Should my backpack be 10% of my weight?

Should my backpack be 10% of my weight?

The question was:

Someone somewhere arbitrarily came up with this guideline that one should strive to restrict the weight of their backpack to 10% of body weight. This gets passed around over and over again and seems now to have become a golden rule. Where does it come from?

Obviously it helps to limit weight, but there is no reason to blindly follow some artificial rule that may have worked well for the person originally establishing the measure, yet may not necessarily be appropriate for a good many others.

Factors not directly related to body weight, such as a person’s physique, level of physical conditioning, body strength, state of health etc. determine the amount of weight that one can comfortably carry. To base the decision soley on body weight doesn’t seem to make all that much sense.

I’ve seen people who go to extremes to keep their backpack weight low. Things like removing staples from papers they may carry, cutting off and discarding half of the toothbrush handle and drilling large holes in the remaining portion to reduce miniscule amounts of weight, packing half of a comb. Do these and other such measures really make that much difference?

This is not to discount the validity of suggestions to minimize weight. But, 10%: Just doesn’t work for everyone.

Read the conversation on backpacks should be 10% of your body weight on the Camino de Santiago.

  • kathleen.p

    It is also a good idea for woman to buy a womans backpack. They are shaped different and keep more wwight on your hips vs upper torso. I am a strong believer in the 10 percent rule and poles to support your back and knees. Poles also provide good toning for your arms while walking. Good luck

    • Woelflein

      But please, pleeaase don’t use metal tips. Use the rubber ones – the constant clicking sound is so annoying. Btw. I use a wooden pole that I collect/find on the way – and out of a silly tradition I started, I name him (but not Wilson ^^).. If he’s nice to me, he’s allowed to join me in traveling home. If not, he’ll get burned in Finisterre.

  • snatti

    i also believe in the 10% rule… because you don´t know what to carry the first time you go, and if you have such a limit you choose very good, what to take… and to be honest… you won´t miss anything… in case you do… spain has loads of shops…

  • I walked my Camino 2 years ago (december and january). Backpack, full goretex gear, sleepingbag, merino wool baselayers and shorts, spare socks, lightweight towel, spare indoorshoes, guidebook, 2 walking poles, notebook, camera, knife, goretex emergency bivybag, first aid kit, spork, and a 3 litre camelback insertbag and drinktube.: approx 10 kg, including water … the only thing I missed was a single pan as some alberques (especially in Gallicia) were brilliantly equiped with kitchengear … but no pan to be found.

    In summer I would leave my down sleeping in exchange for a silk one

  • peter

    No go, I weigh 65 kg, and I don’t think I will carry a lot with 6,5kg. I guess it will be about 15 kg and that wont have to be a problem when you got used to it. In the old days I walked around with 65kg with a body weight of 56 kg. For everybody I would recommend train with you backpack it will grow on you.

  • S Brierley

    I am trying my best to pack as light as possible – minimizing what I take and what I do take is the lightest I can purchase…. but as for the 10% rule, for me, I weigh 55kg – so this meaning my pack with water should only be 5.5kg – realistically that isnt going to happen is it. I thing the 10% rule should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  • Woelflein

    I don’t really care about this ominous 10%-rule, but I try to keep my pack just below 10kg (without water and food).

    In 2009 I went carrying about 9kg net weight (about 10,5kg in total), in 2011 I used a bigger pack with about 12,5kg net (14kg or so in total). It really made a difference, the excess weight cut my possible daily distances down from a max of 40km/day to about 30km per day – I’m quite a big guy, but totally untrained.

    Since then I sometimes take a kitchen scale and weigh items I’d like to bring on my next trip. Although I’m not going to start drilling holes in my toothbrush, I’ve decided to leave my poncho at home next time. Thing weighs more than 600 gramms and I never really needed it (e.g. high quality pants and a water resistant jacket totally suffice). Instead of cotton bags to store my clothes in I now use a 40l dry bag, and a 10l one for my sleeping bag. So even if I get rained on and it gets through the backpack’s rain cover, my things will stay dry. Weighed two different bandanas – one is at 20 gramms, one at 110 gramms. Who really needs a set of silverware? And so on.

    Long stoy short: In my opinion it’s not worth going overboard with the weight thing, but if you can make your life on the camino a little bit more comfortable (without looking like some geeky extreme-pilgrim) – why not go for it?

    Buen Camino