How Much Should a Backpack Weigh for Hiking?

An adequately filled backpacking knapsack ought not to surpass approximately one-fifth of your body weight. (If your weight is 150 pounds, your backpack should be at most 30 pounds for backpacking.) A fully packed day hiking backpack should stay below about one-tenth of your weight.

How Much Should a Backpack Weigh for Hiking?
How Much Should a Backpack Weigh for Hiking?

When gearing up for a hiking adventure, one of the most crucial considerations is the weight of your backpack. A well-packed bag can make your hiking experience comfortable and enjoyable, while an overly heavy load can lead to fatigue and strain.

Read More: How to Lock a Hiking Backpack without Zippers when travelling?

So, how much should a pack weigh for hiking? Let’s delve into this topic and explore How Much Should a Backpack Weigh for Hiking.

What About the Rule You Shouldn’t Carry More than 20% of Your Body Weight?

The guideline suggesting not to carry more than 20% of your body weight when backpacking or hiking is a general rule of thumb to help prevent strain and injury. Carrying a heavy backpack for extended periods can stress your back, shoulders, and joints, leading to discomfort and potential injuries.

However, it’s important to note that this 20% rule is not an absolute requirement but rather a guideline to consider. The ideal weight you should carry depends on various factors, including your fitness level, the terrain, the length of the hike, and your comfort.

You can comfortably carry over 20% of your body weight for day hikes on relatively easy terrain. On the other hand, for longer walks or more challenging terrain, it’s wise to stick closer to or even below the 20% mark.

To calculate a rough estimate of how much your backpack should weigh based on the 20% guideline:

  1. Measure your body weight in pounds or kilograms.
  2. Calculate 20% of your body weight.
  3. This calculated weight is the upper limit of what your loaded backpack should ideally weigh.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms), 20% of your body weight would be 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms). Therefore, when preparing for a hike, you should keep your backpack’s weight around or below 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) for maximum comfort and safety.

Remember that proper packing techniques, utilizing lightweight and compact gear, and distributing the weight evenly within your backpack can also significantly impact your overall comfort and reduce the strain on your body. It’s a good practice to periodically reassess the contents of your bag to ensure you’re carrying only what you truly need.

Ultimately, while the 20% guideline is helpful, paying attention to your body’s signals and comfort during a hike is crucial. We have written a guide on Can I Take a Hiking Backpack on a Plane. If your backpack is causing discomfort, pain, or exhaustion, it’s advisable to lighten the load or adjust the weight distribution accordingly.

The Importance of Pack Weight

The weight of your backpack directly affects your mobility, energy levels, and overall enjoyment during a hike. Carrying a hefty pack can lead to fatigue, muscle strain, and injuries. On the other hand, an appropriately weighted backpack allows you to move more freely and comfortably, enhancing your hiking experience.

Factors Influencing Backpack Weight

Duration of Hike

The length of your hike plays a pivotal role in determining backpack weight. For a day hike, you can afford to carry a lighter pack. However, carefully considering every item’s weight is necessary for multi-day hikes.

Season and Weather Conditions

The weather conditions and season can impact the gear you need to carry. Warmer weather requires less clothing, while colder conditions demand additional layers and heavier equipment.

Personal Fitness Level

Your fitness level matters. Someone in good physical condition might handle a slightly heavier pack better than someone less fit. However, it’s important not to overestimate your abilities.

Type of Hike

The type of hike you’re embarking on matters. Strolling on well-maintained trails allows for a heavier pack than rugged terrain or steep inclines.

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks to Consider

Certainly! Here are some lightweight hiking backpacks that you might consider for your outdoor adventures:

  1. Osprey Exos/Eja Series: Known for their excellent balance of weight, comfort, and features, these backpacks are popular among ultralight hikers. They come in various sizes to accommodate different loads.
  2. Granite Gear Crown 2: This backpack offers a good combination of weight savings and comfort. It’s versatile and can carry moderate to heavy loads comfortably.
  3. ULA Circuit: The ULA Circuit is a favourite among thru-hikers due to its durability and comfort. It strikes a balance between lightweight design and sufficient capacity.
  4. Gossamer Gear Kumo: This is a minimalist pack with a simple design. It’s best suited for those who prioritize cutting down weight to the absolute essentials.
  5. Deuter Aircontact Lite Series: While less minimalistic than others, these lightweight backpacks offer excellent ventilation and comfort for longer hikes. We have written a simple review on Best Deuter Backpack for Hiking.
  6. Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider: If you’re looking for a fully waterproof option, this ultralight backpack is made with Dyneema fabric and is well-regarded for its durability.
  7. REI Flash Pack: REI’s Flash series offers lightweight packs with various features, suitable for hikers on a budget. They strike a good balance between cost and weight.
  8. Gregory Paragon/Devote Series: These packs are designed to focus on comfort, making them an excellent option for hikers who prioritize ergonomics and support.
  9. Arc’teryx Bora AR: If you’re willing to invest in a high-end lightweight pack, Arc’teryx offers the Bora AR with innovative materials and a unique RotoGlide hipbelt system for added comfort.
  10. Mountain Laurel Designs Burn: This is an ultralight option for those experienced in minimalist backpacking who want to carry as little weight as possible.

Remember that the “best” backpack depends on your preferences, the hiking you plan to do, the load you’ll carry, and your budget.

It’s a good idea to visit a store where you can try on different packs with weight to see how they feel on your body before deciding.

Recommended Backpack Weight

Base Weight

The base weight refers to the importance of your backpack and its contents, excluding consumables like food, water, and fuel. A base weight of around 10-20% of your body weight is often considered reasonable.

