SuperUltraLight: For the Masses?
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
SuperUltraLight: For the Masses? on 05/25/2005 01:55:56 MDT Print View

Well, in spite of claiming that SUL is for the masses, I'd rather pose the question: is it no longer just for freaks?

This forum is a companion discussion to BackpackingLight.com's growing body of literature about SuperUltraLight backpacking. In particular, appropriate topics for discussion here include: safety, comfort, gear choices and availability, and what is accomplished (practically and philosophically) by invoking a "SuperUltraLight" style. Our mission is very simple: to get y'all to try it just once every now and then...

Edited by ryan on 07/26/2005 18:13:58 MDT.

jacob thompson
(nihilist37) - F
Sub 5 on 05/25/2005 04:16:16 MDT Print View

Ok so Im guessing theres a few other people on this group that live in warm climate places. I live in Australia and to me sub-5 is relatively easy. My absolute winter gear list for where I would walk would be comparable to some of your summer lists. I will be posting a gear list in the next few weeks (just finishing up some uni exams and then a off for a month of hiking here and there).

Currently my gear including what I would take for a winter outing comes up to 4.2lb. Now theres a few things extra I could throw in there such as a cocoon when i get around to buying one and a bivy im going to make from spinnaker fabric and quantum. I also don't see the absolute need for a poncho. I have a GVP spinnshelter, thats pretty light for a full coverage shelter. other than that everything else is basically the same except that I really dont take much first aid at all. I think in the future I made moleskin my feet before I leave and save the weight in the pack.

Because most sub5ing will be done over only short duration trips(more than 3days less than 2 weeks), one can save all kinds of weight. durability can go out the window for some items. such as using garbage bags and rubber bands and the like for keeping gear. Im not talking about completly "dirtbagging" it but theres many things that can be dropped. it also comes down to tayloring your gear specifically for your environment. If its mid summer here and the forecast says no rain for a weekend. i might just say why not leave my rain protection at home and save half a pound. if theres been no significant rain, why cant i just use a torso length 1/8" piece of foam and bundle some debris to keep me off the ground. if its around full moon time, dont worry about the light. why do i need hot food if the weather is warm. its these kind of things that make the difference. sub5 is a real fringe and i believe that you must make the mental transition in order to get right into it. you must stop relying on gear to get you through and start employing survival skills. i myself would rather take gear but im confident that if i didnt have gear i could keep myslef alive for long periods of time on just the environment.

it seems like a lot of sub5 lists ive seen try to put as much extra gear in as they can, to get it up to 5lb rather than just leaving it out. if you can do without sunscreen for a few days then dont take it, why do you need layer if the weather is warm. its really quite simple if you want it to be. i dont have as much experience with this fringe level as the staff here but i think the more information that comes out about technique here the better off we will all be.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
sub 5 - I don't think so? on 05/25/2005 06:55:33 MDT Print View

Paul,
You have plenty of gear (as you mentioned) that you can drop to get to sub-5. It doesn't look like you "want" to. And that is an angle I want to explore. Is there really a reason to drop that last pound or two to get to sub-5? You probably won't notice the difference in pack weight on shorter trips. So, why give up those few extra comforts - is it worth it? My GUESS, is that I'll enjoy the challenge of sub-5-ing over the next few months. It'll be an interesting challenge to see what SUL gear works best. But, after the experiment is over, I won't be surprised if some luxuries creep back into my pack and bring it back up above 5 lbs. I'm also open to something different happening. Maybe the simplicity of sub-5 will be so enthralling, and the experiece so much more pure, I'll continue sub-5-ing. Maybe, as when I went from an 11 to 8 lb baseweight, I'll shift my paradigm and realize I didn't really need all those items I thought were essential in my 8 lb pack. I don't know, and that's what makes it so interesting! Can't wait to get out there!

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
paul's spreedsheet on 05/25/2005 08:01:23 MDT Print View

Paul,
any chance you can share your spreedsheet with the masses? For others to use?

Steven Sergeant
(SteveSgt) - F
Sub-ultralight for big & tall folks on 05/25/2005 08:23:19 MDT Print View

For over two years now, I've been doing overnight or two-night hikes using a gear kit that weighs in at around 5.5 pounds. It's going to be very hard for me to go to a lower weight without giving up some significant margins of safety. But with the kit I'm using I've been out in temperatures down to about 28°F, and in significant wind and rain storms.

