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When Did You Begin UL?
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Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
When Did You Begin UL? on 03/08/2006 06:53:51 MST Print View

Just for fun.

My first exposure to UL can with an April, 1994 article in Backpacker Magazine by Mark Jenkins entitled "Less is More". While backpacking through Europe with a companion, Mr. Jenkins had his gear stolen in Italy. With just the clothes on his back, a down coat, a jackknife, a plastic cup and a metal spoon, he and his partner continued their vacation by hiking throuh Western Europe for the next six months living as vagabonds. This article really struck a chord with me.

I spent my first overnight without a tent and a sleeping bag in July, 1994 on a ten-mile loop trail near my home. Although I was comfortable I didn't get much sleep that night. I did learn some very valuable lessons: 1) I wasn't eaten by wild animals; 2) I wasn't consumed by snakes; 3) I wasn't covered in silk and carried off by giant hairy spiders.

I first encountered rain on an overnight in September of that year. I was sitting cross-legged with my back against a tree wearing my military surplus poncho. (It would be years before Colin Fletcher showed me how to turn this poncho into a shelter). Anyway, with my poncho spread around me I had created an island of warm and dry in a world of wet and windy. It was then that I knew that my hiking had forever changed. Now I was thinking lighter and simpler.


Edited by walksoftly on 03/08/2006 06:54:30 MST.

David Patterson
(davidp80) - F
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 03/09/2006 08:37:46 MST Print View


My gear addiction (which more or less revolved around the gear you could find in the Backpacker magazine articles at the time) eventually led me to this site, and at that instant, I feel I took my first solid step towards being an 'ultralighter'. The thing is, I only found this site about, eh....1.5 months ago, and my base weight since then has dropped from 25-30 lbs to about 6.5 lbs. Needless to say, what I've learned here is much more useful than the garbage I pick up in my philosophy and psychology classes everyday! :)


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 03/09/2006 12:19:03 MST Print View

1968, when I first encountered Gerry Cunningham's gear and philosophy. As far as I know Gerry was the first UL guru. LIGHTWEIGHT CAMPING EQUIPMENT AND HOW TO MAKE IT and HOW TO CAMP AND LEAVE NO TRACE are classics.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 03/09/2006 14:44:16 MST Print View

Henry David Thoreau published Walden in 1854-- talk about less-is-more philosophy.

I did some miserable overnight hiking in Boy Scouts in the 1960's, committing all the outdoor sins. Things improved in the 70's as I became an adult and could afford some good basic gear-- an aluminum frame pack, a mummy bag, a GAZ stove, and nylon A-frame double wall tent. My boots and clothing were terrible. I did sporadic overnight hikes and got into sea-kayaking later. Then came kids and family duties, but we did a lot of car camping and day hikes, but no overnights or multi-day trips.

The kids are teenagers now and I have more time for outdoor adventures. Something was missing and a day hike really told me what it was-- I needed to get outside.

So early last year I started going through all our old gear and started reading and surfing on new gear and found the UL revolution. It made a lot of sence to my old bones and joints :)

I like tech-y stuff, and it's fun to try to squeeze the maximum out of my gear, and to learn new ways of thinking and doing. I like the back-yard-garage nature of UL product development and all the very clever people who are trying to think outside the box.

Edited by dwambaugh on 03/09/2006 14:46:23 MST.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 03/10/2006 08:50:15 MST Print View

1854, huh?
I wasn't around then. Feels like it sometimes though.

Remember, Thoreau climbed Kitahdin and has a spring named for him on the plateau. Thoreau Spring on Thoreau Plateau. Eau!

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 03/21/2006 15:29:16 MST Print View

Everything changed between the mid-80s (which weren't much different than the mid-70s) and 2004. When I got back into backpacking (after fifteen years of bodysurfing in Hawaii), I went on a trip with a guy going "ultralight". He had on running shoes and a frameless backpack with no hip belt filled to about 30 pounds. He was absolutely miserable due to his feet and shoulders aching, while I was feeling fine with my waffle-stompers and my comfy 7#10oz Dana pack and 40-pound load. I thought the whole UL thing he had talked about was silly. But that night we met up with the rest of our small group, two of whom were PCT/AT thru-hikers. They were carrying 20-pound (total) packs, and their example was totally different. They were faster and warmer than I was, and I could see exactly what they were doing right in their approach to UL. Suddenly it made sense. They were non-judgemental and glad to answer my questions, which kept me from being defensive about my own packing decisions. They recommended Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking; a few months after that I found BPL; and a year later I've cut my base weight by a third, and I'm about ready to cut it by a third again. Not only that, I'm warmer and less tired at the end of the day.

