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A little UL Philosophy Help Please
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Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 13:42:27 MDT Print View

Lock and load your flame throwers boys

I'm clearly not a UL hiker. Although, I love learning from the guys who are pushing the limits and making it work. More than anything I love buying gear a few years after you guys have figured out what works and doesn't work. Thanks for all those cold wet nights :)

However, please elaborate on the following for me.

If for the most part the purpose of UL is to be lighter and more mobile how many UL hikers actually take advantage of all their mobility?
(Please let's stay away from the "I hurt my knee/back so I need to be UL" conversation.)

I say this as a light weight hiker who ends up spending 3 weekends out of the month up in the mountains. I find that for the time/range limitations I don't have much reason to shed another 4-6lbs out of my system and be UL. For example I can ditch my Nemo Nano go with a Copper Spur UL2 and get rid of my Katadyn Pocket Filter carry bleach and use a Pepsi can stove instead of my MSR and save about 4-5lbs right there. Not to mention my pack which can easily shed another 2lbs putting me right at the high end of "UL".

But I love the secure feeling of my Nano and damnit the Katadyn Pocket filter makes some great tasting water to mix with my Scotch. Oh yeah and my XGK-EX makes a great sound when boiling some water for my MRE :)

The bottom line is those 6lbs aren't killing me on my 10-15 mile days I'm sure I wouldn't even feel the difference. To be perfectly honest if I go out with "average people" we end up only hiking about 8 - 10 miles a day.

This is where I am wondering on average how far is the typical "UL" hiker really going? Most of us only have a weekend to play with anyway. So does it really matter? Would you say that a typical UL hiker is logging 30-40miles a day? If so I can see the point. However, if in all reality "the guy" is doing 10 miles a day but not getting to enjoy any of the comforts I bring with me is it really worth it?

I realize systems are about specific needs and mine is a bit more comfort driven. But I enjoy the heck out of my comfort driven system as I start a fire with my MSR XGK. (Why do people never talk about using your stove to start fires with? Belly button lint yes but blow torch no?)

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 13:55:23 MDT Print View

"typical "UL" hiker"

Never mind stating a fire with your XGK flamethrower, I reckon you just lit the blue touch paper here. :-)

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 14:21:31 MDT Print View

It's hiking, not hauling. The more you know the less you need. And so on.... I like 15 or so miles and not being sore or tired when I'm done. And still have daylight left. I am happier on the trail not lugging around a bunch of stuff I don't really need. And I'm just as happy in camp without it as well. But HYOH. So take what makes you happy, that's all that really matters.

Edited by kthompson on 04/06/2010 14:25:41 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

UL on 04/06/2010 14:25:00 MDT Print View

Some people go UL so they can perform amazing athletic feats, but for me personally it's about comfort in the outdoors...which sounds like the same reasons you pack what you do.

If you are just doing solo weekend trips than it's fairly easy to have a reasonable pack weight, without having a UL base weight. You seem to be in this situation. 16lbs of gear and 5 lbs of food is a nice easy load to carry.

The problem arises when you start looking at longer trips. If I am going hiking for 7 days with my wife, we are going to have about 20-25 lbs of food between us. She doesn't do so well with a heavy pack, so I end up carrying 80% of the food. In this situation, it's great to have an 8lbs base weight because I can still start out the trip with a reasonable 25lbs or so on my back. I notice a huge difference between that and 35lbs, which I would have on my back with a base weight closer to yours. So it really does depend on what sort of trips you do.

And the end of the day, it really is all about enjoying the outdoors for me. If the comfort gained in camp from carrying that bigger tent is going to outweigh the hardship of lugging it down the trail then I will take it. The challenge is finding the right balance. It's easy to think that it's worth a few extra ounces for that nice piece of gear you may have in mind. But if you think this way about all of your gear and you add 2-3oz extra across 15 pieces of gear, then suddenly you're looking at a way heavier pack. So the trick is to think of your gear decisions as a whole, and not individually. What has worked well for me personally is to go really light, and then add back gear if I really miss it.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 14:30:15 MDT Print View

When I was a young punk, I could carry a pack that was 40% to 65% of my body weight. That was good, and it kept me in shape. Then after I passed a certain critical age, it was becoming harder for the old bod to keep up. So, now I find that I can still do the trips that I used to do, but I just have to keep lightening up my pack by one pound for each year. It is a continuous process.

