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Early BPL Article
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 09:39:31 MST Print View

Seeing as almost none of the recent forum discussions touch upon anything but gear purchases lately I am getting utterly bored with BPL. This is just my view, of course, but I think I may finally, after ten years with this site, have reached BPL burnout. I hardly read anything here anymore and more often than not absent-mindedly click through the front page and "recent threads" without stopping to look further. I guess all things change. Though, after ten years, it's a bit melancholy.

Just thought I'd post the link to one of the earliest BPL articles and still, ten years later, one of the most memorable and my favorite: Not Your Ordinary Lightweight Backpacker: An Interview with Bill Merchant.

If you had to choose only ONE article or forum thread from your time at BPL, what would be your favorite?

Edited by butuki on 01/20/2011 09:40:04 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 09:55:42 MST Print View

Miguel, you might enjoy reading Hendrik's latest commentary on gear vs. trips, a look into the current state of online backpacking media. You also pose a question and off the top of my head my favorite BPL article is A Lightweight Guide to Backpacking in Sustained, Cold Rain
by Alan Dixon from 2006-12-27 (link will open in new tab/window). I like this article because it highlights a combination of gear and technique.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Best non-gear articles on 01/20/2011 10:14:18 MST Print View

Thanks Miguel for starting this thread. I'm new here so dont have much to contribute but enjoyed the article you posted immensely and look forward to more.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
techincal on 01/20/2011 10:18:49 MST Print View

the technical articles .... the last good one was mr caffins cold weather canister one

IMO the gear reviews and trip reports you can get many other places ...

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 10:30:37 MST Print View

Sam, ah, that article is one of my favorites, too. I loved the early days of BPL because so much was still new and untried. It was exciting to be part of everyone's enthusiasm, which was incredibly infectious. I miss a lot of the old forum members from that time who no longer post very much or at all anymore, including Ryan Jordan, Alan Dixon, Glen van Peski, Henry Shires, Ron Moak, Carol Crooker, Bill Fornshell, PJ, Vick Hines, to name just a very few.

I read Henrik's article and the following comments. He wrote it a few days after he and I had a discussion via Twitter concerning the overly heavy emphasis on selling and buying gear and I mentioned that I was losing interest in the UL movement. I was surprised, as many people were who read his blog post, that he agreed with me, especially because he definitely has become one of the most vocal and popular UL gear promoters over the last two years. The reactions to his statements were as interesting as his own statement.

Personally, one of my favorite forum threads was this whacky one.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 10:36:47 MST Print View

Ryan Jordan's 2003 Overview of Thermoregulation

Darin Banner's 2008 classic, epic, and should-be-mandatory-reading article "Hypothermia".

Edited by wandering_bob on 01/20/2011 10:41:16 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 11:31:37 MST Print View

The post I find myself referring people to the most is Richard's chart in the thread he started about best clothing for backpacking and hiking. While about gear, it is also about how activity and conditions affect what's needed. I think the thread pails in comparison to the chart.

The article that put the biggest smile on my face was toilet paper free which I still haven't mastered.



Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 11:47:24 MST Print View

"The Original Ultralight Hikers: Seeking Wilderness Simplicity from Modern Day Nomads"

This is one of my all time favorites and probably the first I read. I think it was from before this site was a subscription site.

Edited by DanG on 01/20/2011 11:48:26 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 12:36:00 MST Print View

A lot of forums seem to evolve like this. There's some new thing, people do a lot of discussing and inventing and testing, companies come in and start making and selling, then the forums turn into sites where people just go shopping. "What XYZ should I buy?" It's happening right now in a discussion I follow on barefoot running.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Forums on 01/20/2011 17:13:11 MST Print View

For me personally, my enthusiasm on BPL has waned a bit mostly because a lot of stuff isn't that new and interesting to talk about anymore. It's not BPLs fault...I've just already participated in a bunch of threads on Topic X, so when yet another one pops up, I'm not quite as interested as that first time. It's just like any hobby. I'm still super into UL hiking, but there's less of a need to talk about it online. I just go out and do it. To me the most exciting thing is pushing my personal skills and limits on increasingly difficult adventures. Off trail routes, packrafting, and winter ski touring trips are what gets my heart pulsing these days. I've been ski touring probably 30 out of the last 60 days. I've actually been enjoying not talking about it online, because it's giving me more time to actually go out and do it. The mountains are incredible.