Edited by Otter on 04/10/2006 13:15:13 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
the beginning on 03/22/2006 19:45:45 MST Print View

When I had so much light weight crap I couldn't carry it all which oddly enough happened at the exact same time I got a real job, started gaining a tad bit o' weight, and left the dirt bag climber/surfer life style stenching up the past.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: the beginning on 03/23/2006 17:12:17 MST Print View

Oh, I remember the days I got my first outdoor education from GORP and Backpacker. I was looking for a 5000ci pack for Georgia 3-season hiking. Then in some lucky accident, I stumbled on, which eventually led to some great personal websites, like Michael Connick, John O'Mahoney, Adventure Alan, Kenneth Knight, etc. Next thing you know, I got a copy of Beyond Backpacking... found BPL... got some serious miles in.

The rest is unfolding as we speak.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 04/10/2006 12:24:46 MDT Print View

after i had my first child. we took him on his first bp trip at 5 months. i carried him in a frontpack and carried baby gear in a daypack. my husband's pack was so heavy that i literally couldn't pick it up. after that trip, i thought "there has to be a better way to do this." i bought Beyond Backpacking, sewed a tarp, discovered alcohol stoves and have been balancing maternal paranoia vs. UL ever since. ;)

Johnny Gish
(jtgish) - F

Locale: Coppell, Texas
next trip on 04/10/2006 15:56:56 MDT Print View

My next trip to guadalupe mountains np and big bend np will be my first ultralight trip. i have always carried between 25-30 pounds until finding this site a few weeks ago. i am in the process of attaining new gear. My trip was actually going to be this weekend but im not going until i get all my ultralight gear. all i need is the shelter and sleeping bag.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
When DId I Begin To UL on 04/10/2006 16:43:06 MDT Print View

Two years ago. After a bunch of years of carrying way too much gear I needed a change or my body would have broken down. I did the famous Rae Lakes Loop in Kings with a 65lbs pack for 4 days. I had a Gregory pack that weighed 8lbs, a North Face Mountain tent that weighed in at 9lbs..two person and just one, a 3lbs sleeping pad, and a nearly 3lbs Western Mountaineering bag best suited for Winter camping. I was in total misery mode the whole hike.

Now? 8-10lbs base weight and total skinout for a week at 18lbs. Now I hike ache free and enjoy the hike.

Edited by kennyhel77 on 04/10/2006 16:43:37 MDT.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: ^n When Did You Begin UL? on 04/10/2006 20:25:41 MDT Print View

When the heredity in my knees started speaking progressively louder...

Curtis Presson
(Obdewla_X) - F
When Did You Begin UL? on 04/11/2006 19:56:36 MDT Print View

For me it was (officially) in 2001. Prior to that I had done all of my backpacking with my dad and brothers back in the 70's & 80's all over the SE. Obviously, ultralight gear selection way back then was pretty much non-existent and it was not uncommon for us to carry quite a load including the kitchen sink when we hit the trail. Even so, I have nothing but fond memories being out in the woods with my dad and brothers.

With that in mind, I thought that my son would enjoy it like I did and we could create our own memories. So I dusted off all my old gear and planned our first trip in October 2001.

Needless to say, a lot had (has) changed with respect to gear from back in the 70's/80's. I retired my trusty Kelty external to a Dana Terraplane (now a Marmot brand!) thinking that I needed something more current... BIG, CAVERNOUS, HEAVY! Between my 7lb. pack (empty), my 4-5lb. Vasque leather boots, all my other old gear and stuff we carried it just about wore me out! This on top of the fact that I was 25 years older and 40lbs heavier. Overall, we had a great trip but while on the trail the misery index was high!

