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  1. #1
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    Default So what's ultra-light, what's heavy, and what's just light?

    I'm pretty sure I don't qualify as an "ultra-light" backpacker, but I was wondering if there's an actual base weight in pounds that serves as the official cutoff?

    Also, I'm 6'4" and weigh about 200lbs. My base weight before food is usually around 25 lbs. I've found that carrying 12.5% of my body weight isn't uncomfortable to me at all. However, I usually hike with my brother who is about 30 lbs lighter than I. We usually divide weight evenly so he is carrying 25lbs or 14.7% of his body weight. He runs quite a bit more than me, but it seems that on steep inclines he has a harder time. I'm beginning to think it's because he's carrying a greater share (as a percentage) of the weight.

    Is there a rolling scale for what a person should carry based on their body weight?

    Do any of you bigger guys find that you don't mind carrying some extra weight for the small conveniences they may provide? For example, I carry a heavier sleeping pad because it's more comfy and to me the better sleep is worth the weight.

    In summary, does anyone know a maximum recommended pack weight as a percentage of body weight or height?


  2. #2
    Registered User Hot Flash's Avatar
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    No idea if there's a standard. Personally, I shoot for 20% of my bodyweight, but I only weigh 130# at my heaviest.
    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.

  3. #3

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    I've always heard UL as less than ten pounds base. Every time I read that I see dollar signs.

  4. #4
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    If you frequent the UL web sites, in general it seems that a sub 10 pound base weight is "ultralight" and a sub 5 pound base weight is "super ultralight" or SUL. (Not to be confused with "Stupid Ultralight.") A base weight under 20 pounds is "light."

    Of course these cutoffs are arbitrary and ridiculous. Take what you need and like and enjoy the hike.
    Ken B
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    Our Long Trail journal

  5. #5
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    My general rule-of-thumb is that if you can hit the 15% of body weight target then you will have a much more pleasant trip. Of course, 15% is really low for a fit, muscular athlete (kind of like BMI numbers). The target includes total carry packweight, including starting food, fuel and water. For those of you who aren't good with percentages: 15 lbs for a 100-pound person; 20 lbs for a 130-ish pounder; 25 lbs for a 165 pounder; 30 lbs for a 200-pounder. Of course, anyone can carry a lot more weight, but that 15% seems to be a magic number in my experience. I carried 35-40 pounds in the late 70s, and lugged around 50-60 when I was hiking with my girlfriend or mom, if for no other reason than it slowed me down to their pace. At this stage in my life, my knees are quite appreciative of a 25 pound pack, but that can increase to 30 with another 3-4 days of food.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  6. #6

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    i once knew a guy on the at that got mad because a leaf fell on his pack...... best advice is to HYOH

  7. #7
    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    UL starts at 5 pounds or less. I know some hikers would like to preach 10 pounds is UL but really. Hikers have been able to backpack with less than 5 pounds for over 20 years now. It doesn’t make sense that while equipment is now lighter now, then the standards of what is UL should be heavier.

    Hikers who travel with less than a 5 pound base weight can understand this when I say you don’t even notice you have a pack on. It feels like you are simply taking a nice stroll.

    Hikers carrying 5 – 10 is light-weight. Meaning your pack is easy to hike around with but you still know it is there.

    Hikers carrying 11-20 is about average. It is not hard but it is more difficult than traveling with less weight. Also day hikers, town folks, or other thru-hikers notice that you are a backpacker. Hikers who travel with less can sometimes pass as just a day hiker especially if you are going UL.
    Hikers carrying with 21-30 pounds are mildly heavy. Meaning they feel their pack on their back and yes it does affect your endurance levels.
    Anyone carrying more than 30 pounds should really take a harder look at what they are packing. It is too easy to carry less.
    Each hiker packs the gear he or she wants to carry. Some prefer to carry a little extra; others like to travel with a little less. It is all a matter of choice and finding the right balance.
    Wolf



  8. #8
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    The quick and dirty:

    SUL = 5 lbs or less
    UL = 10 lbs or less
    Lightweight = 20 lbs or less

    I look at these as general guidelines and not absolutes.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    UL starts at 5 pounds or less. I know some hikers would like to preach 10 pounds is UL but really. Hikers have been able to backpack with less than 5 pounds for over 20 years now. It doesn’t make sense that while equipment is now lighter now, then the standards of what is UL should be heavier.

    Hikers who travel with less than a 5 pound base weight can understand this when I say you don’t even notice you have a pack on. It feels like you are simply taking a nice stroll.

    Hikers carrying 5 – 10 is light-weight. Meaning your pack is easy to hike around with but you still know it is there.

    Hikers carrying 11-20 is about average. It is not hard but it is more difficult than traveling with less weight. Also day hikers, town folks, or other thru-hikers notice that you are a backpacker. Hikers who travel with less can sometimes pass as just a day hiker especially if you are going UL.
    Hikers carrying with 21-30 pounds are mildly heavy. Meaning they feel their pack on their back and yes it does affect your endurance levels.
    Anyone carrying more than 30 pounds should really take a harder look at what they are packing. It is too easy to carry less.
    Each hiker packs the gear he or she wants to carry. Some prefer to carry a little extra; others like to travel with a little less. It is all a matter of choice and finding the right balance.
    Wolf

    Agree with mags above, this is probably the most accepted definition if you must define it. I have a 7-8lb base depending on whether I cook or not. Even at these heavy weights I don't notice the pack weight unless I'm carrying 5 days of food and a full load of water.

    i have seen people do some silly things to try getting below some arbitrary set level. There are even raging debates about whether the UL weight definition should be higher for heavier or taller hiker, people that hike in the rain or folks with big feet. It is all silly. Weight weighs the same regardless of whether it is labeled UL/L/HW.