Regarding the state of UL hiking in general, I would say the rate of development has slowed (as it does with all new things), but UL hiking is still getting better all the time. Cuben has been an amazing development as it's made it possible to create even lighter shelters and SUL packs that are actually waterproof. That's two of the big 3 items that have been made better by cuben.

Ultimately though, new gear doesn't matter that much. Gear that is good enough for UL hiking has been around for a long time. Real skill development is more interesting. I would say that maybe the issue here isn't the abundance of gear talk, but rather the lack of skills talk. This is a tough one though because I find the best way to learn and hone a skill is to just go out and do it. One of my favorite things is to go for a quick 24 hour trip when the weather is looking absolutely terrible. It's a fun challenge to myself and I always come away learning how to do something better.

Regarding the actual topic of this thread, I would say that my favourite old BPL article is something by Skurka that teaches advanced techniques like 'Ultralight in the Nations Icebox' and 'Trekking Techniques for Early Season Conditions':

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 19:58:29 MST Print View

Miguel, I think the old BPL podcasts talked about the people, places, and gear. For me I think of people, places, and skills. Gear will come and go.

My favorite article from BPL is "EXPEDITION: The Great Western Loop" by Andrew Skurka. I've listened to Andy's tale many times over and still enjoy it.

Other favorites:
(Seconding Sam's choice) "A Lightweight Guide to Backpacking in Sustained, Cold Rain" by Alan Dixon. What a great picture of bringing the whole together -- skills, gear, and attitude.

2005 Backpacking Light Trip Planning Spreadsheet Contest Entries by BPL Staff. The creativity of the crowd. Lots of good ideas.

The Poncho Tarp: Techniques and Gear Systems for Inclement Conditions by Ryan Jordan and Alan Dixon. Remembering the fun of learning UL backpacking.

Boy Scout Gear List: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, Summer by Doug Prosser. Doug is such a great guy. I've given this article to more people than any other (I'm a Scouter). I hope to one day approach the amount of joy that Doug has spread by encouraging them to lighten up and enjoy the outdoors. Excellent piece!

Edited by flyfast on 01/20/2011 20:12:33 MST.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Skills vs. Gear on 01/20/2011 20:35:07 MST Print View

I haven't been here that long compared to many of you however before I started posting much I read a ton of the archives and noticed a similar shift. Even since I started reading in late 2008 it seems like the general attitude of these forums has shifted and people balk at what was once common UL ideas and practices. It seems like the average poster/reader at BPL is afraid to give up many luxuries these days and would prefer to go light with fancier gear instead of just less gear. In my opinion the lighter gear made from fancy modern materials shouldn't be an excuse to add more items into the pack because to me this dilutes the experience.

My favorite article would have to be this one by Mike Clelland if only for the wonderful illustrations.

However, my true favorite isn't really an article but the poncho tarping section in Ryan's book.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Skills vs. Gear on 01/20/2011 20:46:01 MST Print View

"Even since I started reading in late 2008 it seems like the general attitude of these forums has shifted and people balk at what was once common UL ideas and practices. It seems like the average poster/reader at BPL is afraid to give up many luxuries these days and would prefer to go light with fancier gear instead of just less gear."

A sure sign of the ageing of the Boomers.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 21:05:42 MST Print View

Not sure I've been around enough to have a favorite article. But I think what I've gotten out of BPL the most is the people. I've really enjoyed chatting/discussing with folks, 'meeting' people, and especially actually meeting some folks (and I'm excited to meet a bunch more in a few weeks). I'd go so far as to say I've made friends through this site. So, for me, it's not so much the forums or the articles, though I've enjoyed many articles and many threads, it's the camaraderie. As very few of my friends are into lightweight backpacking, I can't easily find that any place else.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 21:20:46 MST Print View

It is a shame that as much thought and experimentation hasn't gone into technique as has been put into gear.
Things like site selection and risk assessment of back-country water ect...
Its probably just a lot easier to lighten up with gear upgrades. Plus its fun and easy to shop and do gear comparisons when your stuck in the house on the computer.
It would be interesting if we could further blur the line between backpacking and bushcraft.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
good topic on 01/20/2011 21:25:59 MST Print View

Being new, I admit I've wondered about the gear-heavy discussion focus. It's been helpful for me personally. I don't have the budget to buy and try a million things, and lots of research has yielded a minimum of purchases, most of which have worked out very well so far. I'm grateful to the gearheads for sure.

