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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Fortran? on 09/18/2012 00:56:39 MDT Print View

"How come nobody has mentioned cobalt yet?"

At the last time that I checked, Cobalt is Element #27 on the Periodic Table. Cobol is a programming language.


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Fortran? on 09/18/2012 06:10:58 MDT Print View

Don't even need a fire. You all are doing it already...

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Fortran? on 09/18/2012 09:44:57 MDT Print View

Bob, you are so right- at midnight I was trying to dig too far back in the memory bank, or maybe I had a boat on my mind.

Cobol- computer programming lanuage

Cobalt- a very expensive boat, and an Element, Atomic Number: 27;
Atomic Weight: 58.933195; Melting Point: 1768 K (1495°C or 2723°F)
Boiling Point: 3200 K (2927°C or 5301°F); Density: 8.86 grams per cubic centimeter
Phase at Room Temperature: Solid; Element Classification: Metal; Period Number: 4 Group Number: 9 Group Name: none

Scott Chandler
(blueklister) - M

Locale: Northern California
Super Geeky Backpacking Database on 06/25/2013 22:46:41 MDT Print View

Can I throw a late entry into the contest. Actually, it doesn't even qualify since it's a Filemaker 12 database, not Excel. Regardless, I think it has to be the geekiest backpacking gear checklist ever made. I built lots of Filemaker databases for my company, and I built this one out of need, and over the years I've continually refined it. When Filemaker 12 came out, it jumped it to a new level.

If you don't have Filemaker 12, you can still run this on an iPad or iPhone by downloading the Filemaker GO app. You can download the database from my website at