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XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking?
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Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/12/2009 10:15:00 MST Print View

Wackadoo is right!

Yeah, it's a free country and each to his or her own and all. The purpose of cutting weight was to enable a more enjoyable hike. To me, once pack weight is down to around 15-20lbs -- whatever that point is where a hiker can hike all day without being conscious of the weight -- further cutting provides ever-diminishing physiological benefits.

Once into SUL and now XUL -- the 'benefits' are no longer physiological at all -- but purely psychic. But hey, if that tickles you, then go for it. Knock yourselves out.

Edited by ben2world on 01/12/2009 10:31:57 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking on 01/12/2009 11:08:16 MST Print View

People like Alan Dixon and Bill Fornshell for instance push the limits of ultralight backpacking for it's purely theoretical value. The information learned, the insight gained, and the discussion which follows is useful to everyone else who's goal is to find a level of comfort and safety.

John Whynot
(jdw01776)

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking on 01/12/2009 11:28:39 MST Print View

>>HA! "This guy" is our very own Alan Dixon who co-founded BackpackingLight!
I knew that, I figured everyone else did too...

Alan's trip was definitely not a survival trip, everything needed (food, shelter, and even a stove) was carried, nothing was improvised from his surroundings.

I enjoy reading articles like this -- it challenges me and keeps my approach fresh. I've been browsing Alan's site since he started it.

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
SUL, purely for personal reasons on 01/12/2009 11:31:18 MST Print View

I have to disagree with you there Sam.


I personally feel that people who push ultra light principles like Dixon and Fornshell do provide some level of insight to other backcountry. However I think the vast majority of information learned by the SUL crowd is only useful for people who wish to go SUL. I think that the vast majority of lightweight backpacking and climbing principles have been obtained by people simply wishing to make a noticeable reduction in their pack weight, not by people who simply wish to go ultra light weight as a means to say that they have done it.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/12/2009 13:20:55 MST Print View

To keep things accurate, the term XUL was probably first used by Glen Van Peski and Mike Mauer back in abouts Spring 2005 to describe a base pack weight under 4 lbs. This was a couple of years after Ryan J. was writing about SUL trips (< 5 lbs base weight). In 2006, GVP had also done sub 3 base pack weight. In 2007, Alan was trip reporting with a different definition of XUL (< 4 lbs from-skin-out base weight) which is base pack weight plus worn/carried weight. Alan also had a few more criteria such as carrying a stove, weather into the 30's, and solid rain in his experimentation.

Edited by jshann on 01/15/2009 09:05:42 MST.

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
XUL and wilderness survival on 01/12/2009 14:34:40 MST Print View

Evan, It might help to answer the question "is Alan walking the line of wilderness survival" by defining wilderness survival. Can you provide a definition of "wilderness survival" and examples of what in Alan's XUL trip are like your definition?

Jamie

Edited by jshortt on 01/12/2009 14:41:55 MST.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: SUL, purely for personal reasons on 01/12/2009 20:22:20 MST Print View

And I disagree with you on this point Chad. I think that there is a great deal of trickling down of ideas between genres of backpacking.

I think lw backpacking has had an impact on traditional backpacking and mountaineering as seen in trends toward lighter weights and fabrics.

I also think that alpine-style mountaineering has had a big impact on ultralight and SUL backpacking (poles, bivies, etc.)

And I think also that SUL/XUL backpacking is having an impact on UL backpacking too. If you look at cuben and spin fabrics used in full-bug shelters or trimmed frameless packs, tarp/bivy combos, or any radical trimming of weight, you'll start to see the influences. It's the guys pushing the limits that first bring these items into the field.

That said, the influences are not for all. There are a lot of folks that lighten up to a certain point and call it good. For them, SUL may be entertainment, or possibly idiocy. But for many others, I would suspect that learning about these lists and techniques has had some influence...at least in seeing what's possible.

That's why I have enjoyed my SUL sub-4 base weight trips- they've opened my eyes to what's possible and have built my backcountry skills. And they've also made me really appreciate the other items that make their way into my pack for most trips. And at the end of the day I get to choose my style- and that's good for me.

To each his own. And influences are choices that we make as well, along with our criticisms. Black Sabbath had fans and critics, as will XUL and just about anything that pushes a limit.

Best, Doug

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
SUL, purely for personal reasons on 01/12/2009 20:56:17 MST Print View

Well said Doug,
Right on!

Check out Brian Doble's blog, guy yo-yo hiked the AT with sub 4lb base weight and had a pretty good time doing it, now an east coast legend as far as this hiker is concerned.

check it out at:
http://broble.wordpress.com/

he is way too humble too promote his own success

HYOH

Edited by florigen on 01/12/2009 21:29:34 MST.

