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Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners

The winners of the Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest are a diverse group.

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by Backpacking Light Staff | 2006-06-06 03:00:00-06

2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 1


The winners of the Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest have been selected. Readers responded with gusto to our call for entries and not only created spreadsheets to analyze gear lists, but also assist in other aspects of trip planning including meal preparation and gear selection. Eighteen entries were submitted for the contest covering a wide gamut of capabilities and needs. The wide assortment of features and design goals made for interesting discussions among the Backpacking Light staff. Determining the winners proved to be quite a challenge as we tried to weigh attributes of each entry.

The contest rules were simple. Create a spreadsheet "template" or "application" compatible with either OpenOffice or Microsoft Excel that could be easily adapted for any season, any trip, and any person. Given this rather open premise, determining a winner was difficult. We judged spreadsheets based on their ease of use, overall feature set, and how effectively the spreadsheet serves as a trip planning tool.

While each of the 18 entries had something worthwhile to offer in its approach to developing a gear list and helping to plan a trip, we were eventually able to narrow the field down to our final selections for first, second, and third place winners. While only three spreadsheets will receive prizes, Backpacking Light heartily congratulates everyone who submitted a spreadsheet for this contest.

2005 Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Prizes

First Place$100 gift certificate to
Second Place$50 gift certificate to
Third Place$25 gift certificate to

Click screen shot thumbnails to enlarge.

First Place

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 2
A screenshot of Meir Gottleib's first-place winning spreadsheet.

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 3
Meir Gottleib, the creator of the first-place winning spreadsheet, standing on top of Mt. Whitney after completing a hike of the John Muir Trail last year.

Download this spreadsheet, Zip file of Meir's spreadsheet

Meir Gottleib's spreadsheet receives the first place prize. Meir has crafted a spreadsheet that provides comprehensive tools for organizing gear and creating food plans. The Backpacking Light staff was particularly impressed with both his "gear closet" and "pantry" sheets. The latter takes meal planning to heights we had never seen in such tools.

About the Winner

Meir Gottlieb lives in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a graduate of Cornell University College of Engineering and co-founder of Salar, Inc., a healthcare computer software company. Meir started lightweight backpacking in 2004 and walks year-round in the hills of Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He has also completed the 211 mile John Muir Trail in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Second Place

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 4
A screenshot of Jim Wood's second-place winning spreadsheet.

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 5
Jim Wood in the Dolly Sods Wilderness of West Virginia in October 2003.

Download this spreadsheet

Jim Wood has designed a spreadsheet that (once you understand how to take full advantage of its reporting capabilities) lets you create detailed reports to help you plan your trip.

About the Winner

Paraphrasing Jim's own words from his website.

I am a mid-50s corporate finance executive temporarily living in Virginia but hoping to return to California soon. For as long as I can remember, I've held a deep and abiding passion for the wilderness. I began actually backpacking in 1988 and my only regret is that I didn't start sooner.

Third Place

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 6
A screenshot of Ben Tomsky's third-place winning spreadsheet.

2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners - 7
Ben Tomsky at the start of a hike in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California in May 2006.

Download this spreadsheet

Ben Tomsky receives the third place award. While his spreadsheet does not sport quite as sophisticated an interface as some of the other entrants, Ben has created a tool that allows you to quickly create gear lists and meal plans for trips quite effectively.

About the Winner

After growing up in flat, boring Midwest suburbia, Ben was enchanted by the wonders of the West Coast. He now calls San Mateo, California his home, and hikes and backpacks the nearby Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia, and Sierra Nevada ranges. Other hobbies/interests include: wine, espresso, cooking, music, travel, fly fishing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and making ultralight alcohol stoves. He supports these habits by working as a User Experience Designer at a large software company.

Honorable Mention

Download spreadsheet #1, Download spreadsheet #2, Zip file containing all David's spreadsheets

David Johnston designed a spreadsheet that brings a flexible and sophisticated user interface to gear selection and trip planning. His use of individual sheets for each class of gear is a novel approach for crafting complex gear lists.


We were impressed with the response we received in our Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest, and regret that we could only choose three winners. We consider all of the passionate lightweight backpackers who made the effort to develop a trip planning spreadsheet to be winners. The wealth of ideas and ways to accomplish design goals was inspiring. Once again, we wish to thank everyone who entered the contest.


"Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners," by Backpacking Light Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-06-06 03:00:00-06.


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2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 12/14/2005 00:03:41 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries

Use this thread for open discussion and evaluation of contest entries.

Edited by ryan on 12/14/2005 00:05:27 MST.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: 2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 12/14/2005 04:54:11 MST Print View

after skimming the entries, I see that many people included their gear. Were we suposed to do this? I thought it was ment to help people to plan their lists?

everyone did a nice job, good luck.

P.S. this was my first experience with this software so I dont really expect to win :-) so good luck to all...again

John S.
(jshann) - F
? on 12/14/2005 07:17:57 MST Print View

Meir Gottleib and Ben Tomsky links seem wrong?

Edited by jshann on 12/14/2005 07:54:19 MST.

Carol Corbridge
(ccorbridge) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Spreadsheets on 12/14/2005 09:43:01 MST Print View

Wow! Lots of work went into these. On first review I really like David Lewis's sheet. It's simple elegance appeals to me. And I am appreciate the nod from Alice P. Neuhauser. I'm glad my sheet was of use.

