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Why are you not a Member of BPL?
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Steve Robinson
(Jeannie) - F
More likely now on 07/20/2011 22:01:57 MDT Print View

Was a member, but let it slack. Felt that the gear shop compromised the content. There were certain items that weren't included in reviews because they were in the shop.

Now that it is being closed, I am more likely to sign up again.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
BPL membership on 07/20/2011 23:02:58 MDT Print View

I'm in agreement with Ed Z and Ben-- it's largely a matter of wanting to pay my share in support of a forum that I enjoy frequenting-- not whether I could manage to scrounge up the same information without HAVING to pay for it. Since it is not particularly a financial hardship to contribute, I would feel like a freeloader NOT to. Plus, I would like to see BPL continue to exist a few years down the line!

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F

Well on 07/20/2011 23:09:22 MDT Print View

Because PM (private message) system here is a PAIN !

Now on a more serious note:

For me to join BPL I need to have a benefit for doing so. Accessing reviews or articles behind the "pay wall" is not that attractive. I can always read reviews at, and others. There are plenty of blogs and sites with articles on every topic imaginable and all of them are only a single search entry away.

The shop...I've never even looked what's in the BPL shop. I assume it's all the lightweight gear, but I also assume that prices are not lower than on Amazon, REI outlet, and other discount stores.

What would it take for me to join BPL? Perhaps if BPL was organizing outings, guided trips, lessons of some sort then I would see more value in the membership. But they would have to be in my area where i can actually join them and not across the state/states.

The information and community (people on the forum) are great and a lot of help, but if it wasn't BPL providing this space and forum facility - it would be another forum on another site.

Is it selfish to expect something I actually want in return for money that it takes to join? I don't think so...Especially if you consider the fact that forum and activity on the site are largely kept up by the non-paying members. So trying to limit access to forum through pay-wall would cut out some of the very active and helpful people.

I was actually planning to setup my own backpacking/camping forum until I found BPL and another well established site with many members...

Ah - as someone mentioned on the first page of this thread - i would probably pay for subscriptions to articles of TRIP reports that have many pictures, are well written, have detailed information about the trip, locations, navigation tips and most importantly - INSPIRE me to visit that place.

Trip reports + pictures = crack for outdoor junkies.

Edited by Yazon on 07/20/2011 23:14:39 MDT.

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
membership on 07/21/2011 07:00:27 MDT Print View

I was a member for a year and thought it was a valuable investment and BPL is actually the only website if have ever supported. I'm not now a member partially because I let mine lapse and now cannot take advantage of the member discount on resubscribtion. I am sure that I will join again to read some of the articles I have been missing, while I won't be a continuous member I will certainly contribute to the revenue stream in some way. I also think that as I have spent more time on the forums I find less and less that is new and exciting which is natural obviously. I still think this is a top notch community of people and an excellent resource more than deserving of financial support.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Reponse to the OP's Q on 07/21/2011 07:54:25 MDT Print View

I response to the OP's question: I am not a paying member because I am a casual reader of the forums for information and insight, but frequent several similar sites per day, all of which are as "free as radio" --meaning supported by endemic and non-endemic advertisers.

I've seen some commentary regarding the software used here, and I don't know much about the platform being used here, but I do know a fair bit about phBB and vBulletin. Most of the "desires" voiced here regarding the onboard search engine, PM system and etc... would be resolved with either of those two BBS systems and vBulletin now provides a CMS that would enable the entire site to run on one platform if desired. These would also allow for insertion of Google Adsense ads, and to make them visible only to those not logged-in if desired, and also some endemic ad links for companies that support the site. Notably, vBulletin would also allow for management of the Meta Data on the content articles and a robust Search Engine Optimization that would increase traffic to the site.

The costs involved with migration to new software can be significant, in terms of cash and emotion, depending what's currently being run and managed, but vBulletin will do most of it for a low fee. The traffic this site generates won't make Adsense income enough to pay for even the new software, but the nature of forum software upgrades and SEO is that they pay off over time with ever-growing traffic and ad-views.

Those who ad-block do frustrate the system by denying the host some income, but you can set up endemic ads into the template, that everyone will see... and then know which companies support the site. One can also easily create membership levels for access, with effects such as limitation of classified/sale postings to paying members, for example.

Okay that all said, my point is that if BPL wants to invest in new software, there would be a net improvement in happiness and ad-income, following a period of pain and anguish during the migration. The upgrade would also enable the Admins to make more choices and to have more options regarding methods to monetize the site and yet preserve its feel and utility for the Silent Majority: those who enjoy the free intarwebz.

Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
Value? on 07/21/2011 09:08:28 MDT Print View

How about I place the question back to you.

I will post this for 2 reasons. 1) It is my opinion 2) stirring the pot.

