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Base weight/body weight
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Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
Base weight/body weight on 03/18/2012 23:48:09 MDT Print View

Does this come from gaining 10 pounds over the last couple semesters of school? Probably. But as a 6'5", (now) 200 pound individual, I've started wondering about the mass of gear list authors. My myog tarptent is built for someone of my stature. Quilt as well. I wear an xl, or xlt. My pants have a 36" inseam. A 3/4 length pad... isn't.

I tried to come of with a algorithm for calculating UL base weights based on body weight, but that made me depressed. Both because I'm bored enough to think this over, and because the results were... illuminating.

Any other big guys give themselves "leeway" in this realm? (without discussing why it even matters, lets pretend it does).

Anyway, I should clearly alter current physical activity and alcohol consumption. Er, inversely?

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/18/2012 23:55:14 MDT Print View

I think using a percentage of body weight is a poor way to calculate an allowable base weight. Do you think that gaining 10 pounds of weight should increase or decrease your base weight? Since that fat doesn't help you move along the trail, I think your base weight should decrease to compensate for the additional body weight. If that 10 pounds was a result of lean body mass that your body, and joints in particular, had been accustomed to over a very long period of time, then it might possibly allow a greater base weight.

In any case, I think the best formula is to make your base weight as low as you can afford, whether the cost is time, money or some other factor.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Just to clarify... on 03/19/2012 07:51:03 MDT Print View

I believe what you are trying to say is, "I'm taller so I have to use bigger stuff. Bigger stuff weighs more because... uhm... it's bigger." Just so you know, I checked that with an algorithm :) . Let's use a backpack I know well as a single point of discussion for this, the REI flash 30.

If I was average height, I could use a medium size flash 30. It has less volume (by 1 liter) and less weight than the large flash 30. Being 6 foot tall, I use the larger one. Now for the caveat:

I use the large one because it fits correctly. "Fit's correctly," is largely subjective. I can put a packed medium flash 30 on my back. It would hold my stuff, and I could go camping. It wouldn't be "comfortable."

Consider a full grown man that is only 5'2" This man wants to buy a sleeping bag. He goes out into the market and discovers all the "children's" bags are too small. Also, all the "men's" bags are designed for someone 5'7" or bigger? This guy is having to carry equipment that is bigger than what he needs, so he's having to haul weight that doesn't profit him in any way (5 extra inches of sleeping bag).

If what you are trying to do is normalize weight carried based on height, you might consider a bell curve. Average height is dead center, highs and lows are on each end. Maybe this could indicate how much to adjust weight by based on height?

However, I feel obligated to point something out. You have confused the method of Ultralight Backpacking, with the results. The method is what you do to get to a minimal, comfortable weight. If you go from 60 pounds, to 15 (like I did, 6' tall for the record), that's a weight reduction of 75%. I consider myself an "Ultralight Backpacker." I don't qualify for the title by definition (my pack weight exceeds the definition). I'd be willing to bet that no one on this board would argue with me calling myself an "Ultralight Backpacker."

The point is, I get your situation. However, this has been cause for me to innovate. Find a way to shave an ounce or two. Some nights, when no one is here, I actually try to figure out a way to drop an ounce. I've even considered cutting down my toothbrush.... :)

Edited by wn7ant on 03/19/2012 07:52:58 MDT.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: Just to clarify... on 03/19/2012 08:11:50 MDT Print View

"If you go from 60 pounds, to 15 (like I did, 6' tall for the record), that's a weight reduction of 75%. I consider myself an "Ultralight Backpacker." I don't qualify for the title by definition (my pack weight exceeds the definition). I'd be willing to bet that no one on this board would argue with me calling myself an "Ultralight Backpacker."

Not that it matters (who cares anyway) but I think most on this board would argue with you calling youself an "Ultralight Backpacker". The weight you are reducing from has nothing to do with the category you now fall into. "Ultalight" by definition is a LESS than 10lb base weight. By definition you are a light backpacker, it would be confusing to categorize yourself as Ultralight.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/19/2012 08:19:35 MDT Print View

As to the OP's question...yes the bigger you are I think it is harder to get lighter. I am 6' tall 260 lbs, size 12 shoes, size XL or XXL clothes. A lot of stuff I just have to have bigger and heavier. It is what it is but does not change what label/category you fall into. The categories are the categories, your pack weight is what it is.

The categories are fixed to avoid confusion globally. It's like car definitions, a compact car to me is almost unacceptable but that does not change the fact that it is a compact car. I can't re-define and say a standard size car to me is a compact. It would be too confusing. Imagine if I said that then went to a car dealership and asked to look at compacts then got upset that they showed me a Honda Civic instead of a Honda Accord.