John Whynot
(jdw01776)

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: SUL, purely for personal reasons on 01/12/2009 21:07:59 MST Print View

>>But for many others, I would suspect that learning about these lists and techniques has had some influence...at least in seeing what's possible.

Count me as one of those who learns from the SUL lists and techniques presented. If Doug, Alan, or any of the other BPL staffers can do SUL or XUL trips, there's no reason I can't do them either.

I look at pushing limits as a way to learn...

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/12/2009 21:13:18 MST Print View

Chad, you disagree with me yet you restate my point:

personally feel that people who push ultra light principles like Dixon and Fornshell do provide some level of insight to other backcountry.


You do go onto make the point that you feel the vast majority of changes in ultralight have been made by 'regular folks' trying to simply lighten their load. With you on this I agree, my original point however was that we can learn from people pushing SUL. This in addition to learning from the less extreme crowd as well.

I do feel you're not giving enough credit to the fringe. Doug puts it nicely in his noting the use of various lightweight fabrics. Spinnaker and cuben fiber fabrics were found only in the most fringe, homemade gear as recently as a few years ago. Now it is available in production model equipment from small manufacturers. It's only a matter of time before The North Face, REI, or another large backpacking company picks it up and mass produces it - thereby fully realizing the trickling down of this knowledge.

Tyeen Taylor
(TyMaz) - F

Locale: Alaska
hmmm on 01/12/2009 22:01:48 MST Print View

Ah backpacking, an exercise in the philosophy of comfort...because, that's what its all about isn't it? We try to draw lines in gray areas with gray leaded pencils and its hard to see and remember where they are drawn. Comforts defer, as do the definition of SUL, UL, LW, and their "creators". Because we have the technology, it becomes (mostly and conveniently) a matter of comfort instead of the alternative; pure survival. What is backpacking and if this is determined, how much? A ten by ten sheet of visqueen? For me, an aspiring alternative attempt in the pursuit of purity in our modern day world would be to limit myself to gear I could make from raw materials, i.e. aluminum, plastic, textiles, etc. That would be cool. Sorry, please continue...

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: hmmm on 01/13/2009 02:36:16 MST Print View

Hi Ty

> an aspiring alternative attempt in the pursuit of purity in our modern day world would
> be to limit myself to gear I could make from raw materials, i.e. aluminum, plastic, textiles, etc

Oh, we do already. Try the MYOG channels ... :-)

Cheers

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
XUL on 01/13/2009 05:59:22 MST Print View

I enjoyed Alan Dixions writing. His description of what/why in regard to gear selection was well written and interesting. I thought he made a true effort to push himself personaly through kit selection, hiking location and less then ideal weather. I, for one, would enjoy reading more from Mr. Dixion. If nothing else this helps me to step back and take a hard look at what I take and why I take it.

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Backpacking is backpacking on 01/13/2009 07:36:15 MST Print View

Sam Haraldson wrote:

“You do go onto make the point that you feel the vast majority of changes in ultralight have been made by 'regular folks' trying to simply lighten their load. With you on this I agree, my original point however was that we can learn from people pushing SUL. This in addition to learning from the less extreme crowd as well.

I do feel you're not giving enough credit to the fringe. Doug puts it nicely in his noting the use of various lightweight fabrics. Spinnaker and cuben fiber fabrics were found only in the most fringe, homemade gear as recently as a few years ago. Now it is available in production model equipment from small manufacturers. It's only a matter of time before The North Face, REI, or another large backpacking company picks it up and mass produces it - thereby fully realizing the trickling down of this knowledge.“


Ah but you too have restated my point that “the vast majority of information learned by the SUL crowd is only useful for people who wish to go SUL.” Most lightweight backpackers don’t use cubian fiber or spinnaker, those particular products are typically reserved for those attempting to peruse a SUL. What many of use often forget is that a good number of us are already in the ultra light fringe so the information gained by the SUL crowd directly impacts us. It does not however directly impact the wide range of typical backpackers which includes the UL crowd. I know many people will be offended to be classified with what some refer to as ‘heavyweights’ but you’re all in the same group. You hike, you camp, and you sleep. Unless you’re doing long distance, multi-week trips the only difference between you and the ‘heavyweights’ are about six pounds of gear. Those six pounds of gear does not change who anyone is.

