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Evolution of UL Hiker
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Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 19:34:39 MDT Print View

Is there a process where people go to light and return to heavier options...albeit light heavier options.

What are your thoughts? Did you go lighter and move back a bit for your own comfort, choice...

Possible Examples:
CCF back to Neoair
Tarp back to Tarptent

Just curious if most people eventually come back to the center. Ok, light of center.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 20:03:33 MDT Print View

I did. I went SUL on one trip and decided it didn't make sense for me. I rarely go solo and on short trips where SUL makes sense I'd rather have real food, etc.

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 20:15:24 MDT Print View

+1 I started hanging out around here about a year ago, and ran right out with a poncho, some string and a space blanket for shelter. It was very freeing after car camping and scout camping.

What I found though, is that when you add up a ground sheet, decent tarp/poncho and bivy, you're saving 5-8ish ounces over a tarptent. In the central coast in the spring...sure. But show me some real bugs or sustained rain, I want the tent and the no BS rain gear.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 20:26:47 MDT Print View

"What I found though, is that when you add up a ground sheet, decent tarp/poncho and bivy, you're saving 5-8ish ounces over a tarptent."

I found the savings to be even less when the ground sheet, tarp and some kind of bug net have to acommodate my 80-lb. dog as well as me! Plus my dog thinks my tent is his "crate," so he's happy to curl up at my feet and sleep through the night. Under a tarp I'd have to tie him up. We may try a tarp this fall when the bugs are gone, though.

I tried using a NeoAir, but it just didn't work out for me--never could get the "comfort spot" between too hard and so soft my hip hit the ground, and it wasn't warm enough for high-altitude backpacking without a CCF pad that made up the weight difference between the NeoAir and my much-more-comfortable POE Ether Thermo.

Edited by hikinggranny on 07/01/2010 20:29:49 MDT.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 21:07:36 MDT Print View

"Did you go lighter and move back a bit for your own comfort..."

I guess you could say that. I describe it as not being confined to a category determined by gear or pack weight. Going light is only one tool which is appropriate for some trips. Some journeys are better suited by other approaches.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 22:17:31 MDT Print View

SUL= a great way to redefine your boundaries of needs and wants. If x amount of weight is possible/enjoyable/comfortable why carry x+ amount of weight. Like having a 20 pound base weight, trying 8 pounds or less and settling on 12 and realizing that the other 8 pounds was just not necessary.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 22:17:36 MDT Print View

I'm no uber experienced suvivorman, but I've certainly gone down that path. While lightening my load, I gained a lot of confidence experimenting with UL gear and methods. That knowledge and confidence allowed me to quit packing stuff "just in case". As I've settled on what I like to bring for certain situations, I found that the gear itself has now faded somewhat, and the experience of just being in nature seems to have grown and become even more enjoyable. There's just nothing better than being comfortable and confident in a beautiful place, with a light load that you don't really even notice, especially when you have a few well considered luxuries at hand.

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
Hear Hear on 07/01/2010 23:02:50 MDT Print View

+1 to what Brian said.

I work with a lot of guys that hike, but they just are the types of guys that want to cover more miles and bag more peaks. For them, UL is a way to make their outdoor experience more extreme. There's not a thing wrong with that, but it is the opposite of the reason I do it.

For me, UL is about being able to get more remote, and see more incredible scenery, more comfortably. It's also an exercise in leaving behind the civilization that frustrates me throughout the week. John Muir hit the Western Divide with "a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread and a copy of Emerson." I haven't gone quite that spartan, but I'm happy to leave behind the chair, the fussy meal (though I love to cook) and most of all the goddamned blackberry.

And let's face it, if Mike Clelland were there, he'd have criticized John Muir for the full-size edition of Emerson :-)

Ty Reidenbaugh
(The_Will) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/01/2010 23:46:42 MDT Print View

Absolutely. Now that I have my pack weight well controlled the area that I emphasize to increase my comfort is the menu. I used to "freezer bag" cook with a Red Bull alky stove and a 10 oz. Ti cup that served as the pot and a Platypus with the top cut off as the freezer bag. But I like to actually cook and bake on the trail and so returned to white gas stoves.

