View Full Version : Ideal weight of the back pack to hike in Southern California?

5-Mar-2018, 20:36
I once toured Italy with an 18-pound backpack. At the end, I was really sore and tired. Now, few years later, I am older and want to go hiking with my back pack in Southern California deserts, mountains, etc. I have a Super Speed Graphic (about 2.5 pounds) plus 4 film holders, plus one small and one medium lens, plus Pentax spot meter, plus dark cloth, plus little book and pen, plus Lupe, all including the back pack weights 10 pounds. My tripod with head weights 5 pounds. How come that adds to much? My question is does this weight seem normal? how much does your equipment weight when gone hiking? Thanks, Pepe

Drew Wiley
5-Mar-2018, 20:53
Routine conditioning carrying a pack weekly or so really helps to build capacity.

Nodda Duma
6-Mar-2018, 04:31
When the wife and I worked at China Lake, a popular activity was wilderness hiking. I seem to recall 40-60lb of equipment-filled backpack for 3-day weekend hikes in the Sierra Nevadas. That was food in bear can, shelter, water, 35mm camera with film, etc. Desert hiking and exploring ghost camps were day-only affairs with at least 1 gallon water and a small amount of emergency equipment and 35mm camera, film. Each gallon of water weighs 3.875 kg plus container.

It's a beautiful region to explore, but be mindful of Mother Nature. She can be unforgiving out there for the ill-prepared.

6-Mar-2018, 07:49
My pack weighs about 20 pounds with the water bladder filled. For a hiking tripod I use a Feisol 3441T with small Photoclam ballhead. It weighs about 2.5 pounds. I easily hiked in the mountains around Mt. Rainier last summer with this, but I spent weeks getting into shape. I went up and down stairs of a tall building with the pack, and also did some local hiking with it. I do have some basic supplies in my pack as well as camera gear--enough to let me spend a night if something doesn't go as planned.

Kent in SD

6-Mar-2018, 08:31
The ideal weight? Easy: the lightest you can get all the critical equipment and food you will need for your duration.

What else can be said? "Carry more weight, to get to the ideal...?"

6-Mar-2018, 08:39
Stuff weighs what it weighs. There are lighter cameras and tripods you can buy if weight is an issue.

Jim Fitzgerald
6-Mar-2018, 08:42
Just got back from the Redwoods where my pack for my 20x24-14x17 is 40 lbs! and the tripod is 18 lbs. I did not have to go far nor did I want to! All of my shots were close to the car. Carry what you need and always keep in shape. I work out like crazy because at 67 I still can carry my big camera and get it up on the tripod by myself. I want to do it for as long as I can. And yes I'm sore today.

Bob Salomon
6-Mar-2018, 08:54
Seems like what would be ideal weight for a mid 20s athlete would not be the ideal weight for a 5’6” 60 year old couch potato.
Besides what you want to carry the real question is what you are fit to carry and able to comfortably carry.
Since you did not specify and asked a general question and don’t know ages, sizes and health of the responders the answers are basically meaningless to you!

John Kasaian
6-Mar-2018, 09:00
Don't spare the water!

6-Mar-2018, 09:41
I agree that there are so many variables that it's hard to give advice, but one constant is making sure you have your footwear sorted before getting too ambitious with your route planning--blisters probably blow up more trips than anything else. Realize, too, that both pack weight and of course terrain can affect your boot fit, especially over the course of a long day--hopefully you'll have time for a few shakedown cruises before you get in a situation where it's hard to bail-out. Otherwise, have fun and enjoy the process!:)

Drew Wiley
6-Mar-2018, 10:46
Gosh. I'm 68 and recently hiked over a hundred miles in the high country with a 65 lb pack - which would have been my definition of "ultralight" a decade or two ago. Desert canyon hiking was way heavier, or adding real mountaineering gear. Day hikes can obviously be much lighter. But in the mtns you always want a rain parka and light coat or sweater along too, and not just photo gear, or you risk becoming a statistic. Conditioning takes commitment. Get a good pack and gradually build up the weight until your back and shoulder muscles are accustomed, and you gain stamina. But it sure beats running on treadmill in a stinky gym, like a hamster in a cage.

6-Mar-2018, 11:16
Please plan to carry at least 1 liter of water per hour of hiking.

John Layton
6-Mar-2018, 11:52
I also train with my backpack - 25 to 40 lbs. on my back, in my RPT P-3, every day (no matter what the weather) that I'm not actually out photographing. As I now find myself, at age 63, more compelled than ever to venture into the high peaks with my gear, this training is absolutely essential (and yes...does it ever beat the gym!). When I am out photographing...I need to arrive at a given location with the ability to do more than simply gasp for air.

