Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners

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

Print Jump to Reader Comments

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.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries
Display Avatars
Sort By:
kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
re.CONVER in NeoOffice on 12/16/2005 23:22:18 MST Print View

Meir, thanks. I'll give it a try but I think the Excel add-in acts more like a filter and CONVERT_ADD more like
a specific operation. Well, there's always using Excel (sigh).

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Spreadsheets on 12/17/2005 10:45:42 MST Print View

Thanks for the comments guys :) I haven't had a chance to look at any of the other entries... but I must say... I'm blown away by the number of entries?!?! Wow! I thought there'd only be a handful of entires. Looking forward to checking them all out.

Just a couple of things...

1. I did include my gear... just as sample content. Nice to have some actual weights to play with to see how the sheet works. I figured it's easy enough to overwrite my gear... delete rows... add rows... etc.

2. I did NOT test my sheet in NeoOffice. It's only guaranteed to work in Excel. As I recall... there were one or two errors in NeoOffice. I was originally trying to install Open Office and unless you're some kind of UNIX geek it seems pretty daunting... so I gave up :) By the time I heard about and downloaded NeoOffice... the deadline was a day away... so I didn't have time to test it. If I win any of the three prizes... I'd be happy to try and fix and NeoOffice bugs.

3. Carol... the shared idea is neat. But someone still had to carry it right? So it has to be added to either your pack or your partners? I guess the solution would be to double up my columns (so like two lists side by side) and add a "Shared" total? The shared total would still count to your pack weight... but you would know what's shared and what's not. You could use an "S" much like I use a "P" for pack and a "W" for wear/consume.

BTW... I like the "database" like approach as well... but it was just a little too much work for me I think... plus I wanted a sheet that was super simple to modify. That was one of my main goals. It works fine for someone like me who's fairly new to backpacking and doesn't have a room full of gear :) I don't really need an "inventory" system.


Edited by davidlewis on 12/17/2005 10:56:59 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Input on John Shannon's entry on 12/17/2005 18:25:31 MST Print View

Kevin, I added in the subtotals for ounces/grams in an updated spreadsheet that is a bit better than my contest submission. Is that what units you wanted for it? As for the lbs-oz thing, that would need a more complicated (for my abilities) formula that would take a while for me to figure out. Others might hack it out in no time. Email me at rhd101 at aol dot com for that file. Maybe we need to make another thread for comments on updated files not included in the contest?

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Entry input on Spreadsheet Submissions on 12/17/2005 18:41:09 MST Print View

>>Maybe we need to make another thread for comments on updated files not included in the contest?

And add a user support hotline.... ;-)>
Thanks, John, will do.

Edited by kdesign on 12/17/2005 18:49:26 MST.

marc valley
(marcv) - F
Grams-Ounces-Pounds on 12/19/2005 09:28:16 MST Print View

David Johnston, Your spreadsheet looks great. One this I noticed is that you use a complex formula to convert from grams to ounces, etc. Check out mine I used the CONVERT function, so much easier. I think your will be the winner. Great job.

Marc Valley

David Johnston
(dsjtecserv) - MLife
I converted from CONVERT! on 12/19/2005 20:56:48 MST Print View


Thanks for your nice comments. I appreciate your feedback. Ironically, I used the CONVERT function in my previous version, and then decided to take it out for the version I submitted to the contest. I was tired of having to make sure that the right Toolpack was loaded, and explaining how to load it to other people who were less familiar with add-ins. And you are right, the formula in those cells is complex, but the conversion is only part of it. Most of the overhead in those cells has to do with deciding whether grams or ounces is in effect for the entry weight. And I don't think (but I could be wrong) that CONVERT has a means of displaying either decimal pounds or lb/oz. So, even though it took more programming initially, I'm now pleased that I took out CONVERT -- it opened up some other possiblities.

(PS. If you want to see some complex cells, look at the Print page. I'm not very good with pivot tables, so I used the brute force method of compiling the report for printing. Not very elegant, but it works!)

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
My picks of the cream (spreadsheets) on 12/20/2005 13:08:41 MST Print View

The love child of Dave Johnston and Meir Gottlieb's spreadsheets would share the best aspects of both----Mier's Gear Closet (love the built-in gear library), Pantry, and Menu(Nutritional info!) organization (and some clever data entry aspects)-----Dave's aesthetic presentation, separate sheets for each intelligently chosen category, and separate summary and print sheets.
I only wish they would work easily in NeoOffice.