I just ordered the FeatherFire stove and I'm hopefull that this together with a Caldera Cone-like windscreen/pot support can decrease the weight of my kitchen while still allowing me to eat like I'd like to.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Evolution of UL Hiker... on 07/02/2010 00:33:02 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/29/2015 14:40:17 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/02/2010 04:31:26 MDT Print View

I guess I am odd person out. I am never going back to center. Exception is snow camping, when it comes to added weight. I live in the west, so camping maybe a little easier. I hike solo, so I don't have to worry about someone else's comfort. I enjoy hiking all day, and want as little weight as possible. I eat because I have to, it is not a big production or earth-shattering event. I don't need books, iPods, or anything else to entertain me on the trail. The trail provides more entertainment than I can absorb.

I started BPing in the 1960's, so it has been a lot of years on the trail, and every single ounce is critical today. An extra 8 oucnces must reduce ounces somewhere else. I stay in pretty good shape, so my body doesn't need a lot of comfort. As I head into my 6th decade on earth, I just can't carry a lot of weight if I want to continue to cover the same number of miles in the same time. It is not about mileage, it is about not slowing down due to age. I just don't want to "grow old." Plus I need to do more miles to get away from the overpopulation in our wilderness areas.

In a sense, I did not start out heavy. Yes some of my gear was heavy by today's standards, but I did not start out with luxury. For many years my gear included a Kelty 3/4 external frame pack and a down bag (heavy by today's standards). These were my big money purchases, and I did not have much money for anything else. My gound sheet was a blue foam pad, and it doubled as my sleeping pad. I did not have a stove, because I did not know they existed. My cookset was a small aluminum pot and an aluminum mess kit. I still have them. I cooked over fires. Poncho/tarp was my shelter, because I could not afford a tent, and it worked. Food was oatmeal, Top Ramon, instant rice and candy bars. I did catch a lot of fish in those days. I hiked in boots. Running shoes had not been invented yet. Sometimes I hiked in high top Converse canvas shoes. Water was carried in the old green plastic quart canteens. Nalgene bottles were not sold, and bottled water came in glass.

Then in the 70's I was able to afford the new and improved gear. It really was heavy, and the marketers informed me that I needed them. My mess kit was replaced by a Sigg Tourist Cookset. My campfire was replace by a Svea 123 and metal fuel bottle. My sleeping pad was replaced by a nine-tube, nlylon covered Air Lift mattress. The lightest double wall tent replaced my poncho/tarp. Then I needed rain gear. Of course it usually didn't rain, so the heavy rain gear and tent stayed in my pack on most trips. Now I needed a pack that was larger than my Kelty D4, so I got a heavier internal frame pack, which was inconvenient to live out of. So then I got the largest external frame pack made. Some other gear that Colin Fletcher and marketers informed me I needed included a journal, pen, camera, thermometer, spare repair parts, a larger first aid kit, sleeping clothes, etc., etc.

In the 80's I found that technology was interferring with my outdoor life and hiking enjoyment. Too much stuff, too heavy, and just an all around pain in the butt. So I started to lighten up. I got a modern down bag, a Gaz Globe Trotter cookset with stove, a lighter poncho/tarp, a couple Nalgene bottles, lighter CCF pad, the lightest Italian hiking boots available, and dumped most of the technological "necessities" that were not necessary for me in the 60's. Now the Kelty D4 and the large internal frame pack were too big. so I got the lightest Mountainsmith pack I could find. I bought a used Pitney Bowes 15lb digital scale, my most important piece of equipment, and I pared down month after month, and year after year.

In the 90's I could do a multi-day trip with 15lbs base weight. Backpacking became a LOT of fun again.

And then I entered the Internet world in 2000. Started to find even lighter and better equipment. I remember my first visit to Ray Jardine's Website. At first I thought he was a fringe lunatic. Somewhere along the line I picked up his first book; enlightening. Didn't agree with everything, but stared re-thinking gear. Sub 10lbs was very doable. Then sub 5lbs was doable for a lot of trips.

