Monday 11 January 2010

Backpacking Gear Weight Calculator

One of the many advantages of a computer is having it do tedious work. In pre-computer days I used to make hand written lists of all my gear plus all the weights. Every new item of gear meant a new list. Every trip meant a new list – unless I was taking exactly the same gear. And I had to add up all those weights. Using a spreadsheet a computer does all this for you. But first you have to set up the spreadsheet. For some this may be easy. For those like me with no actual computer training and no desire to learn how to do such things it’s much easier to have someone else do the work. After a few poor attempts at making a spreadsheet to which I could add new items and compile different lists with weights added up I searched around for something better and discovered Chris Ibbeson’s Backpacking Gear Weight Calculator, which did everything I wanted and more. Neat, efficient and a pleasure to use I’ve been using it for several years and recommended it in the last edition of The Backpacker’s Handbook.

Recently Chris contacted me to say that he has just released a new online version of the Gear Weight Calculator. Previous versions were downloads for Windows users. This version should be usable by Mac users as well. The new version also allows users to import items from other people’s lists, if made public, and so see what effect a different tent or pack or other item has on the overall weight. There’s also a blog, a forum and an online photo gallery. This looks to be a really useful site.

Photo info: Camping by Lochan Fada in the Northern Highlands. Canon EOS 350D, 18-55@18mm, 1/250@ f8, ISO 100, tripod, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.6


  1. Fantastic, thanks! I've been using the old version for years, but this one sounds well worth a look.

  2. Is it still possible to get the offline version? Is that still being maintained as well?

  3. Andrew, I emailed Chris Ibbeson about this and he says "yes. There is a "Software" page on the blog where the Windows app can be dowloaded."

  4. Do I really need a pack weight calculator? If I have put just the right amount of my lightest bits of kit into the rucksack, appropriate for the next type of outing, do I really need a spreadsheet to tell me its theoretical weight? If I really want to know the weight, given that I've got just what I need in the pack and can't safely go lower using anything I currently own, shouldn't I simply weigh the whole pack?

    Can you tell that I have become disillusioned with the whole five pound base weight business? By the time the maps, fuel, food and water are in, the pack's real weight is way over the weight of the alleged Big Three.

    The one situation where the discipline of entering accurate weights into some kind of file would obviously be valuable is in the event of planning a new purchase. But then, for rigour, I'd have to take scales to the shop.

    Sorry if this all sounds a bit miserable, but I haven't gained any benefit from the spreadsheet approach so far. Undoubtedly, my lack of self-discipline plays a major part in that. Given that I can achieve my lightest possible pack weight without doing any calculations, I am left wondering why Gear Calculators are so popular.

  5. John, I agree no one needs a gear calculator. But some people find them useful. Knowing the weight of items can be worthwhile even if you're not into ultralight backpacking (and I doubt I'll ever get near a 5lb base weight). It's just a tool for those who are interested.

  6. What might be interesting would be to work out the total weight saved in incremental changes down the years - a sort of 'then and now' exercise.

    I'm by no means an ultralight freak, but swapping an SLR plus lenses for a compact, boots for Terrocs (for most of the year), lighter poles etc., must have had an effect. If only I could justify swapping a pair of perfectly good Opticron binoculars for some of those lightweight Leica jobbies that Bill Oddie gets for free!

  7. I have been uing a r weight calculator on the pc for 3 years now and it is so useful for me.
    Its not just the calculating and tracking of weight that is important, its also very useful as a kit list reminder. In the past, I have forgotten kit when not using a list. At least this way I wont forget anything important and also I havekit lists for different times of the year and different conditions

    I love mine to bits......does that make me sad? :-O

  8. Well, I certainly do forget kit! Always the same thing. My titanium spork. It's so useful, I keep it in the kitchen and forget to put it back into the rucksack before rushing off to the ferry. Perhaps I should find the self-discipline to make myself a kit list. Alternatively, I could go for a ride on my bicycle.

  9. I weighed everything i had a while ago, but haven't kept an up to date list. I simply make sure that any replacement is lighter than what it is replacing. When i pack for a trip now, i don't bother weighing the pack, and simply take what i need. I know that the items i carry will be the lightest i have found that will do what i want for that particular trip.
    My pack is naturally light anyway, as i don't need much to be comfortable.
    Mike fae Dundee.

  10. Wonderful read Chris.. Keep up the great work!