Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
I didn’t read the entire article as I’m legally blind and anything of length is harder for me to deal with. However I did look at the chart and my main comment would be to consider age. That makes a palpable difference. Even with body weight divisions it’s still a very general guideline. Where does one intend to haul it adds in there somewhere as well. Maybe you covered those variables in the article.
Loc: Portland, OR
While I understand the urge to draw useful connections between body weight and pack weight I'm not sure it can be charted on a simple X-Y grid as you've attempted to do there.
I know you are only trying to paint in broad strokes, by suggesting what sort of pack weight could be considered heavy or light for individuals of varying weights, but by reducing your chart to a grid against two variables I think it takes the simple reality which everyone will understand without your chart, that a heavier pack is more work and less enjoyable to carry, and anchors that truth to specific body weights in ways that don't add much real information to that simple concept, while possibly misleading people in the process.
I agree that body weight and backpacking style are two major variables, and your table highlights this quite well. However, height and obesity also significantly affect the equation and your table doesn't really incorporate that.
However, I'd also suggest that your actual body weight versus your "ideal" body weight factors in (You give this a passing glance following the table, when you mention "reasonably fit" hikers.)
Let's take two examples for a 5'11" hiker; one weighs 220 pounds, the other weighs 170. (Yes, these examples are me, before and after receiving a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. At 220 pounds, I fit into the obese category; after losing 50 pounds and getting more active, I fit the "normal" range.)
According to your chart for "moderate," the obese me can carry a 38-pound pack; the healthy me can only carry a 29-pound pack. I'd suggest that isn't realistic - at least not with the same comfort level.
I would suggest that you modify the instructions for using the chart as follows:
1) Determine your weight using your "normal" or "healthy" BMI upper limit for your height (there's a calculator for this on the CDC website.)
2) Determine your typical packing method (Ultra-heavy to Extremely Ultralight.) Use your chart to get the maximum load in a given category for your normal weight.
3) Subtract a pound from that maximum load for every pound you are overweight to get to the total pack weight you can actually carry. (In my example, my normal weight is 170 pounds, so I can carry 58 pounds of pack weight. When I was 50 pounds overweight, I should carry no more than 58-50=8 pounds. I know from experience that carrying a 20-pound pack when I was 220 was exhausting after an hour or so; the same pack at 170 pounds is very comfortable all day and well within my capabilities.
Anytime you get into definitions of lightweight/heavyweight pack sizes it is fraught with problems. I agree with you Glenn that the OP doesn't take into account BMI, but I would suggest your step 3 overcorrects. I am obese enough that all of my pack weights would be negative using your formula. However, I've been obese and active my whole life. I can carry a lot more weight than a reasonably fit person my height with a healthy BMI. I am used to being active with the weight and it isn't as awkwardly hung on me as a backpack. It's also true that a reasonably fit person with a healthy BMI at my height could probably hike me into the ground with the same size pack. Maybe "half a pound on the waist is the same as a pound on the shoulders"? I don't know. Like I said it gets difficult really quickly.
I think Age, BMI, and % body fat (independent of BMI) all play a significant role along with time spent hiking with that weight on your shoulders.
I do notice the people who get really proud about how low they can get their base weight are short and lithe. Everything they carry weighs considerably less than my stuff even if we have the exact same brand and model. (I am also jealous of how much farther they can hike in a day than I can )
I agree; my formula may be over-correcting. I was assuming a "couch potato" in my thoughts (i.e., me before losing weight), and the pound-of-fat=pound of pack gave me results that approximated my own experience. Like you, I carried the same weight pack for years when overweight and desk-bound and got used to it. I also got used to lower mileage and the exhaustion that went along with it. Eventually, it drove me to explore near-ultralight gear (I had always carried about 5 pounds less than my friends just because I got tired of constantly fiddling with gear.)
The fact that you are obese BUT ACTIVE could very easily result in a 2 (or 3)-pounds-of-fat=1-pound-of-pack-weight equation that would be more accurate for you. Your "obesity" may include significantly more muscle than mine did.
I got my pack down to 16 pounds (including a day's food and a liter of water) for a summer overnight; about 20 pounds for the same trip in 30-40 degree conditions. Oddly, that wasn't driven by the new, lighter me (I'm short, but "lithe" is a term that would never apply!) Instead, it was driven by a desire, at age 70, to continue backpacking into my 80s - ideally with my original equipment knees and hips. A lighter pack plus a lighter me seemed to be a possible route to that goal.
Thanks for pointing out how there are no hard-and-fast rules to the Pack Weight question.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
All good comments. By the way, the link was to a blog that someone else made; not me. The name was just coincidental. Yes, as pointed out there are too many factors to make a simple equation. I suppose every individual has to find out how much weight it is easy, or reasonable for him/her to carry and adjust according to the trip and the current conditioning. Anyway....an interesting topic and thanks for all the thoughtful responses.
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