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Implications of UL Base Weight
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Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 10:46:04 MST Print View

I've been bothered lately by what I think of as the "reality" of the base weights many of us on the site talk about. The implication of an eight-pound base weight, in my mind, is that those eight pounds will take the user through any three-season, five-day plus trip with variable weather possibilities. In practice, I believe that many of the base weights reported are for one, maybe two-night trips during the summer. (I know that there are a few of you out there who really do take such light loads year 'round--kudos!)

To me, a five-pound one-night base weight is no big deal. You're going out for a night. It doesn't really matter if you get a little wet or a little cold; you'll make it through the night and back to your car the next day. Two nights isn't all that much more of a stretch.

For northern mid-west, summer overnights, I'd envision the following:

Down Jacket- 10oz
Tarp- 7oz
Emergency Blanket- 2oz
Alcohol Stove- 1.5oz
Ti Pot- 2.5oz
Ti Spork- 0.25oz
Compass- 1oz
Stakes- 1.5oz
Water bottle- 0.5oz
Sil Sack- 0.75oz

That's about 27 ounces, or 1# 11oz, for everything you'd need. If you want rain protection, add a garbage bag or a Driducks jacket. You could easily lose the cook stuff, but it'd be a nice luxury, still pretty light. You don't need a bag or pad; it's a summer night, find a soft spot, wrap your lower half in the e-blanket, wear the down jacket. Use the sil sack as your pack--use some spectra cord tied to the drawstring and looped around you, back through the grab handle, belt-style.

That said, I'm personally not willing to put up with certain things--like incessant bugs and a sore back--for more than a day or maybe two. So I carry extra things for my general comfort and to ease the experience somewhat.

I'm not sure that I really have a question to pose to you all, just wanted to put these thoughts out there... anyone else have musings along these lines?

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
hrm on 01/06/2009 11:15:37 MST Print View

Well I must disagree. My current base weight with full rain gear (i.e. jacket and pants and not a poncho tarp) is somewhere around 8 lbs. I pack large-ish solo tarp (8.75 x 5.25, ish) but no bivy (that's next), full kitchen, a 3/4 Ridgerest and a 24 oz sleeping bag. Of all of that, I trust the gear to keep me (1) warm (2) dry (3) comfortable in conditions here in Minnesota so long as the temps stay above about 20F.

I think the issue with your list is that you are looking at the extremes. Your list is one of a super minimalist overnight where you expect to be out only a day or night and you are going into the trip with that mindset.

What is the real difference between needs from an overnight and a five-night trip? Or even taken to the extreme, a thru-hike or other multi-day adventure? Other than consumables, your comfort level should remain constant.

On this I agree with - comfort is a necessity - but what you need to be comfortable is a subjective measure.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 11:17:10 MST Print View

My base weight for short trips is greater than for long trips. I do not sleep well the first two nights out and need a more comfortable sleep system. My appetitie has not kicked in so I need better tasting food for the first week. One of the ways to stay warm is night hiking, but on short trips that gets me off schedule.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 11:40:04 MST Print View

ive actually been adding a small amount of weight to my 3 season set-up and it isnt much, but my new philosophy isnt "he who dies with the lightest pack wins", but more of a "he who fussed over the grams dies of neurosis related stress disorders" lol
I normally carry sub 8 for winter (they're mild here, lets say above 20°) but after this last trip of hiking in 38° with cold wind and soaked thru clothing for 7 hours, Im going to get at least a set of Dri-Ducks and add it to my pack when required.
Also, there are a few things that are so dang comfy I have chosen to make them permanent: my hammock. I could sleep on a GG nightlite with a polycryo sheet and a summer quilt, but I chose to add about 1 lb to be way more comfortable at night. So, my new philosophy is this: If I can carry 4 lbs, I can carry 5. HYOH!

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 01/06/2009 13:10:58 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 12:07:31 MST Print View

The issue I've had with "he who dies with the lightest pack wins" is that I want to come back alive!

So my adaptation is "he who comes back content/happy/pleased with the lightest pack wins" (not saying that I'm always content/happy/pleased to have to come back so soon)

edit: also not saying I really want to win the "competition" or even compete ... except with myself

Edited by jcolten on 01/06/2009 12:15:04 MST.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
re: Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 14:44:04 MST Print View

Brad, I agree that an SUL base weight doesn't mean too much if it's a one-nighter. I think what you are mulling over is what level of light, UL, or SUL is relevant. IMO, if you are lighter, happier and more mobile than you used to be, that's good and maybe plenty good enough. Some will relish sweating the next couple of pounds and get satisfaction commensurate with the expense and discomfort; others, not so much. We all have our motivations and goals, and levels of comfort/discomfort that blow our hair back. Most important is to spend as much time getting out as we can.

