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When Did You Begin UL?
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Wayne Kraft
(WayneKraft) - F
When Did I Begin? on 06/13/2006 22:18:48 MDT Print View

I spent most of 1976 bumming around Europe with a big heavy external frame pack. By the time I got home I was really sick of lugging that thing around. In the summer of 1977, just after I turned 26, I decided I wanted to go for a little weekend backpack trip in Oregon's Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. I borrowed my wife's ruck sack and tossed in a skimpy down bag I'd used for hosteling the summer before in Europe. I also threw in a plastic tube tent, about 15 feet of rope and an early gortex jacket in the unlikely event it rained. I decided not to carry a stove, so I packed a hunk of dried salami, a bag of gorp, some granola and a water bottle. I wore these new shoes I had from a company called Nike that had been formed by some guys I went to college with.

As I recall I left work early on Friday, drove to the trailhead and walked in a few miles to a lake where I slung my tube and crawled in. I woke up just before dawn Saturday morning, stuffed my tube and sleeping bag in my ruck sack and wandered off munching granola. Around 8 or 9 o'clock, after I'd walked 6 or 7 miles I found a big rock in the middle of a meadow and took a break. I pulled out the sleeping bag and draped it over the rock to dry off the dew. As I was relaxing there in the morning sun I encountered something I had never seen in the wilderness before. It was a hiking forest ranger. And she was a girl!

She commenced to lecture me about camping in this fragile meadow. I informed her I hadn't camped here, I was just drying out my sleeping bag. She asked me where I camped and I named the lake. "Well, how did you get clear over here?" she wanted to know. "I got up early and walked here, " I said. "You walked seven miles already today?" She didn't believe me. Why would I lie? "Where's the rest of your gear?" she asked, looking around. "This is it." I said. So she gave me a lecture about being prepared and proper gear and whatnot and was on her way.

I packed up my gear and took off. By early afternoon I arrived at my ultimate weekend destination and was nowhere near ready to quit walking. I decided to start back to the trailhead and camp along the way. I sailed down the trail and by dusk was already out to my car. I spent Sunday hiking somewhere else.

After that I sometimes used the rucksack technique when I was going solo and the weather forecast was favorable and sometimes went heavy when I was with a group or heading into bad weather.

In the 80's and 90's I got busy with law school, career building and family raising and didn't do much backpacking. I got the itch to do it again in about 2003 and picked up Jardine's book. As I began to read, I recalled my great trip in the Mt. Jeff Wilderness and a big smile spread across my face.

I wonder what happened to the forest ranger lady. I'll bet she's a granny by now and her knees are shot.

So now I've got my Gossamer Gear G4 and a Golite tarp and a Hennessy Hammock and a Super Cat Stove and a pair of trail runners and I'm trying to recapture my lost youth. It's pathetic, I know, but I'm having fun.

Edited by WayneKraft on 06/14/2006 22:16:09 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 06/14/2006 00:40:23 MDT Print View

I'd been doing a lot of alpine walking for over ten years circa. 1990 (and about ten earlier years of lowland trail walking) where my pack weight kept getting progressively heavier. As I learned more about what I didn't need and what I could handle up above treeline I began to take only essentials... a cut-down ridgerest instead of thermarest, the outer shell of a North Face Tadpole, fabric hiking boots... but even that was still too heavy. By 1995 I was using a Dana Designs Terraplane when hiking with my wife and groaning under the weight. My knees started going bad.

Then in 1999 I discovered Ray Jardine's "The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook". I must have read it fifty times or more. From that day till now (in the meantime of which I went on to buy Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking", discovered Michael Connick's Ultralight Backpacking Page, Adventure Alan's website, Joe's Ultralight Backpacking site, and two years ago joined this site) I have been continuously working on lightening my load and learning to make my own gear. I've made seven hammocks, five tents, four tarps, quite a number of stoves, and drawn innumerable sketches for lightweight gear ideas.