I do have respect for the SUL community; I just don’t think they have made any large contributions to backpacking. What they have done is taken lightweight backpacking principles and gear and customized them to suite their own pursuits. While the accomplishments of SUL are amazing the core contributions they make to backpacking are no different or greater than what others have done before them. In fact with the exception of the great physical stamina and endurance of many SUL backpackers (75 miles a day) they are no different than any backpacker regardless of pack weight.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/15/2009 09:08:39 MST Print View

And the thing about many of the SUL/XUL gearlists is, many of them are not accurate. They carried cameras and stuff to document their trip. So they pick and chose what goes into a gearlist to make it fit their agenda.

Edited by jshann on 01/15/2009 09:10:23 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/15/2009 10:31:06 MST Print View

I think the discussion between Chad and I has run it's course although I still say that much of what has been envisioned by SUL'ers is in fact finding its way into the designs from mainstream gear manufacturers.

Now, John's comment about SUL'ers gear lists being false - that's a pretty broad statement, grouping everyone into one little cluster of liars. When I set out on a sub-five hike I bring the items on my sub-five list (4lbs., 8.11oz.) and nothing more. If I bring my camera with me to document it my gear then weighs 4lbs., 15.01oz. I think four pounds fifteen is still sub five - - just sayin'...

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
y... on 01/15/2009 19:29:11 MST Print View

...a...w....n.

carry what you want. hike how you want. learn from folks if you want, ignore them if you don't.

john griffith
(jgriffith)

Locale: Southeast U.S.
XUL as guiding light on 01/15/2009 19:53:47 MST Print View

I would say that lightweight/UL/SUL/XUL backpacking has in fact made a huge contribution to backpacking. As you travel down the continuum from heavy to extremely ultralight there are numerous benefits. From the increased mobility, the "adventure" of doing more with less, the reduced chance of injury, and the intellectual challenge of finding new ways to do the same things with less stuff. In my book these are all huge benefits, and guys like Alan Dixon act as inspiration for those of us that lack the desire to experience a 90+ mile sufferfest in the name of pushing the boundaries, but we still get to benefit from his experience.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking? on 01/15/2009 20:17:34 MST Print View

I completely agree that SUL has gravity on the rest of the backpacking community- it certainly does on me, whether a sub-5 pound base is purely an exercise in theory and lacks practical benefits or not.
I enjoy the pursuit- I'm not as bent on achieving a weight goal as many around here, but the "fringe" definitely exerts its pull on me. The knowledge that SUL shelters, bags, techniques, etc. even exist causes me to question all of my choices and influences my thinking heavily (as well as my spending habits).
Mountain Hardware has lost a customer. The North Face has lost a customer. Most major manufacturers have lost my business because they fail to deliver, especially in light of what I know is achievable. This is definitely the influence of the SUL community at work. Once knowledge of this stuff spreads, it has people asking questions- many then begin taking the first steps.
I just "converted" an old acquaintance to UL a week ago. He worked at REI and is geared to the teeth with traditional heavy gear. After 3 conversations about gear he already wants to sell his Mountain Hardware jacket and tents...another mainstream customer lost. He can envision UL weights but the unfamiliarity of SUL horrifies him at the moment- yet I can see it completely fascinating him, drawing him ever closer already.
If the SUL community spreads at the rate UL is going now...

As to Dave T's
y...a...w...n...
way to contribute dude!
I didn't realize you HAD TO read threads that bore you.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
XUL - A new standard for Lightweight Backpacking or Dead Man Walking?? on 01/15/2009 23:51:53 MST Print View

I have enjoyed reading most of the comments on this thread.

I don't know who coined the term XUL, I once called my lightest gear setup "Hyper-Light".

I did a short Sub-2 pound hike in October of 2006 using the AT starting at Springer Mountain. I went back and added up both the packed gear and the gear I was wearing and it came to 5.6 pounds. It was all listed along with my current weight. I had 38 different items on my gear list, Alan had 27 items.

I don't want to knock what Alan did on his hike but I see nothing magic about Alan's skin out sub 5 gear list.

I would have never taken that kind of risk but I don't have to and I can still be under the 5 pounds total if I that was the goal.

Since I make most of my gear I can build back-up in my gear list and still be under the 5 pound mark. Alan used store available gear and could not build any backup into his gear list and stay under his 5 pound limit. I had two 45 degree synthetic quilts that I could double up with if necessary and he trusted his life to one Down Quilt that he could wear. I had a Pertex Quantum/Cuben Bivy, more clothing, two pair of socks along with a pair of my Toe Cozy's, a couple of heat packs, TP, potty trowel, compass w/ my watch, and a lot of the things most hikers carry and he left behind. The big difference is I can make gear that is much lighter than most of what you buy so I can carry more of what normal hikers carry.

Alan was lucky this time and I hope his luck holds out. I would rather trust my life to a more reasonable gear list and not to luck.