In other words you have to have defined categories that do not change based on users to be able to make sense and discuss.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/19/2012 08:41:03 MDT Print View

I agree with Ty Ty.

But, one thing you could do to set your mind at ease, is to calculate your gear weight on a spreadsheet, and just substitute the weights of your XL clothes, and long sleeping bags and tents with the weights of the medium size of those products. Then you can see what your gear weight would be if you were 5'10 150lb. You still might not technically fit in the UL definition, but you can see that your choice of gear would put you in that category if you were of average size.

Also, fitting into a particular category isn't what's important. Hiking comfortably is. I'm not considered UL yet, but I have used this site to put together a wish list that would. And, I've been slowly replacing my gear to that end. I also don't ever expect to be able to be classified as SUL or XUL, but that doesn't mean I don't use that forum to help me with gear choices and mindset.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/19/2012 10:58:20 MDT Print View

I'm at the other end of the spectrum--5'6", about 145#. I can usually get away with a short quilt, prefer athletic fit clothing in size small, and (like you) tailored my MYOG tarp to my height. But the total difference in weight versus larger versions of the same gear is ounces, not pounds. The weight difference in larger and smaller version of the same gear (pack, clothes, quilt) weight is related to area, whereas the big difference between us is volume.

For me, sub 10# base weight was a target that helped me focus on what I really needed, but all things being equal, I don't think 10# versus 11# is a meaningful difference, certainly compared to the traditional weights I used to carry. These days, I can go for a week or so with a base around 7.5-8#, and feel safe and comfortable (and none of my gear is Cuben, or CF, or even particularly expensive). If a person really wants to break the 10# barrier they should be able to do so pretty easily, regardless of size.

I expect the biggest difference in pack weight between someone your size and someone mine is due to food requirements. Even at calorie densities around 125 Cal/oz, the weight for an extra 500-1000 Cal/day is going to add up and become significant.

Edited by DavidDrake on 03/19/2012 17:33:48 MDT.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Base weight on 03/19/2012 11:27:15 MDT Print View

I think what you are discovering is that the definition of UL is arbitrary. Of course there is a continuum from heavy to light: we just have convenient labels along the way that allow common ground for discussion and to give people goals to strive for. A 10 lb base weight means a significantly different level of minimalism for a summer trip than it does for a winter one; similarly a 10 lb base weight for a tall guy is significantly different level of minimalism than a 10 lb base weight for my 5'6" wife. The point of this site and the UL philosophy is to move towards minimalism, not to achieve some arbitrary weight limit. There is no exact number that means you have achieved that goal - every base weight is a trade-off between comfort while hiking and comfort while sleeping - and everyone has to decide for themselves where they fall on that curve.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Re: Re: Just to clarify... on 03/19/2012 14:14:30 MDT Print View

Ty Ty,

Okay. Let me say it this way. I'm in a room full of people talking about camping and backpacking. I mention I'm an Ultralight Backpacker (the name of the movement, not the weight I pack). I explain some basics (as I do every time I get asked), and then go on to talk about the different weight classifications (as I do every time I get asked). I correctly identify myself as a lightweight backpacker. This makes sense to the audience because they now have a context. No confusion.

The point I was trying to make is, I fall under the movement title of Ultralight Backpacker because I follow the mindset and philosophy. To those that know, there should be no confusion, and to those that don't know, they won't have to worry about classifications confusing them if the information is presented in context.

"The weight you are reducing from has nothing to do with the category you now fall into."

I didn't say, or even imply that it did.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/19/2012 14:47:44 MDT Print View

I'm 6'3" I can't do a SUL pack at 5 pounds, but I can do one at 6 pounds. Do I call it going SUL, no. because I am 6 pounds.

You should be able to have about 2 pounds leeway if over 6'

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Base weight/body weight on 03/19/2012 19:07:44 MDT Print View

I'm 6'5" and thin. XL and/or Tall sizes certainly weigh more than typically quoted mediums, but I find that is an almost negligible problem compared to the issue of limited options. The well-known lightweight options are very, very seldom available in a tall size unless you also happen to be big.

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
yay internet! on 03/20/2012 00:08:43 MDT Print View

I love that I can ask a this type of question in this forum and get actual, thoughtful responses! I find the idea of documenting the weights of the gear I own, just in size Medium weights, interesting. I agree it would only be ounces, not pounds, but how often is that argument used on BPL? (haha). As I stated originally, it's not something I actually think matters, but some silly little part of me gets envious of people who never have to endure pressing foot and crown against tent walls all night.

