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SUL Backpack Features
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Christian Denniston
(cdenniston) - F
SUL Backpack Features on 02/12/2012 16:14:52 MST Print View

I am currently doing a little research on backpacks available to the SUL community and seeing what features are included and not included on backpacks. Hoping to make a backpack or two this spring and want to get some ideas. What features or packs do people like? What is the standard weight for a SUL Pack. Material?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: SUL Backpack Features on 02/12/2012 16:57:30 MST Print View

Christian, you may not get many concrete answers.

Generally, SUL refers to a base weight around five pounds. However, the backpack must handle the total load. So, I suggest that you back off temporarily from your attack on the backpack, itself. Instead, get all the rest of your gear mostly rounded up, and then see what total volume you are going to need to accommodate it with food and other consumables. You may end up with something around 1000-1500 cubic inches of capacity, which crudely relates to a total of 10-15 pounds.

The smallest SUL pack that I own and have used is the ancient GG Whisper, which is around 4 ounces empty and made out of spinnaker fabric. It has no waist belt, and I understand that. However, I prefer my packs to have some sort of waist belt just to keep it from bouncing around. It does not need to be a load-bearing belt for such a light load.

Spinnaker fabric is waterproof enough that you don't need to use a liner inside it.


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Features = Weight on 02/12/2012 18:57:53 MST Print View

Something to remember about "features" is that they add weight. Pockets, zippers, straps to tie on to or hang things on - all these weigh something, and they add up.

If you take a look at existing UL packs, you'll see what features folks tend to want/use. You might want to start there.

Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Re: SUL Backpack Features on 02/12/2012 19:22:22 MST Print View

I've used a pack made out of 1.1oz silnylon, using 1.9oz ripstop nylon in high abrasion areas. It worked well for me, but could have been a bit more sturdy. I made it myself and it weight in around 4.2 oz.

I think for my next pack, I may go up to a 200d oxford nylon from DIY Gear Supply. It should still be very light, maybe 6 or 7 oz, but much stronger.

I found that when I go SUL I don't need a whole lot. I don't need a hipbelt, but a sternum strap is a must for me on any pack. That is just a personal opinion though.

I also prefer to have water either on the shoulder straps in 20oz bottles, or have one 1Q (or 1L) bottle in a side pocket. So in the end, I only need one external pocket on the front. I put lashing loops along the front of my pack, but realized I really didn't need them at all.

I know common purchased SUL packs tend to be Golite Ion, Zpacks Zero, GossamerGear Murmur and an MLD Newt, and I am sure there are plenty more out there.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: SUL Backpack Features on 02/12/2012 19:48:06 MST Print View

Just to show what will happen if you go too extreme...

I sewed a small pack out of some <1.0 ounce nylon fabric with no useful features added. I haven't measured its volume accurately, but it is large enough to hold a BearVault 500 with just a bit of room left over. I would not trust it for any load over eight or ten pounds, but the total weight is only 1.4 ounces.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re SUL Backpack Features on 02/12/2012 21:11:16 MST Print View

I made a SUL pack out of either 1.9 or 2.2 oz nylon (I don't know which it was). It had a very light sternum strap, small front pocket made of 1.1 nylon and a hipbelt. The total weight was 7.5 oz.
I've since moved to slightly heavier packs made of dyneema gridstop. My first version with a small front pocket, webbing hipbelt and stirnum strap was about 11 oz. Thats a tad heavy for SUL but the extra durablity is really nice. I think if you left off the hipbelt and kept things really simple a 8 oz. dyneema gridstop pack would be possible.
One thing on stirum straps; you probably want them. If your straps aren't perfectly fitting (or if you use slippery nylon for the shoulders straps) a stirnum starp is really nice to have.

Here are some links if you want to check out some MYOG articles

MYOG Backpack Design

Make Your Own Gear Five Yards to SUL Part 4, Pack

Edited by Cameron on 02/12/2012 21:24:55 MST.

Mary Omodei
(momodei) - M
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Daypack as an SUL back pack on 02/13/2012 02:51:27 MST Print View

For several years now I have done backpacking trips with a SUL base pack weight. I initially made an ultralight pack adding straps to a 13 Litre Sea to Summit ultra sil drysack.

When Sea to Summit released a 2.4 oz ultrasil daypack a year or so back I immediately saw it as a vast improvement on my self made pack. All I had to add to the day pack was a small waist and chest strap (mainly so I could run while wearing the pack). Eventually the siliconized surface wore out but not till after many trips and easy repairs. I am now on my second bag (I just rip off the extra straps from the old bag and reattach to a new bag.

I think the volume is 20 Litres - I have room to spare in the pack even if I place my closed cell foam torso pad inside as an internal frame.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re. SUL Backpack Features on 02/13/2012 10:42:02 MST Print View

I think the ideal SUL backpack depends on your underlying motives for going SUL. There seems to be three main reasons why people take an interest in SUL:

1) Personal Challenge - Pushing limits, trying new things, challenging themselves
2) Minimalist - Wanting to keep things super simple, gear gets out of the way.
3) Max Efficiency - Lighter is faster/easier, so SUL = more efficient than UL.

