Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
They used to say that you shouldn't carry a pack that was any more than 20% of your body weight for comfort. I don't think they were talking about base weight, but even at total pack weight I'm sure today's standards are much less. My base weight in summer for a multi day trip is 10% because I weigh 180 and my base weight is 18 pounds. (does not include what I am wearing, consumables or poles). What is your pack/body weight ratio?
180 lbs = 82 kilo 18 lbs = 8.2 kilo
PS. some items weigh the same no matter your body weigh, like a stove and generally speaking a one person tent weighs the same no matter your body wt. so lighter wt. people have a disadvantage. They probably do eat and drink less of course.
Loc: Portland, OR
My base weight is not a single number, since I like to tailor my gear and clothes to the hike I want to hike, but for a typical summer backpack trip, my base weight is between 15 and 16 lbs and my body weight is right about 160 lbs. So, call it just a hair under 10%.
I think I've posted this before: the load you can carry doesn't depend on your current weight, it depends on your "normal" (formerly "ideal" but that probably comes too close to body-shaming) weight:
Pack weight is simply a way to quantify pain – but carrying a load doesn’t have to be painful if you limit yourself to what you can comfortably carry. Most people can carry a fourth of their “normal” body weight comfortably. You can find charts that classify your weight as “normal” or “overweight” on the Center for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov) by searching “Body Mass Index” (BMI.) Your real load includes your gear, supplies, and excess body weight. For example, if your BMI normal weight is one-hundred-eighty pounds, you shouldn’t carry more than forty-five pounds. If you’re ten pounds overweight, your pack shouldn’t weigh more than thirty-five pounds.
It makes sense: I'm about 10 pounds over my "normal" weight, and am not in the greatest shape. At 180, does it make sense that I can comfortably carry a pack that weighs 5 pounds more than a physically-fit 160-pound person? Of course not.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
what you said makes sense to a point. although 25% of body weight is something I could only do when I was young. The body weight excess over BMI is interesting. When I was a competitive weight lifter in college I found out that when you gain weigh you also gain strength. It seems odd, but if you start eating a lot and go up to another weight class suddenly and surprisingly you can lift significantly more. So for some unexplained reason adding bulk automatically adds to strength. This may not apply to people not constantly working out with weights however. Also, I might mention, BMI is a poor measure for people with higher than average muscle mass. Muscle is heavy and if you rely on BMI for calculating body fat it will be wrong for weight lifters and body builders.
I have thought a lot about, and read a little about, exercise physiology, energy, nutrition and human performance and there are a lot of myths perpetrated by even experienced coaches. At the same time there are so many factors in backpacking and backpackers it is difficult at best to make any hard and fast rules about the energy expended, strength and endurance. Weight, distance, trail conditions, weather, conditioning and elevation gain just to mention a few. Always interesting nevertheless.
That is my 3-season gear base weight. The kit includes a Marmot 20 degree bag and a BA Fly Creek tent. With a bear can added, this is the gear I used on my last JMT through hike. It rained a lot on that trip and temps got to the mid 20’s on a couple of nights. I stayed warm and dry. My basic gear list is posted on my blog, Theoldbackpacker.com if you are interested. I would probably add a few stay-dry items if I were to use the gear strictly in western Washington though.
My base weight is around 12 lb. unless I’m carrying a bear canister. I weigh about 175 lb. so the proportion is about 7%. In cold weather my base weight goes up about 3 pounds.
Ha! My base weight is 13.5 pounds without a bear can--but I always carry a bear can! And since I weight about what Pika does, I'm at about 8% of body weight. But when you add in food...and water...and maybe an alcoholic beverage...
If the ground is level and flat about 25 percent. If there is anything that stops you actually walking in a rythmic pattern like a hill or rough ground 15 percent otherwise its a real toil. Thats all in, which is why long trips prevent exploration.
Literally never know what my trail weight is because the pack gets final packing at the trailhead. Food, water and those last "extras" go in and sometimes, things come out because the food is too bulky.
Water can be a significant variable because sometimes only at the trailhead (or ranger station) do I get a sense of how much to carry. One of several things I miss about hiking the PNW is the availability of water on the go.