For "just the facts, mamn" gearlist purposes, it's hard to beat John Shannon's. Simple, easy to use, and it works great in NeoOffice (for we Mac using, allergic to Microsoft types) .

Edited by kdesign on 12/20/2005 15:07:43 MST.

David Johnston
(dsjtecserv) - MLife
Love Child? on 12/20/2005 17:33:55 MST Print View

Love child! I'd like to see that!

I agree; Meir's Gear Closet, coupled with the drop down combo boxes to choose gear for each row is a great idea. Wish I'd thought of that. I have a separate spreadsheet, still under development, where I enter data on all the foods I use and use that to build a trip menu, complete with daily weights, calories, averages etc. Someday when I finish that it would be a great idea to incorporate that into the gearlist. It looks like Meir already has that nailed.

Ken! Why does a duplicate of my latest message get posted every time I visit this page?


David Johnston
(dsjtecserv) - MLife
Bug fix on 12/28/2005 15:38:08 MST Print View

A bug on the Print page of my spreadsheets has been pointed out and I have now fixed it. The bug made the 10th item of any group appear in Bold Italic, which should be reserved for group subheads. I tracked that down and fixed it. There is still a limit 20 items under each group subhead that can show up in the printed report.

If anyone would like a copy of the corrected version of the spreadsheet, I'd be happy to email it. Send me a message at dsjohnston 'at'


Glen Van Peski
(gvanpeski) - F - M

Locale: San Diego
Wow on 01/09/2006 08:03:51 MST Print View

I knew I wasn't using the full capabilities of Excel, but yikes! Looking at the entries, I'm a babe in the Excel woods! I'm glad I didn't bother to submit anything. I'm a big fan of pull-down items, so I like that in Meir Gottlieb's entry... and what great food data! I've never gotten more sophisticated with food than how much weight of it to bring, but if I ever get more interested, this is a great springboard! I love Dave Johnston's spreadsheet, and so far that would be the one I would most likely adopt and tweak. I forget which one, but the one with the graphs was intruiging, especially the analysis of where gear was packed based on when you needed to access it...
Nicely done, everyone who submitted! There isn't a single entry that doesn't have something in it I like better than my own gear list.

Jeff Brown
(jbrown15) - F
Can I use these spreadsheets on 01/11/2006 20:47:30 MST Print View

Hi. I am really impressed with some of the spreadsheets in the contest. I was wondering if people are actually using the downloaded files. I especially like Kim Clements' work and would like to use it for my own gear planning, however, I think I should try to ask for her permission or get an okay from BPL first? Does anyone have a suggestions?


Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Can I use these spreadsheets on 01/12/2006 17:43:04 MST Print View

I'm really glad for the spreadsheets, too. Lots of great ideas there. Jeff, if they're useful, of course you should use them. The corresponding rule is that if you come up with good modifications, let us know!

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Can I use these spreadsheets on 01/12/2006 17:52:10 MST Print View

Everyone who entered the spreadsheet contest did so with the understanding that their work would be shared in the public domain. They are posted in downloadable formats to make them easier to access. Feel free.

Jeff Brown
(jbrown15) - F
Re: Can I use these spreadsheets on 01/13/2006 15:26:24 MST Print View

Thanks Mark and Vick for your help. It's nice knowing that the BPL police won't be knocking on my door. These spreadsheets are great tools and I appreciate the opportunity to use them. Thanks again. Regards, Jeff

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Can I use these spreadsheets on 01/13/2006 16:50:55 MST Print View

If I may plug my own favorite, take a look at the one Josh Mitchell and I posted. It isn't a spreadsheet, but a tool for making decisions about which gear will meet your needs, based on your own experience. It's pretty slick.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
When will the winners be announced? on 01/16/2006 16:06:15 MST Print View

I remember 1/15/06, but the memory isn't what it used to be.

Jeff Brown
(jbrown15) - F
Re: Re: Can I use these spreadsheets on 02/06/2006 15:02:00 MST Print View

Hi Vick, Thanks for the heads up on your spreadsheet. I'm going to check out. Jeff

That BPL Spreadsheet Contest on 02/20/2006 18:22:30 MST Print View

And the winner is.......drumroll...........

Jeffrey Goodwin

Locale: Northern California
Contest on 04/18/2006 00:25:50 MDT Print View

Who won?


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Trip planning spreadsheet. on 04/25/2006 20:21:01 MDT Print View

Has there been a winner?