One thing I like to see in a gear spreadsheet is the ability to do (2) people side by side. The one I currently use can do this. I often backpack with a partner and so we share cooking and safety items.

Anyway, impressive work by all. I'm sure 100's of hours were put into this task.

David Johnston
(dsjtecserv) - MLife
Spreadsheets on 12/14/2005 10:19:04 MST Print View

Ryan F:

I had the same question as I was preparing my spreadsheet. So I cheated and submitted both a blank one and an example one with my gear filled in.

Yes, there does seem to be a problem with the links to the last two entries. Some great ideas to borrow from, and some very skilled execution went into these. Kudos to everybody!


kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
have you fed your Spreadsheet today? on 12/14/2005 10:38:34 MST Print View

I also like the David Lewis submission for it's simplicity
and easy metric to imperial conversion. Works well in NeoOffice which is rapidly becoming my favorite alternative to MicroSquash.

The Jim Woods submission isn't opening properly from the link but do have it from another source.

John Shannon's isn't downloading at all--I get a screen full of code.

update--Alles schön, at this point all links work.

Edited by kdesign on 12/14/2005 16:05:35 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Kevin on 12/14/2005 14:01:53 MST Print View

Kevin, are you using a mac? If so, try dragging the file onto the icon instead of double clicking the file. See if that works.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
re.Kevin on 12/14/2005 14:13:40 MST Print View

John--it won't download at all. Same as the 2 entries below you. I can't bring it to the desktop. Nothing to drag.

Yes--on a Mac running Tiger.

John S.
(jshann) - F
I see on 12/14/2005 14:29:01 MST Print View

I see what you mean. It does the same thing on mine if I click the file name. Try right clicking and saving or press the option key before clicking to force a download to the hard drive.

Edited by jshann on 12/14/2005 14:31:03 MST.

Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
Download troubles on 12/14/2005 14:43:01 MST Print View

If you just get code on a page (e.g., John Shannon's files) try right-clicking (control-clicking) on the link and downloading directly to a file. The "problem" some of you are having is that your browsers don't recognize the file extension and so get confused.

The broken links for Meir Gottleib and Ben Tomsky should work now.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
spreedsheet downloading blues on 12/14/2005 15:18:04 MST Print View

Thanks John and Kenneth. Got it.
Nice SS, John.

Mark Cooper
(Coop) - F
No Entry for Coop? on 12/14/2005 18:53:48 MST Print View

Thanks for the hard work guys. There are some great ideas in these spreadsheets.

I don't see my entry listed here. Did I miss the cutoff or is it for members only?

Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
New links on 12/14/2005 23:33:04 MST Print View

We've added zip files (.zip) versions for the larger spreadsheets and those that came in bunches.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
Re: New links on 12/15/2005 06:10:02 MST Print View

Thanks Ken! That's a big help.


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: spreedsheet downloading blues on 12/15/2005 18:12:55 MST Print View

Thanks Kevin.

Kevin said,

Thanks John and Kenneth. Got it.
Nice SS, John.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
NeoOffice and Analysis ToolPak on 12/15/2005 21:28:53 MST Print View

Is there a NeoOffice equivalent to the Excel feature--
"Analysis ToolPak"?

The Gottlieb spreadsheet has some very desirable features but I really want a spreadsheet that works in the NeoOffice environment. I have not been able to take advantage of the best parts of Meir's entry.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
John Shannon's Spreadsheet on 12/15/2005 22:56:41 MST Print View

John, working in NeoOffice, how do I add additional rows and maintain full functionality in the cells? Such as weight conversion and adding?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: John Shannon's Spreadsheet on 12/16/2005 05:12:03 MST Print View

Adding a row:

1. Insert row- Place cursor (highlites the cell) in area you want to add a row. The row will be added above where you place the cursor. Then go to insert menu and select row.
2. Copy correct format- Since the added row won't have the appropriate formatting, choose a nearby row (preferably blank), select that row from columns B through K, and copy using either the edit menu or command-C on the keyboard.
3. Paste correct format- Paste the copied cells into the newly added row by selecting the new row from columns B through K and using either the edit menu or command-V on the keyboard.

That should automatically update the the unit conversion and total formulas. Make sure it does though.

Edited by jshann on 12/16/2005 08:04:47 MST.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Input on John Shannon's entry on 12/16/2005 14:03:10 MST Print View

John--I really like how straight forward your spreadsheet is. But with useful metric/imperial abilities and displays of the various weight summaries
we UL'ers are most concerned about.

One improvement I would like to see is the ability to see quick subtotals for each individual category (cooking, xtra clothing,etc.). How hard would that be to implement?
Also, the weight summary would be better expressed in exact lbs.-oz./ kg-g. units. I prefer measures more exact than rounded to nearest tenth of the larger unit of measurement.

Edited by kdesign on 12/16/2005 14:57:45 MST.

Meir Gottlieb
CONVER in NeoOffice on 12/16/2005 20:58:23 MST Print View


I don't have NeoOffice, but this thread might help:

Looks like the CONVERT_ADD function may do the trick.

Edited by mcg11 on 12/16/2005 20:58:54 MST.