last two years) gotten back into backpacking and found that the military warped my thinking about what to pack....Two of everything plus a backup. Prior to going into the service I was an avid backpacker but like you, stopped while I was in. Rock and others on this site have been insturmental in helping me get back into the woods and reacquainted with my passion. Bird dog

2005-07-01, 12:16
absolutely no offense taken... i tend to be chatty in person as well. i don't like 'confrontation', just a good academic discussion. so maybe i tend to write a bit more than the average bear. i can generally see both sides of an issue very clearly, or at least try to. i despise mass marketing, and the hype that portrays enjoying the outdoors as an 'extreme' activity. come on. it's only the woods... yes, it's a rush at times, like just before you pull the trigger on game, or a beautiful sunset, moonrise, or seeing the stars overhead... but there's no need to get crazy over things... the titanium spork is an example... pointless status symbol, imho. the use of the word 'trekking' is another one. i go to the woods to teach my child where god is, what's important in life, how to survive, the difference between need and want, and how to respect life (even plants, trees, and bugs). i go to get away from the neighbor who bought a used mercedes to top my newly acquired used camry. i go to get away from a daily onslought of advertising, rude young people, and the phone. i go to find ME again (read shane steinkamp's philosophy page some time, at 'theplacewithnoname.com', about who you really are. good stuff). anyway, it's not a competition, and i hate to see people taught that it is... one rich guy's obsession with an 8.5 lb base weight, while neglecting to include other items he 'says' are critical, is just another example... i don't want to have to lend him even a bandaid or an aspirin, let alone a bag of food or a jacket someday on the trail because he didn't carry enough... or maybe i'm just jealous he's got a book deal, retired early, and spends all his time camping... no, i'm not... i'd still feel the same way if i could retire, draw a royalty check, and camp all the time...

thanks for listening. glad you found something in it. i'll shut up now (for a minute!)

bird dog
2005-07-04, 04:09
I agree whole heartedly. However, I must admit the bit about retiring early and camping all the time with a royalty check is an alluring thought! I'm working on that now. Looking at trying to buy some land around the NC/TN line. Have thought about SW Virgina as well. Whatever is in the price range. Then, once the kids graduate college, move out, and get VERY high paying jobs, maybe they will remember dear old dad and build me a house on it! By then I'll be too old to hike, but I can sit on the porch and wave at others as they come "trekking" by!

2005-07-05, 20:18
absolutely no offense taken... but there's no need to get crazy over things... the titanium spork is an example... pointless status symbol, imho.

But I love my spork!

SGT Rock
2005-07-08, 11:08
but there's no need to get crazy over things... the titanium spork is an example... pointless status symbol, imho.

Not to mention that an old MRE spoon weighs 1/3 as much and actually works better as a spoon.

2005-07-20, 13:07
What I like about backpacking is it is one of the few remaining activities where you can have just as much fun, perhaps more fun, and be just as competitive (not really the right word) whether you do it on a budget or with unlimited funds. The biggest breakthrough for many of us is when we learn we can leave our heavy tent home and get by with a surplus bivy and a poncho/tarp, cook with alcohol in a tealight, or make our own backpack. Eliminating clothes takes more than one trip until we realize all we need is one good set of fleece, cheap light nylon raingear, hiking shorts and a sweater, all of which might last us 20 years.

The hard part might be figuring out all this before hand, but some of us have been blessed with poverty more than others. :)

2005-08-23, 09:04
This subject is actually something that vexed me pretty badly when I went out the first time. It only got worse after I read Ray Jardine. I'm not through hiker material

So, the first time out, my pack weight was 31-32#. I can't even tell you what the base weight was because I was told that it was based on tent, groundcloth, sleeping gear, and pack, which worked out to about 11#.

As I sit down for my trip in two weeks, I'm trying for 20# BPW. It might well be less. Can you guys post your BPW's and maybe links to your lists? Gals too, cuz, well, I'm a girl.


