Pack Weight and Total Carry Weight are sure to be on your mind regardless of whether you are a seasoned backpacker, or new to this type of adventure.
Reducing Carry Weight, while gathering gear, food, and necessities for a trip is probably the most important goal to be working toward. Way in advance of any upcoming trip. I have gone pack heavy on some previous backpack trips. I can assure you, overloading your pack can really ruin, or at least dampen your thoughts, of ever backpacking again.
Here is a comical video reminder. Titled “Gator and the Chair”. Our friend is a good sport and always has us laughing. This video is for you that want everything along on your back. We may laugh, but we have all been right here. At one time or another. Or to some degree.
in the making of this video!
We have learned a lot of creature comforts are not worth carrying. That comes with experience to some degree. You can fast track your knowledge if you listen to someone that worked through those experiences.
The average person spends 2 or 3 nights camping on a Havasu Falls trip. You can pretty much do it without any of the comforts!
Some people like to say you shouldn’t exceed 25% of your body weight when trying to calculate your Backpack weight. For many, should you apply that theory I think you would find you will have a miserable trip. That is.. should you push the limit and max out at that figure.
People that are experienced backpackers are exceptions. But the everyday person, maybe trying this trip the first time, needs to learn to reduce the weight. The less riding on your back the better. Remember the water you need to carry on this trip will add an additional 7.5lbs or so. The 25% rule will not work well for light/petite people, or overly heavy people.
Carry weight to me, means exactly what it states. Though I do not include water in my initial weigh-in for a backpack trip in general. Water can vary depending on the trip location. It also does not include the basic clothing and footwear you have on.
For actual Carry Weight calculations, extra layers of clothing, sunglasses, camera/phone, GPS device, maps, hats, gloves, and all other paraphernalia, needs to be included. All that junk in your pockets, on your head, around your neck, and dangling off your pack……and that water+container you will be hauling!
So Carry Weight when talked about here, is your pack, all gear, food, extra clothing, anything carried in your pockets or clipped in your belt or person.
I generally limit my Total Carry Weight to 20lbs, before including water. Water requirements can add “some” weight, or “lots”, depending on trail conditions, climate, temperatures, and water availability along the trail. To be safe on this trip you better factor a minimum of 1 gallon.
My body weight is over 200 lbs. On the Havasu trip I carry at least 1 gallon of water in bladders (empty bladder weight included in the 20lbs). So my total carry weight objective for a 3 night trip + water is 20 + 7.5 or 27.5lbs. Using the 25% rule I could go over 50lbs. No way!!! Cold weather and Camera gear often pushes my 20lb objective up 5 or six lbs. So my Supai trip has been going at just under 35 lbs. Total Carry Weight (including my water).
I can assure you that at 35lbs on my back going up the switchbacks the day I leave. I always wished I had cut more weight.
As eluded to above, when Younger & Dumber, I packed 70lbs on a Pacific Crest Trail solo trip. But that was planned for on a much longer trip in both miles and days. But that weight was miserable.
My personal goal now is a total carry weight of 20-25lbs, not counting my water. I have found I have to plan trips that are about a maximum of 3 nights to maintain this goal. That includes packing out all my waste and depleted supply containers. Practicing “Leave no Trace”. I have found this 20-25lb carry weight to be ideal for me to hike at a good pace and not suffer muscle & joint pain, or develop foot blisters, because I am overloaded.
Once I try to push the trip to 4 nights or beyond, my carry weight starts climbing. Now I need more food, more cooking fuel, and “pack out” waste weight starts accumulating. Remember carried water weight also has to be factored in too.
I mostly backpack desert terrain, or at least area’s where water can be sparse. This climate requires about 1 gallon of water a day for drinking and preparing dehydrated foods. Remember each gallon adds about 7.5lbs to your total packing weight, not counting the container. Two days out without a water source would up your water weight to 15 lbs. Havasu at least has water at the end of your days hike. Depending on the season you are trekking, 1 gallon may even be cutting it close.
Listed here are the 5 top items that weigh you down. We are going to assume you know enough to carry high energy, dehydrated, low weight food. Clothing is another factor but lets discuss and comment on these top 5.
* Sleeping pad
* Sleeping bag
* Cooking gear
BACKPACK (The pack itself)
From my first year to the Havasu Falls area, to present, just changing backs was a big weight reducer. I am no stranger to backpacking. Years ago I did part of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) on a solo adventure. I left the trail head carrying close to 70lbs. My original pack weighed 8.5 lbs empty. Younger & Dumber! It was super comfy carrying a heavy load starting out, but that load takes its toll in miles carried. Your hip joints, back, ankles, feet, and neck, all start telling you that your are doing it all wrong!
