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Assuming equivalent fitness, what is a fair way to split up weight when hiking as a couple/in mixed gender groups? Should the weight be proportional to the individuals weight? Are there other considerations?

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4 Answers

Someone who has overweight isn't normally able to carry more, so weight isn't as important. The height would be more adequate... Muscle strength isn't much important when you go on long hikes... Strength doesn't translate directly to endurance, often it's the opposite - people with smaller muscles are more endure and are actually able to carry more on greater distances.

The most practical solution is not to care about fairness, but of outcome for the group. If someone is doing poorly that day, stays behind etc., take some things from them and give it to the best performing members of the group. As the result, the fastest will go a bit slower, the slowest will go a bit faster and the group as the whole will perform much better.

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+1 "not to care about fairness, but of outcome of the group" –  ppl Sep 8 '13 at 0:51
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When I go hiking with my wife or a mixed group, we don't use any fixed figures of x%. Instead we all know roughly what weight we are happy carrying, and if someone feels they could carry more they will offer to help out someone who appears to be struggling or overloaded.

In general, if you are experienced hikers, you will have your pack size/type pretty well nailed for most occasions so shouldn't need to do this, but you may have an inexperienced member of the team, or someone may be a bit off their usual strength through illness etc.

My advice - just work it out between you.

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+1 for knowing your own personal weight carrying capacity. An additional useful thing to do with new hikers is to try and always keep a healthy ratio of experience-to-inexperience and likewise high-output-to-low-output, so that you have enough wiggle room within your group to optimize the individual conditions in the case of an emergency or to help a weak member make it through without abandoning the trip objective. –  Nisan.H Sep 7 '13 at 20:49
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Dividing loads between your trek-mates is a good idea. A better one would be to pack light. In case you want to collectively gain by individually reducing the weight, then my suggestion would be to go by the comfort level of the individuals involved. A strong person might be able to haul more load. But the same one might not be able to perform the same way the next day. The division of labor changes dynamically during treks.

For example: I am used to carrying heavier backpacks during my treks. I usually carry over 15Kg over treks spanning 7 days or more in the Himalayan regions. Whereas, during a weekend trek, with a backpack of just over 3Kg, I whined like a baby (my bad).

Hence, when deciding on dividing your backpacks, think about the current day and the stronger person(s) on the given day. DO NOT go by weight or gender. That never works out.

Happy trekking!

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Good point about being habitual to a specific range of load! –  WedaPashi 6 hours ago
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Different people have vastly different styles. Some people carry a lot more weight, some a lot less. If you're interested in cutting your pack weight or moving toward a more lightweight or ultralight style, a good web site to check out is http://backpackinglight.com .

I think many people do use percentage of body weight as a criterion, e.g., I recently hiked with a very small woman (who, BTW, kicked my ass hiking), who had a certain strict figure -- she never carries more than x% of her body weight. (This was just her rule for herself. The three of us on that trip all brought our own gear and didn't re-divvy-up anything.) If you want a figure for comparison, I practice a pretty lightweight/ultralight style for summer in the Sierra, and my normal setup has a base weight (i.e., not counting food or water) of about 9% of my body weight.

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