(Hey, maybe there should be a "Spec-Trek ratio" to let us know when we our planning, buying, specificating and OBSESSING way too much per actual trekking time)

I've bought, sold and re-bought gear, and am now very happy at 11 lbs base weight. SULers could scoff at that (but wouldn't because they are all polite), yet traditional packers can't believe you are out for 6 days with that little pack. My last trip I got a little wound up because I needed to add 3 lbs to my kit to accomodate the style of my two traditional hiking partners. The 3 lbs ended up being no big deal and we had a great time. It's still about the experience out there, not in here. Hope you get to enjoy plenty in the new year.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 14:53:15 MST Print View

paraphrasing Paul: It's still about the experience out there (outside in the real world), not in here (cyberspace).

hear, hear! I once knew a Soils Science PHD candidate doing research on the effect of tillage methods. He grew up on a farm and was fond of reminding us that his father "still doesn't understand how you can plow a field with a computer" ... which, at the end of the day, you can't.

Which gets me thinking, why am I spending so much time on BPL when I have a week off coming up soon and no plans for spending part of it outdoors? (yet)

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: He who dies... on 01/06/2009 15:18:51 MST Print View

With the lightest pack is still dead. And he might not have died with a smile on his face. As previously noted: Hike your own hike!

christian gagas
(chummysaladbar) - F
base weight reality check on 01/06/2009 17:22:18 MST Print View

I admit that I got way too caught up in the numbers game; always trying to cook up ways to innovate and get lighter, and totally ignoring cost vs. gain. I spent hours trying to pack a sub-5, then a sub-4, focused on the scale and the number that had nothing to do with my hiking, then found that I could pack up 6 or seven pounds in about 15 minutes and be gone instead.

For me though, all of that served as a sort of thesis in UL; having come from an institutional tripping background, and feeling the effects of being a working carpenter taking their toll on my body I really appreciated the reductions and the feeling of speed and freedom they gave me.

It's all settling out now, a few ounces come back here and there, often in places I never would have expected before, and my concept of luxury items has really changed. And some things I just don't want to compromise all that much on, i.e. a real rain jacket, unless I am approaching a short trip as more of an atheletic endeavor.

A few days ago my wife and I returned from a 4 day ski/snowshoe loop thru the Adirondack High Peaks region. I have no idea what our packs weighed, but I know we covered as much ground as we wanted, slept warmly and had an awesome time...and carried a real shovel too!

Rich Steixner
(neognosis) - F
must admit... on 01/06/2009 18:00:14 MST Print View

I have to admit that it's not as satisfying to have the lightest pack when you end up being the hungriest, coldest, and sometimes wettest in camp.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 18:04:47 MST Print View

Hi Brad,

My sub-4 SUL kit is the same for 1 night or many. If I want to go that light, I'm set for a Cascades summer trip and it takes several nights before any changes are needed (and then it's only a little bigger pack). Yes- it's a summer list. But I have a range of gear and my setup is different based on the trip, location, and time of year. I pick and choose and put it all together how I like. Solo, mountaineering, winter, snow shelter, family trips, bike touring... the kit is always different based on the trip. (wait- is that why I have 8 shelters, 7 packs, 6 stoves, and 5 bags?!?)

I've had "survival trips", but I don't care much for those. I'm actually quite comfortable with my sub 4 load and I feel there's a good margin of error. But you're right that it's specific, and I usually don't care to be that minimal. But it's not unsafe, in my opinion.

Personally I enjoyed the exercise of getting lighter and more minimal and my skills have increased as well. But who really cares how light you are? It's all about what you enjoy- some enjoy getting anal and obsessive like me, but others don't.

So yeah- hike your own hike. Find what you like, and what you want to accomplish, and be cool with that. I went sub-4 to put down 50 mile days. Stupid, sure. But that's what I wanted to do. Other times my base weight is over 50 pounds, if you include my 30 pound son on my back and all of our gear. It's all about having what is right for the trip and being a happy camper!

So try your list during easy conditions if you like- I'm sure we would all learn from your experience!

Best, Doug

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
priceless on 01/06/2009 18:41:15 MST Print View

"I have to admit that it's not as satisfying to have the lightest pack when you end up being the hungriest, coldest, and sometimes wettest in camp."