I think base weight is pretty meaningless. Who cares what the pack weight is the hour you leave the trail and step into your car! To me it is what you have to haul up the hill the first day out. That includes the clothes you wear and what you carry.
And every trip and every location has different gear required. Also, why are you out there? I carry a camera because that is one of the reasons I am out there. I carry a bear can because it is required. I carry fishing gear because that is another big reason I am out there. I carry a 10-degree sleeping bag because it is the only one I have and it has to work in shoulder seasons with temperatures in the low 20's. I use trekking poles because I am now using a tent that needs trekking poles to set up. If snow conditions require it I add microspikes.
Here is my 11-day/91 mile trip in the upper Kern (almost exclusively above 11,000 feet), this August. I had to carry microspikes on this trip due to snow conditions:
Total weight (everything!) 37.3 pounds starting weight on my back 32.1 pounds "base weight" 19.2 pounds Clothing worn, camera, trekking poles 5.1 pounds Gas 1.5 pounds food 11.5 pounds
I rarely carry more than 1/4 liter of water because it is always available. I carry the "mini" water filter- 3 oz.
I loose some weight over the backpack season, and this was a later season trip, so I was down to 110 pounds; ended the season (two more trips) at 105.
So my ratio is: 34% for total starting day, 30% on my back, 17% meaningless "base weight".
Forgot to add, this trip included slower off-trail travel. And I caught fish almost every day (knew I could before I started because this is one of the Sierra prime fishing areas). Had I not been so sure of fishing, I would have carried more food. The microspikes ended up to be dead weight because I never used them.
Interesting, Daisy. While fish do have some nutritional value, most studies I've seen show them to have very few actual calories.
Of course, fifty years ago I used to backpack with oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J in tubes for lunch and Ben's instant rice and a whole slew of Knorr sauces. We'd catch fish every night for dinner. But I think the rice provided most of the calories...
Like Daisy, I think using "base weight" to drive decisions is kind of meaningless, too - and to some extent, so is "FSO" (from skin out) weight. All it does is quantify pain. What does have meaning is whether the stuff you're carrying is adequate to keep you warm, dry, hydrated, fed, and reasonably comfortable/safe on the trip. Anything that doesn't is just dead weight (aka "the sum of your fears.") I still tend to follow Colin Fletcher's advice: (a) if you need it, take it (b) if you take it, take the lightest functional version you can find/afford.
The guideline about the percentage of body weight you can comfortably carry is good for newcomers to the sport, and for a weight budget for a given trip. Newcomers generally like rules; they often find them reassuring (even if they're bogus.) Telling someone they can comfortably carry 40 pounds, then deducting the 15 pounds of excess body weight, gives them a very realistic 25 pound load. Then you can work with them to get rid of half the stuff they thought was necessary for a two-night weekend (one of which is within a mile of the car.) They'll still find the remaining 25 pounds heavy, but they'll have the reassurance of a Rule: "They" say I'll be fine with this load, so it must not be too heavy."
Having said that, I do watch my pack weight closely: my total weight, not my base weight. For a normal two or three night trip, I can take a pot and a cup; for a longer trip, with more food and clothing, I might reduce the kitchen to the cup. I also set a much lower budget for myself than the "usual" 25%; at my age (70), I tell myself that by managing my pack weight (and my expectations about mileage, terrain, and length of trip) I can extend the number of years I can still backpack using all of my original parts (knees, hips, etc., are still going strong.)
But mostly, Fletcher is still right: if you need it, take it and accept the fact that you have to carry it - or figure out an alternative.
Fish are not to add tons of calories but rather for protein. I find that reasonably priced, light weight, compact, chemical-free protein sources are hard to find. I am not a fan of those "protein powders" which if not too sweet are too expansive and have an ingredient list a mile long! I would rather chew my protein than drink it.
Fish are a supplement to reduce the weight of backpack food, not to replace food. Fishing is also a bit of work, so if you do not enjoy fishing, do not do it. I did not fish much when I was younger but now as I am not able to walk hard for 12 hours each day, fishing has become enjoyable camp activity.
