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UL Reluctance
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Edward Z
(Fuzz) - MLife

Locale: Sunny San Diego
UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 08:52:32 MST Print View

Ok, not the most experienced here, but in the last 12 months I've logged about 25 nights out to test the philosophy and slowly but surely it's sinking in. My issue is this. I have lightened my gear load significantly and tested (Via gearswap) about a dozen shelters etc... Yet when a good outing comes up with friends and I'm not pushing myself for big miles... I tend to say, "Well, you can bring the Hubba Hubba, or The Jetboil is so easy... Etc" I have yet to go straight UL entirely. *(Tarp/BB Ultra/ Etc... ) Bare bones even knowing I'll have all I need. Is this due to inexperience? Self doubt? How long did it take most of you to shed the mentality of not pushing it to see where your true comfort levels are? Just curious. I'm a tad impatient even with myself.


Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Personal preferences on 02/27/2011 09:31:40 MST Print View

I like the aesthetics of an uncluttered room, and this has translated to an uncluttered pack, less items to fiddle with, less to keep track of. I also find my outdoor experiences to be enriched by a little adversity (cold, hunger, soreness), at least when I'm remembering the trip after the fact. Consequently, going UL seemed like a natural fit for me right off the bat.

If you enjoy your comfort items, are traveling with people of similar mindset, and aren't planning to go far, take what you like and just enjoy it. That's what I do when I camp with my kids.

If you want to immerse yourself in UL technique, try planning a solo adventure or one with another ultralighter. Walk farther and fuss less with gear. You might just get addicted.

Either way, it's all about getting outside. Have fun.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 09:37:10 MST Print View

It's a technique, not a religion (most of the time!). Nothing wrong with taking comfort items when you're doing a short trip with friends. Use the right tools for the job.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 09:40:35 MST Print View

It's certainly easier to carry less weight when you are the only one responsible for your gear, either b/c you're solo or with another hiker who is responsible for their own shelter, food, etc. In most of the trip reports here on BPL, you see each person with their own tarp/tarptent and often with their own stove and cookset.

I still go on trips with friends who aren't UL and if they feel better with a traditional tent (around 4-5 lbs), I'd probably just split the weight and carry half. Usually, these are just overnighters anyway, just to get outside.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 09:41:39 MST Print View

No problems Edward. You will read tales of many who tried flat tarps and finally decide a full shelter is better for them.

Edited by jshann on 02/27/2011 09:44:21 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 09:53:19 MST Print View

If you are happy, then don't worry! Really...some take it too far IMO. You can take the UL concept and make it fit you - If you go from a 45 lb pack to a 25 lb pack you have still made great strides. And if you want some comforts, then go for it!

Don A.
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 10:17:32 MST Print View

As the saying goes "the more you hike the less you need." Can't remember who gets credit for that but I've found it to be true. For me it's been a journey I started in 2008 when I decided it was time to hike the JMT. I had been out of the backpacking game for 50 years and when I started to look at gear I was blown away at the changes. So, due to a desire to give my old body a fighting chance I started researching/buying lightweight gear. Every piece of gear I bought I tested on overnight trips. I analyzed and agonized, dumped, sold, found a better choice until I was fully equipped. I did the JMT in 2009 and managed quite well. I did more research, testing, dumping and purchasing and did the OHT last year along with a 90 mile section in the Sierras carrying less weight. I'm doing the TRT and a JMT section this year with a base weight down to about 10lbs.
It has just been a process of developing confidence in my own ability and my equipment. Would what I carry work for someone else? Probably, but they would have to go through the same process I did to be comfortable with it. I always wonder about those who talk about carrying heavy to be comfortable. I've never felt uncomfortable or was lacking anything on the trail equipment related. My 14oz shelter seems to work as well as a 2lb shelter, and it has more room than many heavier shelters that I've seen. My 5oz. cooking system provides the same hot water as a 16oz jet boil. A little slower yes, but I'm not in a hurry. My 21oz quilt has kept me warm during freezing nights no different than those carrying much heavier bags.
I guess the direct answer to your question is have patience. Enjoy the journey. Over time you'll continue to lighten your load and you'll stop thinking in terms of comfort/lightweight because you'll discover lightweight is comfortable.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
significant other on 02/27/2011 10:33:55 MST Print View

