Rifle weight vs pack weight.....where is it important?


Dec 13, 2006
Seems as I read through various pasting while physically distancing myself, people talk about wanting "lightweight" rifles. As someone that hunts some very open country and hikes way more miles and hills than I sometimes want, I don't always worry about carrying the lightest rifle verses a rifle I shoot well.

When we venture off the road for a day or even a several day trip, weight means a lot. Having done a lot of backpacking over the years, I realize pack weight means a lot. On multi-day trips, I use to have my German Shepard carry packs with her dog food !!!

When planning a trip, I consider length of trip, conditions, how much food, foul weather gear, etc.....

For day trip hunting, I consider the same thing. 8 - 10 miles climbing some serious hills makes most everyone want lightweight gear.

But when the time comes to close the deal, I want a rifle I know I shoot well. That rifle might be 1 to 1 1/2 lbs heavier than some lightweight carbon fiber, titanium wonder gun, but I am very confident with it.

Shave the weight in your pack, but pack a rifle you shoot well.

Regardless of how light weight your rifle is, when you drop a nice mulie or elk in the backcountry, your rifle weight doesn't mean anything compared to the weight of packing meat.
Many factory guns these days are 6lb-6.5lb without scope and mounts from the factory. A generic Browning X-bolt stainless stalker in 308Win is 6.5lbs, and gets 3 ounces lighter for the composite model. Tikka T3 Superlite in 308Win is 6.4lbs No need for carbon/titanium/etc. to get an accurate light rifle. Sure somebody can pay more to get a Kimber Ascent and knock the weight down to 4lbs 13 ounces without scope and mounts in 308Win. As long as they practice enough with it, anybody can become proficient with any rifle. If somebody wants to pack a 12lb rifle on a 10 day backcountry hunt, more power to them.

I only hunt backcountry for all big game hunts. 7-10 day backpacking trips, multiple times each fall in different states. Archery, muzzleloader, and rifle seasons. I'll go crazy ultralight in my packing for September archery season because the weather allows it. But for a rifle elk hunt in snow....yeah I'll happily pack more weight of gear to backcountry camp to make sure I'm comfortable enough for 10 days in snow. Rifle weight is the least of my worries on those trips.

My "backcountry" rifles vary based on the terrain I'm going into. For thick coastal wilderness areas where closer shots are normal, 6lb Marlin w/red dot sight. For normal areas, a 60 year old 8.2lb scoped Parker Hale (nothing fancy, but was my first ever rifle purchase at 18, so enjoy packing it still decades later). Or if a wilderness area that presents much longer shot opportunities then am packing a well scoped 9.3lb Browning X-bolt Long Range setup.

I always get a chuckle when the topic comes up for cutting packweight on backcountry backpack hunts in various forums, and guys are cutting the handle off their toothbrush to save weight. Yet they're also packing a full box of ammo for their 10lb rifle.....a box of ammo is 1-2lbs depending on caliber. Why do they cut the toothbrush handle off? Just remove one bullet from the box to offset the weight, and be able to brush their teeth like a normal person.
kselkhunter, I get the impression that you are a young hunter. You'll find that when your age is touching 60 or more light is going to sound great. I hunt on a daily basis although in the past it was multiple days with a small tent/food and other items to carry me through a multiday hunt. Anything I use now that has the word "light" attached to it is good.
diverdown":3tf7ag5s said:
kselkhunter, I get the impression that you are a young hunter. You'll find that when your age is touching 60 or more light is going to sound great. I hunt on a daily basis although in the past it was multiple days with a small tent/food and other items to carry me through a multiday hunt. Anything I use now that has the word "light" attached to it is good.

I'm 47. Have been going into the backcountry since I was a young child riding on grandpa's horse with him. Switched to backpack in my late teens when we no longer had horses. Been doing it ever since, and for the past 15 years in multiple states multiple seasons. But as the original op orchemo mentions, once an elk or deer or game animal is down that is significantly heavier than a rifle or backpack....so it's all relative. Backpacking an elk out of those steep ravines and the miles back to the trailhead is far harder than hiking in camp gear....

But I am trying to convince the wife we need horses or llamas soon. :) For the day my body tells me it doesn't want the abuse anymore.
almost all above all too true!

I would prefer a light, but not lighter rifle, because irregardless of skill and ability to master any firearm, when you are under the current exertion of climbing a mountain to get into position and your heart and breathing rates are up, you are going to hold that slightly heavier rifle steadier than that ultra-light rifle, regardless if you are on your, pack, bipod or over a rock or rise in the slope.

A friend has always pointed out that if I dropped 20 lbs, I could carry 2 more pounds in my rifle or pack easier...a little truth to that statement too! LOL
But in my years of mountain hunting experience (while not as considerable as that of others here), I have found that the slow and steady pace wins the race, regardless of stalking vs packing of game or equipment. Your mental toughness is going to get you further than any other factor here.