The other way to think about it is that if you carry a heavy pack all the way in to your camp, then you feel like you deserve some luxury comforts in camp that may be slightly heavy. Others feel that by not carrying the heavy stuff in the first place, that they arrive in camp not feeling the need for so many heavy comforts in the first place. YMMV.

I've done quite a number of trips that just plain could not be done without UL tactics. So, it is nice to practice up and know what you are doing before you really need it.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Ah, Ultralight! on 04/06/2010 14:44:10 MDT Print View

Well, shoot, Alex. To each his (or her) own.

I remember hiking the AT in Virginia a few years back with 35 pounds on my back. Every day was 10 hours of agony, especially going up and down those hills on the Roller Coaster. Every hill was a mountain.

Finally, when I got to the campsite, I'd throw the 20 pounds of JIC stuff in a pile and end up actually using the 15 pounds, and even that was mostly wasted. I'd heat a cup or two of water on my Jetboil, set up my 4.5 pound tent, and climb into my 3-pound sleeping bag and sweat away the night.

Now, I bound up those hills carrying a full load, including food and water for three or four days, with 11.5 pounds on my back. In 10 hours, I never took the danged pack off because I didn't even notice that it was there once I got it on.

I sleep comfortably in summer in my 11 oz bag I got right here at BPL. I am just as protected from the rain sleeping in a sleep system that weighs about a pound. I still heat up the same two cups of water, but this time I do it with an esbit stove that doesn't even register on my scale. The food tastes just as good.

Mostly, I feel good after an easy hike that would have once been agony whan I was carrying a lot of stuff that I didn't need, and weighed to much to start with. My muscles don't ache, and my feet are not blistered and fatigued. I sleep the sleep of the righteous, and wake up knowing that the whole shebang won't take me more than 15 minutes to pack up.

In the end, I can appreciate the wonder of what I see around me because my mind is not caught up in the agony of walking. Walking becomes a joy in itself, an act of meditation and contemplation.

Ah, ultralight!


P.S. Besides, don't knock it if you haven't tried it. ;-D

Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
Wow She's SUL on 04/06/2010 14:44:15 MDT Print View

Dan it wasn't until you posted about your wife that it dawned on me that the gear I'm bringing is actually for two people. Although, it's the exact same thing I bring up if I go with a buddy.

So if I end up going up with my GF pretty much all the time and I carry the gear list in my profile and she carries her sleeping bag and pad and some of her food. She's either SUL or smarter than me. :)

You know, I think of all my little weekend trips as training trips for "that one" big hike. So I end up bringing extra weight in water pretty much every time I go up.

I think the only difference between my weekend and a week long trip for me would be a few more socks and and a few more MREs.

I am getting the feel from the people here that it's all about personal comfort and go with what works for you.

I guess I still have this stigma attached to UL as "the machines who are putting in 60 mile days". Which I'm seeing isn't necessarily true. I'm noticing more often than not it's just "normal" guys who don't like to bring a lot of weight with them.

The other majority seems to be the arm-chair quarterbacks who are 50lbs overweight but still talking about shaving that .05oz from their tarp. :) But hey everyone has their clowns. Those would be the only ones who keep posting on the weekends while we're all out :)

Edited by Vertigo on 04/06/2010 14:52:31 MDT.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 14:49:32 MDT Print View

Here's my UL philosophy: Diluting whiskey is a bad philosophy..drink it neat and leave the filter at home!