while I have found and embraced the spartan, near sul regime (Ion, poncho/tarp, esbit stove), my significant other has not- I've gotten her into some pretty light (and comfortable) gear (base weight of ~ 11 lbs), but my base weights goes up to about 13 lbs when we hike together (vs ~ 6 lbs when going solo)

I like solo trips and the challenges of ul, but I'd much rather hike w/ my wife than by myself, so I don't have any internal conflict when it comes to "ul reluctance" :)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 10:44:09 MST Print View

"If you are happy, then don't worry! "

+1. Why even fuss over whether something is XUL or SUL or UL or 'traditional'? The best gear set up is the one that gives YOU the optimal balance of safety, comfort, and light weight. Oh, and I should add fun as well. Lots of people find it very rewarding to lug their DSLR's along with mulitiple lenses. Certainly not UL -- but if it adds enjoyment and the overall load is still quite manageable -- then who cares?

Edited by ben2world on 02/27/2011 10:45:10 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 02/27/2011 10:49:44 MST Print View

When they climb Everest, they go up in altitude, then part way back down to an intermediate elevation and it seems better than if they just went straight to that intermediate elevation

If they go to $4 a gallon gas, then back down to $3 a gallon, it seems cheap

Same idea applies to UL

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 11:04:57 MST Print View

I think what you'll find is that most of us have gone lighter in the past only to decide that a little extra weight for creature comforts is a worthwhile trade off. For me, I love to bring my DSLR and a handful of lenses. Sometimes I even throw in a film camera (it uses the same lenses as the digital so I'm saving weight :D). For me, its worth it to bring a couple extra pounds so I can bring back something tangible to share with friends and to give me something to do at breaks and in camp. For other people, they might love to prepare a nicer meal than dehydrated beans on tortillas, read a book, etc.

I tend go lighter when I'm solo as well. When I'm with friends (many of whom are not UL) there's no reason to deprive myself so I can go a few extra miles since that's not the goal. For the past year or two I've pretty much settled on a set of gear that works well for both solo and group trips. I don't know the exact base weight (ahh, what a free feeling!) but its somewhere between 10 and 12 lbs. Camera gear adds another 4 or 5 lbs depending on what I bring. My new wrinkle is that my wife has expressed interest in hiking with me. She's been to a few trail maintenance outings now and hasn't lost interest. The problem is that my cooking gear and shelter aren't meant for two people, so I'll probably be looking for something a little different in those areas soon. The good news is she is also into photography and we can split that load :D.

How long did it take me to figure this out? A whole bunch of hikes, campouts, maintenance and construction outings, and MYOG iterations. A handful of miserable nights, a few hills that seemed like they would never end, and even more trips where everything just seemed to click.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
happy happy joy joy on 02/27/2011 11:13:27 MST Print View

dont worry about it .. as long as you are reasonably light enough for you

just go out and enjoy it and have fun

much better to be someone who goes out every day with a 15 lb base ... than someone who wont go out unless his gear and conditions are perfect for that sub 5 lb base

i realized a while back that its not the gear that defines you ... its your experience and learned skills

so go out and be happy and joyful

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: happy happy joy joy on 02/27/2011 11:54:48 MST Print View

"just go out and enjoy it and have fun"
Sure, that's what it is all about. Life is too short to sweat the details.

The middle of winter is not the time for a 5# base pack. Nor is the middle of summer on a week long canoe trip. What is your typical base weight? Base weights are a variable depending on what you do, what you WANT to do. Have fun. Enjoy the outside.

