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Too light for comfort ?
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ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
Too light for comfort ? on 08/06/2006 06:16:42 MDT Print View

So is there a downside to going light ?

Has anyone suffered from clothing or bag that isn't warm enough, flimsy equipment, unsatisfying food or maybe boredom from lack of goodies to fiddle with !?!

Do you get to the point where your gear is so light that you can then start adding some luxuries ?

What are the benefits for you of going light other than the lightness ?

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/06/2006 06:46:42 MDT Print View

Well lightweight techniques, gear etc has brought benefits other than the lightweight benefits.

Making my gear list as simple as I can gives me freedom. I don't have to think about where stuff is, how to store it etc etc. It is quite simply liberating. For me, lots of stuff on the trail = stress!!!

Also, by concentrating on my gear, what I carry etc, I have gained greater confidence. I think more about my gear more than I ever did before.

In the past I would just have bought a tent, a stove and not given them any real thought. Now, I consider materials, temperature extremes that my gear can cope with etc, so all in all, I FEEL better prepared for my trips.

I will never be a XUL or SUL backpacker (Or at least not in the foreseable future)but going lightweight has meant that I have been able to carry less weight than before but actually have better gear and yes,on occassion, some luxuries.

Keeping my pack small has probably been the biggest thing in keeping my weight down.

So, there you go, for me it's brought Confidence and Simplicity.

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/06/2006 08:17:28 MDT Print View

I think that you learn about your gear needs with experience. For me, that has been mostly in terms of where I hike and in what season. If you do a lot of hiking in pretty rough areas, then having an extremely light backpack that does not hold up to abuse is more stressful than what it's worth. Maybe you figure out that
an additional half pound for a pillow and sleeping pad is going to guarantee you a good night's sleep, so it makes it worth it as well. Same applies for the single versus double-tent issue.
In sum, a lot of people may start out with the lighest possible (as I did) but switch back to something a bit heavier for select pieces of gear.

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
lighter on 08/07/2006 06:18:59 MDT Print View

The more I travel the lighter my load gets especially with the help of new technologies and info on the internet and of course experience. I am finding out that even though I am fit and can tough it out, I'm also getting older and carrying less weight is a benefit. I love it when my pack is so light I can afford to carry some goodies such as fresh food like fruit. I've even carried milk ! but only for a day or two. I think back on what I used to carry 20 or 25 years ago and wonder how I ever did it !

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/07/2006 19:21:35 MDT Print View

Downside to going light? Once you have the proper experience I don't think there are any downsides. I am as comfortable and safe as my heavy weight friends. The cost of my gear is roughly the same as theirs. Of course, it took awhile.

There have been trips were I was cold, or hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable. In danger? Never. If you don't push until you are uncomfortable, you won't know what your limits are and will most likely be caring more than you need to.

I pushed down to what would be considered ultalight (on some summer trips super ultralight). It was a bit too light and I added some comfort back: a larger tarp or tarptent rather than a poncho/tarp, a bug bivy rather than using a headnet when sleeping, a granite gear vapor trail rather than a frameless pack, an insulated air mattress, added an extra shirt.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/08/2006 00:37:44 MDT Print View

I have to admit any time cold, wet, or hungry showed up more equipment would not have been the solution, because every time it has not been an equipment decision but a larry failure to anticipate the consequences decision or I plane ol' forgot something scenario.

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
Re: Re: Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/08/2006 18:16:49 MDT Print View

Last week-end I took a 3-day and 2-night hike in Texas with only the gear that I could carry in my pockets (plus a water container). Silly bet, but I had a blast. Would I do it in February? NO. Would I do it again in the summer? YES!!!

It really isn't all about the gear. It is about building an experience factoring in the possible downsides of your gear decisions. I find it surprising how much gear gets carried by people that they NEVER EVEN USE. That, in my opinion, is the difference between a SUL backpacker and a traditional backpacker. We tend to carry all of our survival and emergency gear in our heads.

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
pocket job on 08/09/2006 01:28:04 MDT Print View

Ah, a pocket traveller ! My dream ! My travelling is mostly roaming around countries with some camping and hiking. I travelled out of a daypack for a month in Sicily including camping gear. I dream of doing a country like Vietnam for a few weeks and although there'd be no camping, I would be able to travel with all my gear in my pockets.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: pocket job on 08/09/2006 11:20:31 MDT Print View

Michael, cool trip! Tell us what you brought with you.

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
Re: Re: pocket job on 08/09/2006 12:04:04 MDT Print View

Just to keep it simple:
Cargo Pockets: Energy Bars, Emergency Sleeping Bag (Mylar)
Back Pockets: Cash, ID, 1st Aid, MP1 Tablets, TP
Front Pockets: Dragonfly Pullover, Deet, Dr. Bronner's
Neck: Bandana, GG MicroLight, Compass, Whistle

I also carried a Bota of Boulder 1 liter container over my shoulder.

It was HOT!!! 102 during the day and 94 when I went to bed (The wife checked from home). Didn't use the emergency sleeping bag because it was too darn hot. Just slept in the Dragonfly pullover. I would bring the emergency bag again in case of rain (It could happen in Texas in August - HA!)

I'm going to the Allegheny National Forest (Western PA) this weekend and I think I might just do it again for a one nighter with somewhat better temperatures.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Re: Re: pocket job on 08/10/2006 10:20:10 MDT Print View

What part of Texas?

I did a sub three base weekend trip near Austin this spring, with my silk liner for sleeping bag. Ended up sleeping on top of the liner it was so darn hot.

My only issue was hundreds of Chiggers!

That hot .. I would think that two space blankets would be a better bet than the bag ... you can get ventilation between them, one as a ground cloth, one as an improptu tarp of sorts if it rains. The bag would be sweltering in that kind of heat.

