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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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Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Contest winner on 05/07/2006 16:04:34 MDT Print View

Come on, the suspense is killing me. I just had to restudy the entries because it has been soooo long. Any chance an announcement will be made by Memorial Day?

Re: Contest winner on 05/08/2006 00:37:23 MDT Print View

I wouldn't expect a response any time soon. Follow through seems to be lacking on these projects.

Contest Winner on 05/08/2006 01:16:59 MDT Print View

How do we know contest winners have not already been selected? The winners may have been notified and already received their award. The spreadsheets were only to be "juried" by the Forum, but winners selected by BPL. Nothing stated that the Forum was to be notified of who the winners were. Perhaps the winners also wanted to keep it a private matter?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Contest winner on 05/08/2006 04:58:13 MDT Print View

Patience, grasshopper.
Sorting through all the entries has taken time, just to create a short list.
Judging is in progress now.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Contest entries/winner on 05/08/2006 06:22:30 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger for the update.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Winners will be announced June 7 on 05/26/2006 10:31:30 MDT Print View

Hi all,
We'll be announcing the winners June 7th. I apologize about the long wait! We're getting the gift certificates ready for the winners now - at least there won't be a long delay between the announcement and getting the "booty."

Edited by cmcrooker on 06/07/2006 09:11:27 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Spreadsheet winner on 06/06/2006 23:06:12 MDT Print View

Congrats, Meir. Well deserved 1st place in a very competative field. Thank you for allowing my physical gear closet to reside so conveniently on a spreedsheet.

Benjamin Tomsky
(btomsky) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Congrats to Meir on 06/07/2006 11:37:41 MDT Print View

I also want to say "Congrats" to Meir, who definitely deserved 1st place in my opinion.

I learned much from his entry and have since revised my personal gearlist to incorporate many of his database lookup techniques.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Congrats to Meir on 06/07/2006 11:40:49 MDT Print View

How did y'all find out who the winner was? Did i miss something? Was it in a Forum Post that i missed?

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Congrats to Meir on 06/07/2006 14:01:34 MDT Print View

>How did y'all find out who the winner was?

Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Winners

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Congrats to Meir on 06/07/2006 16:01:14 MDT Print View


Thanks for the link. I just checked the BPL home page and saw a link there also.

I almost never go to the home page and just wait for an email from BPL telling me of the new articles and then use the links in the email. Haven't received an email yet, so I didn't realize that the winner was announced. I guess it makes sense that the home page would have links before the emails are sent out.

Thanks again and congrats to the winners.

Edited by pj on 06/07/2006 16:23:02 MDT.

David Johnston
(dsjtecserv) - MLife
Congrats to all on 06/07/2006 17:53:17 MDT Print View

Congratulations to Meir, Jim and Ben. Excellent entries from everyone; I'm sure we all picked up ideas from each others' sheets to play around with for our entries in next year's contest...right?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Congratulations winners! on 06/09/2006 06:28:26 MDT Print View


Gene Kinney
(carl_kinney) - F

Locale: Southwest
Meir Gottleib's Gear List on 06/13/2006 22:25:38 MDT Print View

This is for talented Mr. Gottleib (preferred) or any person that understands well his spreadsheet:
Is there a way to enter food for a dog in a way that won't contribute to my FOOD weight under the consumable category in the PACK LIST? I don't mind it factored into the grand total for CONSUMABLES: food, water, fuel. I just what to keep the "two types of foods" seperate so I can see my food weight total vs the dog's.
Right now I've got the dog food listed under PANTRY and then added to the MENU.

Gene Kinney
(carl_kinney) - F

Locale: Southwest
Answering Mine Own Spreadsheet Question on 06/13/2006 22:45:52 MDT Print View

I guess I treat my dog, Boomer, like a human backpacking partner. All I needed to do was to list the dog food and Zuke's snacks under the GEAR CLOSET then listed them under CONSUMABLES in the GEAR LIST.
Hey, Mr Gottleib, muchas gracias for a great way to list my gear. Sure beats the word doc I started a year ago and then manually calcaluting pack weights.

Johnny Gish
(jtgish) - F

Locale: Coppell, Texas
Printing Blank Spreadsheet? on 07/08/2006 09:03:17 MDT Print View

How do I print the spreadsheets so that I can write in my own gear? I like the ones that are on here but when I save them it has all their gear listed.

Tom Casperite
(tcasperite) - F
Meir Gottleib's Gear List on 09/14/2006 10:03:45 MDT Print View

I recently downloaded this spreadsheet, but everytime I change one of the selections the calculations of grams, lbs, and kilograms comes up as an error. " #NAME?" Does anyone have any information on this?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
"2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries" on 07/20/2008 22:10:05 MDT Print View

Anyone out there have a new version of any of these that works with mac that you would like to share? I'm still keeping my lists on handwritten paper. Please help!

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: "2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries" on 07/21/2008 02:08:47 MDT Print View

Go back and look for David Lewis' submission. I recall seeing a "MAC OS X" folder in the zip archive file along with the one I used.

Colin D.
(colbeans) - F

Locale: Northern British Columbia
Meir Gottleib's Gear List on 03/04/2009 00:57:41 MST Print View

I just downloaded this spreadsheet and when I try to switch the Ounces/Grams option to Grams
the cells in the Gear Closet don't properly convert..
The Ounces values just move into the cells that should be Grams and that throws off the entire calculation.

Can someone help me fix this please :)
I'm using Office 2007