I have been out with a pound of hot dogs and a bag on a two day fishing trip. Not counting the fishing gear, I was sub 3 pounds. I have been out with my wife and kids with 56 pounds.
In both cases I had fun. Far better'n work.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 12:09:02 MST Print View

The real core to UL philosophy is that you have choices: you don't have to haul 50 pounds of gear to be safe and comfortable. You put your kit together knowing why you have a particular item with you and the compromises in weight, performance and cost.

Not everyone subscribes to the Spartan SUL kits. You will sort out what works for you, providing the comfort level and toys you want to take. You don't have to use a 5 pound kit anymore than a 50 pound kit; it is your choice and the real dues are that you know what you are doing and why.

Jake Willits
(TrailSavvy) - MLife

Locale: Arkansas Ozarks
UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 12:58:52 MST Print View

I make my own rules for how low I want to be. There is an adjustment as your base weight get's lighter anyway. Just yesterday, I packed for (what used to be) an overnighter. But with a sub 20 lb. total pack weight, it became a dayhike. I HAD planned on sleeping outdoors and testing my new shelter, but decided to hike thru. And yes, I carried my Jetboil, since it was easier and faster. Not my lightest gear, but the gear most suited to my trek. That's my number 1 personal rule. So, just "hike your own hike".

Edward Z
(Fuzz) - MLife

Locale: Sunny San Diego
Thanks on 02/27/2011 13:59:35 MST Print View

Thanks all, great advice. Appreciated as always. I think the disconneect is being eager to test the limits but unwilling to pull the trigger as of yet. Thanks!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 14:11:38 MST Print View

Go with what seems best.
If you are with heavy-weight friends you may not be going far or fast enough to need to push your weight down very much.
Aha - but wait till you get a bit older ... :-)


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 17:50:27 MST Print View

Roger wrote: "Aha - but wait till you get a bit older ... :-)"

That says it all for me! I don't think my wife and I could have taken up backpacking again if not for lightweight and UL equipment. No way our old bodies could haul those heavy packs we used to haul 25 years ago. In my case it was Ray Jardine's book "Beyond Backpacking" (revised and renamed "Trail Life") that brought us back (I owe him a debt I can never repay).

I said "lightweight and UL" for a reason...our base weights are below 15 pounds now, and maybe we'll get down to 10, but it is not a priority for us (cost is a big factor, of course). We use some UL and some not-so-UL equipment, and we are perfectly happy. Our backs require 1" thick Thermarest pads, we like to cook moderately elaborate meals, we like to regularly wash up with hot water, etc.

As someone said, UL is a technique, not a religion. My feelings exactly.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: RE: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 18:07:23 MST Print View

I find the lighter I get my base weight, the more books I take in compensation or the more camera equipment I take. I will admit I got the Panasonic GH2 camera that cuts well over 2lbs off my camera weight compared to before though. Now I get video as well. Now I am also broke. =) Or if mountain climbing I take more cams. More screws. A couple pitons. An extra rope for descending faster.

I am still humping around 30-40lbs when all is said and done. Of course that is for a week+ trip and I like to have reading material on hand especially during high summer when it stay light out at night.

Rope 8lbs partner carries the other rope
Slings 2.5lbs
Pro 6.5lbs
Tat 1.5lbs
Camera Gear 1.5lbs minimum more like 3.5lbs min now
Books: As many as I can stuff in. Always thought mp3 players in the wilderness clashed rather loudly.
Baseweight 13-20lbs depending on seasons winter is heavier obviously

Edited by footeab on 02/28/2011 00:37:10 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: UL Reluctance on 02/27/2011 19:22:44 MST Print View

The most important thing is to get out there. 25 nights in 12 months is great, and if they weight isn't killing you then even better.

My personal experience is I've never had enough money to get very demanding of creature comforts and conveniences in real life anyway, so having crappy homemade UL gear that takes forever to cook a meal or is hard as a rock to sleep on doesn't bother me in the least. All I care about is that I'm out there in the wilderness where I feel happy and not sitting in a cubicle for yet another wasted day.