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#110884 - 02/08/09 01:42 PM Pack weight/body weight ratio
Usingmyrights Offline

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 4
Loc: SE
I was wondering if there was some sort of ratio I should try to stay in when comparing my pack weight to my body weight. I've only done two backpacking trips and they probably 8 years ago when I was 17. I just used an old army rucksack, since thats what I could afford at the time. IIRC my 2nd trip, my pack weighed in around 34lbs. I was probably 140lbs at the time, and managed just fine. I'm 155 now, and while its muscle, I'd still say that my overall shape isn't as good as I was back then. I'm just wondering if there's a certain final weight I should try to stay under. Just the pack, bag, and tent I'm looking at weighs about 12lbs, so I'm wondering by the time I add everything else, if I'll be able to handle the load in the mountains. I realize without knowing my abilities, that no one can really say. Just looking for something like, "you should try to keep it under XXlbs"

Right now I'm looking at the Osprey Aether 70. MSR Hubba Hubba tent, and Marmot Trestles 30 bag. I plan on doing mostly 2-3 day trips, with some 4-6 day trips. I'lll do most of my backpacking in FL and GA, but would like to try to do most of the AT eventually. I've already looking at doing a week on the AT in NC this summer. Any advice would be appreciated.

#110895 - 02/08/09 04:37 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
hikerduane Offline

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I believe its 25% of your body weight, 33% at the most. In my younger days when I weighted less, I was easily 33% or more, way too much, but I was a newbie, what did I know that clean clothes were for home. Currently, I am under 20% most of the time.

#110900 - 02/08/09 04:53 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: hikerduane]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I'd use the proviso that your pack should be 25% of your ideal body weight. Some of us weigh a bit more than that, but we need to recognize that this is an extra burden for our joints. We actually should reduce the amount of pack weight to allow for the built-in extra "avoirdupois." It doesn't sound as though the OP has this problem, but I know I do!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#110903 - 02/08/09 05:09 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Glenn Offline

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Since you'll be doing most of your hiking east of the Mississippi, you can stay with fairly light, mainstream gear and do 3 or 4 night trips, carrying perhaps 2 -3 quarts of water, at 30 pounds or less. (That includes some insulating clothes - coldest temperatures around 30 degrees.)

I noticed you were looking at a Hubba Hubba tent. Why a 2-person tent? If you're hiking solo, the Hubba or another 1-person tent would be a better choice. Think about minimalizing your gear: boil and soak cooking leads to a lighter food bag and reduces your kitchen to a mug/pot, spoon, and small canister stove (total: 8 oz.) Drinking only water, instead of having a hot beverage at meal time, and cooking only supper further reduces the weight of the food bag; it also means you use less fuel, which lightens that load.

Use a short (48") sleeping pad, and put your empty pack (with it's padded back) under your lower legs and feet - this not only saves some weight on the pad, but solves the problem of where to store the pack so it's out of the way in that one-man tent.

I have an Aether 60 that I really like; it carries the 30-pound load I need for a fall 4-day trip, with 3 quarts of water, and there's still some room left in the pack, so I wonder if you really need the Aether 70. Downsizing to the Aether 60 would save you 3/4 pound, and still give you the support you want for a 30 or 35 pound load. (You might even look at the new Exos 58, or Atmos series. The Exos 58 is a pound and a half lighter than the Aether 60 - though the suspension isn't as good, and it's only comfort-rated to 30-35 pounds.)

Other little tricks, like using a waterproof/breathable rain jacket as a windbreaker, can also save some weight.

Just some food for thought.

#110905 - 02/08/09 05:52 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Jimshaw Offline

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Using my rights,

You have to look at lean body mass, and you have to look at overall body weight. In your case you probably haven't got much fatter and maybe a bit stronger. from 140 to 155 you said. I'll assume that at 140 you were in fairly good shape for a 17 year old and maybe you were 10% body fat 14 pounds, 126 pound lean weight. Now at 155 lets say half the gain is fat and half muscle, then your lean body is now 134 pounds and your body fat is now 22 pounds.

If you were to keep to 25% of your lean weight, you would carry no more than 33 pounds of gear, but if you were to subtract your 22 pounds of body fat from the 33 pounds, then you would have 11 pounds left for gear, or 7% of your body weight.

This is to say that there is no percentage of body weight rule that makes sense, unless it framed in terms of your condition.

BUT - if you loose 15 pounds of body fat that you have gotten used to carrying around, you can add 15 pounds to your pack. People have very different amounts of muscle and in different places. You may have a whole 20 pounds of leg muscles carrying 180 pounds up a hill. goodjob

Now when I weighed 145 and I was about 5% body fat, I carried a 45 pound pack and it was about the limit. Now at 175 and 60 years old I prefer to stay under 25 pounds if I have to do any climbing, or 14% of my body weight and I am less thn 10% body fat again.

Jim YMMV crazy
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

#110925 - 02/09/09 12:51 AM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Jimshaw]
Usingmyrights Offline

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 4
Loc: SE
I know that body fat % and all of that plays into as well. I will say that the 10% number you threw out there is probably double of what it actually was. I realize that you don't know me, so all you can do is guess. I could take the widest pinch of my stomach as I could and still only end up with about a 1/4" between my fingures. Basically just skin. I was in great shape back then. Now am I probably closer to that 10% mark.