For me (and probably most of us) it's a mix. The 'personal challenge' motive is a fun one, but it's also an expensive one if you need to be constantly shuffling your kit to keep the gear challenge present. I fall mostly into #3. I value #2, but not to the point that it interferes #3. Simple is generally good, but too simple can be inefficient.

I think external pack pockets are a good example that illustrates the differences in SUL style. A minimalist is going to want a simple pack with no external pockets etc (ie. GoLite Ion, Zpacks Zero w/o options). I personally think I can hike more efficiency if I have side water bottle pockets, because the time spent fishing my water bottle out of the main pack bag would be more detrimental to my overall efficiency than the 0.5oz gained for a water bottle pocket. So it's a matter of style and personal preference.

With that said, for me the ideal SUL pack is:

Fabric: Either 1.5oz cuben (lightest) or a nylon/cuben hybrid (bomber)
Hipbelt: No. It's normally too constricting and unnecessary.
Sternum Strap: Yes, I like it for keeping my pack stable when I'm ducking under trees or scrambling a ridge.
Rear Pocket: Yes. I like a mesh one for either drying stuff (sunny day) or storing my shelter (wet day). With a rear pocket for my shelter I can fully pack up and close my pack inside my shelter before heading out into the elements.
Side Pockets: Yes. I would only need one, but I prefer a second for my fuel bottle as I get bit nervous about fuel spilling in my pack, and having two keeps things balanced.
Haul Loop: No thanks.
Closure: A cinch top is fine, but ideally with a waterproof pack fabric like cuben you'd also have a dry bag style roll top.

Christian Denniston
(cdenniston) - F
Re: SUL Pack Features on 02/13/2012 20:25:10 MST Print View

Thank you everyone for all the ideas and advice. Dan i like how you broke everything down as far a reason for going SUL and features. Weight is really not my main concern, I am more about the simplicity and taking less gear out into the backcountry. My current base weight is about 10 lbs. but for only 10 lbs. I have so many items!! I really believe that I could get my amount of gear down substantially for my summer overnight and 2night trips and that is what I am hoping to do. A couple things I would like to see with my future SUL pack is durability, simplicity (without compromising function), and I would like it to be completely waterproof. If my pack was waterproof stuff sacks and baggies would essentially be unnecessary. I too enjoy water bottle pockets and a rear mesh pocket, but then the pack is pretty much a standard UL pack. Maybe just making a smaller capacity pack out of lighter weight materials?

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

SUL Pack on 02/13/2012 21:47:41 MST Print View

It sounds like you want a Zpacks Zero made of the new hybrid cuben/nylon material. It's pretty durable nylon on the outside and waterproof cuben on the inside. If you keep you the pack simple (ie. no hip belt, minimal pockets) then you can seam seal the inside and it'll be totally waterproof.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Re. SUL Backpack Features on 03/10/2012 17:40:43 MST Print View


That was one of the best posts I've seen explaining SUL principles. Thanks!

One thing I would like to get lighter is my pack. I have a GoLite Pinnacle and a Jam., wich each weigh 1.8 & 1.5 lbs respectively. They both carry well, but I realize I can do better weight wise and still have a functional, comfortable pack. However, most cottage manufacturer's don't make women's gear, so I will eventually have to make my own, just not sure if that will be cost-effective yet, plus I have no real sewing experience.

Heather Hohnholz
(Hawke) - M
Women's gear on 03/11/2012 08:50:25 MDT Print View

IMHO, "Women's Gear" is overrated, particularly in backpacks. Being female, when I started getting into this, I figured stuff made for women would automatically fit better/work better for women (as we all know women's underwear and men's underwear are fundamentally I quickly found through reading, research, trial & error, that in backpacking, the reason that there isn't much "women's gear" is that there really doesn't need to be. Now, I will say that I am a big lady (5'10", ~170 when I'm not overweight, 210 when I am), but I have had no difficulty finding manufactured gear that works just fine for me. You may want to look in particular at the new GG 2012 Murmur. In my experience (which is admittedly quite limited), the lighter my pack gets, the less I need something with perfect fit. Just my $.02.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Women's gear on 03/11/2012 11:32:39 MDT Print View

When you start getting down to SUL weights, I think, as Heather said, it doesn't really matter anymore whether a pack fits the contours of your body. The pack is so small and light... mostly just simply a sack... that you usually won't be using a hip belt, or if you do, just a very light strap. The one place where there might be some worry, is in the shoulder straps. Most UL gear is manufactured for men's sizing, and the straps on such packs might be too wide apart, or as on packs like the Mariposa and Gorilla, the straps themselves are too wide (as they are for my wife). So I'd keep an eye on how the straps are built, but the rest of the pack maybe not so important to be women's specific.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
SUL packs on 03/17/2012 02:41:00 MDT Print View


You are exactly right. it's not just about the pack size, like you said, it's a fabric sack. The issues are the size of the sack, ie it generally needs to be narrower and shorter and also the type, size and placement of any straps or waist belt. i'm 5'-2" and weigh an average 110 lbs. so it definitely matters to me.

Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
SUL Backpacks for women on 03/17/2012 09:48:38 MDT Print View

I wouldn't be surprised if the major SUL pack makers would be able to accommodate that.