Take a bit of duct tape and some safety pins .... duct tape on the corners of the emergency blanket with a safety pin through the material as a tie out and you can rig a surprisingly nice tarp. A bit of line and some shock cord for guy lines can make it a bit less noisy too.

I was interested in doing a sub 8 Liter Texas warm weather three day weekend trip this fall .... but the pocket only idea sounds pretty cool!

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/15/2006 18:14:31 MDT Print View

I think there is always a potential downside to going UL in that your margin for error is considerably less. But, IMHO, that can usually be compensated for by paying attention to what's going on around you and hiking in "anticipatory mode". That said, there is always the unavoidable "act of God" situation, but that's part of life in the mountains and it doesn't make much difference then if you're carrying 15 pounds or fifty. As a friend of mine once observed: "Relax, man, in the end nobody gets out of here alive".

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
Re: Re: Re: Re: pocket job on 08/15/2006 22:06:20 MDT Print View


Sorry it took so long to reply, but I took a long weekend getaway in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. 60-degree nights and 80-degree days.....sweet.

For my pocket hike I went to Mineral Wells State Park just West of Ft. Worth. There is a rails-to-trails into the park, a great lake to take a cooling dip, and some rustic primitive campsites. The park is known for its rock climbing.

As for the emergency bag, I split the side about 3/4 of the way to allow for some venting. I've used these mylar bags before and I hate the way that the coating flakes off after just a few uses. I have had a BackpackingLight side-zip bivy on order since January, but have to make due until it arrives.

I've hiked with a hunting vest a few times. The game pouch makes a good space for overnight gear and there are plenty of pockets. They have several brands that are primarily mesh and work really well in hot weather.

I don't really consider myself to be a "backpacker". I'm more of a day hiker that just lays over night after night. Doesn't take too much gear to just go out hiking. Takes just a little incremental gear to spend the night. Very liberating!! Very, very enjoyable!!! Less is more.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/16/2006 04:36:41 MDT Print View

Well last year i did my first real UL, 16 day hike through Scotland in October.

One day in the second week i had to get up early cause my next campsite was ten hours away. I left the bothy (mountain cabin) in reasonable weather, but after half an hour or so the rain started and it did not stop for five hours or so. I hike under a poncho-tarp and with trekking poles which i don't want to attach to my backpack when i rains. So i kept hiking, but after a while my hands got really cold from the wind and being wet. They eventually got so cold that i didn't have the strength in my fingers anymore to unbuckle my sturnum strap.

I was wearing my GoLite windshirt under the poncho and had my hands inside the sleeves while holding the trekking poles, but that shirt wets out pretty quickly, so yeah, in that case i was hiking too light for comfort.

However, after hiking for ten hours and getting to the place where i had planned to set up camp i didn't feel like camping. So i decided to keep hiking the additional four to five hours i had planned for the next day so i could spent the night in the next bothy.

Somewhere in those next four hours it got dark, but i just kept hiking. Eventually i saw some light comming out of a building, which i thought was the bothy, i left the trail (actually it wasn't really a trail) and headed straight for the 'bothy' neglecting the river i had to cross to get there (my feet were wet anyway, hurray for GTX boots). The building turned out to be the youth hostel and the people there gave me directions to the bothy.

Since it was dark i lost my bearings and after 14 hours of hiking eventually gave up and made camp afterall. I go-go-gatched-ed my poncho into a bivi bag, crawled inside, made dinner and went to bed.

The next day i found the bothy about 45 minutes away.

Bottomline is i did get really cold in the morning and i have much to learn about lightweight clothing (it is said on this website that most UL hikers are warmer hiking UL than heavy weight, I have yet to find out how. All info is welcome), but i also did have one of my best hiking days that day and set a monsterous PR for hiking for 14 hours.


mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Re: Too light for comfort ? on 08/16/2006 12:45:21 MDT Print View

It's all about layers .... plan your layers for differing temperature levels, wet or dry.

Some examples:

A wicking poly lighweight Shirt, A windshirt, a 100 weight fleece, and a non-breatable rain jacket was very good for me down to 20 degrees and a 20 MPH wind, as long as I was up doing something.

Or: a wicking shirt and a nylon button down shirt in 50 degree temps with a light rain under some tree cover ... you generate enough heat hiking for the moisture to dry quick.

Or: a Patagucci insluated vest over a wind shirt and a wicking tee shirt ... good down to mid to low 40's just hanging out around camp.

The Layers work together or separately, in differing combinations, to cover most eventualities.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
Benefits on 10/02/2006 11:55:33 MDT Print View

Well the benefits of going light do involve lightness, but here are mine:

Less stress on my knees, feet and ankles, back and hips. Less likelyhood of fatigue, injury, poor decisions.

Less weight means I can go farther per day, so I can take longer-distance trips or take peakbag days. Or siestas, or bathe.

The feedback loop between burning less food and water per distance means you can sometimes carry less food and water which (Ayyy!) makes your pack lighter. Or you can bring some luxuries.

Such as fishing gear, butter and lemon, which can lead to gourmet eating. Or having to even carry less food if you are super-confident.

Or luxuries like my favorite: real sturdy boots, or a toothbrush and toothpaste, medical supplies, climbing hardware, etc.

The downside at least of UL can be that you are less prepared to handle contingencies. Also, and this is something people don't ususally think about: if you do all your training with ultralight stuff, you will be setting a pretty low bar for strength. Better to train with extra weight and drop it when you go for things that are challenging. So all you ultralighters on the AT, put a rock in your bag. ;)

Edited by Paul_Tree on 10/02/2006 12:05:30 MDT.