I'm now down to two packs, the Granite Gear Vapor Trail and the MountainSmith Phantom (similar to the Ghost, but top-loading and a little lighter, with mesh pockets on the outside), and am making a harness-style pack similar to the one Ryan is using in Alaska (I originally bought my POE Pneumo Mech drybag three years ago for this purpose but never got around to making the pack harness. I'm still playing with the idea of making a completely mesh pack into which I would insert the drybag). My shelter is either a SpinnShelter (which I also use as the tarp for my hammock, but that allows me to camp above treeline) or the TarpTent Rainbow. I use my hammock as both a hammock and a breathable bivy. My shoes are Inov8 Terroc 330's. My rain jacket a Montane Super Fly or, if I don't take a thinner insulation layer, a Paramo Cascada, which is the most breathable and versatile rain jacket I have used, though somewhat heavy. I don't use rain pants, since I don't mind my legs getting wet and the length of the Cascada keept my bum and crotch area warm and reasonably dry. My sleeping bag is a MontBell Alpine Ultralight Downhugger #4, supplemented by a MontBell Thermawrap Jacket. The base upper layer is the stretchy MontBell Sawa Body Zip Shirt, which was designed for shower climbing (sawa nobori... walking and climbing mountain creeks). And my sleeping mat is the new, torso-length MontBell U.L. Comfort System Pad, with inflatable pillow.

I'm hoping to learn to go even simpler, with less focus on thinking so much about buying gear and more self-sufficiency, thrift, and simplicity. One top priority is getting myself into top shape again and slowly re-conditioning myself to handle harsher conditions. Too much time has been spent letting myself get "soft". And WAY too much time spent on accumulating and thinking about ever newer gear. I want to learn to be "ultralight" in every sense of the word, including my mind.

Robert Miller
(procab) - F
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 06/18/2006 13:00:59 MDT Print View

My First "ultralight" Backpack Trip - July 1968

Many of you will recognize the rock where we are posed. It is on the summit of Mt Whitney. The little guy in orange is me. In order for me to get my pack weight down I offloaded much of my gear on a sherpa, who more importantly is also my Dad.

Field notes -

1) Mom made my orange wind breaker out of some bargain bin nylon that even the slightest breeze could penetrate. I was elated when I finally outgrew it and handed it down to one of my younger siblings.

2) Mom also made my Dads wind breaker and he specified a new product called Velcro in lieu of a full length zipper. While this looked good on paper it was difficult to align the two sides and always ended up fastened in an odd wavy manner.

3) This was before the commode was built at trail camp. It is impossible to dig a cat hole there, 'nuff said.

4) This was my first experience with down. Upon awakening I was amazed to find frost on the outside of my rented sleeping bag. It would be years before I slept in a down bag again.

Unfortunately as I entered my teen years I backslid into the more traditional ways of backpacking (sigh).

On this Fathers Day I want to thank my Dad for taking me on my first "ultralight" backpack trip.


Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
when? on 07/19/2006 18:32:25 MDT Print View

sweet picture. my mother took us all over the place hiking. my poor dad got to play pack mule once the 4 kids were finished carrying whatever crap me just had to bring along.

good memories on the AT and in western PA. what a childhood.


Edited by asciibaron on 07/19/2006 19:12:16 MDT.

matthew murphy
(bern0416) - F

Locale: Texas
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 07/20/2006 18:11:10 MDT Print View

after a trip to Big Bend last fall. my pack was between 50 -60lbs. by the time we reached the river via the Marufo Vega trail my left knee was in pain. had to hike out the next day with most of that weight. ended up I had ITBS. I was down for a while. Funny thing is, even with all that weight I was still carrying an Alcohol stove and grease pot. and whatever else would fill up a Kelty Redcloud to capacity. finally saw the light. been obsessed ever since.

matthew murphy
(bern0416) - F

Locale: Texas
RE: First "ultralight" Backpack Trip - July 1968 on 07/20/2006 18:15:43 MDT Print View

Robert, that pic and commentary does my heart good. Makes me ever so grateful my son and daughter share the hiking experience with me.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 07/20/2006 18:39:47 MDT Print View

Immediately after my hip and knee joints screamed "Don't ***EVER*** TRY THAT AGAIN" for about a week, regarding the carrying of a 50+ lb pack on a 10 mile / 3 day-er.

First real ultralight was 10 days at Philmont this June, carrying 24 - 30 lb pack (total pack weight including food & H2O). That included an extraneous 4 lbs of gear I believe I don't really need. Coupled with Glucosamine / Condroition tabs, it was a great trip my knees and hips enjoyed.
I'd really like to try Philmont in the future with a 20 lb pack, which I think I can achieve.


ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
evolve on 07/22/2006 05:04:40 MDT Print View

My very first trip overseas was with hindsight, the destination I needed the least gear, but I had the most I ever took overseas and gotten lighter ever since. It's learning by experience for me and the improvement in gear over the last 10 years makes a huge difference. And because I will replace something lightish with lighter and never get around to selling anything, I have far too much gear ! But I love it. This site which I only found recently is a big help.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: When Did You Begin UL? on 07/22/2006 11:52:23 MDT Print View

Matthew, my experience was very similar to yours. I went on a scout outing 2 years ago with a 60+ lb. pack. I ended up with Illio-tibial Band Syndrome, like you. After dealing with the pain of that, and a lot of physical therapy, I vowed it would never happen again. I recalled when I was a young scout, going on an 8 day, 60 mile trek in the high Uintas with a 33 lb. pack. Why was I so much smarter at 12? I figured I'm a grown man now, I can carry anything. I let my brawn supersede my brain. I found this site and put my brain to work. Let me take this opportunity to thank every one here. You've taught me in a short time what trial and error couldn't have in the same time. I went on the same scout outing a couple of months ago with a 15 lb. pack. It was fun being able to compare the two outings. The funny thing is, I carried more stuff this time. My first-aid and survival gear is much improved. I actually had more insulation. I also carried juggling balls, which was a big hit with the scouts. I too, am a man obsessed. Every ounce is now carefully considered.

Dwight Shackelford
(zydeholic) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
UL to be on 07/23/2006 00:34:21 MDT Print View

I am only just starting. I just did a 20 mile thing over the July 4th weekend, hadn't backpacked in 20 years, made it, but am looking to lighten up. I had maybe 30-35 lbs on my back, and that was after our guide removed maybe 10 lbs, after I asked for some help before we started out.

I'm also a gadgety sort of guy, sew my own shirts when I get time, and love the idea of making my own stuff.

So, bought a Marmot Pounder bag, trying to make a G4 pack right now, and still pondering on the shelter, the toughest decision so far. Might be making a bivy too, but I don't want to be claustrophic. The tarp thing makes me a little skittish, but, hey, we'll see.


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: UL to be on 07/23/2006 09:14:00 MDT Print View

well if the tarp thing is not for you. Look into a Tarp Tent by Henry Shires or one by Six Moon Designs. Also since you like to sew, there are a few places around on the web that has kits for tarp tents out there. By the time you weigh a ground cloth, bivy, and tarp it almost weighs the same as a tarp tent.

Dwight Shackelford
(zydeholic) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
tarptent on 07/23/2006 09:17:43 MDT Print View

I did look at the tarptent products by Henry, but I'm hesitant about them. The material does not seem too durable. I'm new at this though. I loved the room in them.

I do think he's done a great job of innovating and designing them.

Dwight Shackelford
(zydeholic) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: UL to be on 07/23/2006 09:19:19 MDT Print View

I have been eyeing that Luna tent at Six Moons. Just would like to see one in person.

Summit CO
(Summit) - F

Locale: 9300ft
Tarptent Rainbow on 07/23/2006 09:29:14 MDT Print View

I just got my Tarptent Rainbow the other day. This thing is awesome. I can't wait till Tuesday when I'll use it. It seems durable enough to me, just use with a little care.

Bryan Redd
(lucylab) - F
Tarptent is indeed durable on 07/23/2006 11:33:25 MDT Print View

I've owned and used several Tarptent models, including the Cloudburst (both generations), the Rainbow and the Double Rainbow.

I have never experienced a failure with the fabric or the construction. Sometimes I use a groundcloth and sometimes I don't, depending on where I'm going. A groundcloth is not necessary, but when I do use it I do so simply as added insurance.


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: tarptent on 07/23/2006 13:09:33 MDT Print View

With all ultralight gear, care is needed to inusre that you get the most mileage out of it. If you can 4-5 seasons out of the tent, then I would consider it a good investment.

Lorraine Pace
(SowthEfrikan) - F
Tarptents are perfect for me on 07/23/2006 15:13:28 MDT Print View

As long as these are manufactured I'm not even looking at anything else. Not only are they so light that I can carry a Squall 2 as a solo shelter, they are the easiest tents I have ever set up. As a girrrrl I like having the netting and floor keep creepy-crawlies at bay. Have used mine in wind, sun and rain, and it's been a solid performer.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Tarptent is indeed durable on 07/23/2006 16:24:44 MDT Print View

Yes, that is my experience as well with a Squall.

Bill Slade
(billslade) - MLife
Lunar Solo on 07/26/2006 06:57:33 MDT Print View


I love my Lunar Solo from Six Moons, easy to set up and plenty of room for one.