I'm a very lean 6'1" and 185 lbs. So gear for me does weigh a bit more that gear for someone who is 6 inches shorter, but only by perhaps 4 or 5 ounces total.

For the sake of comparison, I do think a more useful measure is percentage of lean body weight, rather that a fixed base weight. Perhaps we should have a 5% full-skin-out base weight challenge. For example, I've been measured recently as having 15.5% body fat, so my lean body weight is about 157 pounds. That means that I should shoot for a 7.8 pounds full-skin-out kit.

Jay Ham
(jham) - F - M

Locale: Southwest
What's wrong with sub-6ing it? on 05/25/2005 08:24:33 MDT Print View

I guess 5 in a nice number, as far as numbers go. It was real easy to learn my 5 tables in grade school, and the US treasury makes a bill in that value. But really, what's wrong with sub-6ing it anyway?

(BTW, I think sub-5ing is a completely legitimate challenge to entice us to push our limits. :)

Looking over Carol's list, which is very skim, it doesn't look like a camera could be added without bumping over the 5 lb mark. On second thought, that Torsolite could be replaced by cut-to-size closed cell foam (did I hear a moan from the crowd?) saving 4 or 5 ounces. I think I would add a few more emergency matches and some deep wound disinfectant, in case things get freaky out there.

Adam McFarren
(amcfarre) - F
? for Carol, Top Bag on 05/25/2005 09:52:11 MDT Print View

I see you're taking the Speer Hammocks Top Bag. Is that the same as the Top Blanket?

How do you like this item? I was interested in this product, but Ed Speer said it would be too narrow for ground sleepers. Any comments?

Thanks,
-adam

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
sub 5 lbs - didn't like the sacrifices on 05/25/2005 09:54:21 MDT Print View

Last year, or maybe it was the year before I was experimenting with how low I could get my pack weight. I was able to get below 5lbs... but I didn't like the experience, so my summer, go light weight bounced back up to 7lbs. If I was willing to spend $150, I could get my base weight down to 6lb (pick up a G6 pack rather than my GoLite Dawn, get a BA 44" Air Core pad). So, what preventd me from staying at a sub 5lb weight?

1) Poncho as shelter and rain protection. I much prefer a rain jacket to a poncho, and I like a tarp which provides more coverage than a poncho.

2) Minimalist pad for sleeping. I don't sleep well on foam mats or self inflaters. I actually sleep through the night using a thick air mattress.

3) A few luxuries. The camera I take is only 4oz, fleece pillow case is 1.2oz, Brunton ADC Pro (I am a weather geek) is 1.8 oz which totals 7oz. If all I cared about was trimming weight, I could leave these behind and be completely safe.

Another way I could save some weight is dropping the cooking gear. In the summer I find that I don't want hot food or to hassle with cooking with strong mosquito pressure.

My list normal list is in excel http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/backpack.html
The list for my last SUL-ish trip is http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/backpack-slight.html

--mark

Edited by verber on 10/18/2005 11:17:35 MDT.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
sub 5 - I don't think so? on 05/25/2005 10:08:28 MDT Print View

Paul,
You have plenty of gear (as you mentioned) that you can drop to get to sub-5. It doesn't look like you "want" to. And that is an angle I want to explore. Is there really a reason to drop that last pound or two to get to sub-5? You probably won't notice the difference in pack weight on shorter trips. So, why give up those few extra comforts - is it worth it? My GUESS, is that I'll enjoy the challenge of sub-5-ing over the next few months. It'll be an interesting challenge to see what SUL gear works best. But, after the experiment is over, I won't be surprised if some luxuries creep back into my pack and bring it back up above 5 lbs. I'm also open to something different happening. Maybe the simplicity of sub-5 will be so enthralling, and the experiece so much more pure, I'll continue sub-5-ing. Maybe, as when I went from an 11 to 8 lb baseweight, I'll shift my paradigm and realize I didn't really need all those items I thought were essential in my 8 lb pack. I don't know, and that's what makes it so interesting! Can't wait to get out there!

