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Thread: Base weight

  1. #21
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    I did and my personal, non combat pack used to be 51 lbs with way too much food and clothes and a sleeping bag that should have required me carrying an oversized sign to warn other of what was coming down the trail.
    Last edited by FromNH; 02-12-2020 at 09:20.

  2. #22
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    From my experience over a decade ago, Western hikers talked more about base weight. It seemed more Eastern hikers used the "full load of food and water" metric.

    After I hiked the PCT and CDT, seasons of easy discussions with other hikers about base weight, I hiked the AT and it was a different trail language. If asked about my pack weight, I'd give the base weight and get a confused look in return. "Oh, I mean fully loaded," they'd say. Then it was my turn for a confused look.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  3. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by FromNH View Post
    I did and my personal, non combat pack used to be 51 lbs with way too much food and clothes and a sleeping bag that should have required me carrying an oversized sign to warn other of what was coming down the trail.
    OK, it's not an issue of weighing stuff just the stated metric.

    Whether you use fully loaded (max weight) or base weight, you will know you pack is getting lighter everyday you eat. If you use base weight and weigh it fully loaded, you start to think about how you might lighten the food and water load. Which doesn't mean you have to eat rice cakes and suck water off a bandanna you collected water with. If you are pulling into camp with an extra liter of water or more, or ending the trip with too many rations. Ending the trip at your base weight as comfortable as you might want. If you are thinking just about max weight, you might be thinking that you lost food weight and that's fine without realizing you are far from your base weight. Food and water though is so strongly tied to trip length that max weight has less value as a comparison method. You saying your max weight is 28 lbs would mean nothing without knowing how many days of food, how much water, what season and where are you going. The first two variables are irrelevant with base weight. You've got your salmon and I've got my liter of whiskey which aren't going to change per se but they aren't relevant to everyone. Base weight is not perfect either though, bigger people need bigger gear, some people run colder than others, etc.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
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  4. #24

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    It's a good measurement for comparison purposes. Comparison between different bits of gear for purchasing decisions... between two hikers to make sure they're on the same page with a common definition... between the weight of your pack in the spring/fall, summer and winter. Base and worn weight is largely weather dependent, based on expected conditions for where you are. Food/water weight is based on resource availability. Body weight is based on your personal factors.

    It's so when I tell you I left Springer with a 31 pound pack, and I was out of shape and it was heavy and uncomfortable... then we can have a thoughtful discussion about pack carrying capacity, comfort, weather conditions, budget. food panic and all those other factors using a common language.

    Narrator:: Puddlefish was carrying about three extra pounds of food, because he was new to distance backpacking and ignored advice to bring less food.

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    Base weight is something to play around on a spreadsheet with at home off trail, but on trail base weight is not what you carry, you carry more. It might be useful seeing where the weight is, though I have seen it counterproductive as some hikers will lower their base weight by raising their consumable weight more then what they lowered it by, even considering it's a heavier variable consumable.

  6. #26

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    If you do long hikes you quickly find that you can burn only so many calories per day. Your stamina will improve but you will hit your physical fitness limit after 3 months. So you fix what you can: Weight, hiking technique, sleep quality, food quality, etc. Improving on any of those letís you push through prior limits on distance, speed, elevation change, etc you can do in a day.

    But if you intended to ask, ďWhy focus on base weight and not total weight?Ē, itís because base weight is a subcategory of the total weight equation. You work at them all differently.

  7. #27
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    How did people complete the AT (at appx the same success rate) before all the lightweight gear...
    Lonehiker

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    How did people complete the AT (at appx the same success rate) before all the lightweight gear...
    One of the hardest parts of thru hiking is hitting the trail with a fully replenished supply of food pack after a zero day.

    So to make up for the heavier gear in days of yore, hikers carried many dayís more worth of food between resupplies and stayed in town way less.

  9. #29

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    When you had to heft your pack onto a picnic table and back into it to get it on, you knew it was on the heavy side

    A frame pack made the load a little easier to carry and some of the trail wasn't quite as crazy. Even in the 80's there was a fair amount of road walking. Shelter to shelter, 10-12 miles a day was a typical pace. MPD didn't really start to kick up until lighter gear become more common place.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    XH
    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    MPD didn't really start to kick up until lighter gear become more common place.
    Perhaps (probably).

