October 25, 2023 3 min read

Keep it Light! The Weight of Your Hiking Backpack for Day Hikes and Backpacking Matters


Are you planning a day hike or a backpacking trip? It's essential to plan your packing accordingly and be mindful of the weight before hitting the trails. There are many factors to consider when determining the necessary items and weight for your adventure. When it comes to hiking, whether it's a leisurely day hike or an adventurous backpacking trip, the weight of your backpack plays a crucial role in determining your overall experience. When tackling steep inclines, it can be challenging to fully appreciate the scenic surroundings when you focus on the strain of carrying a heavy backpack. An overly heavy pack can dampen your spirits and lead to discomfort, fatigue, and even potential injuries. In this blog post, we'll delve into why keeping your hiking backpack light is essential, whether you're embarking on a short day hike or a multi-day backpacking expedition.


The Science of Weight

Before jumping into the details, let's understand the science behind the weight you are carrying on your back. Carrying excess weight can strain your muscles, joints, and ligaments, increasing the risk of injuries. Studies have shown that for every pound of weight you carry, the energy expenditure increases significantly, causing fatigue to set in much quicker. Additionally, a heavy pack alters your posture, leading to back and shoulder pain, diminishing the joy of your outdoor adventure.

Day Hikes

For day hikes, it is tempting to throw in a bunch of unnecessary items. However, considering that day hikes typically last a few hours, there's no need to pack as if you're heading out for a week. Prioritize the essentials: water (water bottles available at McGovern Outdoor Water Bottles), snacks, a first aid kit, a lightweight jacket, a satellite communication device, and of course, a camera to capture memorable moments. Strive to keep the weight well below 10% of your body weight (for example, a person that is 200 pounds should try to carry at most 20 pounds), as this will ensure you can comfortably traverse the trail without feeling weighed down.


Backpacking Adventures

Proper packing becomes even more crucial when it comes to multi-day backpacking trips. Your hiking backpack should be a carefully curated selection of items that serve a purpose. Opt for lightweight and compact gear, such as a light tent, a sleeping bag suitable for the season, and dehydrated meals; always have a satellite communication device and clothing layers that can be mixed and matched. Aim to keep your pack's weight around 20-25% of your body weight (for example, a person that is 130 pounds should try not to exceed 32.5 pounds). Following this rule of thumb will allow you to hike longer distances with relative ease, savoring the natural beauty around you without being consumed by the weight on your back.

Tips for Reducing Pack Weight

1. Invest in lightweight gear: Look for equipment made from materials that prioritize durability without adding extra ounces.

2. Multipurpose items: Choose items that serve multiple functions, like a multi-tool or a jacket that doubles as a pillow.

3. Plan meals thoughtfully: Opt for dehydrated or freeze-dried meals to minimize food weight.

4. Limit luxury items: While having creature comforts is nice, try to limit them to a bare minimum.

5. Regular gear check: Check your packing list periodically to ensure you're not carrying items you won't use.


Whether you're heading out for a short day hike or a more extended backpacking adventure, the weight of your hiking backpack directly impacts your enjoyment and overall experience. By choosing the right gear, prioritizing essentials, and making thoughtful decisions, you can embark on day hikes and backpacking trips with a backpack that feels like a companion rather than a burden. Remember, the goal is to create a seamless outdoor experience that allows you to savor every moment step by step. Happy trails!



https://commons.erau.edu/cgi/Effects of Pack Weight



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