Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
In another post I said that one gram (0.035274ounces) is insignificant because I could spit and loose that much weight. It got me to thinking, what is significant? My base weight is sometimes about 17 pounds on a multi-day backpacking trip. I loose a pound of food each day, but really don't notice it each day. I also add and subtract at very least a pint of water during the day and I can't say I can tell the difference in the pack weight or my endurance. I know it takes energy to move weight up hill and that more weight stresses you muscles and joints with each step. However there must be a point where it is reasonable to add a little weight without it affecting (or effecting, I never know which word is right) your endurance or speed. If my body weight is 180 and pack weight 22 lbs. then a whole pound is only (1/202) one half of one percent.
It is only interesting because often I am trying to decide which item I should take and have to make a decision based on weight and necessity (or comfort). For example, my Esbit stove set up is lighter than my Pocket Rocket gas stove and canister, but the latter is certainly more convenient, IMHO.
Loc: Torrance, CA
To be honest, pounds mostly likely don't matter but that doesn't mean pounds are insignificant. The problem with thinking something is insignificant is you keep adding them to your pack until real weight differences are added. Commitment to lightweight backpacking is thinking about everything you put on your back and really deciding if this is something you want to drag down the trail. Many people, myself included, have a problem with there gear creeping up in weight over time. You then find yourself half way up a mountain swearing you won't bring so much crap next time.
The guys who drill holes in there toothbrush handle will certainly never be able to tell the effect on their pack weight, but it shows (an obsessive) commitment to reducing pack weight. If you don't have at least a little of that obsessiveness, you quickly find yourself with an oppressively heavy pack.
Loc: Portland, OR
Guys who drill holes in their toothbrush handle will certainly never be able to tell the effect on their pack weight, but they may find themselves with a toothbrush that has a broken handle!
To address the original question (or try to) I think there are a few 'inflection points' in total pack weight where carrying a pack a couple of pounds over that point creates a significant change in one's perceived comfort while hiking. For me, a total pack weight of 32 lbs feels like the upper limit of a comfortable carrying weight. Once I am over that weight, the discomfort of each added pound starts mounting rapidly.
Another inflection point, as my pack empties out on a longer trip, or as the weight I sometimes succeed in achieving at the trailhead for a shorter trip, is around 24 pounds. That weight, or below, always feels like easy hiking to me.
But as BZH points out, the key attitude is that weight matters, so any item I bring must justify its weight in the context of the hike I am planning. A few ounces will never matter on anything short of a thru-hike, but maintaining a certain rigor in evaluating every item, however small, is the only way to prevent hauling an overburden.
I really like that idea of "inflection point." I notice the same thing: when I'm under 15 pounds, the load seems to fade into the background to the point that I'm not really aware of it. Over 18, it's not burdensome by any means, but I'm usually conscious of it.
Some of this is also a function of what shape I'm in. If it's a trip early in the year, when I haven't lost the 5 or 10 pounds I put on over the winter holidays, and haven't been out for a while, the hiking always seems difficult and the load onerous regardless of weight. If it's later in the season, with the weight gone and doing more hiking, the inflection points kick in.
I don't tend to look too critically at the weight of an individual item. I tend to look first at function, then tend to pick the lightest item that performs at an acceptable level. Saving an ounce on a toilet trowel is pointless if the trowel bends or breaks the first time you actually try to dig with it, for example.
As someone else mentioned, attitude is important: you can end up adding significant weight if you keep adding items that are individually insignificant. I still perform the old two-pile test once or twice a year: when I'm unpacking after a trip, I put the essentials (rain gear, first aid, etc.) and everything I actually used during the trip into one pile. Anything I didn't actually use goes in the second pile (aka the "what was I thinking?" pile), and doesn't go on the next trip. Luckily, this pile usually only has one or two small items these days.
Depends what sort of weight you are intending to carry to carry that depends on where you are intending to go and for how long
If you take an msr wisperlite, you probably are not planning on any serious ascents, notbothered about your pan(s) weight, not frugal on the fuel. Your bag can be heavier, sleeping bag warmer etc.
Truthfully if you are trying to go lightweight give up the cooker, 50g cooker 100g pan, 200g fuel, the bother of the food you take, if theres water in it weight increaces drastically for energy content, or the extra water you have to toat anyway for freeze dried food, this easily adds weight. Block of cheese, snickers bars salami etc seem a lot lighter, exept for the salt makes you more thirsty.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
All the answers were interesting and gave me some food for thought: things I had not considered. One thing perhaps I didn't understand, is the idea that not taking a stove might reduce weight. If I take freeze dried food and a stove and fuel, and water is available at camp, then I save by not taking taking heavier foods and in the long run... I have always thought that more than made up the difference. I should add up the weight of 4 (lunch, dinner and breakfast and lunch) sandwiches and compare it with the weight of freeze dried meals, fuel and the stove for an overnight hike.
BTW, when I was younger the gasoline Whisperlite was the workhorse on many a bivouac on a high glacier making water for a group. There was a time in mountaineering when you wouldn't leave home without it for a high alpine climb.
Thats the difference between lightweight hiking, possibly solo and expeditions, possibly with porters. You divide a wisperlite by 3, tent by 3, first aid by 3 etc you can see how its worth it. Also when your melting snow you are prepared for it, you are not anticipating going far and probably with a camp.
Is alot less bother, easier to get etc.no fuel needed. And lets face it, if you are going lightweight there will not be long spaces inbetween towns, get a fire going, some steaks bacon chicken when you get to town
Loc: Portland, OR
Food must satisfy both physiological and psychological needs. Some people are fine with treating food entirely as fuel and pay no attention to the finer details of what they are chewing and swallowing. Others want a diet that better resembles what they might normally eat at home. Some require vegan food and want as much raw fresh food as possible. Others want wine. Some want junk food. And so on.
The best advice about food is to experiment with it until you understand how you prefer to eat on the trail. It is a problem that admits an endless variety of solutions, so the process of experimentation only ends when you feel like it.
I will be honest, i turn into an animal when hiking, my tastes change, things that I cannot usually eat. Steak and kidney at home i cannot stand the taste, where as I can end up craving its very intense flavour.
Enough of the thread hyjack anyway
If you take 5 days food and water thats 14lbs. Anything after that you wish to keep lightweight if you are planning on doing hills. If the rest of your kit comes in at 10lbs thats bad enough, but if you are adding 1lb to your sleeping, 1lb to your clothes, 2lbs to your cooking, 2lb to your pack, thats an extra 20 percent ! So a significant addition really is 1lb on your tent or rucksack. The most you could add is a couple of oz here and there to keep the weight down.
If you are doing a long term trip you will be on the flat or going to a basecamp i would say carrying 100lbs is possible, but you will be packing in alot of food such as 60lbs worth, some of that will be ingredients like butter tomato paste flour,