    At the same time, the typical length of time to complete an AT thru hike also went WAY up (right?).

    Correlation does not always equal causation but...

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    XH

    Perhaps (probably).

    At the same time, the typical length of time to complete an AT thru hike also went WAY up (right?).

    Correlation does not always equal causation but...
    It's a bit hard to compare the AT in 1970, and even thru-hiking to some degree, to today. Or the gear. Or even the hikers. The trail, the gear, and the hikers were different in the 1970's and early 80's (and prior). The trail was definitely "less refined" and less defined (blazing and maintenance wasn't as good, lots of road walks, etc.). Logistically there were fewer hostels and motels and shuttle services etc. catering to hikers. So there were fewer town stops, because often the only "logistics" was hitchhiking to a strange town that you had little if any info about. There weren't trails guides like AWOL, etc. The best we had were the Trail Guides from the section clubs and Ed Garvey's notes. 7 day - 10 day resupply gaps were common, not the 3 to 5 which is often the case today. Also, most of us started later, in mid-April, so there wasn't generally the situation of taking multiple zeros for weather as is common with early to mid-March starters now. There wasn't a traveling party either, nor were there a lot of newbie hikers. Most thru-hikers back then had more hiking and prior outdoor experience and their motivation for the adventure was a bit different - more introspective vs extroverted / social. Today I see a lot of people that are planning a thru-hike - but have never spent any significant time hiking/living in the woods. I often wonder why they would set off on something without knowing if they will even enjoy it? Thru-hiking has become a romanticized "thing". I think many probably quit before ever getting out of GA for this reason alone. The reality of wet, cold, tired, hungry, while trying to set up a tent in the wind and rain is a tough reality lesson. I also think the party atmosphere leads to forming social groups (we hiked alone or maybe with one partner a lot of the time) which may often put those groups at the pace of the slowest member, and also lead to more town stops. As you note, all other things being equal, thru-hike time should be less with base weights 1/2 to 2/3 of what they were and carrying less food, better trail routing and maintenance, and hiker logistics and services - except that all things aren't equal and what resulted instead is that the "improvements" / changes simply allowed more - and also differently motivated in many cases - people to start a hike and the time to complete it.
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 02-14-2020 at 19:10.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    How did people complete the AT (at appx the same success rate) before all the lightweight gear...
    This wasn't a question.
    Lonehiker

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Laughed my ass off on this one, cause it's so true!! !!
    Oh, I think heavier hikers like lighter packs on their shoulders too.
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  14. #34
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    For me, the whole purpose of separating base weight from consumables is to help focus on gear selection, and to determine the appropriate pack for the mission. If I'm hiking into a lake for a week of fishing, that's likely a much bigger, heavier load than what I'd use on a long distance hike on trails like the AT. Both in terms of the gear (Lodge frying pan ...) and the amount of consumables I'd be carrying. That load likely calls for a pack with a robust suspension.

    Three season, long distance hiking, on trails where one gets up, eats, packs up, hikes all day, then sets up camp, eats and goes to sleep, and can resupply every 3-4 days, does not call for a lot of stuff. Most end up carrying nothing they don't need. And the stuff they do need does not have to meet MILSPEC, cause one is not exposing their gear to the same stuff as a combat soldier. In that scenario, those lightweight packs, with their minimal, or non-existent suspensions start to look good, But it takes a disciplined approach to gear selection to get down to the max weight those packs can handle comfortably. Cause those packs are miserable to carry if one exceeds their max load specs. At some point they feel like all the weight is on yer shoulders.

    Otoh, a 10 day hike, without resupply, may not change much in terms of the gear going in the pack, but one's certainly going to carry approx twice as much food and stove fuel. Those lightweight packs won't cut it. Both in terms of volume and max weight. One's more likely to need a higher volume pack with a more robust suspension for the load to be transferred from shoulders to hip belt. Those packs weigh twice as much as the lightweight ones. So one's adding weight to carry more weight. But if ya gotta carry the weight, ya need a pack designed to carry it.

    And hiking into that lake for a week of fishing! I may just want to pack a camp chair, a pan and utensils for cooking fish, a more comfortable sleep system, a hatchet for cutting wood, a bottle of whiskey ... And I'm likely to be carrying more food, cause I'm not resupplying during that week, and I'm not a good fisherman ... I'm looking at packboards.