Backpacking is pretty simple. We walk. We place one foot in front of the other, thousands of time a day. We just need need some food and water to exist. We ocassionally need to protect our bodies from the elements. Everything else is fluff.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/02/2010 05:28:57 MDT Print View

+1 to what Joe and Brian said and especially what Nick says.

It changes with time and experience. I am heading into my 5th decade backpacking and not only has the equipment changed radically but the focus of the trips has too. When young most of us want to go as far and see as much as we can, climb as many peaks as possible. Now older we still want to see great stuff and be able to do it for a long time.

One of my hiking partners likes to say "some people hike to camp, others camp to hike"

I fall in the middle. I go out to see new areas and vistas and it now seems we have to walk farther to get to the areas we want to see, the easy ones have been done. So we will regularly do 15-20 mile days. I also like to enjoy my time in camp with warm food and a comfortable place to sit and sleep. I tried for a while to go with just a CCF pad and slept like hell so added back in a tiny inflatable pad to go with my 6 oz. chair kit so I can sit up in the sleeping bag while I cook dinner or breakfast. I camp mostly in the fall and winter when the nights are below freezing so the warmth of food and sleeping bag are important to me.

But be sure that the entire kit is scrutinized constantly.

Edited by abhitt on 07/02/2010 11:48:41 MDT.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
thoughts on 07/02/2010 07:37:43 MDT Print View

thanks for sharing.

i am a big guy. though BPL challenged me to scrutinize my waist line and i dropped 30 lbs since last hiking season. i am still big by hiker standards. 230's but in good health, etc...ex football, etc...

anyway. toting weight never really worried me until the family came along. that is how i found BPL. like most i toy with going lighter. bought a cuben tarp from Chris a few weeks back, set it up in the backyard and the wife said no. sold it that evening for the same price i paid. :) gear swap! i was confident with that purchase i could do that.

however, BPL helped me realize two things:
1) i enjoy hiking more than camping. so lightening makes hiking more fun. leaving stuff at home is the best way to lighten up.
2) key purchases are valuable in lightening your load. however, this is a trial and error game. given more resources i would have purchased a brand new cuben duo from MLD and lost money on the resale. still the lightheart duo i bought is a perfect purchase for my family now and my wife and i in the future. she likes the shelter and i like the views. the MLD supermid will more than likely be my long term family option or at least until the little one wants her own tent with a friend or something.

what made me think of the question many on here seem to go the tarp bivy route only to return to something else. don't remember who posted it but maybe the tarp, bivy, ground sheet, etc...adds up and most people go the tarptent route out of the simplicity side.

thanks for sharing. i look forward to hearing more.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Headin backwards on 07/02/2010 07:57:55 MDT Print View

I have added back weight in a couple of area.
1) Better headlamp as my nighthiking increased.
2) Went from Ridgerest to ridgerest deluxe.

I also stopped stressing about trying to hit 150 cal/oz. food load. I would rather carry a little extra food that I can stomach vs. the lightest. I do believe there is value in crossing over the line to find your true limit. If you don't find what is too light or spartan then you will always wonder if you can cut off another oz. I am now at a place that I have locked into my gear. For three season my baseweight is about 8lb. I can stop spending money!

Eddy Walker

Locale: southeast
getting older on 07/02/2010 08:26:03 MDT Print View

Does getting older mean a person might be looking for more comfort now vs. when younger?

James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Getting Older on 07/02/2010 09:02:28 MDT Print View

I'll pass the 70 year old mark later this year.

When young (say 40)I never weighed anything, so I never knew how much I was carrying. My sins were to be an early convert to Thermarest, carrying a carbide lamp and fuel for nighttime reading or camping, heavy 35mm camera with two lenses and other goodies, ... that's all I remember.

Now, I find that I NEED to have light weight equipment or I will only trudge 6 miles per day.

