What Does Base Weight Mean in Backpacking?

By Robert Palmer

When it comes to backpacking, the term ‘base weight’ is often thrown around, but what does it really mean? Base weight is a term used to describe the total weight of all your gear minus consumables, such as food and water.

It’s important to consider your base weight when backpacking as it can drastically affect your overall comfort and enjoyment of the trip.

Base weight is calculated by taking the total weight of all your gear before you start packing for a trip, and then subtracting out the weight of any consumables (food, water, fuel). This will give you an idea of how much your pack will weigh when fully loaded.

When planning a backpacking trip, it’s important to take into account your base weight to ensure that you are not over- or under-packing. If you’re carrying too much gear, it will add unnecessary strain on your body and make the trek more difficult.

On the other hand, if you don’t have enough gear for the conditions you’ll be facing, then you could end up in danger.

The best way to determine what your ideal base weight should be is by researching similar trips and environments. This will give you an idea of what sort of items are necessary for a successful journey.

You can also look at reviews online from other backpackers who have completed similar trips.

Once you’ve determined what items are necessary for your trip, it’s important to find ways to reduce your base weight as much as possible without sacrificing comfort or safety. This can be done by investing in lighter gear such as ultralight tents or sleeping bags that are designed specifically for backpacking trips. You can also opt for multi-use items such as a tarp that can be used as both a shelter and sun shade or an inflatable sleeping pad that doubles as a seat cushion during rest stops.

By understanding what base weight means in backpacking and taking steps to reduce it where possible, you can ensure that each trip is comfortable and enjoyable without putting undue strain on your body.


In conclusion, base weight is an important concept in backpacking which refers to the total weight of all gear minus consumables like food and water. Understanding base weight is essential in order to properly plan out trips, ensuring that neither too much nor too little gear is taken along on hikes or camping trips. By researching similar trips and investing in lightweight items where possible, backpackers can reduce their base weights while still staying safe and comfortable during their adventures.