Can you explain to me, what value I get for $20 a year?

Access to Members-only content at
-- I am fine with existing forums and cannot justify any amount for communication with other backpackers.

Member discounts on goods and services offered by Backpacking Light
-- Goods are dwindling and not available. No interest in services.

Subscription to the Members-only email newsletter
-- I do not need any propoganda.

Advance notice of new product availability
-- Seems like there are better products out there than BPL offers and companies in the business of UL Gear have websites.

Access to Members-only forum for the discussion of issues unique to Backpacking Light membership
-- Never interested in stuff like this. That is for the elitist.

Access to an "ask-the-expert" forum moderated by Backpacking Light staff and athletes (in development) .
-- I view other backpackers as sufficiently expert.

Cost savings over time with protection from subscription price increases
-- Sounds like BPL is trying to justify the fee.

Invitation to's periodic "friends and employees" sales
-- I seiously doubt that the savings with this would be any better than any other sale on the internet UL gear. Plus you have to want the BPL gear, which seems OK, but all the stuff I like from BPL is not available.

Free ground domestic shipping for LIFE for all pre-purchases of new Backpacking Light branded products
-- Is this really a value? I have yet to find a BPL product that I like AND is available.

Participation in Backpacking Light's strategic planning process
-- LOL. I can voice my opinion right here.

Edited by briand on 07/21/2011 09:20:09 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Value? on 07/21/2011 09:45:00 MDT Print View


Thanks for taking the time to respond back to my original question to provide your thoughts and to provide insight on why people chose not to become paying members of BPL.

To sum things up, the forum by itself offers you the most value and the reason to visit the BPL sight, which is free.

The products and services are of little value because there are other vendors of products that can fill your needs and the discounts to members is not sufficient enough to warrant spending money on a membership.(I would say that if the only reason to buy a membership is to receive a discount on products, then BPL has failed as a website/business).

The articles available to paying members does not appeal to you perhaps there is the perception that maybe that information can be found elsewhere on the internet for free or provided to you by others via the BPL forum.

Bottom line is that BPL has failed to give you a reason to reason to join.

1. Lack of unique information that appeals to you

2. Failure to provide the perception of value in the event the articles might be of value to you

As a side note: Signing up for a membership as a means of "charity" to support BPL is also not a viable long term business plan.

Edited by Valshar on 07/21/2011 11:29:09 MDT.

Andy Schill
(Aschill) - F
membership on 07/21/2011 09:53:51 MDT Print View

I originally lurked for a while and learned so much that I decided to join. I generally just use the forum and read the articles. I guess I could do everything without being a paying member, but I've taken a lot away from this forum. I just re-upped, however, I'm not sure if I will do it again.

I think BPL could REALLY use a forum software update that includes a better tagging/watching function for threads, a quote function, and a much better PM function. There's also small nit-picks that would be nice to change (not having to enter a subject when responding, being able to see the thread as you are posting) It seems like this forum software is ages behind others; however, this forum has some of the best information out there.

Edited by Aschill on 07/21/2011 09:56:00 MDT.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Why I waited for a while on 07/21/2011 11:46:17 MDT Print View

Like many others, I lurked for quite a while visiting the forums and then bought a membership because I enjoyed the forums that BPL has. It also gave me access to the articles which were OK, but nothing I didn't already learn from the forums. Will I renew again? Most likely no.

The common theme amongst a lot of the people here is that they enjoy each other, but not BPL itself, which is a bad thing for a site w/ a membership fee. This isn't the mid-90's, people don't pay for site access now days. I wonder if a better model would be to have the cottage mfg'ers pay a monthly/yearly fee to advertise here in a tasteful fashion instead. They already advertise here now to an extent, why should they have access to the site population for free? As part of the deal, no other mfg'ers can advertise here unless they too become members. They rarely participate in the forums except for Lawson and Ron B., maybe that would give them more of an incentive to add. If you think about it they have the most knowledge/experience for the most part. Nothing against the cottage guys, I'm just brainstorming.


Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
It depends... on 07/21/2011 12:07:25 MDT Print View


>>>As a side note: Signing up for a membership as a means of "charity" to
>>>support BPL is also not a viable long term business plan.

I have another site that I have frequented and was also a major contributor to for a while. It is a .org. Non-profit. The only reason it exists is for the community to have a forum 100% free of ads. IMO, it is much more active community than BPL and also has a fair chunk of tech weanies contributing time, equipment and knowledge.

If you are trying to make profit on this site, I agree.

One idea for you ask for 5-10% donation on anything sold on gear swap (likely a bit hard on this site since many swap items are not really that large of a price).

Can you tell us how many paid members you have and how many unpaid members you have... or percentage?