And please don't bring your MSR-XGK into any huts I might be staying in. I've seen enough of them attempting to burn down these refuges for a lifetime, not to mention they stop all conversation. And please don't start any forest fires near me with one either.

Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 14:56:56 MDT Print View

LOL OK I'll be honest when I say Scotch I really mean Pernod Absinthe which tastes amazing with some fresh water ...and I have no idea why people put sugar in it too sweet,

Edited by Vertigo on 04/06/2010 14:58:12 MDT.

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
(Please let's stay away from the "I hurt my knee/back so I need to be UL" conversation.) on 04/06/2010 15:05:59 MDT Print View

Hi Alex,

What part of this reason do find difficult to talk about?
For me it's the most important reason I carry a lighter pack.
Lots of people are hiking further, and later in life due to the advancements in technique and equipment.
Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
You carry what you like, why is it hard to understand why others carry what they like?
Why don't you carry a lighter pack and see how far you can go yourself?
That is part of the challenge, and all of the fun.
I'll bet your pack will weigh less and less each hike.
Welcome to your future obsession.


Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 15:46:45 MDT Print View

Alex, Great question...thanks for posting it. I think the answer probably falls into "to each his own". I will say that I have tried to carry 50 lbs into the woods as a 13 year old and learned quickly that I wasnt going far with it. I did gravitate to lighter weight during my teens (typically 25-30 base weight). In the height of my physical strength 18-22 I had never been able to hike more than 12 miles in one day and even then I was exhausted.

Now at age 42 I typically hike 12 miles by lunch and more than double this on most full days. But do I hike UL for the miles? I think not...its much more then this. I enjoy all aspects of the sport. The knowledge of my gear, the advancements in my skills, and my closeness with nature that relying on less gear creates.

It is a pure experience that is hard to describe. I'm convinced it is not for everyone, but I am also convinced it is for many more people then those that get a chance to experience it. "Try it you might like it."


PS Stargazer you said it perfectly and Lynn I am with you on the straight whiskey (but admit to cutting my everclear with crystal light)

Edited by jshortt on 04/06/2010 15:53:19 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 16:52:12 MDT Print View

> If for the most part the purpose of UL is to be lighter and more mobile how many UL hikers actually take advantage of all their mobility?

I do.

For example, just this last weekend my boyfriend and I set out on a popular trailhead. It was Easter weekend and the hoards were out in force. At the first creek crossing there was a huge group of teenagers/college students with backpacking gear. I asked them where they were planning to go. It was the same place we wanted to go. A hot spring.

We took off walking quickly. We got to the hot spring and soaked for about an hour. We had it all to ourselves. We put our clothes on and just then we could hear the teenagers arriving. We carried on another 5 miles and found a solitary camp all to ourselves where we could listen to frogs in the warm creek all night instead of partying teenagers.

I like hiking and I like my hiking to be comfortable. The lighter my gear is the more comfortable my hiking is. It feels exactly the same as dayhiking when I go out for a weekend. I can't imagine a more comfort-driven system than that. Warm, safe, dry and it feels like dayhiking. Heck, I sometimes run with my gear because I'm having so much fun!

Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 17:45:27 MDT Print View

Piper it doens't count if you leave your BF in the dust because he's carrying all your gear. ;) Just kidding.

But that's definitely a great example of UL. I've always seen speed and range as great benefits to being UL that's why I posed the question to see who here actually takes advantage of it. Because let's face it if we're talking about trying to train for long distance marches chances are it's going to be the Marine who's used to some heavy loads being put in to a UL system that's going to cruise right by the "every day UL" guy in the same system.

I don't think anyone will argue that lighter is better. To me it seems the argument comes down to "stuff" you want to bring with you. I do feel like there is an argument made for diminishing returns on certain gear items / durability concerns etc. However, for the most part lighter is better.

