Backpack Weight For Hiking — How Much Should Your Pack Weigh?

Planning ahead for a hike is always a sure-fire way to get the best experience possible. But sometimes over-planning causes problems, especially when it comes to hiking pack weight. It's important to know the proper backpack weight for hiking. So, how much should your backpack weigh for hiking and what can you do to make sure you're properly packing?

Knowing how much your pack should weigh for a hike can make the difference between having an enjoyable experience and having an exhausting, prolonged journey.

Backpack Weight For Hiking Rule Of Thumb

Before you jump right into cramming your pack full of items until the stitching starts coming undone, let's first take a look at the general guidelines for figuring out how much your backpack should weigh for hiking:

Your backpack weight for hiking should not weigh more than 10 percent of your body weight. 

So, if you want to calculate this properly, check out the following example for determining how much your backpack should weigh for hiking:

150lbs x 0.10 = 15 lbs

Pretty straightforward. If you weigh 150 lbs, your pack shouldn't exceed 15 lbs for a day hike.

The keywords here are "day hike". This means completing a hike in under a day. Trekking and backpacking will, of course, have a different requirement.

This will help you keep your backpack weight manageable for your hike and ensure you're not being overloaded.

So you've got your answer. But why does this matter? Let's take a look.

Why Backpack Weight For Hiking Matters

Knowing your pack weight for hiking isn't just important for figuring out what you'll need for a trip. It's also helpful in figuring out what you don't need, too.

  • Stability: Having an overweight backpack can hinder your balance and stability. Remember, you're adding extra weight that is going to be attached to your back. And if you're hiking uphill, gravity is going to do its thing and make you feel pulled backward. Don't get me wrong, this can be a fun challenge if you're looking to gain some physical strength and core stability. On the other hand, if you want to just take an enjoyable, easy-peezy hike, this is going to be annoying at best.
  • Energy Use: Adding extra weight is going to use a lot more energy. This will require more food, water, and rest. Keep that in mind, especially if you're taking a long or more physically-demanding hike. If you want to figure out how many calories you'll burn with your hiking pack weight, thus knowing how much food to bring on a hike, do a simply calorie-burned calculation and add your pack weight to your overall weight.

Some hikers are willing to take the tradeoff for convenience for comfort, especially if they plan on taking frequent rests to take in the sights.

Most, though, want to travel as efficiently as possible. It all comes down to what your exact goals are for your hike.

So when, exactly, is hiking pack weight an issue, if at all? Let's take a look and see when hiking with a heavy pack is troublesome.

Is Hiking With A Heavy Pack Bad?

Hiking with a heavy backpack isn't necessarily bad.

Some people, myself included, love the challenge.

But not everyone is looking for an extreme workout. Most folks just want to have a nice journey through nature. They want to enjoy themselves.

Before you start packing, take a look at the added obstacles when hiking with a heavy backpack:

  • Hiking With A Heavy Pack Is Exhausting: If you're over-packing, a heavy backpack and be exhausting during a hike.  Lugging around a bunch of gear that you won't likely use is going to make that 3-mile hike feel like a 6-mile hike. Sure, the added weight might help you burn some more calories, but it's going to also require more water and food to fuel your hike, too. If you want to enjoy your hike with a mild physical challenge, don't overstuff your pack.
  • A Heavy Hiking Pack Requires More Breaks: More intensity is going to require more breaks. There's no way around it. Cramming a bunch of things—items you probably won't need for a moderate hike—into your back is going to require you to take more frequent breaks. If you're not looking to stop every fifteen-to-twenty minutes, pack appropriately.
  • It might cause leaning: The downside to a heavier hiking backpack is the risk of bad posture. Wearing a heavy hiking backpack might cause leaning in newer hikers, which can lead to back pain while hiking.

How To Reduce Pack Weight

hiking pack weight

Alright, so maybe you over-prepped a bit.

No worries.

Let's take a look at some of the ways you can reduce your pack weight for hiking:

  • Know Your Backpack Base Weight: The base weight of your hiking backpack is the weight without varying items like consumables (food/water). So, for example, if you always bring the same gear like changes of clothes, a jacket, etc. in your back, it's likely going to remain the same for every trip. Varying duration and intensity, however, will require extra food and water. Your hiking backpack's base weight is the weight without the consumables/varying items.
  • Don't bring things you don't need: It's nice to be prepared. But over-preparing can be a hindrance. Don't bring items you won't likely use. If you're not planning on camping overnight, don't bring a tent and sleeping bags. If you planned out how much water you need for a hike, you might not need to bring a purifier.
  • Opt For Lightweight Gear: Maybe you've got some older hiking equipment that wasn't built for comfort. It may be a good time to upgrade to newer, lighter gear to help reduce your hiking pack weight.
  • Properly Pack Food: If you only plan to hike for 5 miles, you don't need 10 miles worth of food. Always portion out your food properly to avoid overpacking and adding weight to your pack.
  • Weigh Your Gear: Weighing your gear (which can be done with a simple bathroom scale or luggage scale) will help you figure out where most of the workload goes. Weighing your gear before you pack will also help you determine what you really need on a hike.
  • How Long Is The Hike?: This is probably one of the most important factors. Knowing exactly how long you're going to be shredding the trails will help you figure out exactly how much gear you should be bringing. For example, a long hike might require a change of socks, depending on the terrain and weather conditions. On the other hand, it may also require less gear if you're taking a shorter hike.
  • Consider Terrain: Always consider the terrain of your hike. Some trails have far more steep inclines than others, and, as such, will put more physical stress on you during a hike. Hiking with a properly-weighted backpack is going to feel more intense on inclines, of course.

When reducing your hiking backpack weight, always look at the optional items first.

You should never discard important, vital items like food and water over comfort items.

There's no point in putting yourself in danger to reduce weight. It's counter-intuitive and can cause problems.

How Much Should Your Backpack Weigh For Hiking?

Now that you know how to calculate your backpack for hiking, here's a chart for what your pack should weigh depending on the type of hike you're taking:

Weight ClassPack Weight
MinimalistUnder 12 lbs (~5.5kg)
UltralightAround 20 lbs (~9kg)*
LightweightUp to 30 lbs (~13.5kg)
Plush/DeluxeOver 30 lbs

*Ultralight is most often defined as being under 10 lbs (~4.5kg). However, some companies have begun marketing packs as "ultralight" but they are over 10 lbs.

Use the above chart as your cheat sheet for figuring out exactly how much your hiking backpack should weigh.

But, when everything is said and done, your pack weight will come down to bare needs and the activity output you seek.

Personally, I pack pretty light for hikes below 5 miles. I know the terrain I'm traversing very well, and I know exactly what to expect. This allows me to shed unnecessary weight.

On the other hand, sometimes I enjoy a challenge and love to build my stamina and strength, so I'll pack a few extra things just for the added weight.

It's all up to you. Just make sure you bring your must-haves and have fun!

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