Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » When is it just a fetish?

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Brian Russo
(Bigbluehi) - F
When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 04:16:34 MDT Print View

I like gear. It's fun, it's neat. I like gadgets.

But at a certain point, who cares if you're at 10 pounds instead of 10.5. Would you *really* notice? (If I didn't tell you). I don't think many would. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be anti-UL or anti-SUL or anything like that. Everyone has their sweet spot and I'm not out to dictate to others where that is. It's not like your gram shaving hampers my fun! I love hiking with a light pack, but it's the hiking part I'm really interested in. Tools are.. Ultimately.. Tools. I can tell the difference between a 40 pound pack and a 20. But 22 vs 21? No, probably my stress level at work, hydration, temperature, workout routine, etc.. Is what will be the factor.

So I guess I just find it a bit silly personally at a certain point. In any optimization effort there is diminishing returns. So when I see threads comparing spoons where one weighs 10 grams and another 12, I just have to wonder - does it really matter? Would anyone notice 2 grams? Of course not. And yes I realize it's saving 20%. Multiply by every item, 20% lighter pack - I get it!

But saving 20% off a 1000 gram item does a heck of a lot more than on 20 10 gram items. And if you figure it takes a comparable amount of time to evaluate options.. Well clearly the big items are where it's at. Spending 2 hours evaluating sleeping bag options that save 2 pounds is 1 pound per hour. Spending 2 hours finding a spoon that weighs 3 grams less.. is realistically nothing per hour. Better off cleaning your boots more diligently! Or cleaning pocket lint.. Shaving your head.. Trimming nose hair ;) or heck, just dropping a few pounds off your heaviest bit - you.

And are some of us losing site of the goal? It's not to have a 10 pound pack - it's to be able to go 10 miles farther.. Or 10 hours faster. At least that's what I thought it was.

Maybe I'm just biased because we have to carry so much water here anyway that I look at certain things differently. Sure, carrying 2 2 liter bags is lighter than 4 1 liter bags, but when they're full... Well, 4 liters of water is 4 liters. That extra few ounces is just noise.

My $0.02! Not trying to be confrontational. Really just interested in people's motivations. I love optimizing, but I find as I get older that chasing the last few percent is less interesting vice just enjoying the ride :)

Edited by Bigbluehi on 11/05/2011 04:19:42 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
When is it just a fetish.. on 11/05/2011 05:11:56 MDT Print View

When you make your wife put on your UL gear before fooling around.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 06:23:49 MDT Print View

For some its a game or a challenge. For the rest of us the level of effort is a little different. Just remember that grams lead to ounces and ounces lead to pounds. It adds up pretty fast and the difference between a 6 lb base weight and a 12 lb base weight comes down to shaving even a little bit off of everything. The best thing about what we do is that it comes down to doing whats right for YOU. Go light in some areas so you can go more comfortable in others.

Oh and those few guys who are nuts enough to spend days finding a way to cut 3 grams off of a spoon are worth paying attention to. The ones with a 2 lb base weight give the regular guys ideas on how to go from 20 lbs to 10 lbs pretty fast.

Regarding "And are some of us losing site of the goal? It's not to have a 10 pound pack - it's to be able to go 10 miles farther.. Or 10 hours faster. At least that's what I thought it was."

Your goals are not the goals of others. So I bring up the cliche of HYOH!

Joseph Kouyoumjian
It could be worse... on 11/05/2011 06:28:08 MDT Print View

There are worse fetishes than this one!

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
re:when is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 07:38:08 MDT Print View

Ike, I almost spit out my breakfast when I read your post! Wow! Haven't laughed that hard in awhile!!

For me, if I CAN save 2 grams on a spoon and not lose performance or extreme durability, then why not? I'm not sure that anyone here has a need to see a psychologist over their gear deliberations, I think its just more of a hobby. I've seen people spend way more time, money and effort to gain .002" on a 5shot rifle group, but its just a hobby for them too.

I'm not as into it as some people are,(wish I was smart enough to be) but I try because everytime I settle on one item it makes me slip towards heavy again and I don't want to go back. Its like people that have been alcoholics, they won't even take a sip of a beer for the fear of goin back. Its like that in a weird way for me.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
The Quest Continues on 11/05/2011 07:40:18 MDT Print View

For me, I love the ever evolving art of both gear and the changing beauty of personal motion and endurance over distance in the great outdoors. I'm glad the quest for gear always continues.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 07:58:03 MDT Print View

First off ... I compare 6 gram spoons to 7 gram spoons ...
not 10 gram spoons to 12 gram spoons !!

I think the more intense a trip is the more weight matters (speed, duration, elevation gain, terrain).

For me, 2-3 lbs matters.

Edited by asandh on 11/05/2011 10:32:32 MDT.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
weight loss on 11/05/2011 09:39:43 MDT Print View

Since I ride a road bike as well as backpack, I'll add an answer that is common to both: The easiest and cheapest way to drop three full pounds off your racing/backpacing weight is to eat less for a few weeks.