Personally, I don't mind filling up two Sigg bottles with wine and carrying them for 20 miles because my GF may want a drink at the end of the day. It's all in good fun and the extra weight I carry builds muscle/conditions me for the day when I go on that long trip minus the added weight and my pack will be lighter and I will be cruising without a problem.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 19:14:55 MDT Print View

>Piper it doens't count if you leave your BF in the dust because he's carrying all your gear. ;) Just kidding.

I know you say you are kidding, but I bet you think there is a grain of truth there. The fact is, now that we have such light gear, often I carry the tent if we have one to share. Except for the tent, we go with our own full set of gear, no sharing of anything else. Sometimes we bring our own separate shelters, too. We did that this weekend.

I'm not sure why you think most of us are "every day UL guys" who are like some kind of joe six-pack, just out there tinkering around with some light gear but not really willing or able to put in big miles. I don't find that to be the case among the people I know. Most of them do go long distances. I don't think I know of any regular non-lightweight backpacker who thinks that an 8-10 mile day is too short. But of the UL backpackers I know, most of them think a sub-15 mile day is too short.

Of the people I know who go ultralight, they do it expressly so that they can do the following things:

1) go farther in less time
2) get to places they never could get to before
3) play with gear, be gram weenies, invent new things, play with new technologies
4) have the flexibility to add extra mileage, change the route, do some exploring
5) do more with less

The last one is sort of hard to explain, but you touched in it when you said it comes to to the "stuff" you want to bring with you.

Many of us have learned by leaving "stuff" home that it isn't about the stuff you bring at all. The less stuff you need, the closer you are to the nature you came out to experience. The less your trip is focused on stuff, the sharper the experience feels. It's about your skill, about feeling at home in the wilderness, about shedding not just the weight but the insecurities. When you reach the point where you're no longer packing your insecurities, you experience a special kind of freedom that has to be experienced to be understood.

Finally, I like going UL so I can bring luxuries, too. I brought a cup last time. I can hear you laughing. But since I don't need a cup, having it this time brought me great joy. I also brought an extra pair of shoes. I'm choosy about my luxuries. They have to enhance the experience, not take away from it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Wow She's SUL on 04/06/2010 19:25:44 MDT Print View

> So if I end up going up with my GF pretty much all the time and I carry the
> gear list in my profile and she carries her sleeping bag and pad and some of
> her food. She's either SUL or smarter than me. :)
Ahhh... no comment!

We went light-weight for 2 reasons:
* advancing age (I'm nearly 65)
* improving intelligence

> this stigma attached to UL as "the machines who are putting in 60 mile days"
Yeah, that's absolutely wrong. Try:
"the people who are enjoying walking more than you but sweating less"


John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 19:27:27 MDT Print View

>>5) do more with less

This is the most important part of ultralight backpacking to me. It's very satisfying to walk through the wilderness with a light and simple selection of gear...

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 19:38:38 MDT Print View

Lightening our load also helps us keep up with the youngins, as well as just enjoying ourselves more now that we don't feel like beasts of burden. Also, less pack weight=less calories burned=less food weight to carry=less fuel to carry :) It's all win:win

PS: we haven't sacrificed any comfort by lightening our load, quite the contrary.

Edited by retropump on 04/06/2010 19:40:46 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
. . . . . on 04/06/2010 19:44:28 MDT Print View

. . . . .

Edited by asandh on 05/06/2010 07:39:31 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 19:50:29 MDT Print View

Starting fires with an MSR XGK! HOO-RAA! overweight armchair quarterbacks use crude, old, unmanly implements such as matches and tinder.

You've got it all dialed dude.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: A little UL Philosophy Help Please on 04/06/2010 19:56:32 MDT Print View

""To each his own" and HYOH (I totally hate this, its nothing more than a conversation ender) are not really acceptable offerings here."

I think Alex has gotten quite a few thougtful, intelligent responses to his initial post. And I think you're wrong, both of those are acceptable offerings here, especially since both were simply part of - and not the entire - response. And the responses that included these phrases were thoughtful and intelligent -- these phrases were not used in a negative way at all.