A Discussion of Pack Weight and Durability

I know there’s lots of people out there who look at back packs and wonder what’s right for them.  If they have to bug-out what should they use as a pack?

In today’s video I talk about three different types of pack weights and durability.  And by weight I’m talking about how much the pack weighs empty and how well you can expect it to hold up.

Check it out and if you have questions or comments you know what to do right?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor


Awhile back there was talk about  Selco’s blog, which I’ve read and found useful.  Right after that post I received notice that he’s set up a SHTF online class.  Click here if you’re interested.

26 comments… add one
  • GoneWithTheWind June 16, 2013, 9:28 pm

    My pack weighs 2 lbs. When fully loaded for 3-7 days on the trail it weighs 20-28 lbs total. That’s tent, sleeping bag, pad, jet boil, 2 quarts water, 1st aid and survival kit, rain wear, extra underwear and sox and food (some small odds and ends) That is my three season pack and lightweight is my goal (can’t really say ultralight). I have hiked with heavier packs and it sucks. You can’t hike as far or as long and multi-day hikes feel like torture with 40+ pounds. Yes, I know some guys are tough and/or young and strong. I was too about 40 years ago but I was also poor and unaware that multi-day hikes could be done with a 20 lb pack. Try it, you’ll like it.

  • Jason June 16, 2013, 10:15 pm

    The coffee cup in the background looks familiar ….

    • Jarhead Survivor June 17, 2013, 9:01 am

      Ha! There’s always a cup of coffee in my immediate vicinity!

      • Jason June 17, 2013, 10:59 am

        I was referring to the look of the cup – its a SHTF signature mug, right?

        • Jarhead Survivor June 17, 2013, 11:15 am

          Oh! Yep, that’s one of the SHTF mugs alright. Coffee tastes better out of one of those handsome cups. :-)

  • T.R. June 16, 2013, 10:33 pm

    Stick with the issue Molle 2 ruck . Holds more than I need it to .

  • irishdutchuncle June 17, 2013, 8:35 am

    how do you feel about external frame packs?
    I was thinking about a large “ALICE” with a cargo shelf frame…

    • Jarhead Survivor June 17, 2013, 8:54 am

      Hey Irish,

      I carried dear sweet Alice all over the world. If the load isn’t too heavy, and by that I mean 40 lbs or more, it’s not too bad. I’ve carried 65 lb loads in it at that weight it’s a back breaker.

      At lighter weights they get the job done, but I’ve found over the years that the internal frames are more comfortable and have better padding.

      • irishdutchuncle June 17, 2013, 10:51 pm

        roger that.

        5 gal. of fuel weighs thirty pounds, give or take. 5 gal of water, around forty. (plus the container) I want a pack frame or packboard so I can hump in fuel and water after I establish my base-camp. (I don’t currently own a “serious” back pack. my getaway stuff is in a large duffle)

        seems like the wisest thing to do is to get a heavy duty “internal” frame, for extended “campout” situations.

        • Jarhead Survivor June 18, 2013, 8:12 am

          The external frame backpacks certainly have a lot of utility because you can remove the pack and use the frame for other purposes like carrying fuel, water, rocks, or whatever.

          Overall, at this point in my life (not saying I won’t change my mind) if I was going to do something like that I’d probably use the Arcteryx main pack. It’s big and roomy and has proved to be very durable and comfortable. If your load is balanced properly it makes carrying it easier and more comfortable.

          • Ray June 18, 2013, 10:33 am

            If you never tried hauling food/water/fire wood/ rock ,on a ruck bucket–DON’T– it hurts. I was doing this when I was in my teens and 20’s. It is ALMOST impossible to pack enough of anything to get through one day by yourself. You would be MUCH better off with a team of horses/mules and a small wagon or buckboard.–Jarhead is dead right, 65lb is about the sustainable upper limit of human endurance over that and your body will start to break down. If you are living off a wood stove, you will need to move ton’s of wood. Even camping for a week in the same spot can burn most of a cord (800-1000lb) of wood in the winter. Water is also hard as hell to move on your back (TRY moving 100 gal. of water that’s 4000lb! or one weeks use and a wash day) Like to wash every day? That’s ,at minimum 5gal. of hot water. Got Kids? X2 EVERYTHING! Guys I grew up on a farm with no running water ,open fires and a wood stove and an out house. Man packing your survival is NOT an option unless you live in a cave. It would take a tribe of people just to keep the fire lit.–P.S. Any of y’all ever try to cut up your own wood with just an ax and a bucksaw? Ever tried to move that wood in a ruck? Ever try to move more than one nights worth?

          • irishdutchuncle June 18, 2013, 12:17 pm

            roger that, Ray.

            I had a feeling it would be pretty rough. I’m mostly oriented toward “bug-in”, for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. I don’t do the greatest job of planning ahead, and sometimes my gas can is empty…

            I’m going to add a “cart” or wagon of some type to my prep gear.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. June 17, 2013, 8:52 am

    My choice for a rucksack in our area is Swiss surplus canvas rucksack. Heavy as all get out (about 6 lbs of EMPTY pack), but our area has lots of thorns which will take their toll on fabric packs. Many areas are rocky as well – no pine forests with little understory, our wilds are thick enough for dogs having to backup to bark, lol. Lighter is better, but if it gets shreded up, it really does not make much sense.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 17, 2013, 9:00 am

      Haha! I hear you j.r. Here in Maine there are places so thick you can’t push your way through the forest. There’s also lot’s of places where dead sticks poke out just waiting to stab the unsuspecting hiker or rip a hole in their clothing or pack. That’s why I prefer the more durable packs.

