Hiking Gear Loads
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Terms Defined & Considerations
My personal experiments and listening to what other have had to say have led me to the following gear load definitions and consequential considerations. Its up to you to decide what kind of trips you want to make and what kind of loads you want to carry. The considerations are just guidelines. Temper them with your own experience, and remember the weight of consumables can make a big difference in overall pack weight. So the considerations outlined here may need some adjustment for exceptionally light or heavy consumable loads.
The following definitions are for base pack weight (no consumables). These definitions refer to backpacking loads for overnight trips, not day hikes.
Ultra-Light - Everything pared down to the bare essentials. 10 lbs. or less of gear.
Recommended only for those with considerable experience and knowledge in handling hiking challenges with a minimum amount of gear. Pack size can be minimal. A frame and hip belt is generally not necessary. Lightweight footware is adequate. Generally suitable for only favorable or mild weather conditions. Can plan on maximum daily mileage.
Lightweight – Keeping gear to a minimum. 10 to 20 lbs. of gear.
Probably best attempted after gaining some hiking experience. Pack size can be smaller. Probably will want some kind of hip belt and maybe a frame sheet and/or a single stay, but a full pack frame is probably not necessary. Lightweight footware is probably okay. May want to limit trips to three-season or mild winter mountain travel. Can plan on good daily mileage.
Typical – Average gear loads but not a lot of extras. 20 to 30 lbs. of gear.
Good load level for experimenting and gaining experience. Pack size needs to be larger. Definitely will want a good hip belt and something more than just a frame sheet. Probably will be more comfortable with boots instead of lightweight shoes. Can extend hiking season to year round adventures. Plan on shorter daily trail mileage.
Heavy – Typical gear load plus extras or heavy gear. Over 30 lbs. of gear.
Probably best attempted only after gaining some experience so you will know how to handle a heavy load on the trail. You will need a pack large enough to carry everything and with the most comfortable full suspension system you can find to manage the load. Definitely consider boots over shoes for footware. Can include expedition scale (not the same as long distance) hiking trips. Plan on minimum daily mileage.
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