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Thread: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question


    I have been working like heck to shave pounds off of my loaded pack. Smaller lenses, quickloads, lighter tripod - you name it. Through all of that effort, I am lucky if I reduced the total weight by six pounds. While shaving off those pounds, I know I am giving up a lot - like the better lenses!

    Here is the stupid question. If a guy were to shave off six to ten pounds of body weight, would the end result be about the same as dropping six to ten pounds from the weight of the backpack. It is obvious that the total weight on the feet would be the same as would the total weight in motion.

    I do have at least fifteen pounds to give up and I have LOTS of experience bearing the weight of that load! So, in summary, if I were to take ten pounds off of my mid section and add those ten pounds to my pack, could I go farther and do more?

    J V McLure

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    Depends. Dropping weight might leave you weaker. You could consider getting stronger instead of worrying about scale weight.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Baton Rouge, LA

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    It is not quite an even exchange - part of the problem is localized stress on the shoulders. Body weight is very evenly spread and thus easier to carry. But yes, getting rid of excess pounds will let you carry a little more, and other metabolic benfits from losing the weight will also help. Regular fitness training (which you may be doing) will also help a lot. Of course the best fitness training is to hike with your camera every day.:-)

    I do not see why you are giving up better lenses. The smaller lenses are often the best, at least in terms of sharpness and contrast.

  4. #4
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    The short answer is pretty much.

    The long answer is, it depends. The weight in the pack is not in the same place as the weight on the body. This effects your balance, and it changes the torque requirements of muscles all over the body. For example, wearing a loaded pack makes it considerably more difficult for me to bend over and pick something up off the floor. Losing body weight won't do much to change this, whereas losing pack weight will do more to improve this.

    So really, the best thing to do IMHO is loose both the body weight and the pack weight. Easier said than done, I know.

    BTW, I don't understand about the lenses. You can get high quality lenses in a variety of weights for any given focal length. AFAIK there isn't a direct (or even much of an indirect) correlation between image quality and lens weight.

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    If the trip is about photography, I'd be inclined to shave weight in places besides the photo gear. I mean, carry a light widget if it will work as well, and leave it behind if you truly don't need it, but don't go crazy.

    You can shave a lot of weight in other places (clothes, camping gear, fat ass, etc.).

    And if you're not doing a lot of vertical feet when you hike, sometimes a better designed and more comfortable (for you) pack can make a bigger difference than a few pounds.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    My pack itself weighs five pounds, but fits me well and is well padded and very comfortable. I could have gone for a lighter pack, but for longer hikes the reduced strain on my back more than compensates for the added weight.

  7. #7
    Robert Oliver Robert Oliver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Oceanside, CA

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    The losing weight on body and on pack is ideal. I went with the lighter version of lenses instead of skimping on quality. I would gladly deal with an f9 300mm instead of a f5.6. My wide angle is f8. But high quality glass. The only suffering is when I try to focus the wide angle in dim light. It's easier to try and lighten your backpacking gear. Visit the ultralight backpacking sites and start shortening your toothbrush, converting beer cans into stoves and designing tyvek shelters.

    The best way is to recruit suckers, i mean friends, to shoulder some of the load for you.

    Robert Oliver

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Hudson Valley, NY

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    The best thing is to just hike more with your pack. The body adapts and gets stronger for that specific activity. In the process you will likely also lose the extra body weight. In the end you will lose the body weight and be stronger too.

  9. #9
    Sheldon N's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Portland, OR

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    I've gone the direction of allowing more weight in the pack and working on overall fitness/weight loss in the last 6 months. My total gear weight is up by about 6 lbs from where it was before, but I've dropped at least that in my own weight as well as improving conditioning.

    Gear weight has only increased in the interests of broader useable focal length range and greater stability. I now have 5 lenses instead of 4 (90mm - 300mm, still use lighter f/8 and f/9 versions), Arca Swiss 4x5 Field instead of Wista DX, sturdier Gitzo 1325 tripod instead of lightweight mid series Feisol, as well as a sturdier tripod head. The added functionality has been well worth the weight penalty. I was at about 19 lbs total pack weight with tripod before, and now I'm at 25lbs.

    My pack has a really good hip/harness system, so I don't feel the extra weight too much when hiking. I think one of the biggest differences you can make in hiking is to use a pack that is designed for backpacking rather than for photo gear. The Lowepro packs (and other similar brands) are great at holding cameras, but they fit me poorly and are too heavy. I now use an Osprey Atmos 35 which is 2-3 lbs lighter than a Lowepro and is a much better fit.

    Overall fitness for me has just been hiking the stairwell in our office builing at lunch (we have a changing/shower room in our building). Doing 750 or 1000 vertical feet of hiking during a lunch break is a great way to keep in shape despite being a desk jockey for my day job. I've lost the same amount of weight that I've added in gear in the last few months, as well as getting in a lot better condition.

    Of course, getting out and hiking in the real world is the way to really do it.

  10. #10
    3d Visual Effects artist
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Culver City, CA

    Re: Backpacking & Weight - Stupid Question

    Maybe because I am young, but the weight has never really bothered me enough to think about leaving things behind. Actually, I think my RB67 setup was heavier than the 4x5 setup I hike with. The lenses on the RB are so heavy :-(

    How are you carrying your tripod? I have just recently started carrying my tripod in my hands, rather than on my shoulder (with a shoulder strap). This takes a bit of the weight off your back/shoulder, being that a tripod/head is a pretty good percentage of your overall camera weight. Just a suggestion :-)

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