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Everything You Need to Know about Backpacking Base Weight

Base weight is an important factor for a happy trip. Learn the importance of backpacking base weight and how to cut it to your ideal packpack weight.

By Cody | @Cody

Updated on Aug 05, 2019

The backpacking base weight often refers to the base weight of the pack with all the gear loaded except for food and water, because food and water are constantly changing on a hike. On some trails, you can easily find water source but others, don’t. You may also change the water and food depending on the trail distance or simply based on your personal preference, so base weight is basically all of your gear without the food and water.

Backpacking Base Weight

Why Is Base Weight So Important?

It's simply because it is so important to a long-distance hike the reason most of us focused so much on base weight is because

When you have done a long-distance hike with heavier gear and more gear, it is impossible not to notice the strain that it puts on your bodies. When you're doing a long-distance hike from four to six months whether it be the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, you put your body through a lot of stress.

AT Thru Hike Gear

Every single day, you climb up and down mountains and your feet suffer a lot. You have to deal with conditions like snow and rain, being hot and being cold, so it's insanely important to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Experienced hikers who have been out on the trail and have hiked multiple miles know that you will feel a lot more comfortable if you have less weight carrying it for those long miles. As your food has dwindled down, your pack is obviously getting lighter. However, when you get into the next town, you will resupply and load five or more days of food in your pack, which put a ton more weight on your back.

If you are taking the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, every town that you leave you have to climb straight out of the town, so it more stress on the AT. On the Continental Divide Trail, you need to pass the giant desert sections where there are no places to cache water, so you have to carry extra water on your back putting even more stress on your body. In these conditions, you are more likely to get injured because you're just wearing your body out. Therefore, it is very important to get that base weight down as low as possible especially in those long-distance hikes.

Some people think that if you will get a better workout if you pack more weight. That does not apply to the Appalachian Trail or any long distance trail from which you will get enough of a workout. You don't need to add weight to your back to give yourself a better workout.

What’s the Average Backpack Weight for Hiking?

A survey report filed by TheTrek suggests that the average backpack base weight for thru-hiker is 22 lbs, ranged from 7 lbs. to 32 lbs. For different hiking trails, the average weight varies. The report also suggests that the average base weight for section hikers was 22 lbs., while the thru-hiker was 19 lbs. For a day hike, the average base weight is around 10lb in summer and 12lb in winter.

How to Reduce Base Weight?

The base weight can make the difference between a great hiking trip and a miserable hike down the trail. Here are a few tips to help you cut your base weight. Since the average thru-hiker base weight is 19 lbs, so you should try to keep your base weight no more than 20 lbs.

Share the Wight

Spend Your Money On The Big Three

As you know the big three which are your Pack, shelter, and sleeping bag, are the heaviest items and probably the areas where you can cut the most weight out of your pack. If you have a tight budget, at least get an ultralight backpack, which you can get one for as low as $60. An ultralight pack cannot hold as much weight as a traditional backpack, which gives you the mindset to reduce the weight.

Share the Weight

Unless you are hiking alone, you can spread the load out among your partners in your group. You can share the tent, stove, and water filter, so not everyone needs to carry them all. Distribute the shared items among your hiking partners, which will dramatically reduce the base weight.

Weigh Every Gear

Know the exact weight of each one gear you want to bring. Then you can come up with your own Excel spreadsheet to record the weights. This will help you to decide what to bring and what to drop for your next trail.

Use Multi-purpose Gear

The truth is you don’t need that much gear as you can use the same gear for more than one purpose. For example, you stuff all your clothing in your quilt instead of having one stuff sack for a quilt. For electronics, you can get everything that is rechargeable, so you don't have to carry extra batteries.


Now you know the importance of backpacking base weight and how to reduce the weight. As you plan to cut the weight, do not sacrifice safety. It is always recommended to prepare a hiking survival kit as there are many unexpected things may happen in the wildness.

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