Back on topic. I was looking at the 70 for two reasons. One being having enough room for when I do go out on week long trips and two, I like being able to access the main compartment from the bottom, which you can't do with the 60. I'm open to other suggestions on packs as well. The only decent shop I know about only carries Osprey and Gregory packs. We also have a DicksSportingGoods and of course SportsAuthority, but I don't know about the quality of their gear. Any suggestions on gear would be helpful. I know that I want a tent due to how bad the bugs can get down here. We can get some pretty bad wind and rain sometimes, so I'd like some that will hold up well in those conditions as well. I'm thinking for the sleeping bag of maybe spending a bit more money and getting the Marmot Ecopro. I like the idea of down, but seeing how I'll also take this gear canoeing I want something that will still be able to maintain some warmth if it gets wet.

Edited by Usingmyrights (02/09/09 01:31 AM)

#110926 - 02/09/09 01:29 AM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Wolfeye Offline

Registered: 01/11/07
Posts: 413
Loc: Seattle, WA
You might like a panel-loading pack. The only really light ones I can think of are made by Six Moon Designs, and while I haven't seen one firsthand they do seem to come in good sizes. If you're concerned about fitting everything in a pack, you might consider using compression stuffsacks for your sleeping bag & clothes; it lets me get away with using a 3000 ci pack instead of a 4000 ci one.

A good, lightweight tent that can (supposedly) hold up to wind is the Tarptent Double Rainbow. I bought one after reading a number of positive reviews a few months back, but still have to test it in someone's back yard before camping with it. (Spring is almost here!) It comes with additional guyline tie points along the center ridge, making it pretty windproof; the manufacturer rates it as a "3+" season tent. I have a set of Backpacking Light spectra guylines in the mail that I plan to add.

I too stick with synthetic bags. Right now it's an REI Nooksack UL... it's only rated for +35F and doesn't have much loft, but I make up for it by wearing most of my clothes at night. I'm happy with my setup. I'm thinking of picking up my first synthetic quilt, probably by Bozeman Mountain Works or Mountain Laurel Designs. I'm a little skeptical about the lack of bottom & head coverage, but I'm willing to try.

#110951 - 02/09/09 12:42 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Wolfeye]
thecook Offline

Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
I weigh between 145 and 155 and have relatively low body fat. I won't carry more than 40lbs, I don't want to carry more than 35lbs, I try not to carry more than 30lbs, and prefer to be under 25lbs total pack weight for my trips.

I have the Aether 70 and love it. It is the most comfortable pack I've ever used. Having said that, it is a compromise pack for me. It needs to let me go solo, as a pack mule for one child, as a pack mule for both children, and, for short trips, as a pack mule for my whole family. For the gear and uses you've written about it should work just fine, but make sure that it really fits you. Body shape makes a huge difference as to which pack carries comfortably.
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

#110954 - 02/09/09 12:50 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: thecook]
Usingmyrights Offline

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 4
Loc: SE
Which is part of the problem is being able to try on different packs. The shop I went to measured me, and put some weight in the pack (maybe 20-25lbs), but to me it felt like the pack was rocking on my hips some. I may go look at it again and see if I can fine tune it some more to get a good fit out of it.

#110965 - 02/09/09 01:58 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3183
Loc: Portland, OR
Interesting question, but from my perspective it barks up the wrong tree, unless you are wondering what weight would actually damage you if you tried to carry it.

When I was 17 I weighed just under 130 lbs and did a multi-week hike where I carried a bit over 60 lbs on day one. It didn't kill me or even damage me, but it did slow me down considerably. Would I recommend this to anyone? Never!

My point is that the ideal weight is always going to be determined by the requirements of the trip, not by some magical ratio to your body weight, no matter how you measure it. All else being equal, the least weight you can get away with is best.

I now weigh 160 and typically carry about 32 lbs if I am going out for a week. I find this very comfortable to carry, but no doubt if you forced me to play the mule and carry 50 lbs, I could drag my sorry behind up the trail a few miles and shout hallelujah when I disburdened for the day. It wouldn't kill me, but I wouldn't enjoy it.

#110967 - 02/09/09 02:07 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Glenn Offline

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Do you already have most of the rest of your gear (sleeping bag, tent, and kitchen, especially?) If so, don't let the shop put weight in your pack: they'll do it with sandbags or similar objects, which will settle the whole load on your hips. That's fine for rough fitting, but not for making a final decision.

To get the fit really dialed in, take all your gear (including the amount of water you typically carry, plus enough food for the typical trip you'll be taking) and load it into the pack. This not only lets you figure out how to load the pack, but also gives you a true idea of how your pack will actually ride when you load it up.