My current pack is under 2lbs. My objective any more is to reduce overall carry weight as much as possible. It makes for a much more enjoyable trip. My total carry weight objective is to be 20-25lbs or less (not counting water) But that weight does include anything clipped or hung on belts, in pockets, hat, camera, and sunglasses. It’s tough to get there.
My current personal recommendation on backpacks is a GossamerGear Mariposa 60. They have a unisex ergonomic harness for both men & women. The pack itself is less than 2 lbs. It is capable of carrying gear for 3 to 7 day trips. They also make a small version for kids. GossamerGear website.
If you allow your weight to get up to the 35lb range, this recommend pack can get uncomfortable fast! The stock shoulder straps, and hip straps are un-padded and dig in.
I have changed tents several times for backpacking trips. Always reducing weight. There are some high end tents out there in the 1 lb range. There is also a hefty price tag on them. I use a high end tent for long treks such as the PCT. Some common sense has to prevail. As well as how much you have in your wallet.
Don’t carry a two person tent if you are the only one using it. Are you the type that likes to use trekking poles to hike? Check out tents that incorporate those trekking poles, rather than packing additions tent poles. Or modify yours to work that way. Get free standing tents, don’t carry stakes. Instead find pouches made for the purpose of filling them with something found locally like sand or rocks (make your own if need be).
I just keep gear in my tent and no type of tie downs or stakes. Without tie downs or stakes you have to be mindful of wind blowing your tent away though. In a pinch….some rocks inside?
One year I used a kids tent I found at Walmart in the $20 range. Its foot print was slightly less than the 6ft I am. But it worked sleeping diagonally. It was cheap, had a floor and rain fly, and was light weight. I just had to pick through and find a plain one. I wasn’t going with the Cinderella print! LOL
For something cheap, under 5lb check out the Wenzel Starlite on Amazon. If you want to get in the 2 /12-3 pound range expect to pay more. If you want in the 1lb range expect to pay a premium. Check out “The One” by GossamerGear.
Sleeping pads differ wildly too. Some people can sleep without them. I can not. In fact I am considering upgrading to a thicker self inflating type. I have one of the thinner Therm-a-rest. Therm-a-rest and others carry thicker ones. One way to reduce is to use shorter sleeping pads rather than full length. This is one item I sacrifice weight for comfort. I have a full length one so I can “cold” camp as well as warm camp. I have used the same one for years.
It pays to buy high quality if you want long life. I have also used the “blue” rolled up cheap foam type pads. My sleeping pad actually integrates with my Mariposa Gossimer Gear pack to provide back padding from other gear. If you are going one time, or flying in, and not bringing all of your gear. A “Blue” foam pad will suffice for this trip. If you really can put up without one, that is another option.
Sleeping bags are another items with so many choices. I have used a variety of brands and styles over many years. This is another item that seems to go up in price as the weight goes down. They also go up in price as sleeping warmth goes up….or should I say as the comfortable temperature rating goes down.
My personal observation is the ratings in degrees is off by 20°F. This opinion is coming from someone that likes the cold and doesn’t easily get cold. IMO if you are camping in night time temps that dip into the 20s, you better get a 0°F rated bag.
I can’t stand confining mummy bags but have used them if that is what it takes to meet carry weight objectives. I just don’t sleep as well. I can force myself to put up with it a few nights though.
Cooking gear and the fuel that fires them can be another place to save weight. I have used the small folding pocket stoves in the past with additional titanium pots. With these small fold up or pocket stoves, I hate the way pots slide off or dump your pot…plus no screen to block wind. But……its all about weight!
I personally use a Jetboil PCS (they have an even smaller unit now). They are integrated into one unit that over comes many issues I don’t like with other products. They also store in a compact unit including the fuel canister that fits inside. They have their own ignitor eliminating the need to carry matches. I haven’t found anything to beat it when you compare performance and weight, and factor factor in pot, cup, something to pour a hot pot, etc. All of that is inclusive with the Jetboil.
My Jetboil PCS is my stove, my container for boiling water, and my drinking cup or cereal bowl. No food ever goes into the pot portion. Only plain water. I boil water and pour it into dehydrated food bags or instant hot drinks. I have gone to zip-lock bag cooking. That way there is no pot clean-up which requires other weight items. Clean-up on the include plastic cup/bowl, and my eating utensil (titanium Spork) is done with remaining hot water in the Jetboil pot.
Then think beyond cooking. Some hard core backpackers won’t even carry a stove, utensils, or fuel. They use high protein, high calorie bars. For two days they can do without normal food. Toward the end of their trip they have eaten that portion of their pack weight. They will also be the ones running by you on the trail!
8,757 total views, 18 views today