2005-08-23, 10:09
i'm going to try a first for me... posting a document. full credit for the macro that makes the 'x' work in this thing goes to sgt rock. i stole it from him. the rest of my excel skill credit goes to cpt ben burgfelt, who in 1989 forced me to learn lotus 1-2-3 under the tutelage of his 6'-2'', 250#+ frame and a large stick. thanks big ben...

ok, credits aside, what i'll try to attach is my packing list spreadsheet. on the first sheet, you put an x in the column if you carry it, and it automatically adds the weight up for you. the food portion is custom made for me. fool with it on your own to figure out what you like to eat, and how much. toward the bottom is a thing that says 'days out'. put the number of days out in there, and it adds that much food and fuel to your load. or you can just add 2lbs of food per day and be done with it. i like to get into some details.

the second sheet is a list of all the weights of just about everything i own for camping, including different stoves, clothing, and stuff i don't always bring, like a hatchet or camp saw. if it's in yellow, i weighed it to the tenth of an ounce on a post office scale. green is a guesstimate. plain old white was wieghed on my spring scale at home.

rats. just went to load, and it won't do excel... any ideas anyone?

2005-08-23, 11:19
rats. just went to load, and it won't do excel... any ideas anyone?

You could post it to a webpage and provide a link.

2005-08-23, 12:58
that's assuming i know what i'm doing on a webpage... not a clue how to do that... amazing... it's 2005. i don't own a dvd player, digital camera, or a cell phone. actually, had a cell phone growing out of my head for 5 years when i owned a business a few years back, but won't do that ever again... i enjoy my time off now. yes, i do own a car, and we have electricity. working on the indoor plumbing. we had a handpump installed just last week. i'm kidding. (seriously though, a little town not too far from us just recently had phone service run out to them. Mink, LA. Jan 2005.)

however, i am teachable. if you could explain what i need to do, i can probably do it. i know there are 'free' web hosting services, but have no idea how they work. i'm assuming you sign in, and get some sort of 'space', but i have no idea beyond that. might there be some sort of online help program there? sort of like my little einstein in MS Office...

2005-08-23, 16:35

Well, I've always had a thing for New Zealand mountain parrots, so I'll answer your post in a straight forward manner. To me base weight is simply comprised of the kit that I just will not leave behind - in other words, my no frills pack load. It varies in accordance with terrain, season, and expected weather conditions of course. I have a number of frills I sometimes drag around to increase my comfort level from time to time, but these are luxuries and I do not consider them as part of my base weight. I do not include clothes worn in the total.

So, for a three day summer hike in Eastern Canada (Nova Scotia)

Pack - ULA P2 - 45 oz
Shelter - HS Cloudburst - 38 oz
Pad - Prolite 3 - 13 oz
Bag - Marmot Hydrogen - 21 oz
Stove - Brasslite Turbo II - 2.5 oz
Fuel - 9 oz
Kettle - 4 oz
Trail pants - 10 oz
Long Sleeved Shirt - 8 oz
Poncho Tarp - 10 oz
Rain Jacket - 5 oz
Socks - 3 oz
Water bag - 2 oz
Headlamp - 2.5 oz
Hydration mug and cozy - 3 oz
Light drinking mug - 3 oz
Toilet Paper - 2 oz
Spork - .5 oz
Fly dope - 2 oz
First Aid kit - 4 oz
Repair kit/misc items - 4 oz
Water bottle - 4 oz

A total of 195.5 oz or 12.2 lbs.

As you see, a minimal load, although there is weight to be trimmed if I really thought it was necessary. I could, for example, ditch the Prolite 3 in favour of a simple foam pad. I could spend further big bucks and replace my 3 lb pack with a one pounder, or shave 8 oz off my shelter weight for about $30.00 Canadian an ounce. Maybe I will someday, but for now, what you see above is pretty well my summer time base weight[I]. And I think that was your question.


PKH (an old Kea attack survivor)