WHAT TYPE OF BACKPACKER ARE YOU? - A Backpacker?s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count: Tips and Tricks for Every Hike (2015)

A Backpacker?s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count: Tips and Tricks for Every Hike (2015)



You’re now starting to understand what a Gram Weenie is and how to look at three major items in your pack to lighten some weight. Now, it is time to ask yourself a few questions:

✵ What kind of backpacker are you or do you want to be?

✵ Do you want a lighter pack?

✵ Do you want to change what you carry?

✵ How far will you go to get the lightest pack you have ever had?

✵ Are you willing to suffer through the mocking and ridicule that comes with making the changes you are about to start making?

To determine what type of backpacker you are (lightweight or ultra-lightweight), you need to look at the base weight of your pack.

When weighing your setup to determine if you are nearing the rank of light or the ultra-light backpacker, you need to look at your base weight. Here is the table again with the three ranges to refresh your memory:


20-30 pounds base weight


10-20 pounds base weight

Insanity Under

10 pounds base weight

Base Weight

The base weight is the weight of the pack, loaded with all your gear for a trip, minus the consumable items. Consumable items are the items that change weight during your trip, like your toothpaste, TP, sunscreen, food, fuel, and so on. Items to include when weighing your pack for the base weight are those that do not change weight during your trip, like your pack, sleep system, shelter, stove, clothes, tools, tent stakes, toothbrush, and the like.

Some may say that if the base weight of the pack is less than twenty pounds, then you have an ultra-light pack. Therefore, if you try to get the Big Three down to three pounds each, you might have slipped over to Gram Weenieism because you are taking those steps. I know this because you worked hard to limit the weight of the three biggest items in your pack. Well done!

Pat yourself on the back… .

Since the terms lightweight and ultra-lightweight refer to the total weight of your pack with your nonconsumable items, it is conceivable for you to reach light or ultra-light status with a five-pound pack as well as with a three-pound pack. You can find packs that weigh in the one- to two-pound range, so if this is what you are looking for, use the Internet to find the lightest pack possible.

Even though REI calls my Exos an ultra-lightweight pack, I don’t agree with that description. The Exos weighs in at two pounds, ten ounces (that is one of the big three here), and that is way heavier than other packs I have found that weigh only a few ounces, up to one pound and slightly over, but not more than two pounds.

You might be able to see how opinions differ from what one person calls an ultra-light pack and a lightweight pack. Some may call a base weight of twenty-five pounds ultra-light because they are used to a forty-five-pound base weight pack. The designation of lightweight backpacker and ultra-lightweight backpacker is subjective.

I looked at these “ultra-light” packs, which are frameless, but I am not thrilled with the idea of a frameless pack. I have noticed that some packs have changed over time. As you take your journey down the path to becoming a Gram Weenie, you will also see changes in pack design, weight, style, and some that go from frame to frameless. So keep an eye on the industry and watch as trends change, which they will from time to time, so you can change with the times, or at least know what is out there to help you make your decision. This goes for packs, stoves, sleeping bags, and other gear.

Remember, I am a Gram Weenie, but I am not an ultra-light backpacker. I know, I’ve said that before. The path to Gram Weenieism has many twists and turns. As you travel, you will learn new information that will help you to look at your gear in a way that allows you to shave even more weight from your pack. One day there might be some gear out there that is lighter than what I have and get me to the ultra-lightweight side of backpacking. For now, however, I will remain on the lightweight side of the spectrum.

A Gram Weenie can still be someone who carries around thirty pounds for a base weight, it just so happens that this particular Gram Weenie has a lot of stuff in his or her pack. What is the gear in their pack? What effort was taken to use the lightest possible gear? How many luxury items are in the pack?

Pack Weight

The pack weight is the weight of the pack with everything in it, including your consumables. Remember that consumables are those items that are reduced in weight throughout the trip. I have actually culled my deodorant from my pack because I didn’t use it, and then put it back after a few trips where I did need it. Well, the other hikers appreciated the fact that I took my deodorant on the trips in the warmer months. Weather conditions dictate when I take my deodorant along.

When trying to go light, the items within the pack are just as important as the pack itself, but when you start the journey to Gram Weenieism, as any journey you take, you must not sacrifice your health or safety. This is very important. If you have special medical needs, you can’t cull those items from your pack. However, you can cut back on the amount of TP that you … oh wait, NOOOOOO, DO NOT CUT BACK ON THE TP! Trust me on this one.

After testing from home, you can take only the right amount of fuel, only the number of snacks you can eat day to day, and a few other things I will cover as you read on. Hopefully you have learned the difference between a lightweight backpacker, like myself, and an ultra-lightweight backpacker. Now, you have to decide which one you are and/or want to be.

You need to keep that in mind as you read, because knowing what goal you want to accomplish will spur ideas of your own on how you can adjust your pack to meet your needs. It’s like a seed that needs nourishment and care. The seed here is ultra-light or lightweight. The nourishment and care are the ideas here and the ideas that you come up with on your own and learn as you make your own journey to Gram Weenieism.

Now, let’s take a close look at some other areas you can focus on to lighten your pack a little. Remember, every ounce counts. You will be able to lighten your load more than you dreamed possible.

Some of my friends that I go backpacking with have given me a hard time about some of the things I do when preparing for a trip. However, that same group of people have adopted some of my practices, and have asked me about ways to lighten their packs. Some are also still carrying a heavier-than-needed pack on these trips, while I carry much less. Because I carry less than I used to, I find the trip more enjoyable because I am not as sore or tired as I used to be. At the end of each day, I seem to have more energy than the others, which is good on those trips when I drive us to the trail. If I am not as worn out as other hikers, I don’t mind the drive as much. I also try not to carry any superfluous items.