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Speer Top Blanket on 05/25/2005 10:21:47 MDT Print View

Adam,
Thanks! It's the Speer Top Blanket. I'll correct that in the article. It is narrow (about 30 inches). It works great in a hammock (review coming this summer). I picked it for my sub-5 trip because I'm only expecting lows of about 60 and it's the lightest sleep quilt/bag I have in my arsenal at the moment. I haven't tried it on the ground yet. I expect it'll be fine for temps that warm.

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643)

Locale: Pacific Northwet
Sub 5 lb paradigm shift on 05/25/2005 11:16:50 MDT Print View

One of the basic techniques of ultralight backpacking for reducing weigh it to start with the "big three" (Pack/Shelter/sleeping). The ultralighter concentrates on base weight as opposed to the traditional backpacker that uses total pack weight, including food and water.

It seems to me that when you start getting down to the 5 lb area a paradigm shift needs to occur. You now have "the big two" (food and water) which are the main weight contributors, with the base weight seeming almost a minor thing. It seems that to reduce your total weight more bang for the buck can be achieved by thinking of new techniques to deal with food and water.

The subject of lightweight food and techniques for carrying less water really need to be explored further. That's the next frontier.


(Anonymous)
Sure, why not on 05/25/2005 13:26:40 MDT Print View

I've done 4 weekend hikes this spring/early summer that could be classified as SUL, with a base weight below 5 pounds.

Key has been to reduce the number of gear items to a minimum, skipping kitchen and using a poncho-tarp setup with down top bag & small inflatable matress.

I've definately enjoyed it, the hiking is more fun, I can occationally run when I feel like it, making and breaking camp is quick and easy. The less gear I bring, the more freedom and connection with my surroundings I feel. The gear list has basically been:

*Pack
*Poncho-tarp
*Sleeping bag
*Matress
*Ground sheet
*Balaclava
*Thermal sweater
*Mittens
*Knife
*Mosquito head-net
*Tooth-brush & paste
*Mug
(+wallet, keys, bus pass)

Worn were thin softshell trousers and thin soft shell jacket, cap, t-shirt, underwear, socks, trail runnning shoes, Katadhin filter bottle in pouch on belt.

The pack is only 1000 cu in, so it is also essential to have compact, high-energy food. A thin foam mat can be a lot lighter than a TR Prolite 3 matress, but takes up too much space.

But this has been easy on low-land trails. Doing the same when hiking in the mountains will be much more of a challenge, but I'll give it a go this summer.

/Moe

Steven Sergeant
(SteveSgt) - F
Re: Sub 5 lb paradigm shift on 05/25/2005 13:43:33 MDT Print View

Daniel Goldenberg wrote:
>>It seems to me that when you start getting down to the 5 lb area a paradigm shift needs to occur.
You now have "the big two" (food and water) which are the main weight contributors, with the base weight seeming almost a minor thing. It seems that to reduce your total weight more bang for the buck can be achieved by thinking of new techniques to deal with food and water.<<

For a JMT hike with my wife last year, we packed about 56,000 calories into about 1,300 cubic inches weighing around 34 pounds -- including packaging. That calculates out to 3.6 calories per gram, which is pretty close to the 4 calories per gram of pure protein or pure carbohydrate. While it's probably possible to pack food a little denser than we did, your meals would probably not be as nutritionally balanced as mine were (and I know because for several years I've been using nutritional software to balance vitamins, minerals, amino acids and such when planning my hiking meals).

Techniques to reduce the water one carries probably come down to tanking-up more at water sources and moderating your energy output to reduce sweating, or perhaps selecting routes that see water more frequently. Techniques to increase the density or reduce the amount of food carried will probably have to do with more frequent resupply, or poorer nutrition.

In sumary, while I think some people can probably make improvements in this area, others are probably near the practical limit already. Without including techniques to live off the land (certainly a taboo in national parks), what other options exist?


(Anonymous)
Sub 5 lb paradigm shift--food on 05/25/2005 14:02:31 MDT Print View

Cannibalism ?

Matthew LaPatka
(gungadin) - M

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
self-cannabalism? on 05/25/2005 16:22:36 MDT Print View

Self-cannabalism: You finish your trip with what you truly need!:) What do you really need to survive? The new frontier!:)

Courtney Waal
(d0rqums) - F
bicycle SUL on 05/25/2005 17:31:36 MDT Print View

I've more of a bike-packer and I've been working on trying to find where the SUL line is for that. When I started looking for info, all I was finding were gear lists where people were packing huge coleman tents, white gas stoves, a week of clothing changes, and camp showers. OUCH! So far, the only SUL-like gear list for bike touring I've found is by the Jardines, and it's very... um... well, we're familiar with Ray Jardine.