It's good that cost was brought up as well. I have nothing against people who chose to spend their hard earned cash on fancy gear, it's as good a hobby as any. But I do believe that cutting pack weight is significantly easier with a $1000 budget than a $100 budget, and that is just a fact.

And oh man do I agree with the availability complaint. Its the reason I will be wearing a Cabelas down jacket mountaineering this season- I'd rather wear a friggin fleece blanket toga than endure one more set of sleeves that are 2 inches to short, even tho you could fit two on me in the torso! Well that, and it was $50 with free shipping. I'm no hunter (i shot a gun once... it was loud) but if Cabelas makes gear in tall sizes, they can have my business. Limited availability of tall sized gear is what got me into myog. My windshirt won't win any beauty contests, but at least I don't have to chose between looking like a big kid who outgrew his clothes, or a flying squirrel.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Not hard numbers. on 03/20/2012 11:11:12 MDT Print View

Everyone has a hobby, and some people need to feel like they excel in that hobby and want to be part of a club.
I've always felt that defining 'UL' as under 10lb and 'SUL' as under 5lb base weights is elitist and senselessly arbitrary. I fully acknowledge that there has to be SOME designation, but really, how exclusionary do you have to be to deny someone coveted UL status because their base weight is 11 pounds?

I say that if everything non-consumable is in the 9-12 lb range, you're an Ultralighter. If you're under 6, call yourself a SUL'er if it waves your flag.

Between 6 and 9?....A 'Really ultralighter'? Semi-superlighter? :P

I'm perfectly happy with my 14.5 lb baseweight. I'm not willing to give up my GSI cookset, or my Big Agnes pad.

To stir the pot-
If I took one item; a 4lb tent, slung over my shoulder with a webbing strap, a 2qt bag of trailmix, and a 1L nalgene bottle, am I SUL'er? my baseweight is under 5lb...
Just kidding guys.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: Tahoe
Re: Not hard numbers. on 03/20/2012 11:48:30 MDT Print View

"my baseweight is under 5lb... "

I prefer to pull my stuff in a roller suitcase to achieve a zero pound base weight.

And how did you come up with 12lbs as the cap for UL status? I've analyzed this in every possible way and consistently end up with a figure between 11.2 and 11.4 lbs. Are you just rounding up?

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
base weight? on 03/20/2012 14:46:01 MDT Print View

To me base weight has no meaning unless you specify the number of nights. If you check the weather report and head out for an overnighter, that's totally different than heading out for a week in winter or rainy season during unpredictable weather, ie, having to carry all the gear you need to make it. Or having to carry two or more quarts of water, for example.

To me 5 nights would be a reasonable time frame, that way you can't trust the weather report, you have to actually be prepared for whatever comes, so you can't cheat by leaving stuff behind or skipping stuff because you'll be all snug driving home in your suv, stopping at the nearest burger spot to stock back up on whatever you missed on your trip. 5 nights also means the ability to cook/prepare and carry 5 days of food, which means a pack that holds that weight and volume. This is my target for my current myog pack project.

That's what I'm shooting for, whatever the weight I will carry for 5 or more nights as base weight is my actual base weight, one or two nights I can dump a lot of that weight simply because I know what the weather is going to be. I can do 8 pounds I think easily for 2 nights, but that's because I leave a lot at home.

From what I can see, 12 pounds for average sized person is the actual cutoff, after that you have to move to ul techniques to get under that. I've noticed this in most of my configurations, 12 pounds seems to be the switch point, to get under that, I have to use a trekking pole supported tent, a tarp, or whatever. But even 12 pounds requires almost all gear that normal backpackers consider, rightfully so, to be ultralight, like silnylon tent, super light bag/ lightest pad you can get away with, light pack, very light clothing, like a nanopuff.

It's fun geeking on this stuff, I enjoy it, but I know that if the weather report, or bailing out on a trip, back to car/suv at trailhead, because of gear failure, or weather, is a key component of the weight, then that's not real, it's just pretend. But valuable ideas all around, always good to reconsider what's needed for your particular style of hanging out outdoors..

Edited by hhope on 03/20/2012 14:54:16 MDT.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
love the base weight threads on 03/21/2012 10:27:30 MDT Print View

Every base weight thread seems to come to the same conclusions: (1) it doesn't matter and (2) you have to calculate it and classify it my way or it does make any sense.

