What’s the Perfect Pack? To the Ounce.

When your life is riding on your back you tend to look at things a little differently. Little items can quickly get noticed and add up when they're being loaded into a backpack. Matters of convenience and creature comfort are quickly traded off for matters of necessity and of ease of portability.

Engineering the perfect pack comes down to careful weight management. What is the exact threshold that the trekker is able to comfortably hump and still be prepared? To some of us this minimizing exercise has become a bit of a game. Who's the ultimate ultralight? And what gear is that person packing? That's the game we play. Now, we don't claim to take this to the level of obsession - but then again, is it really obsessive to know what your sleeping bag weighs?

We've read where the optimum pack-to-body weight is between 1/5th and 1/6th the weight of the backpacker for a 5 day hike. And over the years we've weighed and whittled away at our overland packs, often refining the gross weight down to what is, in our mind, the absolute bare minimum to be prepared for any event, yet agile enough to hold up to some long days. Of course pack weight changes with the seasons and locations but let's see where one pack nets out.

The guinea pig who's pack we're dissecting is a 6'4" male, who weighs 194 lbs. He's packing for a 4 day hike.

Kelty Coyote 80 pack: 5 lbs 5 oz.
REI Igneo sleeping bag: 1 lb. 15 oz.
REI Camp Bed 2.5" pad: 3 lbs. 9 oz.
Marmot Limelight Tent: 5 lbs. 2 oz.
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove: 3 oz.
MSR Fuel Can 60 min: 8 oz.
GIS 3-piece cutlery set: 1.3 oz.
Mountain House Breakfast (3): 13.25 oz
Mountain House Lunch (3): 13.65 oz
Mountain House Dinner (3): 13.65 oz
3 liters of water: 6.4 lbs.
Platypus 3 liter Reservoir 5.15 oz
Ground coffee: 2 oz
Coffee pot: 1 lb 5 oz
Snow Peak Trek 1400 cookset: 7.4 oz
Sawyer Mini Water Filter: 2 oz
Cliff Snack bars (6): 14.25 oz
Suunto M-3 D Compass: 4.73 oz
MSR Fire Strike: 1.4 oz
Toilet paper and transport bag: 3 oz
Princeton Tec Helix Lantern: 5.5 oz
Black Diamond Headlamp: 3.9 oz
Toothbrush and paste: 2.7 oz
Gerber Tactical Multitool: 6 oz
Combined 3 days of clothes: 5 lbs 8 oz
North Face Storm Shoes: 14 oz
Medical kit: 9.5 oz
Paracord 30 ft: 2.1 oz
5'x7' tarp: 8.2 oz
2 Cowboy Bath SOLO packs: 14 oz

Total weight - 39.25 lbs.

Yeah, we all see it. There's pack items on this list that each of us might toss or swap out based on our own personal preference (read: 1.5 lb coffee pot, jeez) but overall this is manageable weight for a slightly sub-200 pound guy in average shape. The best part is at the end of the 4-day hike he'll know where he can trim - or where he needs to add.

When you're ready, grab a scale and see where your gear weighs in.

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