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What Is the Average Weight of a Backpack for Hiking? 

 December 1, 2021

By  Diane Wuthrich

A backpack is one of the most important accessories you need for a successful hike. There are many considerations to think about when looking for the right backpack, including weight. However, many people are unsure about the average weight of a backpack when used in hiking.

On average, empty hiking backpacks weigh 1-6 pounds depending on the materials, capacity, and design. When loaded, your backpack shouldn’t weigh over 20% of your own body weight. If you are going on a day hike, a loaded backpack shouldn’t be more than 10% of your body weight.  

These are some things to think about when looking for the average backpack weight for hiking. Read on below to learn more.

Average Backpack Weight for Hiking

The weight of your hiking backpack plays a significant role in how far, fast, safe, and comfortable you are during your journey.

For this reason, seasoned hikers always stress about the importance of the right backpack weight: not too heavy, but also one that doesn’t require you to compromise your safety by not having enough space for important items such as a first-aid kit or other essential gear that your well-being on a hike relies on.

To better understand this, it would be good to explore both empty and loaded backpacks.

Empty Backpacks

Empty backpacks weigh anywhere from 1 to 6 pounds. Modern ultralight hiking backpacks usually weigh under 2 pounds while heavy-duty backpacks weigh 3-6 pounds. Most of the lighter hiking backpacks are designed from either canvas, nylon, polyester, or polypropylene material.

Loaded Backpacks

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that loaded backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of one’s body weight though the less, the better. For example, if your weight is 150 pounds, your hiking backpack shouldn’t be over 30 pounds. This is the maximum capacity experts believe we should be carrying on our backpacks in order to reduce the risk for pain in the neck, back, and shoulders.

In addition, it also limits the risk for falling because you’ve lost your balance, especially when a backpack is far too heavy. This can pose a serious hazard when hiking.

Depending on the type of hiker or the duration of a hike, the average loaded backpack can range from 12 pounds to as much as over 30 pounds. Minimalist hikers tend to carry loaded packs that weigh under 12 pounds, ultralight hikers carry 12 to 20 pounds, lightweight hikers carry 20 to 30 pounds, and deluxe hikers can carry over 30 pounds.

Base Weight

A backpack base weight refers to its loaded weight without considering consumables that will decrease as you go on your journey. Some examples of base weights include food, fuel, and water. These items are meant to be excluded wen computing your hiking pack weight since they vary depending on the hiking trip, though everything else that you pack in your backpack including sleeping bag, tent, clothes, and stove don’t change much in each trip.

Understanding your base weight helps provide you with a standard hiking backpack weight that you can reduce.

Hiking Trip Duration

It’s also important to take into consideration the length of your trip when determining the right weight and capacity of your hiking backpack:

  • 1-3 nights: 30 to 50 liters
  • 3-5 nights: 50 to 80 liters
  • 5 nights or more: at least 70 liters

Climate

The climate of your hiking destination plays a role in how much your pack will weigh too. Heavy duty, water-proof, and backpacks on the larger end of the capacity spectrum are usually reserved for those hiking in cold mountains or climates because you’ll need to pack significantly more to stay warm and dry. Meanwhile, backpacking in coastal or warmer destinations enable you to get away with smaller packs since you’ll need less and lighter clothing.

Conclusion

There you have it. While there’s no standard average weight for hiking backpacks aside from the recommendation to keep it under 20% of your body weight, these factors mentioned above should all be taken into consideration.

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks to Consider

There are many high-quality hiking backpacks out there that can fit your needs no matter what weight you can carry. Here are some examples that you can find on Amazon:

-   Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Hiking Backpack
-   Zomake Ultra Lightweight Hiking Backpack
-   Teton Sports Hiker 3700 Ultralight Backpack

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you reduce backpack weight when hiking?

There are many tried-and-tested techniques for reducing backpack weight when hiking:

Weigh your things: Using a luggage or kitchen scale to weigh your gear will help you keep track of all your hiking essentials and their weight. Seasoned hikers weigh almost everything from stove to under garments.

When you know how much these things weigh, you’ll know precisely how much to bring in your backpack and have an accurate idea of how much it will all weigh on top of the empty pack weight. Some hikers even record these details on a spreadsheet for a simpler time tracking items and planning trips.

Plan for meals: Planning your menu ahead of time is a simple way to minimize overloading your backpack with food that you won’t end up eating. A reasonable way to do menu planning is allocating 2,500 calories to as much as 4,500 calories for each person, each day of the trip. It will also vary depending on how much energy you will have to exert on the hike, as well as your size and weight.

Get rid of unnecessary items: Each time you return from a hiking trip, unpack your things and inspect them. Categorize them into piles: those you used frequently and occasionally, as well as those things you never used. However, remember that some things like a first-aid kit may not get used frequently but should always be included in every hiking trip.

Invest in ultralight hiking equipment: Ultralight gear such as a sleeping bag, backpack, tent, utensils, and camping stove can all make a huge difference in reducing your hiking backpack weight. A few key pieces is all you need, and it doesn’t have to be the most technical or lightest version available. Think about your top most bulky equipment that you use and pack frequently, and see if there are ultralight alternatives on the market that are within your budget.

Repackage: Personal care items and food are two things you’ll need on your hiking trip which you can repackage to weigh less and occupy less space. For example, you won’t need a whole tube of toothpaste for a three-day hiking trip, so you can put some into a small container. Do this with food too, and you’ll find yourself saving much more space and weight – possibly enough to even transfer your goods to smaller backpack. 

How heavy is too heavy for a backpack?

Anything more than 20% of your body weight is too heavy a backpack for you to carry. Carrying a heavy backpack for long periods of time can cause injury and pain including lower back pain, neck strain, rounded shoulders, and distortion of the natural spine curve.

However, petite individuals and children are at higher risk of injury due to heavy backpacks and are thus recommended to stick to a backpack that weighs less than 10 or 15% of their bodyweight.

About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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