My fishing gear weighs 11 oz. So I figure I have to at least get 11 oz. of eatable fish to break even. The percentage of fish meat varies with fish size with the larger fish providing more meat. 8 inch fish are a wonderful tasty addition to any meal, but not much in meat. Comparing the amount of fish meat I eat on the average to a 2.5 oz. package of tuna I think I average about 5-6 oz. each meal when I fish. Catching one big fish is more efficient both in meat gained and less work since it takes about as much time to clean a 8-inch fish as a 16-inch fish.
I definitely have been skunked, but that is pretty rare. Also, as I get better at fishing, I am more successful. On the average it takes at least an hour fishing to be worthwhile. I just fish at the end of the day and never take a rest day just to fish.
And then there is the fishing license. Out of state can be more than $100 and hardly worth it for one or two trips. I feel I can justify the expense with an in-state license since I use it a lot.
I know what you mean. About fifty years ago a friend and I hiked for three days to get up to Colby Lake in SEKI. We had fabulous fly-fishing all afternoon for golden trout. And we were counting on those trout for dinner.
But as I watched my friend fish, I realized that I didn't need to keep any fish--he was catching plenty of them. But when I met him back at camp for dinner, I learned that he had come to the same conclusion seeing my fishing success.
What followed was a frantic 45 minutes of fishing where we each struggled to catch a couple of trout for dinner.
We did. But I still remember the look of shock on our faces as we each realized that we had expected the other guy to keep some fish...and we had nothing to eat but instant rice.
There is no such thing as too many fish to eat! My husband and I fish separately, but we always keep what we catch, never assuming the other will "provide" the meal. Whatever we both catch, we stuff our faces and the dog will happily eat lap up every last morsel, and lick the frying pan too!
When I fish I cut rations from 2500 calories per day to 2000 calories per day. I do not catch fish every day but it seems to even out over a week or longer trip. If I am totally skunked, I just loose a bit more weight, which is easily made up when back home.
Many who strive to carry less will spend $$$ on a gear a few ounces lighter, but not really evaluate their food. In my book, if you have one morsel of food left when you get back to the car, you have taken too much. I have never found it a problem to walk out the last day on "empty"; it just motivates me to move faster.
This has morphed into a fascinating topic, as I'm seeing fewer and fewer lakes with fish in the Sierra. I suspect waters once routinely stocked are no longer and lakes I once caught fish out of today have no self-sustaining populations at all.
Creeks have fish more dependably although the five-year drought hammered those populations as well.
I often come out from my short trips with an entire day's worth of food left over - but there's a method to my madness. Here in Southwest Ohio, we have small pockets of near-backcountry; I live within 20 minutes of such a 35-mile trail. I often go out for a quick overnight hike, but I always carry two full days of food - because every so often, I'll get up and start hiking the second day only to realize I don't really want to go home yet. Since it only takes about 15 minutes on a cell phone to extend my camping permit for an additional day, I always carry that second day's food, just in case. (I don't really think that's what you meant by "leftover=poor planning" but I couldn't resist. )
There still are plenty of fish in the high Sierra if you are simply fishing for dinner. Granted, if you are out for trophy fish it may be a bit harder now than 20 years ago. I did two Sierra trips last summer and caught as many fish as I wanted to eat; none were anything to brag about. Other areas, such as the Wind Rivers also have a lot of fishing if you know where to go. I do not recommend slashing rations if you are a beginning fisherman or if you go to a new area where you are unsure of the quality of fishing. Backpackers who do fish, usually plan their trip around the fishing.
Glen, I would call your method flexible, not over-packing. I sort of do the same thing, in that I will stay out an extra day if I have enough food, usually when the fishing has been exceptionally good. I give those at home an overly pessimistic date for my return, so I can be flexible.
Probably to the horror of avid fishermen, I am totally a "catch and eat"; never catch and release. I have no desire to sit at a lake and haul in 20 fish just for the sport. I stop fishing when I either: catch the legal limit, what I want to cook/eat, or when I just call it a day due to cold, hunger, tiredness or it is gets too late. Obviously I am not a serious fisherman. I only take minimal gear to fly fish- weighing about 10 oz including a small knife.
I fly fish, like Daisy. But my gear weighs almost 20 ounces, so I have no idea how she can get by with less. An 8 foot fly rod, a simple reel, and a box full of flies. I can keep myself entertained for many hours.
And I do usually catch and release these days, but have been known to keep a few when my wife complains too much about not having tasted any nice trout for a while...