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Baselines and Benchmarks


What did I forget this time? When packing for a five or seven-day trip in the unknown of the backcountry this can be a very common and dangerous question, and although I hate to admit it, it’s one I’ve asked myself many times. In an effort to cure this black hole of missing gear once and for all, I eventually developed a very simple system to help rectify the situation. I call it the “backpacking baseline gear list.”

Essentially, the backpacking baseline is a master list for a standard five-day backpacking trip into the high country. From this, I alter the contents based on situational differences such as: rifle or bow, weather conditions, elevation differences, or changes in duration. Is this a seven-day high country bowhunt for mule deer in August, or an October strike hunt for elk at 7,ooo feet? Both are very different hunts, but the required basics or core of the list is very similar.

The baseline master list consists of everything I would need for a “middle of the road” five day excursion into the backcountry, if there is such a thing. The list can then be altered based on the variations and topographical and/or meteorological changes in the hunt from there. So, if the hunt is a three-day “strike hunt” instead of the standard five-day ordeal, I can eliminate some food and personal items. If the hunt is an October affair instead of Augus, I might add a few additional clothing items and beef up the sleeping bag and shelter a bit, to brace for the inclement weather conditions that October in the Rocky Mountains is capable of sending my way. This list, once checked off and verified, somewhat ensures I never leave something critical at home again.

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Bear in mind, I am never fully satisfied with this list and it usually changes from year to year. I am always testing and tweaking it base in new, lighter, tougher gear and equipment and different food choices and preferences.

I usually hunt with a partner, which makes the oveall load lighter, as much of the duplication of the gear and equipment is eliminated. The basic list I have used for the past two years in included in this article along with the gear list that my wife, Rinda, uses when she travels with me. This will give you a good idea of where to start and also give some of you lady hunters/backpackers a good list to start with as well. As I have learned recently, what a man takes into the hills and what a woman takes can look a bit different.

The lists are broken down into seven different categories. They are listed as: Camp/Shelter Gear, Food/Hydration, Clothing, Hunting Gear, Personal Items, Survival Gear and On-Person Gear. By breaking these out into categories, I can then work on benchmarking my weights.

For instance, I know that I consume just about 1 lb. of food per day in the mountains. This means I’ll shoot 5 lbs. in the food category for a five-day hunt. I tend to be a light eater so some of you might be closer to 1.5 lbs per day. In addition, I try to keep my Camp/Shelter category to below 15 lbs. including my backpack. Each and every category has a benchmark base weight target I try to hit.

For me those benchmarks are Camp/Shelter-15lbs; Food/Hydration(dry)- 5 lbs.; Clothing- 5 lbs.; Hunting Gear- 8lbs.; Personal Items- 1 lb.; and Survival Gear- 2 lbs. These figures may vary a little bit from trip to trip, but this gives me an idea of where to start and more importantly, where my “problem” areas are to target weight-saving modifications.

Inevitably, the biggest challenges for me are usually in the areas of Clothing and Hunting Gear. If you’re not careful, both of these areas can get overly heavy in a hurry. For the beginner, the Food and Camp gear can be challenging areas as well. It just takes a few trips to get used to and experienced with what types of quantities of food you need to survive an exploratory mission into the backcountry. And the Camp Gear just takes good old-fashioned cash to solve most of the weight issues. Essentially, you get what you pay for from both a weight and quality standpoint.

As mentioned before, this just my personal list and everyone will have his or her own variation and bled of backpacking gear. If you are just starting in the sport, this might help give you an idea of how to build a baseline list with the proper categories and weight benchmarks of your own, so that next time you get a mile or two up the trail, you’re not asking yourself, “What did I forget this time?”

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About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. Thanks for such specific info. with the weight. It’s very helpful for comparative purposes. I realized I can do some trimming, but I’m some areas I’m pretty similar.

  2. Up the page magnification on your browser to like 200% and you can easily read things then.

  3. Put this in the Journal so I have it in print. Thanks!

  4. What kind of weight do you look at with your water? I didn’t see it listed in the food/hyrdation section so I’m curious if this is weight added to what you have already listed, or if you include it as part of the 5.3 lbs?

    • Logan Richardson

      I guess he left it out on purpose as you might vary in the amount of water on different days. Since water weighs 8.33 lbs/gal I would think one might not run as full a hydro pack to save on weight while fully loaded . After camp is made and weight is offloaded then you might top the bladder off as you won’t have extra weight. Just my opinion, usually what I try to do anyway

  5. I’m curious as to why you take all the candy, gum, etc? Sugar=energy? Or just personal preference? I know it don’t amount to much weight combined, but we all know every ounce is critical, so just curious. Thanks!

  6. No water-filter bottle?

  7. Silk scarf ?! I’m not camping with you! Hahahahah

  8. Agree 100% about overdoing it with clothing and gear, the one thing I never skimp on though are wool socks, always have a couple of pairs extra.

  9. Great article Guy! There’s some very good information here. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Food weight seems a bit low. Have always been about 1.5lbs to 2.0 pounds per day based upon a 2000-3000 calorie diet. Planning on about 100 cal per oz. is my desire. Be interested to know what the planned calories per day was.

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