I do have three basic "kits" to choose from for backpacking...the simplest/lightest consists of a Gowland 4x5, from one to three lenses (90/135/210) six holders, Pentax spot meter, lightweight dark cloth, Feisol 3441T and PhotoClam, and a few filters. This, with a couple of Cliff bars, a liter or two of water (two to four if I'm in the desert), plus some extra foul weather and other safety accessories, adds up to about fifteen to twenty pounds. For about the same or a bit less weight, plus better logistics when on the move in variable weather, I pack Fuji/Voigtlander MF cameras (667 and 667W), spot meter, Feisol, and a few rolls of 120TMY, three or four filters. Either of these "lighter" kits fit into my Deuter backpack (very comfortable, sculpted mesh back for great ventilation, and nicely suspended). Heavier (between 25 and 40lbs., more in the desert due to extra water) would be either an L-45 (4x5), a 5x7 L-57 (modified L-45), 12 holders in cascade cases, three to five lenses, meter, cloth, Gitzo CF tripod with magnesium head, extra gear, food, water, in my RTP P3 pack. Do keep in mind that these are day-hike outfits...and that adding a tent, sleeping bag, jet boil stove, extra food, etc. pretty much eliminates (at least these days, at my age and level of fitness) anything but either the Gowland or Voigtlander kits, although I do have plans to cobble together a "hobo" style 5x7 if I can find the time.

About water...back east I can usually get by with one liter (or less) if I also pack my Sawyer water filter - saves overall weight and works great.

But...Drew...65lbs? Yeah, for me...maybe back in the day - but...jeesh - Thats gotta hurt!

Drew Wiley
6-Mar-2018, 13:05
Nah. I'm perfectly comfortable with much more wt than that. But long-haul travel over steep terrain requires some compromises at my age. The secret is a good pack properly packed and adjusted, serious boots that fit properly, and decent walking poles (my knees actually feel better than in my 40's due to spring-loaded poles. I have painful somewhat deformed feet, so wear expensive custom boots, but these are so well made that they turn out to be a bargain, outlasting many pairs of store-bought boots. It helps me to alternate types of exercising : fast walking with a small format shoulder bag, alternating on other days with a heavy pack on steep hills. It's easy to have sufficient wt with an 8x10 system; but I often deliberately increase that with other stuff. Yeah, I've slowed down a bit, but have no intention of losing momentum. That will inevitably come, but not without a fight!

6-Mar-2018, 13:21
My pack, for multi-day trips in the Sierra with bear can, food, fuel and at least two liters of water, just tips 50 pounds. Good boots, socks and rain gear are high on my list of "don't leave home without it".

Drew Wiley
6-Mar-2018, 13:55
Dang bear cans! Hopefully bear sacks will be approved everywhere, even Yosemite. I've never had a bear incident in my life, but I avoid Yogi Bear vs Ranger Rick areas to begin with. My carbon fiber bear barrel isn't heavy, but just misery to tug out of a pack already overloaded with view camera gear. There are only three discrete popular spots in SEKI requiring them.

6-Mar-2018, 14:19
so wear expensive custom boots

Drew, I'm curious as to who made your boots--I just had a pair of Esatto's (a Vancouver, Washington company) resoled after multiple thousands of miles on them and was just about to pull the trigger on having them make me a new pair.

At any rate, you're giving me hope--I honestly didn't see much difference between age 35 and 45, but 55 is feeling a bit different...:)

Drew Wiley
6-Mar-2018, 15:42
Yes, Essato. They now also offer a more expensive line of true mountaineering boots, but those days are over for me.

John Layton
6-Mar-2018, 15:42
Five years ago, I had my hiking boots custom made by Peter Limmer in Intervale, NH. Figured these would be my last pair of hiking boots - ever, and when I die I'll be burned and ground to ashes and buried in them!

Drew Wiley
6-Mar-2018, 16:23
My previous custom pair was from an old-school mtn bootmaker and lasted eight resolings! ... but were misery to break in. Esatto has a special method making post-production readjustment possible for a nearly perfect fit. They also use modern methods, presumably CNC, to size and cut the respective components quick and cost-effective prior to stitching. The only thing I had a problem with were the little metal lace clasps which gradually needed to be replaced.

6-Mar-2018, 18:35
Figured these would be my last pair of hiking boots - ever, and when I die I'll be burned and ground to ashes and buried in them!

Ha, same thing happened to me when I got a 6000 cu in pack this past winter and realized that, hey, I'm never going to buy that big a pack again...:)

Drew, thanks for the info--I've been very happy with the Esatto's I bought when the company was just being started by the original owner (a refugee from Nike, if I recall.) Hopefully the company remains as good to work with.

Nodda Duma
6-Mar-2018, 19:23
Funny story about boots:

I forget the brand, but 15 years ago I had very nice hiking boots that I had broke in for a long trek through Kings Canyon area. It was going to be over sawtooth pass and then sort of all over the place behind there before completing the loop back to the starting point over (I forget the name of the return pass, but it was above a larger lake which was a popular day-hike destination and camping spot).

