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Ultralight: State of the Revolution
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John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Ultralight: State of the Revolution on 02/05/2012 16:21:33 MST Print View

This was posted by Six Moon Design's facebook page - thought some of you might find it interesting:

Description from facebook: "Ultralight: State of the Revolution explores the 20 year old Ultralight Revolution. Over its 7 segments we explore the nature of the Revolution, how it got started, how it’s changed, where it is today and a look into the future."

new on 02/05/2012 16:33:01 MST Print View

I recall that Dan Mchale opined once that the ultralight revolution had actually been going on since the 1970s, its not nearly so new as some would have you believe.

New faces, new names, same game. But who is still around?

Edited by livingontheroad on 02/05/2012 16:36:57 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
The Iceman Protests on 02/05/2012 16:49:37 MST Print View

Wasn't the iceman discovered back in the '90s carrying a very lightweight framed backpack?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: new on 02/05/2012 16:51:23 MST Print View

Back around 1982, I read the original article in Backpacker Magazine on the subject, and I was impressed (coming from the traditional backpacking world). There wasn't much in the way of ultralightweight gear on the market back then, with the possible exception of Bibler.

To a large extent, when we went out we simply did not take much gear. No real tent. No real stove, etc.


smd on 02/05/2012 16:57:58 MST Print View

"In 1977 on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike my base weight averaged between 16 and 18 pounds using standard state of the art backpacking gear. The simple elimination of unneeded gear can go a long ways to reducing pack weight.

Most of the early long distance backpackers carried lightweight packs. It wasn't until the late 70’s and 80’s with the growth of backpacking stores and the explosion of available gadgets that we begin to see a rapid rise in pack weight. By the time Ray penned his book, weights had exploded to the point where some empty packs weighed eight pounds alone."

I would buy this. Long distance travel, likely since the origins of mankind, was on foot, and most assuredly not with 50 lb packs on your back. Leads me to agree that, we simply lost our way, became overwhelmed with gadgets and marketed crap, and lost fundamental skills .

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
1982 on 02/05/2012 17:27:27 MST Print View

I actually read that 1982 article, I think someone posted a pdf of it. It was interesting. I believe the author and a friend got their packs down to about 8 pounds baseweight. The packs could have been better (I don't think that had any frame or even a virtual frame) and they were using wp/b bivy sacks when a tarp probably would have been better. Their approach wasn't all that different than what you see today other than that. I got the impression though that assemblying such a kit back then was tough, and there was no internet to help out.

The two main points I got from Ryan Jordan's article were
1. Some cattage gear is substandard.
2. There isn't a lot of real innovation going on.

Ron seems to basically agree that number 2 is correct just because there isn't a whole lot of stuff to invent.
I also thought his defintion of "Advanced Minimalist" for a really dedicated ULer was interesting. As I pointed out before you can get a lightweight or even ultralight kit just by shopping intelligently at REI and you don't need to learn any "Black Magic" like advanced tarping skills to do so. We have double wall tents that are just a bit heavier than a tarp tent, very light internal frame packs etc. You can comfortably camp with a light pack with the exact same skills as the guy with a 40 pound pack full of bombproof gear. Once we get to that point there's less of a need to go to the cottage gear makers unless you just enjoy counting grams for the fun of it (I do). I think the cottage makers will survive because they're still lighter than what you get at REI (although not as much) and there's now a sub culture that likes to push the limits of how light they can go.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ultralight: State of the Revolution on 02/06/2012 12:54:29 MST Print View

I don't think it was/is a revolution. I hiked through these decades and most backpackers tried to minimize weights given the available equipment. Most were most concerned with total pack weight, which is the truly important number. I am sure that my base weight with an external was often around 10lbs. A week trip often had a total weight of around 20 lbs, where water was plentiful. We had to watch the weight, because 3 day re-supply was not something we did. Although I never hiked with others, I suspect there was a "my pack is heavier than yours macho mentality," versus the macho "my pack is lighter than yours" mentality we see today. But it is all good conversation. Rivendell started selling frameless packs in 1971.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
With all Deliberate Speed... on 02/07/2012 09:40:11 MST Print View

Coming from the perspective of having hiked with the same gear from the 80's until last year, I feel like I missed a lot of the incremental changes even though I certainly saw others' gear -- and I see it as quite a revolution in terms of both quality and lightness of gear.

In 1982, I was cutting-edge with my Lava Domes, Bibler, instep crampons and hexamine tablets under a Sierra Cup (well, in my mind)and now, all but one of those is pretty much "heavy and outdated" by common availability and use standards. Sleeping bags, jackets, stoves, cook kits, boots... all way lighter than in the past and in forms that folks well behind the leading edge are finding and using w/o realizing that much of what's the norm today was UL a few years ago.

Hey, I'm no Luddite: I'm using a Tyvek sheet under my Bibler this very weekend. Ho ho.

Zach Bradford
(Spiranthes) - F

Locale: WV
I was surprised... on 02/07/2012 17:40:20 MST Print View

Out of pure curiosity, which company is owned by the "billionaire founder of national supermarket chain" as mentioned in the article?

Jared Dilg
(Village) - MLife

Locale: Texas
Re: I was surprised... on 02/07/2012 18:35:59 MST Print View


Here's a hint: they're both headquartered in Austin.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Ultralight: State of the Revolution on 02/07/2012 19:08:19 MST Print View

I think I remember reading about Stephenson Warmlight (did I spell that right) back in the 80s and dreaming of having one of their tents someday.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Ultralight: State of the Revolution on 02/07/2012 19:35:08 MST Print View

I don't think it was a revolution as much as a push back from the overly heavy gadgets and marketing that was the standard in the 80s/90s like SMD says.
When I first saw an article in Backpacker mag in 2003 ( I thought it was earlier, go figure?) on UL gear and hiking I though of it more in terms of hiking style than anything revolutionary. Even after doing my research from mainstream sources I was lugging a very heavy pack and basically doing everything wrong. After a week long hike I knew there must be a better way because I found being a pack mule was not really fun. I was gleaning ways to lighten my load from Bpmag when they had the odd article related to simplifying and lowering weight. The biggest hurdle then was getting over the feeling I was somehow being reckless because I was still inexperienced yet going against standard advice of more experienced people at the time.*
I felt I was just following a preferred personal style and had no inkling I was part of any movement! I think people began to feel like it was a movement when forums like this came into being and people could share ideas. Since we were going against the mainstream at the time it felt new even if we were largely just sharing old wisdom.
In my opinion UL has won and is now an accepted reasonable "style" and not somehow lacking in sufficient safety gear.

* I think Ray Jardine, many others and Ryan with this site is what really killed the notion that a light pack was somehow unsafe and it was clear that not only did some experienced people prefer an Ul pack but some of the smartest and most experienced.

-I should add that besides BPmag articles reading "beyond Backpacking" was what really solidified the ideas for me as it had for so many people. I bought the book at REI of all places.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 02/07/2012 21:28:47 MST.