In our current campaign we are being asked to track encumbrance, as I think would be sensible in this situation most of the non-battle essential items will either be in or attached to the backpack.

Even with only the starting kit I will undoubtedly cross into at least first stage encumbered territory (minus speed) making it fairly critical to be able to drop the weight.

What I'm unsure of however is whether dropping a backpack can be done as part of a character's free interaction with objects or whether it would require an action to do so?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is your DM the kind of guy to say "well, you dropped your backpack, so the bandit grabs it and runs off, laughing"? \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Feb 28, 2018 at 13:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, once the backpack is dropped, the contents become viable for area effect damage. Worn items are not. Keeping it on your player is a much safer option - why do you feel a need to drop it before engaging? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 28, 2018 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 that would entirely depend on his mood and aims for the encounter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shaun
    Mar 1, 2018 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch interesting point about vulnerability to AoE, as stated I expect to be at least into the "encumbered" loading with just my starting equipment and STR 11, this means a 10 foot speed reduction, quite a strong incentive to drop the equipment I would say, especially as I'm supposed to be engaging and tying up enemies to keep them away from my more vulnerable team mates. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shaun
    Mar 1, 2018 at 14:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "Is dropping a weapon “free”?" \$\endgroup\$ Apr 8, 2020 at 14:25

3 Answers 3


Based on my reading of the rules (listed below), I would say taking off your backpack and any other pre-fight object interation prep could be done with a single action.

However, since you may draw a sword as part of an attack, you may be able to ask your DM if you can use some kind of quick-release for your pack (like a shoe string knot), allowing a free action, if you will, as part of another action in combat. This may require an Action to reset the quick release before donning the backpack again.

From PHB, pg.192:

Actions in Combat

When you take your action on your turn, you can take one of the actions presented here,

From PHB, pg.193:

Use an Object

You normally interact with an object while doing something else, such as when you draw a sword as part of an attack. When an object requires your action for its use, you take the Use an Object action. This action is also useful when you want to interact with more than one object on your turn.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it's that last part I was worried about, if you're walking around with your sword drawn because you want to be prepared, then dropping the pack over the shoulders is not going to work without a quick release that you can operate, in my case with either a sword or a shield in the hand, if the sword is in the scabbard you need to use the object interaction to draw the sword. I think I will just have to ask the DM, but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing a specific ruling, thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shaun
    Feb 28, 2018 at 10:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ While you quote some of the rules, they don't really support the main conclusion of your answer - that is, that it takes an action to drop a backpack. At best, it seems ambiguous and up to the DM. It's certainly reasonable for a DM to rule that way, but I am more skeptical of the answer claiming that the rules indicate it requires an action. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 12, 2020 at 22:31
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There is no "full round action" in 5E. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Apr 13, 2020 at 15:49

The rules don't have a clear answer; ask your GM

The rules don't say much but what they do say is found in the "Other Activity On Your Turn" section as well as a non-exhaustive list of examples a bit later:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack. [...]

  • draw or sheathe a sword
  • open or close a door
  • withdraw a potion from your backpack
  • pick up a dropped axe
  • take a bauble from a table
  • remove a ring from your finger
  • stuff some food into your mouth
  • plant a banner in the ground
  • fish a few coins from your belt pouch
  • drink all the ale in a flagon
  • throw a lever or a switch
  • pull a torch from a sconce
  • take a book from a shelf you can reach
  • extinguish a small flame
  • don a mask
  • pull the hood of your cloak up and over your head
  • put your ear to a door
  • kick a small stone
  • turn a key in a lock
  • tap the floor with a 10-foot pole*
  • hand an item to another character

Does removing a backpack take more effort than pulling up a good, downing a flagon of ale, or putting on a mask? It's left up to the GM to deicide.

I would personally rule that it takes an action to remove a backpack

At least to me, all of the example actions would take less effort than what it takes to either wriggle a backpack off one's shoulders or to move your arms and grab the straps and then move them so the backpack falls.

I find removing a backpack to be most similar to removing a shield. We can see from the "Getting into and out of Armor" section that doffing a shield takes 1 action and we see from the "Armor and Shields" section that:

Anyone can put on a suit of armor or strap a shield to an arm. [...]

Removing a shield's strap requires an action, similarly I would say that removing a backpack's strap requires an action.

That all said, I might allow somebody to remove the backpack as an object interaction at the risk of breaking the straps, rendering it far less usable. I'm hesitant on this ruling though since it doesn't quite make sense that applying more force requires less of an action; perhaps it's not about force though and is actually about how carefully they remove the backpack. This would also give the mending cantrip a bit more use as it would facilitate such a maneuver.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, when I was in school, I found it really easy to drop my backpack (i.e. cause the straps to fall off my shoulders) just by moving my arms the right way. Of course, I can't speak to the effect on the contents of the backpack if I'd just let it fall to the ground without catching it first... Also, have you tried applying your ruling in practice? How has your ruling worked out, in your games or ones you've seen? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 12, 2020 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I've used this sort of rule in my games for many things; where it takes X sort of action to remove something normally you can instead use some smaller sort of action at the cost of damaging either the thing you're removing or its contents. This has almost exclusively come up with things like casting heat metal on armor, packs, and other items carried not in the hands. Though I haven't had it come up with an urgent encumbrance issue \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2020 at 20:26

As pointed out in Medix2's answers, the rules are not very clear and leave a lot of space for interpretation.

I think that it depends on the size of the backpack, besides the encumbrance.

As a DM, I would consider backpacks with size about the one of the boy-scouts', with all the stuff not needed for the combat (food, rope, etc etc) optimally "compressed" and moreover with a bedroll packed in the top of it. So, trying to be quite realistic, I like to think that for removing such a backpack there are two options:

  • using one action
  • using the movement (or half of it, if it seems too much)

In the last case, some special cases must be considered (e.g. the Rogue class with its cunning action).

For example, if your PC has a big backpack with a lot of food rations, a couple of weapons, some clothes, the bedroll, the classical 15 foot rope, some tools (e.g. thieves' tools), a torch, oil for torch, a couple of scrolls with maps and a tent I think that it takes some effort to remove such backpack: this effort can be translated in game with using an action or using the movement.
Otherwise, if your PC has a simple sack (without laces) with only clothes I think that it is much easier to remove it.

To be honest, as DM I used this approach once or twice: the Barbarian Dwarf in the party was carring a backpack with an armor, food rations, a couple of weapons (besides two axes that was carrying), 1-2 potions and all his adventuring gear. We decided to apply the (total) Movement equivalence to remove the backpack, and it worked quite well.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Using up movement... I like it. Never thought of that. Not sure how realistic it is, or how RAW, but I like it. Maybe item interaction + half of movement might even be semi-realistic, because dropping off a heavy backpack certainly requires whole body to... wiggle. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2020 at 11:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .