Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Measuring backpack contents

How can we go light weight?

It is essential when backpacking to determine the best pack weight you should be carrying comfortably on your back. Pack weight will vary from season to season. Again I emphasize that you should strive to obtain the lightest pack weight possible and to maintain as much comfort as you can while hiking. I am older and I need to keep any extra weight off of my knees to keep from injuring them. Many people feel comfortable with 50 to 60 pound packs. But for the most part I have seen an abundance of extra hiking gear left in shelters to lighten distance hikers packs. I have determined that you should weigh every item that goes into the pack and on your body to get the lightest load possible. In this blog you will see the measuring scales I use and the units of measure that I believe are most accurate.

In order to get an accurate measure of the weight that you are carrying in your pack and on your body you must be able to accurately measure all gear.

I measure heavy gear on a larger scale purchased from Bass Pro Shop that measures gear from 0 to 44 pounds or 0 to 20 kilograms.

To weigh the lighter smaller items I use the Weight Watchers scale. With just a push of the button on the top you can toggle from ounces/pounds to grams/kilograms.

Weight Watchers scale

You must first decide which type of measurement you are going to use to measure your gear. Do you want to use tenths of an ounce, ounces and pounds or do you want to use grams and kilograms. I prefer to use grams and kilograms. The metric system is based on a scale of ten and it contains units (decigram, centigram, milligram) that are units of measure smaller than an ounce. Many pieces of gear may weigh less than a tenth of an ounce but combined with other like items can have a significant cumulative weight.

Weights and Measures

Kilogram 1,000 grams kg
Hectogram 100 grams hg
Decagram 10 grams dag
Gram 1 gram g
Decigram 0.1 grams 1/10 gram dg
Centigram 0.01 grams 1/100 cg
Milligram 0.001 gram 1/1000 mg

1 gram is equal to 0.035 ounce
1 pound is equal to 0.454 kg
1 ounce is equal to 28.35 grams

Everything in your pack and on your body adds weight. The less weight you carry the longer and faster you can backpack. The smaller the measuring unit the more accurately you can determine your carrying weight.

Lets look at some examples:

If you use the metric units of measure and you want to set you pack weight at 30 pounds you do the following:

Convert your base weight to kilograms.

30 pounds X 0.454 (kg/pound) = 13.62 kg

Convert to grams.

13.62 kg X 1,000 grams/kg = 13,620 grams

Now all you have to do is weigh all of your gear in grams until you get to 13,620 grams.

A 25 pound pack will weigh 11,350 grams and a 20 pound pack will weigh 9,080 grams.

On my next blog I will weigh some of the backpacking gear I carry on an extended backpacking trip.


  1. love the new background! looks great!

  2. I've hiked with you and know you've got the weight under control! You're right about measuring in grams too. More accurate. At the Pinewood Derby the cars must be under 5oz so we convert that to 142 grams (I believe). We put my boys cars on and add tungsten putty till the scale clicks over to 143 and then remove just enough to drop back to 142 so the car is basically 142.9 grams. It helps, we are always in the winners circle but don't add tungsten putty to your pack!