Edited by briand on 07/21/2011 12:08:56 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Why are you not a Member of BPL? on 07/21/2011 12:49:41 MDT Print View


Appreciate your input to the conversation, which I hope is valuable to those who are running BPL and deciding the future of this website.

I wish I could answer you question about the percentage of paying to non paying members, but I don't work for BPL.

I simply started this conversation with the hope of learning why people are not members and by extention, to learn what changes would need to be made to this website in content and function to encourage more people to become paying members.

To try to answer you question, I am assuming that the goal for the people who own and run the BPL sight is to make a profit.

For me, the ability to make a profit means that people can work on the website full time and additional money, in the form of profits, could be reinvested into improving the website and offering better content and experience to visitors to the sight.

I do like your idea of being able to capture a small percentage of the money in the transactions on the gear swap.

Any ideas on how to improve the BPL sight for user and how to generate revenue would be much appreciated.


Edited by Valshar on 07/21/2011 13:54:25 MDT.

Jozef _____
(DerJosef) - F

Locale: The southern border of Holland
Hints on 07/21/2011 13:31:34 MDT Print View

"Why are you not a Member of BPL?"

+ forums with a fair amount of people sharing stories and input
+ BPL seems organized with a vision (not just any other hiking site)
+ one of the bigger hubs online that talks gear
+ bundled trip-reports

- forum software
- none of the "benefits" of membership appeal to me
- as I live on another continent gear deals are not very beneficial
- sometimes it's a bit repeating

If the question is about gaining insight as to what is needed to save the future of the website. My guess: it would be better to jump on the "website with donations" train...or go for ads.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: Hints on 07/21/2011 13:54:21 MDT Print View

I think Jozef _____ summed things up pretty well in his post. I see the real (and for me only) value of this website in the forums, which have inadequate software. Just look at the menu, which includes: HOME, Articles, Shop, Community, Wiki, and School. Forget HOME and Shop is going away, while there's not much offered at the School or going on at the Wiki. The leaves community and articles. Honestly, when I look at the M articles, there's just not much that appeals to me. Also, I already get discounts from my local gear store.

Articles will always have limited value. I was reading trip reports on blogs and talking to friends before I ever saw this website (which I thought was just a forum). I backpack in northern New England, so there's not much I can't already find from the AMC or GMC guides, blogs, or my own experiences.

That said, I really like the idea of donations. I donate to the AMC and GMC already, and am much more likely to support that type of model. A friend of mine who ran bake sales for a local women's group in my area always told me that you NEVER set prices at a bake sale. She always said that people are much more likely to throw a couple extra bucks in the pot when they're donating.

Bob Salcedo
(Baughb) - F

Locale: So Cal.
Recent lurker on 07/21/2011 14:16:52 MDT Print View

I just discovered this site(2 months ago?) in an effort to lighten my load and I enjoy it immensely.

No interrupting advertisements is key for me! I don't mind some site related ads on the sides but anything like Backpacker magazine and I'm gone. Through the Forums and Reader Reviews, I have found those manufacturers that might advertise on here and I am preparing to buy some of these products. So their Un-advertising has worked well on me.

I may consider paying for the ad free site but, I have found in the past that any site with no revenue source beyond membership fees dies the death of a hobby bulletin board so my money would provide me nothing. And what is the point of having me pick a "screen name" and then display my real name along with it?

I will miss it if it is gone and I will enjoy it while it is here yet I know passionate geeks/bloggers will always find a place to ply their opinions... and Google will tell me where they are.

Edited by Baughb on 07/21/2011 14:20:53 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
ads on 07/21/2011 14:22:07 MDT Print View

just do it ... as long as it doesnt affect yr reviews ... it doesnt matter

you dont need to accept ads from manufacturers ... but i suspect online retailers will be more interested ... you accept gear from manuf to test anyways

as to BPL ... most of the recent articles have no value for me ... i dont need to know about a UL pack whose review i can get elsewhere or on the forums ... you can get trip reports anywhere else for free

what matters to me are factual articles on techniques ... mr caffins article on gas canisters was the last good one i saw

since then there hasnt been anything that made me want to renew

Laural Bourque

Locale: PNW
comparison on 07/21/2011 14:34:11 MDT Print View

The only other ad-free paying forum/site I frequent is eGullet, where you only have to pay to post, and the donation can be from $5-hundreds. But the forums are far more advanced than these. And every article is free.

BER ---
(BER) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
would i do it over again? on 07/21/2011 15:40:43 MDT Print View

I joined in 2009, if I remember correctly, because there was a particular article I wanted to read. I renewed as a Lifer at my first anniversary, because I hate payment reminders and I figured there would probably be some articles that I would be interested in the next 5 years. I certainly plan to be camping for longer that that.

I like the trip reports. But I get more of them from the dozen blogs I follow than from BPL. The vast majority of the the other articles are glanced at but not often read.