We drove from Ridgecrest to Visalia the day before. That evening, a final check revealed that I had forgotten my damned boots! And I was only wearing cheap flip flops for the drive over.

In desperation, we went to the local Walmart -- the only place open at that time of day -- and I bought a $15 pair of cheap ankle-high "Sam's Choice" hiking boots which were all they had.

I dreamed of full-foot blisters that night.

But much to my surprise, while they weren't exactly like gliding on air, these unbroken $15 walmart specials worked just fine! Never wore them again for such an occasion, but I still have them.

Now I use Danners, which are perfect for hiking in the Northeast.

6-Mar-2018, 21:53
Funny story about boots:

Now I use Danners, which are perfect for hiking in the Northeast.

I'm another Danner fan. I've been wearing a pair of Danner winter hunting boots for over a dozen years now. They are relatively light but have 400gm Thinsulate, GoreTex, and an air bob sole (great in the snow.) They are comfortable from about 25 F down to about 10F below zero. (When colder I wear a pair of Baffin polar boots.) Last fall I bought a pair of Danner Vital boots which weigh about 2.5 pounds. They're very flexible, light, and have great traction. I wore them during pheasant season late fall into early winter. My summer hiking boots are actually Merrell trail shoes. Very sturdy but still pretty light. My favorite all around socks are from Smart Wool. Socks are probably the single most important thing to prevent blisters.


Kent in SD

7-Mar-2018, 01:13
You might get a set of Mido Cut Film holders and cut more weight while carrying more sheets of loaded film.

They take some practice to get loading down but when they work they are very nice to have.

Six of them about the same thickness as a normal 4x5 film holder. The very thin holders insert into a holder/shell and operate much like readyloads.

Peter Lewin
7-Mar-2018, 05:45
Not photography, but since the thread moved on to boots, and to us Northeasterners, Limmer Boots are the Rolls-Royces, some of you may enjoy this article: https://gearpatrol.com/2018/01/17/profile-peter-limmer-and-sons-custom-hiking-boots/. I still remember visiting the Limmers in the late 60's. Our friend and driver, who knew the color of the Limmer Barn we were looking for, had one short-coming: he was red/green color-blind, so it took us a bit longer to find the green barn ...

John Layton
7-Mar-2018, 07:00
I met Peter Sr. back in 1968 - but it would be many years until I’d finally ordered a pair. I do have a Limmer story - and I’ll try to keep it short, especially as this thread seems to have been hijacked.

My first photography assignment, at age 15 (1970), was to photograph the Dartmouth Winter Outward Bound program…headed up by Willem Lange, now a well-known local author/storyteller, radio and tv personality, and carpenter. Will wanted me to create a multi-projector presentation to publicize the program.

One of the OB program instructors was Willi Unsoeld - who, with Tom Hornbein, had pioneered a new route up the west ridge of Mt. Everest, in 1967. Willi was (he is now deceased) both a force of nature and a gentle soul…and kept us up for hours around the old Dartmouth Ravine Lodge’s huge roaring hearth with stories of his mountaineering exploits. During one of these sessions he removed his boots and socks, and allowed us to examine his feet, which (on Everest) had lost all but one toe!

Fast forward to 2012…my wife Marlene and myself were over at Peter Limmer’s getting our initial foot measurements - when we started to chat about Willi Unsoeld. At some point, Peter Limmer got up, disappeared for into his workshop, returned, and without a word - placed in my hand a curiously proportioned lump of plaster…Willi Unsoeld’s left foot!

Jim Fitzgerald
7-Mar-2018, 08:11
Wow from packs to boots! Is the OP even reading this?

Drew Wiley
7-Mar-2018, 10:09
Boots are even more relevant than packs! And it's what beginning bsckpackers most often overlook the importance of. I won't even allow people to accompany me on extended trips wearing those glorified tennis shoes that are now sold for casual hiking - way to easy to get frostbitten and stranded in even a mild snowstorm, or twist an ankle, or get jabbed by a cactus. Seen it all.

Drew Wiley
7-Mar-2018, 10:18
John - my uncle was the first engineer sent by the US into Nepal, and had the only serious helicopter in the country back then, and was the one who evacuated those climbers from the glacier once they came down the summit of Everest. But he never forgave National Geo, because they never repaid the fuel bill. I've had certain high altitude legends among my cronies too, and piles of ropes and ice gear all over my house. Now cats serve the purpose of keeping everything messy.

neil poulsen
7-Mar-2018, 10:42
I would avoid using a photo backpack. They include so much padding everywhere, they're heavy. I have a largish backpack with a piece of inserted foam. The sides are cloth with no padding. I've cut holes in the foam for lenses, camera, etc. It's relatively lightweight, and it can handle large cameras.