In other words, it doesn't appear possible for me to "go back" in lightweight goals. Add in sleep apnea and light touches of peripheral artery disease, and that is now a virtual certainty.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Evolution of UL Hiker" on 07/02/2010 09:49:19 MDT Print View

hmm yeah... I went tent, 6'x8' tarp, now I want an 8'x10' tarp despite it's added weight.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Evolution or Revolution to UL on 07/02/2010 09:51:59 MDT Print View

My evolution is more in line with Nick's. I started out backpacking in 1969 with a minimal kit and evolved quickly, as funds allowed, to some seriously heavy gear and a huge Jansport D5 external frame to make it all bearable. I stayed that way through the 70's, 80's, and 90's. In 2004 my base weight was still at 35lbs and fully loaded for a week with water - 65lbs. I was still hiking in full grain leather Pivetta Article 8's at 5lbs 6oz for my size 11.5 EE, combined with 3 pairs of socks (hey it was all the rage in the 70's). While I still enjoyed backpacking immensely in spite of the aching joints and muscles, I felt there had to be a better way. I found this site and others, read several books that were more about the light weight philosophy than the equipment, and scoured the net for info. I purchased mountains of new equipment, conducted my own tests pushing my limits with light and ultra light gear, and formed my own opinions, quickly whittling my kit down in both weight and number of items.

I am now down to a very comfortable 9-12lb base weight (depending on precipitation and temps), that is comfortable both on my back and in camp. I was a bit lower for a while, but prefer a tarptents to tarps/bivys/nets/ground sheets, cannister stoves to alcohol stoves, ultraviolet light water treatment to light, but wait, chemical treatment, and down air mats to closed cell torso pads. Along the way I have come to embrace the windshirt, quilts, frame-less packs, 2lb per pair hiking shoes with a single pair of socks, titanium cookware, coin-cell led "flashlights", Pertex Quantum, sil-nylon, and Nextec EPIC, and much less food - one of the few benefits of getting older. I have ditched the sun shower, camp chair, stainless steel cooksets, sierra cup, aluminum canteen, white gas stoves (except for winter), 5 fresh shirts and underwear in the pack on day one, tennis shoes for camp wear, binoculars, fleece, pumpfilters, and 3 ply goretex.

Backpacking is now more enjoyable than ever and I return from trips feeling great and not worn out. For me it wasn't about more miles necessarily, although I tend to hike longer because I feel better and don't need as much time setting up camp. It was about being able to still enjoy the high places as long as possible and barring injury, I don't see why I can't keep going well into my 70's. I do enjoy blowing by un-enlightened 20 somethings all bent over under their packs, while enjoying a conversation at the same time. The long answer to the short question is that I am never going back and when I add an ounce to my kit, I have to reduce an ounce from my kit. My latest purchase, a Katabatic Sawatch at 23.5 oz was 4.5oz more than my Golite Ultra 20 so I had to get a titanum mug and spork (down 2oz from my former pair), and a 2.5oz windshirt, (2.5oz less than my previous) to get the 4.5oz back. Some may think that a bit excessive, but it's the only way for me to keep things in check.

Edited by Servingko on 07/02/2010 09:56:28 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Evolution of UL Hiker on 07/02/2010 10:58:49 MDT Print View

I definitely went light and haven't looked back - in fact, I'm still trying to get lighter.

BUT....I have a few different "sets" of equipment. My solo gear is cut right down the the wire with the lightest stuff I can buy or make. Years ago, I would have thought this system to be uncomfortable or unsafe but nowadys I don't think twice about a sub 5 or even sub 4 list. Actually, I still try to cut more weight from it - I enjoy it and there is nothing like trotting down the trail with a pack that light.

However, very little of that gear is acceptable during my winter trips, and it is definitely not going to come along with me when I am with my girlfriend...that gearlist will never be published due to embarrassment and possible banning from BPL ;)I also have a "cold and wet" gearlist where I know I'm getting lots of rain and little warmth to dry out. Really depends on the trip.

I think everyone here agrees that the most important thing to do is get out and hike. There really isn't a right or wrong way to backpack.

bryan english
(apoxtle) - F

Locale: so cal.
lighter. on 07/02/2010 11:12:58 MDT Print View

i agree with nick for the most part. i have no desire to get heavier, i'm comfortable with the ul gear i have. i would like a lighter sleeping bag but that is about it. covering more ground due to carrying less and lighter gear is a lot more important to me than having heavier and possibly more comfortable stuff for the campsite. i do take an mp3 player that weight a few grams and earbuds though and occasionally a little liquor. other than that i go as light as i can afford.