I've been contemplating the content of all the discussions and articles lately and yesterday wondered, "What happened to all those wonderfully innovative ideas that were the hallmark of early BPL?" When I started in UL Ray Jardin had just published "Beyond Backpacking" (and I had just finished reading the older "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook"), Glen van Peski was sewing G4 packs, Ryan Jordan was still writing in his Yellowstone Journal blog and had just started experimenting with breathable bivies and cuben tarps, SUL, and synthetic fill jackets, Bill Fornsnell had introduced a lot of alternative lightweight ideas, and the Hennessey Hammock had just come out. They were all very exciting, "new" ideas at the time, and changed the way I thought about backpacking.
Recently, though, I see almost nothing new anymore, even from those who pioneered the present UL movement (perhaps the newest idea is packrafting). I can't recall a single recent idea that had me excited to go try it the way the early ideas did. It seems the grander UL "thread" seems to have petered out and now it's just repetition of older tried concepts. A lot of the new shelters and such seem to just be refinements of the earlier ideas. Are the creative juices faded away, or have all the ideas been tried? Or is it a wave, like happened in the 70's when the new backpacking movement triggered a lot of new ideas and companies like Patagonia and Mont Bell and The North Face?
I'd really like to revive the spirit of experimentation and see where SUL can take us now. Will there ever be a material beyond cuben? (wish there was something like funnel web spider silk, that you could draw into something as thin as a tent pole, but it would fan out and stick any way you needed it to) What other ideas in packs can be tried? (I'm working on a pack where the outer mesh is the frame and the "body" of the pack is a light dry sack, sort like an ultralight basket pack) Is there a way to think about rain gear that does away with the shell concept (such as the Paramo system)? What kinds of further improvements can be made to freezer bag cooking? Are there any fuels beyond alcohol, white gas, canisters, and wood? How about stakes? Anything different (I have an idea based on the incredible holding power of rhinoceros and stag beetle claws)?
Nature is probably the best inspiration... surely it has an example of just about anything we can think of... and haven't thought of.
Part of the reason I love the UL movement is the willingness to think in new ways, and to be willing to open our minds and see our approach to the outdoors in heretofore untried and unusual perspectives.