Bike touring assumes you'll be contacting civilization more but will be far away from repair parts if something does break (sometimes involving overnighting bigger things to yourself). Also, even though weight is a significant issue, aerodynamics matter just as much and therefore compact gear is important. Just like packrafting, it poses an interesting challenge and while a LOT of effort has been put into lightening bikes, very little attention goes into what people are packing. I'll be taking notes over the summer's (short) tours and I'll try to put together a SUL list for bike touring.

Richard Brown
(sbrown329) - F
SUL Bikepacking on 05/25/2005 17:41:47 MDT Print View

Hey Kit..a kindred soul! I've been doing short (2-3 day) trips on old mining/jeep roads in the Sierras and have found out that bulk is at LEAST as important as weight. Since I am in desert water consumes space and weight, leaving not much space for everything else. Look forward to your results.

David White
(davidw) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Staying Dry With Tarp/Poncho Combo on 05/25/2005 20:01:28 MDT Print View

I've often wondered this but have never heard an explanation......

So you get to your campsite and its pouring down rain; all the while you're "wearing" your evening's shelter (the famous tarp/poncho). Now, how do you erect your shelter without getting soaked in the process?

Same process in the morning when its still raining and you're trying to break camp.

I'm sure there's an easy answer that I just haven't thought of.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
staying dry in rain w/tarp-poncho on 05/25/2005 21:32:03 MDT Print View

Two keys to this.

1. You need to be efficient and fast about pitching the tarp.

2. You need a water resistant wind shell to hold you over for a few minutes while erecting and/or adjusting your tarp, getting water, taking a pee, etc.

Upon arrival in camp, I take off my pack and drop it in a relatively sheltered area. above the treeline, it may just stay on. I grab stakes and guylines, which are easily accessible in an accessory pouch kept at the top of my pack or in an outside pocket. I attach all the guylines to the poncho, while wearing the poncho.

Now the fun begins.

Take off the poncho and lay it flat on the ground.

Immediately stake the two back corners. You can even do one stake while still wearing the poncho.

Stake a third corner, pop a shortened trekking pole at the rear ridgeline, and stake the ridgeline. You now have an a-frame in the rear.

Place an extended trekking pole at the front corner and stake that out. You now have a lean-to pitch in the front.

Cinch the hood and tie it off.

Get under the tarp and out of the rain.

If you're really good, you're pretty much done. If you've been hasty and things aren't exactly right, you can generally reach or dash out to make fine tune adjustments to get a taut pitch.

When it's pouring and I really have to go fast, I manage the process between taking the poncho off and jumping under the finished tarp in 90 seconds, plenty of time to get very wet, even with a water resistant wind shirt. But then again, you can do a lot with campsite selection by locating your camp under tree foliage, out of the wind, etc. Above the treeline, this process gets a lot shakier and you put yourself at greater risk for doing something wrong.


(Anonymous)
July 4, 2005 Extreme SUL on 05/25/2005 22:38:27 MDT Print View

July 4, 2005 will be the start of an overnight backpacking ultimate extreme superlightweight record. I have begun training by going barefoot, carbo-loading, sleeping in my screened patio,exercising and conditioning my body, all while naked. I will start my two day and one night trip into the high sierras stealthly and early in the AM from an undisclosed location. My total weight out will be zero. I will have carbo-loaded for 3 days prior. My route has numerous pre tested streams for water. By then my overall tan will help with the intense sierra sun. I have picked out a few nice camp spots with natural foliage for a soft bed. When I get hungry, I may be able to eat a few well chosen natural products. If not I've fasted 2 days before with no ill effects. My three concessions to weight may be the application of a dose of that great 100% DEET and a sun screen and a liberal dose of zinc ointment to appropriate places. At night I plan to cover my self with pine needles and perhaps leaves.
My early AM return will also be stealthly. The anonymous posting will prevent mass crowds from showing up and
causing excess smog polution and a traffic jam while witnessing this historic event.