Yet, I've been slightly disappointed with the lack of other kinds of dicussion. People are happy to state preferences--"I'd rather pack extra ounces for a good night's sleep," in an air mattress thread, for example. But very little of the whys on LW and UL. It's something I'm thinking a lot about myself, but maybe, as others have said, the forum as a whole has evolved past the introspection that led me here in the first place.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 01/20/2011 21:52:10 MST Print View

I think there is still room for good stuff from BPL -- one area might be to look at the current crop of 60g jackets and see what they are good for vs. other pieces we know. Seems like there is a push by manufacturers towards using stuff like the nanopuff as a cold weather mid layer where the micropuff was more of a belay jacket.
I'd love to BPL to look into this and make heads or tails of it - without me spending money on a jacket to try it myself.

New ideas might be slow, but good topical reviews would be nice. Think New Yorker Book reviews/essays vs. the by the numbers ones we see every other week. They are good, but that critical content seems to be missing somehow.

Edited by nanookofthenorth on 01/20/2011 21:54:36 MST.

twig .
(bretthartwig) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 22:18:01 MST Print View

I think there are always trends, first you go lighter, then you go simpler and then you work out it's not heaps of fun sleeping on a 1/4 piece of foam on rock hard ground, so you put back a bit of comfort. Then you find a happy medium. I now have one pack with everything that works for me. there are always alternatives to the gear I use, but in the end they do they same thing, give me food shelter or water. I also know that with a 3 kg base weight, even if I have a kilo of luxuries on top of that I can't really tell much of a difference actually carrying my back pack, it is still way lighter than what i hiked with 10 years ago. I gloss over most of the posts now, I realise my OCD can be tamed!!!

Back to the topic: i loved all of the early stuff, but maybe just because it was all the new and exciting frontiers - tarp poles were made from golf ball retrievers and and you had to go to a sailmaker to buy silnylon - no one at the outdoors shops knew what you were talking about.

Edited by bretthartwig on 01/21/2011 00:57:27 MST.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 22:41:40 MST Print View

I've very much enjoyed looking at some of these early articles and forums. It was a really exciting time for me with so much to learn and try- with BPL I was like a kid in a candy shop! These days I'm more about refinement and experiences and I've got my gear pretty well figured out. Still love reading the forums though- still read every week- and still like to publish an article now and again. Since my first review in 2004, I've published something like 60 reviews or articles here. Here are a few of my personal faves down memory lane...

This article was about an epic failure of a trip- and
a HUGE part of my ultralight learning curve!

Being the shelter editor sometimes required me to field test in ridiculous places. Like pitching this tent on the 8 ft2 summit of Mount Baldy in the Cascades in the middle of winter. I was literally TRYING to get the tent blown off the mountain. No luck- this tent rocked!

The people here are the best- from the writers to the readers! I got to go to one Outdoor Retailer and it was a joy to hang with Will, Carol, Ryan, Alan, Ken, and the rest of the gang in real life (rather than far away in Seattle via the web).

My first family review with my son Henry- he's 4 now and has been on over 10 trips! My kids changed backpacking in a major way for me and it's been a joy to have them along for the adventures!

And last, this video was the most fun to make- working with great innovators in the industry like Bruce at Luxury Lite, Henry Shires, Ron Moak, Ron Bell, Glenn Van Peski, Grant Sible, and many others- it has been and continues to be a real pleasure.

Thanks for the great times Backpacking Light! I'm looking forward to many more great years to come!

Edited by djohnson on 01/20/2011 22:46:09 MST.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Re: Early BPL Article on 01/20/2011 22:44:14 MST Print View

"it's not heaps of fun sleeping on a 1/4 piece of foam on rock hard ground"

Hence why my current 3 season solo list hovers right around 5 pounds basewieght with a 2.5" pad. :)