Anyway.... to answer the ops question:

I thought of two ways to measure this:

(1) The easy way: use BMI standards... weight gets normalized by height squared. So to correct your base weight to a person of average height (5'10" = 70") you would multiple your base weight times (70"/77" (<-your height)) )^2. That is a factor of 0.826 or a 17.4% reduction in your base weight to normalize it to the standard hiker. That means you would have to be under 12.1 pounds (10/0.826) to be considered ultralight.

(2) The better method: As mentioned multiple times above, your main complaint is that you have to make heavier purchases because of your size, so just keep track of the weight the items would be if you could purchase differed choices. You could report it like this: "My base weight is 11.3 lbs, but it would be 9.8 lbs if I could buy normal sized equipment.... so technically I AM ultralight!"

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
A different way to normalize pack weights? on 03/21/2012 10:49:21 MDT Print View

Ray Jardine made a little chart that showed miles/day versus weight on his back, which I appreciated a lot because I've toyed with that concept for years now. Of course, it was for his own body, but he based it on hundreds of trail days and it matches pretty closely with my own experience - especially the shape of the curve: a pound or three doesn't cut my daily mileage much at all (on 30-50 mile dayhikes), but the effects start to add up around 6-8 pounds and then really hits me above that.

So back to the OP's thought (this is just a concept, not hard numbers):

There's a weight that will cut the average hiker's mileage by 25% compared to no weight at all. It's going to be in the 6-10 pound range. Let's pull a number of the hat and say 8 pounds. You're bigger than average, so 8 pounds is a lower fraction of your body weight (and hopefully a lower fraction of your muscle mass), maybe it's 10 or 11 pounds that drops your daily mileage 25%. That would be one way to normalize a UL definition. SUL would then be a pack weight that only cuts your mileage 10%.

But then, I'm more of a mileage-wh0re than a gram-weenie. I drop pounds to add miles.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Pros and Cons on 03/21/2012 11:03:12 MDT Print View

I'll absolutely grant the tall guys (I'm 6'0") and the big guys that their clothing and sleep system weighs more. But there are compensating factors. In both directions.

Circumrentially-challanged people run warmer and need a lot less warm clothing or bedding. I run warm myself and dress lighter than other people my size (BMI=23), but on a 15F day, I see the BMI=40 guys in shorts and a t-shirt.

Big guys are, well, GUYS, and guys average 40% muscle mass versus gals at 25%.

Heavier people eat more food and that definitely hurts their absolute pack weight. Now, if they're overweight and they underfeed themselves, they could cut food weight a lot and plan to burn fat but that's not a fun way to travel. I've got a friend who was in great shape - serious soccer player, ran his dogs a LOT, and to look at him, you'd say he shouldn't lose any weight. After two weeks of running the 1,050-mile Iditarod (and he DID run up all the hills to help his dogs) and being up and going for 20 hours a day, every day, he lost 3 belt notches - definitely underweight. It took weeks of double rations back home before he'd regained his normal/healthy weight.

Not universally, but I see more big people using hiking poles and fewer small people doing so, so there's another weight penalty on size.

For a given snow depth, stream width, or step height, it is easier for a tall person to move through rough ground than a smaller person.

Pluses and minuses. Everyone is different. Hike your own hike. Pack your own pack.

But for someone >6'3", I think the suckiest thing is the lousy selection of gear, especially cutting-edge UL gear.

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
re: Base weight/body weight on 03/21/2012 11:31:10 MDT Print View

I get the idea here, but I'm not sure I buy it.

I think for most equipment the difference in weights between a M and an XL is probably a few ounces.

The bulk of the weight in your bag should be food and water anyway, which will change even less between body weights.

Plus, the cheapest and most effective way to reduce your skin out weight would be dropping a few lbs of body weight. I'm not saying this to be mean or rude, but I always find it funny when you see UL backpackers, road bikers with too much cash, etc that could drop thousands of dollars worth of pounds (if done with equipment) just by actually using their equipment a little bit more!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: re: Base weight/body weight on 03/21/2012 11:59:16 MDT Print View

>"dropping a few lbs of body weight."

Tyler: I'm with you there. And I say that as someone who ought to be 15 pounds lighter.

Spend a $1000 on a new tarp, quilt, Ti Pot, spiffy little pack and save 4-5 pounds.

Eat 1000 calories a day less for 6 weeks, thereby saving $200 in groceries, and I'm 12 pounds lighter, feel better, and I can hike further.

Actually, when in dieting mode, my biggest dollar savings is from not ordering food for myself in a restaurant. I'll get a salad, steal some nibbles from my wife's entree, and clean the kids' plate. $25-40 saved, AND I avoid a 2,000-calorie meal.

And the pack weight? In a good year, it's on my back for maybe 100 hours.

The body weight is there all 8,760 hours of the year.