Why 15lbs is a good target and how to achieve it

15lbs or 6.8Kg is a magical figure – it’s about the base pack weight you can achieve for an extended three season backpacking trip without really compromising on comfort or sacrificing any of the key pieces of gear; such as tents, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and rucksack.

Go much below this weight and there must be compromises to achieve such a low level – you could go without a sleeping mat, use a minimalist tarp instead of tent, leave the cooking gear and fuel at home and eat only cold food plus a host of other compromises that could reduce base pack weight further.

At 15lbs though none of these compromises have to be made, you can take a tent, full size sleeping mat, cooking gear etc. 15lbs is also a good starting weight for your back – with a good rucksack it’s a relatively small load to carry and even though you will be adding food, water and fuel you will probably still stay under 22lbs – which is a comfortable carry for most people.

Even with this low weight it’s notable that the largest single item is the RUCKSACK – the item you don’t need, except to carry the stuff you do need. In my 15lb list the rucksack weighs about a kilogram, that’s because I insist on a decent harness system with a frame that transfers the load to my hips for a comfortable carry – if I expect my total weight to be below 25lbs there are a wide range of packs that will carry this around the kilogram mark. Other people will go for a lighter pack than this – that’s personal choice – but it could save 3-400grams more – this is worth doing if you can still carry the weight comfortably.

In my list I’ve included a two skin TENT that’s under 800grams, two skin tents are the most popular because they are the best for managing condensation, but by moving to a single skin option weight could be saved or roominess improved for the same weight. Most tents of this low weight have mesh inners – these are ‘breezy’ in windy conditions but this is the only compromise you need to use for three season use.

I have also included a full sized SLEEPING MAT, many others might compromise here and take a torso mat, and you can use your rucksack to insulate your legs from the ground though it’s not as comfortable. There were lighter options for sleeping mat anyway (though not many) but these are generally un-insulated, I preferred the insulated option which again helps my sleeping bag keep me warm.

The SLEEPING BAG I have gone for is highly rated for its weight – at a Comfort Limit of 2C its around the minimum requirement for most 3 season backpacking trails, fine if I ‘sleep warm’ but not so good if I ‘sleep cold’, but I also have a pair of long johns a thermal top and a down jacket which I can wear to bolster the warmth from the bag.

Finally my total comes to 13lbs 14.23ozs, that leaves 17oz (481grams) for re jigging or for other items – note I haven’t included my camera – 12oz is a good allowance for this but my preferred camera weighs a bit more so it would take the total base weight over the target. Extra weight may be added for ingredient bottles, salt and pepper or in my case something to carry my coffee in.

It’s a real list and one that I will be using for an upcoming trip, I will be swapping some stuff out and adding equivalents in – but the basic list is sound.

