Demystifying Backpack Weight What's Average for Thru-Hiking and Backpacking

Demystifying Backpack Weight: What’s Average for Thru-Hiking and Backpacking

When embarking on a thru-hike or backpacking adventure, one of the most crucial considerations is the weight of your backpack and its contents. A well-packed and appropriately weighted backpack can make your journey comfortable and enjoyable, while an overloaded one can lead to exhaustion and discomfort. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of backpack weight, exploring topics such as average thru-hike pack weight, backpacking essentials, and tips for lightening your load.

Understanding the Average Backpack Weight

1. Average Backpack Weight (Empty)

Before you even start loading up your backpack, it’s essential to understand the empty weight of your pack. The empty weight, also known as the base weight, includes the backpack itself and all its attached components, such as straps, zippers, and buckles. On average, empty backpacks weigh between 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kilograms). Ultralight backpacks can be even lighter, weighing as little as 1 pound (0.45 kilograms).

2. Average Backpack Weight for Thru-Hiking

Thru-hiking, which involves trekking long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, requires careful consideration of pack weight. On average, thru-hikers aim for a base weight (empty backpack weight plus gear, minus consumables like food and water) of around 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kilograms). However, experienced ultralight hikers can achieve base weights below 10 pounds, while traditional backpackers might carry 30 pounds or more.

3. Average Backpack Weight for Backpacking

Backpacking, whether for a weekend or an extended trip, allows for slightly more leeway in pack weight compared to thru-hiking. On average, a backpacker’s base weight typically falls between 15 to 30 pounds (6.8 to 13.6 kilograms). Again, these numbers can vary widely depending on individual preferences and gear choices.

4. Average Backpack Weight for Hiking

For day hikes, where you don’t need to carry overnight gear or extensive supplies, the average backpack weight should be considerably lighter. A daypack typically weighs between 1 to 3 pounds (0.45 to 1.4 kilograms), depending on its size and features. Ensure you pack only the essentials, like water, snacks, a first aid kit, and extra clothing layers, to keep your daypack’s weight to a minimum.

Factors Influencing Backpack Weight

To understand what contributes to the weight of your backpack, it’s essential to consider the various factors that influence it:

5. Gear Selection

The choice of gear plays a significant role in determining your backpack’s weight. High-quality but lightweight gear, such as tents, sleeping bags, and cookware, can substantially reduce your pack’s overall weight. Ultralight gear options are available for those looking to shed even more pounds from their pack.

6. Season and Weather

The time of year and the expected weather conditions on your trip will influence the clothing and gear you need to carry. For winter or cold-weather backpacking, you’ll need to pack bulkier and heavier insulation layers, whereas summer trips allow for lighter clothing and gear.

7. Trip Duration

The length of your trip affects how much food, water, and fuel you need to carry. Longer journeys require more of these consumables, which can add considerable weight to your pack.

8. Personal Comfort and Preferences

Some hikers prioritize comfort items like camp chairs, extra clothing, or luxury food items, which can increase their pack weight. Consider your own preferences and what you’re willing to carry to make your trip enjoyable.

9. Pack Weight Distribution

How you distribute weight within your backpack matters as well. Heavier items like food and water should be placed closer to your back and higher in the pack to maintain balance and comfort while hiking.

Average Weight of Backpacking Essentials

To give you a better idea of what contributes to your backpack weight, let’s break down the average weight of some essential backpacking gear:

10. Average Backpacking Sleeping Bag Weight

Sleeping bags come in various weights, depending on their temperature rating and insulation type. On average, a three-season sleeping bag suitable for backpacking can weigh between 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kilograms).

11. Average Backpacking Tent Weight

Backpacking tents also vary in weight. A two-person backpacking tent typically weighs between 3 to 5 pounds (1.4 to 2.3 kilograms). Ultralight options can be as light as 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) or less.

12. Average Hiking Pack Weight

Your choice of hiking backpack can significantly impact your pack weight. A well-designed, lightweight hiking pack suitable for a weekend trip might weigh around 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.4 kilograms). For thru-hikers, ultralight backpacks can weigh as little as 1 pound (0.45 kilograms).

13. Average Weight of 2-Person Backpacking Tent

If you’re sharing a tent with a hiking partner, the weight can be split between both of you. In this case, a two-person backpacking tent may contribute 1.5 to 2.5 pounds (0.68 to 1.1 kilograms) to each hiker’s pack weight.

14. Average Weight of a Backpacking Pack

As mentioned earlier, an empty backpack’s weight typically ranges from 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kilograms). When fully loaded for a multi-day trip, a backpack can weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 22.7 kilograms) or more, depending on your gear and trip duration.

15. Average Weight of a Sleeping Bag

The weight of your sleeping bag varies based on factors like temperature rating, insulation type (down or synthetic), and size. While a lightweight backpacking sleeping bag can weigh as little as 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms), bulkier and colder-weather options may exceed 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms).

16. Average Weight of Backpacking Tent

Backpacking tents are available in a range of sizes and designs. A solo backpacking tent can weigh as little as 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms), while larger models for two or more people might weigh between 3 to 6 pounds (1.4 to 2.7 kilograms).

Tips for Reducing Backpack Weight

Now that you have a better understanding of the average weights of various backpacking essentials, you may be wondering how to lighten your load. Here are some tips to help you reduce your backpack weight:

17. Choose Ultralight Gear

Opt for ultralight versions of essential items such as tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. These are designed to be lightweight without sacrificing functionality.

18. Ditch Non-Essentials

Review your packing list and eliminate items that aren’t necessary for your trip. Leave behind luxury items and non-essential gear to save weight.

19. Share Gear

If you’re hiking with a partner or in a group, consider sharing gear like a tent, stove, or cookware to distribute the weight.

20. Minimize Clothing

Pack clothing that can be layered for warmth and versatility. Avoid overpacking clothing items, as they can add unnecessary weight.

21. Repackage Food

Remove excess packaging from food items and repackage them in lightweight containers or bags to reduce bulk and weight.

22. Use Lightweight Cooking Equipment

Opt for lightweight cooking gear, such as a minimalist stove and cookware made of materials like titanium or aluminum.

23. Plan Resupply Points

For longer trips, plan resupply points where you can restock on food and other consumables, reducing the amount you need to carry at once.

24. Practice Leave-No-Trace Principles

Choose gear and food items that generate less waste, as packing out trash can add weight to your backpack.

25. Regularly Review and Upgrade Gear

Stay informed about the latest advancements in backpacking gear and consider upgrading to lighter options as your budget allows.


Understanding the average weight of backpacking essentials and the factors that influence your backpack weight is crucial for planning a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor adventure. Whether you’re embarking on a thru-hike or a weekend backpacking trip, making informed gear choices and following weight-saving tips can significantly improve your overall experience.

Remember, the right balance between comfort and weight is a personal choice, so tailor your pack to suit your preferences and the demands of your journey. Happy hiking!

Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume is a passionate outdoor enthusiast and the visionary behind Outdoor Doer is a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to inspiring and equipping adventurers. We offer expert advice, unbiased product reviews, and comprehensive guides on camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Our mission is to promote outdoor accessibility, holistic well-being, and sustainability through high-quality, engaging content and top-tier gear. Join us to explore, discover, and thrive in the great outdoors.

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