Afterwards I figured that there had to be a better way and came across a few websites that were all about ultralight backpacking. I liked the fact that by going lighter I could go farther in more comfort and enjoy the trip while on the trail rather than being completely spent by the end of the day. So since then I've continued to make wholesale improvements to all my gear and of course it's made all the difference.

Today my packweight is consistently down around 17lbs when we go together and around 20 - 22 lbs when I go solo and of course I'm enjoying our trips more than ever.

Edited by Obdewla_X on 04/12/2006 22:16:36 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 04/12/2006 22:10:24 MDT Print View

I was just 15 and a guy was hanging out in the alley behind REI. He said, "Psssst! Hey, kid-- you wanna try a six ounce backpack?" He got me hooked --- they called him Dr. J on the street :) I'll never be the same.....

Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
When Did You Begin UL? on 04/12/2006 23:25:08 MDT Print View

Well, I decided to take my girlfriend (now my wife) for a hike in the redwoods about 4 years ago. I borrowed a pack from my brother. Packed all the gear that I thought she would need. Put most gear in my pack. I believe she may have been carrying 30lbs. I was carrying 60+lbs. We made it a mile before she told me she could not go any further. I took some more things out of her bag, but it was still too much. I had to do something that would allow me to hike with her. I started to do some reading, and came across Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking. The rest is history.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 04/13/2006 07:47:54 MDT Print View

The UL light clicked on for me while lugging a 30 pound pack up the Bright Angel Trail (south rim of the Grand Canyon) in April 2003. That was the pack base weight only as I'd finished both food and water by that time. My pack weight has been dropping ever since. :-)

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
not quite ultralight on 04/19/2006 10:27:55 MDT Print View

my first backpacking experience was an eye opener, and a back breaker. it was the summer of 1983 and i was in Boy Scouts doing the C&O Canal.

my pack must have weighed 30 pounds - just a sleeping bag, clothes, and some other junk - no tent, no food, no stove. it was hell, but i still had fun.

jump ahead to college a decade later and i had reduced my pack weight to 30 pounds with everything needed for a weekend in the woods. this did not include the gallons wine we all brought.

after college, i didn't get out much and (luckily) sold off or lost most of that gear. in the past 5 years i started to put together a backpacking equipment cache - going first for the more durable gear to make sure it would work for me. the heavier gear will see use while car camping and small adventures with my young son.

with my current skills and comfort, my base weight is just under 20 pounds. the bulk of my reductions have come after signing up to this site and talking with others i backpack with.


Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 04/19/2006 10:33:21 MDT Print View

[quote=Dale Wambaugh] I was just 15 and a guy was hanging out in the alley behind REI. He said, "Psssst! Hey, kid-- you wanna try a six ounce backpack?" He got me hooked --- they called him Dr. J on the street :) I'll never be the same.....[/quote]

Was the first one free?

Edited by erichlf on 04/19/2006 10:34:44 MDT.

Tom Gibson
(TerribleTom) - F
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 04/29/2006 18:16:58 MDT Print View

Sometime in the late 80s, I bought a used Jansport external frame pack that was positively massive. Metal wings on the frame to support the hip belt and everything. I loaded that sucker up one time in the summer of 1990 with everything but the kitchen sink and proceeded to the bottom of Linville Gorge. 35mm SLR, binoculars, Phoebus 725, extra fuel, you name it.

Shortly after that trip I sold that confounded pack and bought the Dana Design Hyalite I still carry today. At the time, I thought it was crazy small--and that was exactly what I wanted. That winter we took a very cold trip into Lost Cove and I have been trying to get lighter ever since.

Traded the binocs for a collapsible telescope and the Phoebus for a WhisperLite and now a Penny Stove. Got an early UL-long Therm-a-rest and a TNF Tadpole. While I many not exactly fit some folks' UL standards, my big three are under 10 pounds and my base weight is well under 20. I have a new used Luxury Lite pack on the way that should drop my base weight by about 2 pounds and probably force me to lose one or two more with the smaller pack space.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 05/25/2006 12:19:39 MDT Print View

Right after back surgery followed by a divorce.

The ex didn't like the outdoors, and when I re-engaged with backpacking I found my back couldn't handle the old external pack with the 5 lb sleeping bag and 6 lb tent with the stainless steel cookgear anymore.