But it is so much more fun to weigh those sporks!

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
weight on 11/05/2011 10:19:30 MDT Print View

10lbs may feel the same as 10.5 lbs but then 11 will feel the same as 10.5 until Im carrying 50+ lbs again and btw I never carry anything as light as 10lbs but was starting at your example. 25-30lbs is light enough for me

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 11:02:26 MDT Print View

Good question. You will know when you are done. I agree that it is like a fetish or obsession with some, or just a game to see what they can rig up. I think a lot of UL folk go to a low weight and then dial back a bit to suit their comfort and utility needs. It isn't hard to put together a very Spartan SUL kit (expense aside), but LIVING with it is the deciding factor. Expense, durability, cold, hard ground, wet weather, and bugs can have an influence. I think there is a game with SUL kits, where they work great for mid-summer, but might be miserable in the shoulder seasons or a wetter climate, etc. I'm more lax with a short overnight trips than a more rigorous multi-day journey; thru-hiking kits are more specialized as well. What you will put up with at 21 may be different than 50-something too.

You still need to be careful and watch the little extras. The core UL principles still apply: don't take anything you won't use, go for the lightest and highest performance gear, and look for multiple use options. When I say "lightest and highest performance" that can be within a certain comfort range too-- say, the lightest shelter with insect protection, or the lightest 1" thick high R-value pad, etc.

Sometimes it is less expensive to save a little weight on several items than one big ticket item. I can save $15 and 9oz by using recycled drinking water bottles rather than Nalgenes, but when it gets to sleeping bags, shaving 9oz off a particular temperature range of bag may cost a lot more. It is easy to add up and compare.

My biggest change was becoming thoroughly unsatisfied with frameless packs. Adding another pound or so made my hiking much more pleasant, but that didn't mean throwing all the rest of my UL gear and principles out the window, just that one item that didn't work for me. I think any UL kit can survive ONE item that is less than optimal weight.

Edited by dwambaugh on 11/05/2011 11:28:44 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 12:09:31 MDT Print View

All excellent thoughts to think about above.

One of the things I've done when considering new that's worked really well (and my wife loves me for this too) is to calculate the cost per ounce of new gear that is replacing old. Adding that column to my spreadsheet was a real eye-opener.

When the lastest REI coupon hit, I was scouring their website for a good deal to replace some of my heavier stuff. I had almost settled on a much lighter knife to replace my "heavy" 3.9 oz Gerber with a (comparatively light) Benchmade Mini-Griptilian at 2.56 oz. (I don't really want to get into the whole knife vs. razor blade debate; I live in Montana, and for my comfort, I'd much rather have a more multi-use item like a knife than just carry a razor blade. You can disagree, but it's a line I'm not ready to cross--at least not yet.) But even with the REI coupon, I would only have $50.72 for each ounce of savings! When I compared some other items on my wishlist, most were in the $15-25/ounce range.

I think sometimes we can get so focused that we lose sight of the ounces for the pounds. At least for me, it makes more sense to keep carrying my Gerber for the time being and shave weight elsewhere until I get far enough down my gear wishlist to make it a more sensible purchase.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: 10T 524631m E 5034446m N
Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 12:27:09 MDT Print View

>>But at a certain point, who cares if you're at 10 pounds instead of 10.5.

When you have 20 lbs of food and water.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Gear on 11/05/2011 13:00:37 MDT Print View

"who cares if you're at 10 pounds instead of 10.5. Would you *really* notice?"

10 lbs vs. 10.5 lbs? No I probably wouldn't notice, but as another poster mentioned, you can use that type of thinking to wind up at 50 lbs. I see people on here all the time justifying the heavier piece of gear over the lighter one because they 'won't notice the difference', but all those unnoticable differences add up to a big difference at the end.

The trick to all of this is to use the same philosopy (most weight efficient piece that satisfies the functionality you want) for all of your gear decisions...the philosopy of this is's figuring out how much functionality you want that's the tougher part. And while 10.5lbs might feel like 10lbs, it feels nothing like 6 lbs. If you haven't gone into the woods for an overnighter with under 10 lbs total (gear, food, water) then you're missing out on something neat.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 14:13:30 MDT Print View

I do two kinds of hikes: 1) my UL fanatic fringe hikes where I try to get to an SUL pack weight and experiment with new gear and techniques to get the lightest pack possible, and 2) a more normal UL hike with my wife and/or friends where I usually carry the ocassional, and usually heavier convenience or luxury items.

I find that over the years a lot of the fanatic fringe gear and techniques migrate to the standard hike gear. Recently, even my wife has started asking "Do we really need this?", or "Isn't there a lighter alternative to this item?". I have to admit I get a kick out of seeing my friends sneak over and pick up my pack and shake their heads in disbelief, or having someone ask at the start or end of a hike where we are dayhiking to and watching the expression on their face when we tell them we're out for a week.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: When is it just a fetish? on 11/05/2011 17:02:25 MDT Print View

"So I guess I just find it a bit silly personally at a certain point. In any optimization effort there is diminishing returns."


