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How much should your backpack weigh for hiking

Deciding what to take with you hiking is a question everybody has. In this article we decide for what base weight you need to strive towards.

The base weight of your backpack while hiking is important to keep as low as possible. Because you have a bunch of stuff to carry extra. Base weight of a backpack does not contain the following items:

  • Drinking water
  • Stove fuel
  • Food

The more you take on your back the more difficult its going to be to go long distance hiking. Generally speaking you should take only 10% of your body-weight on your back to avoid most problems out hiking. If you are a fit and healthy hiker than you can take more if you need it.

When you have knee problems, a bad back or have any other problems with performing for hiking than you need to take less than 10 % of your body weight on your back.

How to achieve 10% of your bodyweight in your backpack?

The answer to this is simple, spend more on lighter weight gear. Instead of a 20 dollar backpack which ways 3 kilo’s spend more to take a better and lighter weight backpack. In the outdoor world things can get very expensive real quick. The big three items of gear you can save a lot of weight on are as follows:

Tent or Hammock

A tent is the heavier option in most of the cases, if you are going to sleep in a forest area you can take a hammock. But to be honest I have always preferred a Tent for sleeping in. Your preference will decide the option you want to take with you.

Look into the lighter weight tents from manufacturers like MSR, Zpacks or other tents for good and lightweight options.

Sleeping bag

Synthetic sleeping bags are heavy and do not stuff that well compared to a down sleeping bag. So try to avoid the synthetic sleeping bags. If you are looking for a more affordable down sleeping bag option check out my review about the Aegismax down sleeping bag review.

Sleeping bags vary of-course on the season you are in. When summer hiking you can take a much lighter bag than what you need in Autumn or Winter.

On the Camino Portuguese coastal I packed my Aegismax and that was fine in the temperatures in the spring.

Sleeping pad

Sleeping pad or mattresses are also often more weight than you think. If you like to spend more on a sleeping pad I can highly recommend the Exped series of sleeping pads. They are excellent and very warm when combined with a good sleeping bag.

The closed cell foam mats are a great starting off point to launch your hiking career. Plus they are very cheap and light. Only downside is that they can sleep a bit harder than other options. Cheaper inflatable mattresses I have had less than great results with.

Other items that take up a lot of weight.

With all the random crap that you want to stuff in your backpack you can weigh yourself down quite a bit. Try to limit yourself and remember the following sentence!

You pack your fears while out backpacking and hiking

Stove and cook system

Stove fuel should be the heaviest part of your cook set. A titanium cooking pot or Aluminum pot weighs very little. Stainless steel is a lot heavier so try to avoid that when possible.

A gas burner are typically the lighter options, take a look at my in depth articles about the different stove options that you have for on trail. From alcohol stoves to other types.


Clothing is another big part of the gear list that can way you down if handled wrong. Hiking is a smelly and sweaty business and you need to accept that. Personal hygiene can only go so far while on trail. Packing different clothing for every single day is not the way to go about it.

You need the following on pretty much any hiking trip for clothing.

  • 3 Pairs of socks, one for sleeping in.
  • 2 pairs of underwear. Microfiber and quick drying.
  • 2 undershirts, wool is good for this.
  • 1 hiking shirt, protect from the sun and quick drying.
  • 1 Comfy and warm sweater, fleece or down jacket.
  • 1 rain pants
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pants, shorts, long or zip off.

Try to get high quality clothing that is lightweight and dries quick. The down and rain gear will be the most expensive.

Random ditty bag

In my random ditty bag I am also guilty of stuffing it with may to much crap. Think about tweezers, nail clippers, health stuff, repair patch stuff and the list goes on and on. Weigh the bag and really look at the contents of it all spread out.

Do you really need nail clippers and a pocket knife? Or had the knife a scissor you can use? Try to find multiple uses for your gear in your ditty bag. If it can not fill multiple functions then toss it.

Get intimate with your base weight

Getting intimate with your base weight means treating it like a first date with a girl you really like. Take some preparations to unsure a good night. Measure every single gram that you are taking with you and put it in a spreadsheet. Now look at every single item you are taking with you on your next hike. Do the same after you come back from your hiking trip. If you want to read more about choosing a hiking backpack you can do so here.

Ask yourself, how many times have I used this item? Is it everyday? Have you used it only once or never? Ditch those items and do not carry them the next backpack outing. After the many hikes you take you will find you will need less and less. Because your fear lessens after every outing.

How is your base weight? Hope to hear from you down in the comments and see you out on the next trail!

Happy hiking and hike for a purpose!

I'm Frank, the main guy and owner of this website. Loves hiking, gear and bushcraft. And can get quite nerdy about them. In the woods several times a week preparing for my next hike. Always searching for another hill, which is quite difficult in the Netherlands. That's why I search around several countries. More about me on the about page.

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