However light you go, whether it be in your rifle, pack or other equipment, use your best judgement to ensure that your purchase will be what is required for your specific task and still be of sturdy enough quality and construction to withstand the service and abuse that you will put it through. This includes your own physical condition and abilities.Too light gives up abilities or capacities in volume, strength and quality performance. And a 5'6" guy, who works at a desk all day, who weighs 150 lbs isn't going to be happy with a 6500 cc pack when a 4200 (or 3000) cc pack will be all he can handle in steep terrain with meat and/or equipment on his back, plus a rifle and possibly walking sticks.

And it hard to judge others by what you are capable of, as we are all different as to build, strength, stamina, and most importantly in mountain hunting, mental tenacity. Just as it is hard to judge what you are capable of when comparing to others and their experiences.
Consider boot weight as well. Heavy boots can really tire a fellow out, I think quicker than a heavy pack.

Rifle? I just carry "normal" weight rifles for most of my hunting. Never had a rifle I'd call a true lightweight rifle. My 700 CDL's feel about perfect to me, and I shoot them well. They're my normal choice. Backpacking or otherwise. Have to admit, it's been several years since I did a real backpack hunt... Packing in camp, hunting from that camp. That is some great stuff.

I take the Rifle I like have and am not a fan of ultra light weight Rifles. But what is right for me might not be for another. I like standard weight hunting rifles.
fellas, I'll be 76 in a month and I still get out for my day hunts whether it be deer or elk. My hunting buddy is 79. We both work hard to stay in shape but as I said, I like light. Went from a model 700 .338 ultramag (close to 10lbs) down to a Kimber Montana in .300WSM. My buddy went from a model 700 in .338 to the same rifle I'm carrying. Day packs carry the necessities for working on an animal plus other needs. You'll see what I'm talking about when you reach that stage in your life, and Guy is really on the money with the boots. I wear Cabelas 400 gram ultralights and so does my hunting buddy. We use toe warmers if necessary.
Trying to convince myself to apply for a Snake River bull tag this year and pack in a camp. Few miles of switchbacks going in. Biggest problem is getting an animal out without horses.
Hunted in there for quite a few years, 10 or 12, but it was some time ago. My will still requests my ashes spread from Hat point. Fantastic country.
Where are you planning to go in?

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I do not do overnight spike camp type hunts any more. I pack enough gear/water/food in my day pack to do it if i have to. For predators I carry a light bolt action in 223 (7lb). For deer I carry a light bolt action in 308 win (8lb). For Elk I carry a medium weight bolt action 300 win mag (9lb). When Bear hunting I mix up what I carry. More often than not it is my Elk rifle. Since my pack weight stays the same unless I need more water. The rifles all have the same slings, Balance very similar on my shoulder. I am used to the different rifle weights
I like a scope I trust to dial elevation on when hunting the mountains. The lightest set-up I have that I trust is a LW 70 built by Rifles Inc in 300 win mag. I could have shed 3/4 of a pound going with a Remington 700 action, but the 264 win mag I do most of my hunting with is also a M70. The Rifles Inc gun will go with me on my AK hunts and others in places I might encounter big bears, so I want the action and safety I'm used to. This rifle weighs 8.5lbs with it's sling, a Huskemaw 3-12x in Talley steel rings, and loaded with ammo. It's light enough to carry, but heavy enough to shoot well for me. I haven't shot anything but steel past 400 yards, but have taken quite a bit of game past 300 yards with it. If the time comes I need to shoot to 600 and the conditions are right I'm confident in the set-up after all my practice. I'll always get closer if I can, and so far I've been able to.

I spent a few ounces on the steel rings, but I felt like it was a little more insurance on keeping my zero through airline flights and other bumps. I spent a few more on the scope, but it's held its zero and tracked perfectly since I got it.

I do feel like I notice rifle weight more than pack weight. A 11lb rifle will be more noticeable at the end of the day than an extra 4lbs in the backpack. A good pack helps.

Last hunt in the mountains from a base camp I ended up packing 41.9lbs day hunting. That's not just pack weight, that is everything including bino harness and what's in my pockets.

Here is a bit on how the big stuff breaks down. It adds up way faster than you think. Optics was a big weight for me last hunt. Muley hunting in tall brush made me pack more weight to glassing standing. The hunt had rain and snow also, so clothing weight was higher and I packed a tarp.

Having a good tripod has become weight I'll almost always pack too. It has become vital to my hunting. I use it for my optics and as a shooting platform with the rifle rest. I've hunted a lot of places where prone isn't an option so I've learned to shoot off the tripod out to 400 yards. The Promaster tripod I usually use instead of the Slikk has a removable leg so it can be used to elevate 2 points of my tarp, or as a trekking pole also.

Optics 11.7lbs (Leica Geovid10x, bino harness, Swaro 15x, Kowa 55mm spotter, Slikk 634, Outdoorsmans head and rifle rest)

Gun & accessories 9.4lbs (Rifle, ammo, wind chart, bikini scope cover)

Water 3.6lbs

Pack itself 5.2lbs

Rain gear 2lbs

Kuiu Superdown Pro pants & jacket plus their down glassing mittens 2.3lbs

Seek Outside DST tarp w/ guylines and pegs 1.5lbs (shelter big enough for 2 of us)

I phone w/ OnX maps plus battery pack to recharge it (also charges Garmin In reach and headlamp) 1lb

Those are the bigger items. The little light ones make up the rest.