Functional vs. Non-Functional Weight

September 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Functional Weight

Have you ever been climbing a hill or bottomed in a canyon, looked up at the seemingly vertical ascent before you and thought, “I wish I wasn’t carrying all this weight.”…?

If you have been there (and let’s face it… we’ve all been there) then you know the value of things being lightweight. In a previous article, we discussed the fact that one should be very careful about trying to shed pounds by purchasing a lightweight rifle. While the lighter weight is nice, the trade off is more felt recoil and more pestering by the wind moving your sight picture. So where else should you lose the weight?

3 Types of Weight

There are 3 types of weight you need to be aware of when considering how to lighten your load while hunting:

Fixed Weight

This is weight that you can’t do anything about. You can’t change it, you can’t buy something cheaper, and you can’t live without it. This would include things like your bones, organs, and the like. Obviously, we aren’t going to spend a lot of time talking about this because it is self-explanatory.

Functional Weight

This is weight that is variable, but it serves a purpose. Your necessary gear such as your pack, binoculars, rifle, water, etc. would fit into this category. Also, muscle mass fits into this category because lean muscle helps you perform in the outdoors; it supplies strength and endurance during strenuous activity. Muscle weighs more than fat, so as you build muscle, you will likely gain weight. You want to be sure, however, that you aren’t building muscle mass like Mr. (or Mrs.) Olympia to the point that your mobility is limited; you want to build lean, functional muscle mass. When it comes to your gear, be sure to take a careful inventory of what is in your pack and if it is absolutely necessary or not; if it is not necessary, lose it. Also, with regard to your gear, functional weight is variable since you have lightweight options for most of it, but always remember: everything is a trade-off and sometimes “lightweight” is not necessarily better.

Non-Functional Weight

This is weight that serves no purpose whatsoever for you in the backcountry. Specifically, this is excessive body mass. Body fat is essential for the healthy operation of the human body. A healthy, fit male will have between 12-18% body fat. A healthy, fit woman will have between 20-25% body fat. This is a good thing; however, excess body fat is not. Excess muscle mass also falls into this category. Guys, your massive biceps might look cool in the mirror, but if you are so big that your mobility is compromised, you could stand to slim down a bit. If you know that you are over-weight and are carrying excess body fat or excess muscle mass, you know the area of opportunity for you to take less weight into the backcountry.

Instead of trying to buy a fancy, expensive lightweight piece of equipment, take a look in the mirror and determine if you could lose a few pounds off of your midsection. This just might be what you need to not only have more endurance in the backcountry, but also a higher quality of life and greater self-confidence as you get into healthy, fit shape. Incorporate cardio training into your fitness plan as well as weight training. You can also take our advice and train for a half-marathon. These types of training will maximize your body’s ability to burn fat and lose non-functional weight. In the end, you need to be comfortable and confident with the gear you have and the shape you are in. No one else can get you there; you have to do it on your own.

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