John Layton
7-Mar-2018, 11:06
Something I always carry, rolled/folded up...an old (really old - my grandfather's WW1 issue) ground cloth - which I spread out on the ground before laying my backpack on top of this. Keeps the backboard and straps clean and dry, and helps keep dirt/sand/water/snow off of gear. And yes...about those boots - very important!

Drew...as you must know - those rescue choppers take great skill to fly at such high altitudes. I spoke with one climber who'd helped to lift and throw a small rescue chopper off the ground above the Khumbu icefall - air so thin that it lacked the lift necessary for the extra load, so six climbers literally lifted the chopper by its runners as the engine was going full tilt...and threw it upwards as it gained enough forward speed to barely clear the lip of the icefall. So hats off to your uncle!

Jim Fitzgerald
7-Mar-2018, 11:53
I know how important boots are trust me. My loads are not light but then I'm not as tough as Drew or John but what they say is true. I was on a trail years ago with my son and we had our crampons on and stopped for a break to enjoy the view when in the distance we saw two fools coming up the trail in those tennis hiker things. I politely told them that they could die and to go back. They stopped and we got out of there. I did not want to have to go for mountain rescue for these idiots. There is so much that can kill you out there you need to be prepared. Gear, conditioning and most of all common sense. I wonder if the OP got scared off?

7-Mar-2018, 12:10
I lead small groups on short, "Introduction to Backpacking" treks.
I give talks, distribute reading material and packing check lists and do pack checks prior to the outings.
The things I harp on and that get people turned away at the trail head are...

1. inadequate footwear (boots and socks)
2. insufficient water carrying capacity
3. inadequate rain gear
4. and, in the Sierra or anyplace during the rainy season, cotton trail clothing (bandannas, PJ's and sun hat can be cotton, nothing else!)

Drew Wiley
7-Mar-2018, 12:28
Agreed. Simple bubble packing works better and weighs next to nothing. And a down coat is not only soft, but provides superb thermal insulation to film containers.

Drew Wiley
7-Mar-2018, 12:34
It's always a good idea for beginning hikers to apprentice with experienced ones, even if only a few hours at a time at first. When hiking in the Fall, I often carried a spare jacket and raincoat, because there would always be some day-hiker in shorts and a T-shirt 5 or 7 miles back in the aspen under a flawless blue Nov Indian Summer sky. Then things would suddenly turn black and it would start snowing, and snowing, and snowing.

7-Mar-2018, 12:45
I also carry a fold up helicopter in my backpack in case I run into a hiker that needs a medivac.

Drew Wiley
7-Mar-2018, 13:29
Is that attached to your deluxe Swiss Army knife?

7-Mar-2018, 13:35
Is that attached to your deluxe Swiss Army knife?

Custom Leatherman.

7-Mar-2018, 17:20
I was on a trail years ago with my son and we had our crampons on and stopped for a break to enjoy the view when in the distance we saw two fools coming up the trail in those tennis hiker things.

I once saw a family of Chinese tourists hiking on a glacier wearing flip flops during a Canadian trip.

Kent in SD

7-Mar-2018, 23:22
Yes, I am reading, and I going to buy a pair of boots too. I do have a Columbia pair that I use for hiking only.

Drew Wiley
8-Mar-2018, 11:30
Take your time and make sure they fit well. "Waterproof" Goretex uppers won't help you much in snow, loose rocks, or encounters with cacti. The heavier your pack gets, the more ankle support you'll need. Expect to pay a couple hundred bucks. But if you can wait a few months and afford the real deal, lightweight Esatto custom boots start around $700 and are well worth it. Danner is a store brand of light leather suitable for narrow normal feet (not wide!), and modest conditions.

8-Mar-2018, 16:08
Back to the OPs question, you mention mountains but did not say the elevation. Don't forget that thinner air will require some adjustment.

Drew Wiley
8-Mar-2018, 18:24
Good idea is to car camp high and take short walks for a couple days before trying something strenuous. And eat easy to digest food until you're acclimated (very important)

John Kasaian
11-Mar-2018, 07:02
I've been using a pair of Alicos for the past eight years. Probably the most comfortable hiking boots I've had yet.

John Kasaian
11-Mar-2018, 07:08
Good idea is to car camp high and take short walks for a couple days before trying something strenuous. And eat easy to digest food until you're acclimated (very important)

Just as important at high elevations--- avoid eating beans!

12-Mar-2018, 14:44
I usually carry several can of bean to heat them in the fire, the way old cowboys used to do it. They are always good. If everyone eats it, then no problem, and we keep the mountain lions away.

Drew Wiley
12-Mar-2018, 18:26
I had a backpacking pal who'd buy discount freeze-dried food from a so-so sporting goods chain store. He cooked up some Chili beans one evening, took a bite, and dumped it behind an aspen tree. Ever since, I joked about a dead bloated bear behind that tree.