80/20, 90/10, whatever, at some point there is definitely a point of diminishing returns, IMO. In my case it came at about 9.5#, when any further reductions were going to result in either an unacceptable cost or rise in discomfort.
I anticipated that outcome well before I reached that point, and pursued a parallel search for ways to lighten my food weight. The end result is a total pack weight of ~20# for a 9 day trip. That is good enough for me, but everyone has to work this one out for themselves, as the personal variables are as numerous as the membership.

Edited to remove pointless comments.

Edited by ouzel on 11/05/2011 17:14:22 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
1.16 lbs food/day? on 11/06/2011 13:00:36 MST Print View

" The end result is a total pack weight of ~20# for a 9 day trip."

With your 9.5 lbs base, that works out to 1.16 lbs of food per day and no water, or 0.9lbs of food per day with 1 liter of water. Are you sure about this? Or does the "~20" mean your pack is actually at more like 25 lbs?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: 1.16 lbs food/day? on 11/06/2011 15:38:54 MST Print View

"With your 9.5 lbs base, that works out to 1.16 lbs of food per day and no water, or 0.9lbs of food per day with 1 liter of water. Are you sure about this? Or does the "~20" mean your pack is actually at more like 25 lbs?"

Relatively sure, Dan. If you think about a 9 day trip, it requires 8 full days of food and a lunch the last day. This year I carried 19.4 oz of food/day plus 5 oz of Perpetuem for lunch the last day. Check my math, but I think this works out to 10 pounds and .2 oz, which I will call 10 pounds for all practical purposes. This actually works out to less than 20 pounds, 19 pounds 8.2 oz to be exact, but I called it 20 out of laziness. As for water, the most I ever carry is on the first leg of the Shepherd Pass Trail, 3#, so I would be at 22.5# starting out and down to 19.5 after about 5 miles. After that it is usually a pint, so that would make it 20.5 and falling for the rest of the trip. Any other trail I use these days would see me starting out with a quart at most, probably less, or 21.5#, max, more likely 20.5#, or even zero if water is plentiful, like on the Paiute Pass/Lamarck Col trails. I'm not a gram weenie, but neither do I carry 25# and "round it down" to 20#, Dan. Water varies all over the place, so I didn't include it in my calculations.

Edited for intemperate language. Apologies to those who read this before I cleaned it up.

Edited by ouzel on 11/06/2011 18:39:01 MST.

Pete Anderson
(hosaphone) - F

Locale: Boston-ish, MA
Re: Re: 1.16 lbs food/day? on 11/06/2011 18:21:07 MST Print View

"This year I carried 19.4 oz of food/day"

What foods do you usually bring? How many calories/day? Also how many miles/day and how much elevation?

Am I doing it wrong? I carry like 2.5 pounds/day... I'm in pretty good shape but 6'2 175ish with a fast metabolism...

How do you get enough protein and fat? Olive oil and peanut butter?

Do you consciously try to condition your body to eat less when off the trail to slow your metabolism?

As for the topic at hand... I think it's just a balancing act. Go to light and you'll be uncomfortable. Go too heavy and you'll be uncomfortable. I guess it depends on which comforts are most important to you (ie travel light freeze at night). And of course some people see it as a game or puzzle about trying make things work with as little as possible.

Edited by hosaphone on 11/06/2011 18:55:48 MST.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Gear on 11/06/2011 18:33:20 MST Print View

And while 10.5lbs might feel like 10lbs, it feels nothing like 6 lbs.

I respectfully disagree. I've been out with 8 lbs FSO and notice no difference between that and a pack that's 12-15 lbs. In fact, it was so unnoticeable I sold the SUL pack I had and stick to a single pack. It's about 2 lbs with stays but I can comfortably (subjectively of course) carry 40ish lbs on an expedition or yank the stays out and compress it for a weekend. Going SUL can be fun, but is ultimately impractical for longer trips off trail with unpredictable mountain weather.

Edited by simplespirit on 11/06/2011 18:34:25 MST.

Robert Perkins
(rp3957) - M

Locale: The Sierras
"When is it just a fetish?" on 11/06/2011 18:59:17 MST Print View

Tom, I'm not sure if it relates to the thread, or not, but I have really been trying to hack away at my food weight as well. This summer I ran out of food on the last day for the first time ever. While I know you can go for days without food, it made for some sluggish hiking on my part on the tail end of a semi-speed hike of the JMT this summer. I am interested in some ideas for keeping the calories up, but the weight down. I went with about 2 lbs per day this summer, and could have used more. We were doing about 24 - 27 miles per day which tends to burn some calories, but I could use some ideas on the food front on what you bring to get your food weight that low. I am a huge fan of Perpetuem, and only do one freezerbag cook meal a day for dinner, FWIW.