      • Ray June 17, 2013, 9:17 am

        j.r. The big problem here with cotton canvas is RAIN. In Ky. we get a LOT of rain. Get that canvas wet and you can double the weight , Even with a WP bag inside it the pack becomes unmanageable . Keeping it and the leather pack straps clean and mildew free is a B****.

        • Jarhead Survivor June 17, 2013, 11:18 am

          That’s an excellent point, Ray. A lot of what you choose for a pack depends on where you live and what the environment is like.

          • j.r. guerra in s. tx. June 18, 2013, 1:36 pm

            They do sell a winterized coated version of these packs as well – (it snows in the Alps apparently) and I have one of those as well. Yes, canvas will gain weight if you have to cross waterways and it gets wet.

            Here is an Etsy ad of what I speak of – they used to be very inexpensive and are built like tanks! Color would work great in the pine forested country if you are trying to keep it low key.


            But a very good point. Mildew we have in spades, I
            fight that a lot.

  • riverrider June 17, 2013, 10:15 am

    had MANY packs, always come home to alice.

  • John June 17, 2013, 10:32 am

    I keep one of the large rolling suitcases packed with my gear. It stays in the back of the Yukon. People don’t think that there would be anything worth stealing in one of those. Not many would break in just to steal dirty laundry. An Alice pack is too inviting.

  • SaskPrepper June 17, 2013, 12:56 pm

    I have a Sullen tattoo artist travel backpack, not manufactured for camping, more of a “look cool” bag, but man it carries a TON of sh*t, and its durable as hell. I can d-loop my machete to the side, water bottle to the other side , compound bow clips onto it,and away I go. Tons of space for 12 gauge shells, survival gear, 1st aid kit, clothes etc. Its got an issue with roses and skulls ALL OVER IT, but oh well. Its my pre-loaded bag that stays by my bed and goes in the vehicle with me. Its made by BaqPaq (?) for Sullen.

  • Michael June 18, 2013, 12:57 am

    I’m not sure on the weights of my packs, but I’d call the builds on most of them (I’m a bit of a pack whore & have way more than I need) are what I’d call a durable medium. I did have a couple ultra light weight packs, but they were either uncomfortable or got them selves destroyed pretty quickly.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 18, 2013, 8:14 am

      That was my experience with the ultralights as well. When I first put one on I loved it because it was so light, but as soon as it started falling apart I went back to the “durable medium” packs just like you.

  • Pineslayer June 18, 2013, 4:34 pm

    My name is Pineslayer and I am a pack addict. I have found no 12 step programs to cure me so I keep collecting. I would say that 80% of my packs are USA made. Vintage stuff that was cheap, mostly, and lightly used.
    Internal vs. external. Internal, hotter carry due to being sucked up to you, also making you a little bit more stable. External, cooler carry due to having some space between you and the pack. Repairs are easier on an external due the nature of the construction. Tear a main strap on an internal frame and the repair can be difficult when out on the trail. Internal frame packs come in all sizes, external are usually big and bigger.

    All that being said, for the long haul, not sticking out in the crowd, pure function and comfort, my vote goes to an external frame Jansport. My fav is a D2 with hip wings. Made from late 70’s thru the 80’s. I have many of them and buy them every chance I get, $5 – $50 on average. I have found some for $20, brand new at yard sales. The D2 is 38″ tall and is designed for taller people, the D5 is 33″ tall and works great for the kids or ladies. They were built with the best materials around, were. Now they are built abroad and should be avoided. What is a hip wing? A metal sway bar attached to the hip belt. Why they quit making them I’ll never know. The packs when empty are surprisingly light and can carry more than you want to. I find them on CL often too, Search them online to see what they look like and keep your eyes peeled. Sorry if I sound like I’m on my soapbox, just trying to spread the word! If you see yourself crawling around on the ground or rolling down a hill, like John Belushi in Continental Divide, I’d go with an Alice or medium internal (Mountainsmith Bugaboo made in Golden CO, ohh baby).

    • Jason June 18, 2013, 8:21 pm

      “My name is Pineslayer and I am a pack addict. I have found no 12 step programs to cure me so I keep collecting.”

      I laughed out loud when I read that!

  • Ray June 18, 2013, 7:40 pm

    j.r. I gave one of the treated Swiss Rucks to my brother “Moose” for his B’day he loved it . He won’t carry it on his Harley- Davidson. But I’ll bet it go’s on the Norton or one of the Triumph’s ( He might even pack it on the “B”zer – but maybe not he loves that bike like gold money)

    • j.r. guerra in s. tx. June 19, 2013, 8:48 am

      Very cool gift Ray, I gave one to my nephew for his pack – he uses it a lot. BTW, the rear single outside pocket fits a pair of the square U.S. military 1 qt. canteens like they were made for it, nice snug fit.


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