  10. #10
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    I carry what's comfortable to me, period. And that means carrying some items others may not carry. But that's fine and has worked for 6,000 miles.







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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    The quick and dirty:

    SUL = 5 lbs or less
    UL = 10 lbs or less
    Lightweight = 20 lbs or less

    I look at these as general guidelines and not absolutes.
    +1
    These are the generally accepted norms today.
    Making UL at 10lbs, is pretty easy if you open your wallet.
    But these are really just guidelines, to let you know how your weight stacks up against other similar minded hikers.
    If shooting for some specific target weight gives you a reason to lighten up, fantastic.

    Dont expect anyone else to give a $h_t.

  12. #12
    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    Agree with mags above, this is probably the most accepted definition if you must define it. I have a 7-8lb base depending on whether I cook or not. Even at these heavy weights I don't notice the pack weight unless I'm carrying 5 days of food and a full load of water.

    i have seen people do some silly things to try getting below some arbitrary set level. There are even raging debates about whether the UL weight definition should be higher for heavier or taller hiker, people that hike in the rain or folks with big feet. It is all silly. Weight weighs the same regardless of whether it is labeled UL/L/HW.
    Malto,

    If you go base off the 10 pound base weight as UL then almost everyone would be consider UL. Grandma Gatewood did back in the 1960s, I did it back in the 1990s, even Ray Jardine would be consider as UL. I'm sure there are others. It is now 2014. Equipment has gotten lighter. It is to easy now to travel under 10 pounds.

    To your second point, I agree that some people have done some very silly things to travel UL but then again I got a few comments back in 1993 when I hiked with a home made alcohol stove - one of the first. The debate that you might be talking about between higher weighs for taller people, I might have been the one who started it. When you have to get everything in large sizes such as sleeping bag, clothes, additional food because you are taller or bigger than someone - it does require you to carry more weight.

    Wolf

  13. #13
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Dunno where you're getting the idea that everyone has a base weight under 10 pounds. Most hikers have well over 20 pound base weights, Wolf. Probably closer to 30. There are a lot of 40+ pound total pack weights out there, and they didn't start with a 10 pound base. Now, if you're talking experienced thru-hikers, then I expect we'd see average base weights in the 10-15 pound range depending on the trail and the season. It's not particularly easy to get a base under 10 pounds, even these days, especially for a large guy, even with spending a lot of cash. It's easy to get a sub-20 pound base, and not very hard to get below 15.

    If you want to set your own definitions, that's great, but the conventional wisdom is what Mags wrote above.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  14. #14

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    If you can lift the pack with one pinky, it's ultra light.

    If it takes one hand to lift, it's light

    It takes two hands and a knee, it's heavy.

    If takes a rope over a tree limb and pullys, it's ultra heavy.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    Dunno where you're getting the idea that everyone has a base weight under 10 pounds. Most hikers have well over 20 pound base weights, Wolf. Probably closer to 30. There are a lot of 40+ pound total pack weights out there, and they didn't start with a 10 pound base. Now, if you're talking experienced thru-hikers, then I expect we'd see average base weights in the 10-15 pound range depending on the trail and the season. It's not particularly easy to get a base under 10 pounds, even these days, especially for a large guy, even with spending a lot of cash. It's easy to get a sub-20 pound base, and not very hard to get below 15.

    If you want to set your own definitions, that's great, but the conventional wisdom is what Mags wrote above.
    Perfect!

  16. #16
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    I've always had an issue with the whole notion opf arbitrary weight "cut-offs" with UL/SUL because people rarely factor in the expected weather conditions/temperatures, terrain, etc. Hiking in fall in New England requires carrying several more pounds of clothing/gear than one would carry in summer in the south or mid-atlantic.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blissful View Post
    I carry what's comfortable to me, period. And that means carrying some items others may not carry. But that's fine and has worked for 6,000 miles.
    I gotta agree with Miss Bliss... Except for the (ahem) 4 boxes of extra stuff I thought I'd absolutely need... didn't... and mailed home when I started the AT in '06 my kit has pretty much stayed the same. Interestingly, I never weighed it, guessing that with food and water it weighed in between 30 and 40 pounds.

    However, during the past several weeks, I've done much snow shoveling in Missouri and spread about a dozen bags of a "snow-melt" product. Those bags are HEAVY weighing in at 40 pounds each. Every time I pick one up, I think, " no way!" Who'd wanna carry one of these on their back for thousands of miles?

    Then I think about Tipi and all the stuff he takes when he heads out... Whoa!

    The next time I pack my pack, I'm gonna weigh it!
    When you get to those unexpected situations in life where it’s difficult to figure something out, just ask yourself, “What would MacGyver do?”
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    Rickles McPickles

  18. #18

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    Don't weigh you pack, weigh individual pieces of gear. Divide each item by the weight of a snickers and ask yourself is this item going to cause more comfort than X number of snickers bars.

    It has been ages since I have weighed my pack. I have it down to a weight where I can hike with an unbuckled hip belt all day on the last day before town. I refuse to obsess over numbers, I'm out there to have fun.

  19. #19
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    Seems to me this is a male prowise issue, mine's bigger than yours. mine's lighter than yours. take what you need and go take a hike!!

  20. #20

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    Well, this 68 year old body of mine can tell the difference in the weight on my back with every swig of water I take, especially when hiking up 45 degree slopes.

    It may seem obsessive to weigh each piece of gear, and an extra two ounce item in the pack may not seem like a big deal. Each item by itself doesn't weigh much.
    I go by the philosophy that if I can reduce that two ounce item to one ounce, I've cut the weight of that item in half. If I carry that thinking to every other item, then a 40 lb. pack becomes a 20 lb. pack.

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