    In any scenario, when I'm planning a hike, I figure out what my consumables needs to be, then focus on base weight to to choose the lightest, lowest volume equipment, in the lightest pack appropriate to conditions.

    Worn weight and body weight do not factor into any of that. But as it adds up to what is impacting one's musculoskeletal should not be ignored. I wear the lightest clothing, appropriate to conditions I can afford, and I generally wear trail runners instead of boots, but none of that has anything to do with pack weight. And any xtra weight around my middle when I hit the trail will be burned up in some attempt to make up for the calorie deficit I generally deal with out there, so it's just stored calories ...

    In any scenario, by selecting the lightest, lowest volume gear that fits one's requirements, one can potentially employ the lightest, smallest volume pack, and be more comfortable hiking all day up and down mountains.

    Burn fewer calories too.
    Last edited by LDog; 02-15-2020 at 16:56.
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  15. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by LDog View Post
    For me, the whole purpose of separating base weight from consumables is to help determine the appropriate pack for the mission.

    But rocking a 25lb pack down the trail sure beats humping a 100lb one. As long as one has everything they need in their pack, and in their head, to deal with stuff that happens.
    LDog
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    I use the same pack for whatever "mission" I'm performing. Whether it's a weekend trip or a 24 day trip---the pack is the same because a near empty 7,000 cubic inch pack rides beautifully and feels great on a short trip---and also feels great on a longer trip.

    And rocking a 25 lb pack down the trail might not be such a rocking experience if you're out for 3 weeks and desire to stay out for that amount of time with 50 lbs of food and fuel---and a snow shovel and microspikes and a full winter kit.

    Remember, this Base Weight discussion is not only limited to thruhiking the Appalachian Trail---and not all backpackers on Whiteblaze are long trail thruhikers---as this website also includes Other Trails and different wilderness areas and expedition trips and backpacking in general. As in The General Forum. And some AT backpackers are using the AT as part of a long backpacking trip with significant pack weight.

    I think the Base Weight number is a not-so-clever attempt to feel good about backpacking and to set up a number which in reality is never really achieved. Let's say your Base Weight is 20 lbs with no water or food. Well, you will rarely if ever backpack with no water or food---so the BW number is a sort of spreadsheet "feel good" thing that will always be lower than your real-world on-trail backpacking number.

    If a person is really obsessed, he/she/it/they/him/her could weigh the pack on Day 1 with everything and on Day 10 (or whatever) before resupply---and then average out the weight number. Let's say you start out a winter trip with a 50 lb pack on Day 1 and on Day 10 end up with a 28 lb pack---then do some math to reach a daily average weight over those 10 days.

  16. #36
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler LDog's Avatar
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    I thought I was careful to point out multiple scenarios where lightweight packs ain't the right tool for the job, and that one should expect to employ the pack that best matches the requirements. I have since edited it to make that more clear. And to make more clear how base weight can best be employed.

  17. #37

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    I think the Base Weight number is a not-so-clever attempt to feel good about backpacking and to set up a number which in reality is never really achieved. Let's say your Base Weight is 20 lbs with no water or food. Well, you will rarely if ever backpack with no water or food---so the BW number is a sort of spreadsheet "feel good" thing that will always be lower than your real-world on-trail backpacking number.

    Base weight is the lightest the pack will ever get. That's a given and is why it's called the base weight. Once you know that you can brag about how light your base is or how heavy it is.

    Food and water are a separate category. These items have their own "Base weight" to consider.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Base weight is the lightest the pack will ever get. That's a given and is why it's called the base weight. Once you know that you can brag about how light your base is or how heavy it is.

    Food and water are a separate category. These items have their own "Base weight" to consider.
    Hikers used to brag about how heavy their packs were.

    Really :-)

  19. #39

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    I’ve never concerned myself with base weight. I put everything in my pack, including food and water, don the pack, and get on the scale. If it’s over my limit, I take things out. If I’m feeling particularly physically fit and want to carry extra weight, I leave it in.

  20. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by LDog View Post
    Oh, I think heavier hikers like lighter packs on their shoulders too.
    Exactly.

    And losing 60 ish lbs didn’t result in being able to carry much more weight either...maybe 3-5 more pounds. It just made it easier to climb up hills with a pack.

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