Too true. In order of my priorities (most important to least):

Warm > dry > eat well > sleep well > light pack

For me, the idea of UL is to get the lightest pack possible without impacting on my "higher" priorities.

A glass of wine = 5oz.
Sipping my fav wine, overlooking an alpine lake as the sun goes down = priceless.

Maximise the experience, don't just minimise the base weight... you can walk around with a zero base weight all the time at home.

Edited by ashleyb on 01/06/2009 18:41:49 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: priceless on 01/06/2009 19:15:03 MST Print View

> Warm > dry > eat well > sleep well > light pack

Not sure about the 'dry' item if the 'warm' item is satisfied.

But I would put 'Happy' at the start of the list.


Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 19:31:43 MST Print View

While I've gotten a ton of gear specific information from BPL to help me lighten my load, none of that has compared to the one, most important lesson that I picked up here: That is to buy a postage scale and weigh every single item, then put it in a spreadsheet.

What a simple (though tedious) way to enlighten one's mind to understand what all this stuff adds up to and provide a tool to manage our loads. By having the "facts" right there in front of me while making gear selection for a trip, I can make well informed choices and cut out the fat, at least in the gear, that is!

I carry a different weight for each one of my trips based on being well informed and seeing the numbers. Then, I can decide whether or not I want to pack those binoculars if I think there will be clear weather and a spectacular view.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: priceless on 01/06/2009 19:33:02 MST Print View

"Not sure about the 'dry' item if the 'warm' item is satisfied."

Yeah, depends on the situation. I don't mind being wet during the day if I'm warm and can dry off at the end of it. Even getting a bit cold during the day is bearable. But I want to be warm, dry, well-fed and slept overnight!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Implications of UL Base Weight on 01/06/2009 19:48:10 MST Print View

The more benign the conditions the lighter the possibilities.

This is why most people post gear list for the summer cause' thats the time you can really play with pairing it down like no other time. Its one of the joys of summer.
In less than ideal conditions and longer trips or special circumstances gear list tend to look kinda 'standard" but we all know a lot of experience and thought go into them.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: priceless on 01/07/2009 07:46:08 MST Print View

"Warm > dry > eat well > sleep well > light pack"

Interesting list above. The following is from Ryan Jordan's Arctic 1000:

"Clothing must be light and keep you warm. Beyond that, any features, such as "keeps you dry", or "pockets", or "makes you look good whether in the backcountry or a bistro" are a luxury."

It is a statement made when you know where you are going you are going to be wet - hence keeping you warm is a top priority above the rest. The odd thing about is that generally warm means dry and visa versa - this is not essentially true when you add softshells to the mix (which I am coming around to, btw).

My priorities probably look like this:

Warm + dry > sleep well > light pack > eat well. May be the last two should be switched around. I believe this list is like this because I do not like being wet if I can avoid it, and many times I carry full rain gear. I am just starting to experiment with a poncho tarp and windshirt setup - I anticipate getting a little wet in this setup if I need to setup or take down in the rain. I also did a lot of hiking last year in gore-tex lined shoes, and when I did not have waterproof shoes it did not rain.


@ Brian:

"In less than ideal conditions and longer trips or special circumstances gear list tend to look kinda 'standard" but we all know a lot of experience and thought go into them."

The lists may look standard (i.e. the needs the items fill, such as carrying full rain gear) but hopefully the choices made are done with lightweight ideas in mind.

Edited by citystuckhiker on 01/07/2009 07:48:13 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: priceless on 01/07/2009 12:45:42 MST Print View

>Warm > dry > eat well > sleep well > light pack

I, like Roger, would put happy at the front of that list. I can be 'happy' when wet (but not interminably so), or with little sleep, or even with a heavy pack. I am NOT happy if I am cold or hungry, or pestered with biting insects.

In fact, the entire point of a trip is to be happy, so I guess you would say that it's not something I 'need', but is the 'goal'. To reach my goal I need to at least be warm, not too hungry, and protected from bugs.


Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: priceless on 01/07/2009 13:20:19 MST Print View


As a member of the testosterone brotherhood at one time I was very proud of my high pain threshhold. Now I am proud of my ability to accomplish goals without suffering.

Just a phase, we mature -- if we live through it.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: priceless on 01/07/2009 13:24:28 MST Print View

"The lists may look standard (i.e. the needs the items fill, such as carrying full rain gear) but hopefully the choices made are done with lightweight ideas in mind."

Just to clarify by 'standard' I meant by the standards of UL not of mainstream gear list.