I just went through this process when I bought my Aether 60, and it was well worth hauling everything in and spending 2 hours dialing in the pack. We started out with the sandbags in both a large and medium, to figure out the frame size, and chose a medium based on how it felt with the sandbags. Then, I loaded the medium pack with my own gear, and tried it with both a large and medium shoulder harness. It never did quite feel right, so we went through it a second time with a large frame, and ended up with exactly the right fit. Had we gone only with the sandbags, I'd have bought the wrong size.

If you don't have all your gear, maybe the store will let you borrow some of theirs to fill out your load. Or, at least, get them to let you put a sleeping bag or solo tent in the bottom of the pack, then put the sandbags on top of it - it might give you a slightly better idea of how the pack will truly ride.

#110972 - 02/09/09 02:43 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Glenn Offline

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I don't mean this as a criticism, since we all develop our own likes and dislikes as far as access, but why do you feel it's worth 3/4 of a pound to be able to get into the lower part of your pack during the day? Could you make a couple of minor changes in the way you pack that would let you avoid opening the pack - or at least the bottom section - during the day? When I went from the Vapor Trail to the Aether 60, I was able to use all the extra pockets to do exactly that, and never have to open my pack till I reach camp.

Like I said, I don't mean it as a criticism, and mention it only in the spirit of perhaps looking at something in a way you hadn't. I'm also not trying to disparage the Aether 70 - it's a really neat pack, and I looked at it seriously before deciding it was too big for my needs. It may, indeed, be the perfect pack for you. But, heck, if I can help you lighten the load a little, it's worth a shot - as long as I don't strong-arm you into choosing something that doesn't do what you need it to do.

Edited by Glenn (02/09/09 02:45 PM)

#110993 - 02/09/09 08:45 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Trailrunner Offline

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By Usingmyrights
I realize without knowing my abilities, that no one can really say.

Exactly. If you don't know yourself, no one here can tell you how much you'll want to carry. Crunch numbers all you want but the only real answer comes from trial and error. There is no substitute for personal experience.

I will add this: A properly fitted pack will make your load FEEL lighter and an ill fitted pack will make your load feel heavier. Also, weigh your pack before every trip. Don't guess. Then you'll know exactly what you're dealing with.

Edited by Trailrunner (02/09/09 08:45 PM)
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

#111014 - 02/10/09 11:45 AM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Trailrunner]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Trail runner said: "A properly fitted pack will make your load FEEL lighter and an ill fitted pack will make your load feel heavier."

While I don't doubt this is true, I think it's also true that "An actually lighter pack will make your pack actually lighter". smile

Seriously, IMO if the overall pack weight gets low enough, a person worries less about the pack fitting properly, or spending a lot of time trying different packs to get the ideal fit, and adjusting it to get the fit properly "dialed in".

This no doubt involves some individual preference, but I think it also has to do with the overall weight being carried. With a base weight in the low teens, I'm content to buy a lightweight pack via the internet; I've purchased two different models (from two different manufacturers) this way and was not disappointed in either case.
Brian Lewis

#111540 - 02/19/09 11:24 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: aimless]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
I totally agree! For me, the heavier the pack, the slower I go uphill, about same on the flat, but need more rest stops to reduce PAIN! The lighter the pack, the more enjoyment. The individual pack makes a difference; the way the weight is distributed in the pack makes a difference too. There is no magic formula. Buy light weight gear, do not take unnecessary stuff, be safe, and your pack simply will be what it will be. With experience, you can further lighten things based on specific conditions and past experience. Every region you travel thorugh is different.

By the way, the heaviest pack I carried was about 100 pounds for 8 miles - carrying out elk meat. I weigh 115 pounds. In the 1970's on NOLS 2-wk winter courses all our packs started at about 70 pounds. Our summer packs, as instructors, with 15 days rations, were always about 60 pounds. We all survived, but did not travel very fast. Our gear was bombproof but heavy. The lightest I have gone lately is 26 pounds for 8 days (had to take an ice axe). My 10-day trip packs (Sierra high country) usually start at 35 (summer) - 40 (shoulder season) pounds. Also, as a rule of thumb, if your food is over 2 pounds per day, you are probably taking too much or the wrong kind.

I do not claim to be an UL backpacker or even desire to be. I just want to enjoy myself and get by with the gear I have. When something wears out, I buy a lighter item. Gradually I am getting lighter.

#111541 - 02/19/09 11:35 PM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Ender Offline

Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 779
Loc: ME
I remember years ago the standard was that the total pack weight should be between 1/4th and 1/3rd of your body weight. Nowadays, my total pack weight sits between 1/6th and 1/7th of my body weight (160-170lbs depending on how many Baconators I've had that month). Best I've managed for an overnighter was 1/11th of my body weight, but I currently wouldn't be able to pull that off for more than a two nighter, and given that I like certain luxury items don't really want to.

#111545 - 02/20/09 12:17 AM Re: Pack weight/body weight ratio [Re: Usingmyrights]
Paul Offline

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
Well, there are lots of ways to look at this, and your level of fitness is the biggest factor that we can't really judge here. If you're in great shape and really strong, you might have a pleasant time carrying a third of your body weight if the pack really fits well. But you'll have more fun with a lighter pack. I find staying under 20% of my body weight makes for easy walking and a pleasant trip. More than that and it starts to seem like work.


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