Pack Weight Percentage

A general rule is to keep your pack’s total weight below 20-25% of your body weight, including consumables. This ensures you’re well-rested during your hike.

Tips for Reducing Backpack Weight

Choose Lightweight Gear

Opt for lightweight versions of essential items, such as tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment. Technological advancements have made it possible to carry sturdy yet lightweight gear.

Multi-purpose Items

Select gear that serves multiple purposes. For instance, a multi-tool that includes a knife, scissors, and other tools can save space and weight.

Proper Packing Techniques

How you pack your backpack matters. Distribute weight evenly and place heavier items closer to your back for better balance. Use compression sacks to minimize bulk.

Striking the Right Balance

While carrying necessary items is essential, avoid packing out of fear. Analyze each item’s utility and versatility. Strive to eliminate things that serve only a single purpose.

Ensuring Comfort and Safety

Remember, comfort and safety should never be compromised. Essential items like first aid kits, navigation tools, and extra clothing should always be in your pack.

The Psychological Aspect

The psychological impact of a heavy backpack can’t be ignored. A lighter load can boost morale and make the hike more enjoyable. The anticipation of a manageable load can positively influence your mindset.

Listening to Your Body

Ultimately, your body knows best. Pay attention to how you feel during hikes with varying loads. Listen to your muscles and joints. Adjust your packing strategy based on these cues. We have reviewed on Top 7 Best Hiking Backpacks for Big Guys in 2023

Packing for a Three-Day Trip versus a Five-Day Trip versus a Seven-Day Trip

The weight of your backpack for hiking can vary based on the duration of your trip and the items you need to carry. Here are some general guidelines for packing weights for different trip lengths:

  1. Three-Day Trip: For a three-day hiking trip, you’ll typically need to pack enough clothing, food, and gear to last you for the duration of the trip. A reasonable target for your fully loaded backpack weight would be around 25 to 35 pounds (11 to 16 kg), depending on your personal preferences and the terrain you’ll be hiking on.
  2. Five-Day Trip: As the trip length increases, you’ll need to pack more food and possibly additional clothing. For a five-day hiking trip, your backpack weight might fall within 35 to 45 pounds (16 to 20 kg). Remember that packing efficiently becomes crucial to prevent unnecessary strain on your body.
  3. Seven-Day Trip: For a week-long hiking adventure, your backpack weight might increase further due to the additional supplies needed. For a seven-day trip, you could expect your backpack to weigh between 45 to 55 pounds (20 to 25 kg). It’s essential to prioritize essential items and ensure you’re not overpacking, as carrying excess weight can lead to discomfort and fatigue.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the actual weight might vary based on factors such as your fitness level, the climate you’ll be hiking in, and your personal comfort preferences.

Regardless of the trip duration, here are a few tips to help you manage your backpack weight effectively:

  • Prioritize Essentials: Pack only what you truly need. Avoid bringing unnecessary items that can add to your backpack’s weight.
  • Choose Lightweight Gear: Opt for lightweight and compact gear to help reduce the overall weight of your backpack. Look for a bag made from lightweight materials.
  • Plan Meals Carefully: Calculate your food needs accurately and pack lightweight, nutrient-dense foods to minimize weight while ensuring you have enough energy.
  • Layer Clothing: Instead of packing heavy, bulky clothing, focus on layering lighter clothing items to stay warm. This can help you adapt to changing weather conditions.
  • Water Considerations: Water can be heavy, so plan your water sources along the trail and carry a water filtration system to avoid having excess water weight.
  • Proper Packing: Distribute weight evenly within your backpack to maintain balance and reduce strain on your back. Heavier items should be placed closer to your back and centred in the pack.
  • Train and Prepare: Train to build strength and endurance before your trip. Being in good shape will help you manage the weight of your backpack more comfortably.

Remember that your physical condition and preferences significantly affect how much weight you can comfortably carry.

It’s always a good idea to gradually increase your backpack weight during training hikes to acclimate your body to the load.


In conclusion, the ideal backpack weight for hiking depends on various factors, including the duration of the hike, weather conditions, and personal fitness level. Understanding these factors and following practical tips for reducing pack weight can create an enjoyable and safe hiking experience.

Remember, it’s not just about the destination but also the journey that counts.

Is 15 pounds too heavy for a backpack?

Whether 15 pounds is too heavy for a backpack depends on factors such as the individual’s strength, fitness level, and purpose. For some people, especially adults, 15 pounds might be manageable for short durations or light activities. However, for children, those with back problems, or if the backpack needs to be carried for an extended period, 15 pounds could potentially lead to discomfort, strain, or even injury.
It’s generally recommended that a loaded backpack should not exceed 10-20% of the carrier’s body weight. For a person weighing around 150 pounds, 15 pounds would be at the 10% mark, which is generally considered acceptable for occasional use.
For heavy or prolonged use, distributing the weight evenly, using padded straps, and considering the ergonomic design of the backpack can help alleviate strain. It’s important to listen to your body and avoid carrying more weight than feels comfortable or safe. If you’re uncertain, it might be a good idea to consult a medical professional or fitness expert to determine what weight suits your situation.

How much should an average backpack weigh?

The weight of an average backpack is typically around 5 to 7 pounds (2.3 to 3.2 kilograms).

Should backpack weight be high or low?

Backpack weight should ideally be kept low to minimize strain on the wearer and promote comfort and mobility.

Does backpack weight matter?

Yes, backpack weight matters. Weighty backpacks can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and potential health issues, mainly when carried for extended periods. It’s important to consider the weight of your bag and pack only essential items to avoid strain on your back and shoulders.

Share Us