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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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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Analysis Toolpack on 03/04/2009 03:59:27 MST Print View


Similar issues with earlier versions of Excel. This should work.

First of all make sure you have the 'Analysis Toolpack' Add-in installed. Thes instructions work on 2000 and 2003, and probably on 2007.

Click the Tools Menu, Click Add-ins... and then Check 'Analysis Toolpack.'

If the Add-in is not installed, then Excel will ask you to insert the CD, and install it. Once installed, make sure the Analysis Toolpack is checked in the Add-in menu.

If it is still not working, go to the Options page and change the Primary weight units cell to the other choice. From here it should work and switch back and forth.

I had expected to see some program in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), when was playing with this. But the author didn't. He has put together some very complex formulas to do some of this stuff. Very impressive advanced use of formulas!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Analysis Toolpack on 03/04/2009 14:01:47 MST Print View

Excel 2007, Tools menu - what tools menu?
They screwed the entire layout in 2007!


James Dubendorf

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Excel Tools Menu on 03/04/2009 14:04:03 MST Print View


Turns out you click on the circular logo, top left, then select "Excel Options" at the bottom right of the window that appears. Should be pretty clear from there.


Colin D.
(colbeans) - F

Locale: Northern British Columbia
Thankyou :) on 03/04/2009 19:08:23 MST Print View

Thankyou for the replies guys
I found the excel options menu and added the Analysis Tookpack; however, the conversion still isn't working for me for some reason :(

Edited by colbeans on 03/04/2009 20:16:42 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Change the option on 03/05/2009 01:35:11 MST Print View


Go to the Option page in the workbook and change to the weight option from whatever it is set at. I found that after I added the toolpack, it would not work until I changed the weight option. After that, it kept working when I made subsequent changes to the weight option.

I am using Excel 2000. I buils a lot of Excel-VBA applications for my company using 2000, which is our corporate load. Many of these applications are faily sophisticated. We are migrating to Office 2007, and I have no reported compatililty issues with 2007 from our users.

Colin D.
(colbeans) - F

Locale: Northern British Columbia
hmm on 03/05/2009 15:23:49 MST Print View

So I gather previously added weights wont convert properly when the option is changed... but all new additions will?
Or was the spreadsheet designed to go back and forth between the two options converting them each time it's changed?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Back and forth on 03/05/2009 18:57:38 MST Print View


I only looked at it for a couple minutes, just to help out. It appears the the purpose of the option is to let you calculate base, consumables, FSO, etc at the bottom of the sheet. I would imagine there is no need to re-input data.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: 2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 09/09/2012 08:05:28 MDT Print View

What do people like to use these days? I'm still on paper. 7 years of technology has offered up other choices. Geargrams and what not. Me, I still like having it all on my own computer. Not so sure about posting it.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: 2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 09/17/2012 21:39:23 MDT Print View

I've made my own Excel document that has gone through more iterations than my gear closet has. Google Doc's has an online spreadsheet which has many of the same features.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: 2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 09/17/2012 22:02:19 MDT Print View

I see no need or reason to have it online. Just remembered that I have Gram Weenie on Renee's computer. Man I need to upgrade this classic Emac.

You guys aren't going to talk tech all night again are you?

Matthew Black
(mtblack) - F
Re: Re: 2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries on 09/17/2012 22:04:23 MDT Print View

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re:Fortran on 09/17/2012 22:16:51 MDT Print View

Well you can build and maintain your own fire this time.

Matthew Black
(mtblack) - F
Re: Re:Fortran on 09/17/2012 22:31:51 MDT Print View

Ugh. OK, no talk about computers or anything related to them.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re:Fortran on 09/17/2012 22:41:40 MDT Print View

Geez, the last time that I ran a Fortran program it was on an IBM System 360 mainframe.

There is probably a new model by now.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Fortran? on 09/17/2012 22:51:32 MDT Print View

I learned Fortran back in the 1980's; had to punch my own cards! Who in the world uses that now?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Fortran? on 09/17/2012 23:34:36 MDT Print View

"I learned Fortran back in the 1980's; had to punch my own cards! Who in the world uses that now?"

People used punch cards in the 80's? Geez the PC was available in 81. We were using mini-main frames in the 80s and could write code on terminals.

I learned my first computer language in the late 60's (ALGOL) and used punch cards on a Borroughs B5500. I re-wrote some of the programs in BASIC and ran them faster on an Apple ii in the late 70's :)

I thought everyone uses Excel (except Apple geeks). Maybe I'm mistaken. Spreadsheets have been the mainstay of PCs since the late 70's. Some I have used include VisiCalc, MS MultiPlan, AppleWorks, Lotus 123, Excel, and the new horrid Apple Numbers.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Fortran? on 09/17/2012 23:44:21 MDT Print View

"People used punch cards in the 80's?"

1968 maybe.


Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Fortran? on 09/18/2012 00:43:09 MDT Print View

Hey, my first computer science class in '75 had me punching cards for a IBM 360. I was a terrible typist so I couldn't get the stupid thing to ever run right.

How come nobody has mentioned cobalt (should be Cobol) yet? Or the early 80's CPM ( I wish that would have been IMB's pick instead of DOS- we'd all be way further ahead of things then we are now)

Edited by bestbuilder on 09/18/2012 09:46:02 MDT.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re: Re: Fortran? on 09/18/2012 00:48:49 MDT Print View

I was still shoveling a few punch cards around for mainframes in the early 1980s. Some stuff takes a long time to die.

Including Fortran. We still have some Fortran code from the 1970s in production at work. I wrote some of it. Luckily, it's someone else's job to deal with that problem!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Fortran? on 09/18/2012 00:50:37 MDT Print View

Sorry, senior moment, that was the late 1970's when I was working on my accounting degree (kind of hard to make a living for a single mother with a degree in French and English literature and several kids to support). The firm I worked for in the 1980's was still using punch cards for their time cards and a couple of subordinate systems when I left in 1988, though. Not exactly cutting edge! I did get in on the cutting edge when our firm started using PC's in early 1981, though! We started with the Apple II and soon switched to the IBM PC. It took a long time, though, before most firms finally decided that desktop computers are not really capital equipment and should be upgraded if not replaced yearly. The firm I retired from (a different one) went to leasing, which turned out to be cheaper than buying and gave us new machines yearly.

I have Microsoft Office for Mac and make up my own Excel spreadsheets. I still tweak my gear list occasionally. Unfortunately, I can't afford to replace my own computer as often as I should, so mine is currently 6 years old--still holding up, though, although I can't use the latest operating systems on it. At least my O/S is now old enough that makers of computer viruses don't bother with it!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/18/2012 00:56:25 MDT.