 Basic Gear Carried  6300g |13lbs14.23oz 
TentSea to Summit Alto TR1 Tent  930g |2lbs0.8oz 
 Lightwave Cuben Peg Bag  2g |0lb0.07oz 
 GCG Titanium Tent Pegs - 6  36g |0lb0.85oz 
 MSR Carbon Core Tent Stakes - 6  36g |0lb1.27oz 
 Lightwave Lightning Guylines - 4  20g |0lb0.71oz 
 Grip Clips x 2  10g |0lb0.35oz 
Sleeping BagSTS Spark SPII Regular Sleeping Bag  480g |1lb0.96oz 
 STS Aero Ultralight Pillow - Regular inc. pouch  58g |0lb2.05oz 
 STS stuffsack supplied with sleeping bag  30g |0lb1.06oz 
Sleep Mat etcNemo Tensor Regular  394g |0lb13.9oz 
 Repair Kit  10g |0lb0.35oz 
 Pumpsack  56g |0lb1.97oz 
RucksackGranite Gear Crown 2  1064g |2lb5.6oz 
 Gram-counter Gear 30L Pack Liner  62g |0lb2.19oz 
RaingearOutdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket  172g |0lb6.06oz 
 Montane Minimus Pants  156g |0lb5.51oz 
CookingSoto Windmaster Gas Stove  66g |0lb2.33oz 
 Evernew ECA 278R Titanium Solo Potset  152g |0lb5.37oz 
 GCG Thermo Pocket Insulated Pouch  34g |0lb1.2oz 
 Optimus Sliding Spoon  26g |0lb0.92oz 
 MSR Deep Dish Bowl  61g |0lb2.16oz 
 Sawyer Mini Filter  97g |0lb3.42oz 
 GCG Firesteel  12g |0lb0.42oz 
 GSI Compact Scraper  18g |0lb0.64oz 
 Pot Washing Cloth and Pan Saver  10g |0lb0.35oz 
 WashroomCoghlans Mirror  20g |0lb0.71oz 
 Granite Gear Air ZippDitty  17g |0lb0.6oz 
 Lightwave RAP-VAP Towel Small  52g |0lb1.84oz 
 Packtowel Nano - Medium  18g |0lb0.64oz 
 Disposable Razor x1  12g |0lb0.42oz 
 Coghlans Camp Soap 59ml  85g |0lb3oz 
 MSR Blizzard Stake as Trowel  33g |0lb1.17oz 
 Coghlans Biodegradable Toilet Roll  42g |0lb1.48oz 
 Vaude Dento-Fresh  45g |0lb1.59oz 
 Pee Bottle  35g |0lb1.24oz 
First Aid KitTotal Weight  181g |0lb6.4oz 
 Granite Gear Air ZippDitty 1.0L  17g     
 2 x 4" Wound Dressings  14g     
 1 x Stretch Bandage  10g     
 1 x Surgical Tape  3g     
 1 x Bite and Sting Relief  17g     
 6 x Wound Cleaning Wipes  11g     
 5 x Plasters  4g     
 1 x Small Vaseline Tin  34g     
 Ibuprofen Tablets - 16 Pack  8g     
 Sun Screen Stick  12g     
 Micropur Tablets - 75 Pack  8g     
 Elastoplast Fabric Strapping  31g     
 STS Nano Mossy Net  12g     
 HydrationHydrapak 750ml Stash Water Bottle  70g |0lb2.47oz 
 Evernew 0.6L Water Bottle  27g |0lb0.95oz 
 Hydrapak Soft Flask 750ml  68g |0lb2.4oz 
ClothingPatagonia Thermal Airshed Jacket  230g |0lb8.11oz 
 Rab Zero G Down Jacket  290g |0lb10.2oz 
 Rab Forge Leggings  130g |0lb4.59oz 
 Marmot Windstopper Gloves  66g |0lb1oz 
 OR Helios Sunhat  84g |0lb2.97oz 
 Montane Primino 140 Helmet Liner  18g |0lb0.64oz 
 Haglofs LIM Power Dry Top  168g |0lb5.94oz 
 XSocks Trekking Expedition Short  54g |0lb1.91oz 
 Montane Prism Booties  154g |0lb5.43oz 
 AccessoriesPetzl Tikka Lamp  85g |0lb3oz 
 ALOKD2-8x11 Waterproof Bags - Double Zip  20g |0lb0.71oz 
 Petzl E+ Lite  26g |0lb0.92oz 
 Maps x 2 Cut to Size  54g |0lb1.91oz 
 Deejo Naked 15g  15g |0lb0.53oz 
 Sunglasses and Lowe Alpine Pouch  108g |0lb3.82oz 
 Compass - Silva  26g |0lb0.92oz 
 Glass Cleaning Cloth  2g |0lb0.07oz 
 Multimat Sit Mat  32g |0lb1.13oz 
 Gram-counter Gear Mini Firesteel  15g |0lb0.53oz 
 Cable Ties  6g |0lb0.21oz 
 Discretionary Gear Carried        
 Samsung Phone incl. LokSak  115g |0lb4.06oz 
 Credit Cards and Cash in LokSak  23g |0lb0.81oz 
 Granite Gear Document Pouch  19g |0lb0.67oz 
 Headphones  10g |0lb0.35oz