I used to like the forums. Still like the MYOG threads. Some of you peeps have amazing skills. Wish I could make my thread injector do that.

Now that I have been here a while the rest seem repetitive. No offense to the referenced individual, but I am sick of hearing it repeated how he likes to manage his excrement process. Seems to come up a lot regardless of the topic. And there seems to be a lot of opinionated, but not very helpful, folks that bring the tone down. Perhaps cutting out the Chaff section and staying on target would be an improvement, but that might require the moderators to moderate. I don't know if they get paid for that.

I'll never be UL, much less SUL or XUL or whatever comes after that. My 42# canoe assures me of that. But I have dropped 10# of extraneous crap and lightened up the big 3, so I'm OK with that.

So would I do it over again? Probably not. Are there refunds for Lifers with a change of heart?

Edited by BER on 07/21/2011 17:03:27 MDT.

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
re: "Why are you not a Member of BPL?" on 07/22/2011 06:28:23 MDT Print View

Well, since you asked, and I'm glad you did :)
As a green newbie, I became a member a yr ago and recently rejoined after letting it lapse, missing the rejoin incentive, but at the time it just wasn't feasible (there was a good chance I was going to be laid off from my teaching job). I first have to say that I love this site, I have learned so much! But truthfully, most of that knowledge has come from the forums. I recently went with a group of "non-enlightened" packers and was stunned to see the weight they were carrying! I was eyed suspiciously for my 20 lb total wt. pack. I had to hear more than once that my Steripen was ineffective and unreliable. I also got the same treatment about not wearing hiking boots. It was hysterical really. I didn't preach about UL gear to anyone, but just laughed to myself as on the last day of the trip the same negative ones were complaining about their knees and feet :) I on the other hand felt great...but I didn't rub it in.( I'm a nice person:))

Anyway I will recap some of the posts that I can relate to. +++1 on all.

Chris Wallace: Maybe a recurring column from people like Ryan and similar others? Mike C.? Andrew Skurka? Dave C.?

Doug Ide: Even if you have an editor culling great blog posts and posting them here (with permission, of course) with links to the original blog, you could easily and cheaply add some stellar content. Dave Chenault's and Roman Dial's blogs are an exemplary example of this, for just two. There are many, many others. You could start a new 'blog' section where you add such posts - I think it'd be popular.

Daniel Allen: Maybe make the SUL forum for members only? Those zealots will pay almost anything, right?! ;-) LOL!!!!!! I know that was said tongue in cheek, but it was just stupid funny.

Kat P. If my yearly membership can help keep this site going, that is worth it enough for me. I don't need any extra perks compared to non members.

Mary D: (1) A larger number and wider variety of articles each week, about techniques and trips as well as gear.

(2) An easily findable list of articles for beginners to which we can refer people just starting out, many of whom post on other forums with which I'm involved. This particular aspect, IMHO, should be free as a public service. They should be updated every few years. The old "Backpacking 101" is a prime example--in fact, just updating that article (10 years old now) would be sufficient. Having this public service base to which to refer beginners would bring in a lot more members here--consider it advertising!

Matt Tallman : In light of the time I've spent on other forums, which actually have useful features like a search, the ability to easily quote/reply to other users, doesn't require someone to insert a goofy subject line to reply, allows links, has a functional private message system, etc. the list goes on.

Yuki Maki : Trip reports + pictures = crack for outdoor junkies.

Gerry Volpe: I still think this is a top notch community of people and an excellent resource more than deserving of financial support.

Aaron Benson: I "heart" BPL, so please be careful - your Customers are talking. ;)

Lastly, I have found this site, especially the forums, but articles too, to be invaluable to someone just getting into the sport (the right way) and I do spread the work when people ask about my gear. I hope it will continue to thrive.

Edited by leighb on 07/31/2011 15:03:04 MDT.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: NoCo
forums on 07/22/2011 07:38:25 MDT Print View

I'm a member since it isn't that much money for me. I have a full time job. ;)

And I like to support what I enjoy. I paid for a membership to help fund the site, not for any benefits although I have gotten a lot of good info. Enjoy the trip reports and some of the articles.

The SotM reports are fun just to keep up to date.

I also buy annual park passes even when I won't get the use out of way of supporting what I enjoy!

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Interesting hypocrisy on 07/22/2011 08:32:55 MDT Print View

I find it interesting that people are scrutinizing a $25/year purchase far more carefully than their titanium stoves, sporks, or cuben rain skirts.

This doesn't excuse BPL for losing sight of their competitive advantage and failing to offer compelling value.

Knowledge is wealth and experience is treasure. Investing in obtaining knowledge and richer experiences is guaranteed to make us all rich. BPL needs to focus on providing knowledge not available elsewhere, and experiences that all levels can revel in, either first- or second-hand.