Whether you are heading out into the backcountry to hunt big game or just planning a thru-hike, living out of a backpack can present some challenges. Shorter jaunts of three days or less are easier to plan for, but when you are planning a trip longer than 5 days, pack weight can become a factor. Beyond the basic equipment you need for hunting, shelter, and comfort, food and water can quickly add up in weight. If you eat two freeze-dried meals per day, two packets of oatmeal for breakfast, and one granola bar, you are looking at about 14 ounces of food per day. This doesn’t include water you may need to pack in. While it’s always good to filter water once you set up camp, you still need to bring some in with you. If you pack in 2 liters of water, then you have added about 4 pounds to your gear as well. For a 10 day expedition, with 3 meals each day, one snack, and 2 liters of water packed in, you have added almost 13 pounds to your pack. Count in toilet paper at 8 ounces per roll, and you are looking at almost 14 pounds.
Some discussion of ideal pack weight is probably required here as well. The general rule is that your pack should weigh no more than a third of your total body weight. While this is a good starting point, it doesn’t account for all the variables. In the United States Army Infantry, for example, soldiers generally ruck a 68-pound fighting load—which can approach 100 pounds if it is an approach march and they may be fighting for a while before being resupplied. Soldiers don’t just wake up and start carrying 100-pound loads. They gradually work up their ruck weight adding 5-10 pounds at a time until they get up to carrying a fighting load. Individual conditioning, the terrain you’ll be in, and weather may all play a role in determining pack weight. If you have a bad back, you will probably be able to comfortably carry less than a fit 20-year-old. If you are hiking on steep ground in the mountains you may need heavier boots, more stable trekking poles, and other pieces of gear that add weight. Weather can play a significant role in pack weight as well. A summer hike will require fewer layers of clothing, a lighter 3 season tent, and a lighter sleeping system.
The point to take away here is that ideal pack weight is a very individual thing and can change for the same person for different trips. The best strategy is to start with gear that is suitable for general use. 3 season tents, 30-degree sleeping bags, and fall clothing will be able to be adapted for both winter and summer use with some tweaks. For example, a three-season tent can withstand heavy snow and winds if more guy lines are staked out and a trekking pole is placed inside under the center of the roof. Conversely, in the summer you could get away with just the inner part of the tent, ditching the rain fly in good weather. A 30-degree sleeping bag could work down to 15 degrees if you sleep in all of your clothing and place a warm water bottle down by your feet. Eventually, though, the goal should be to build up a collection of backpacking gear that can be mixed and matched to suit the conditions for each trip. You will end up with a closet of different sleeping bags, tents, and other gear which will give you options. Your goal in packing should be to bring the best possible gear that will perform as needed while minimizing weight and bulk as much as possible. Setting a target weight for your pack will give you something to work towards and allows you to figure out where you can save weight.