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How light is light enough? And why?
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Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 02:13:45 MST Print View

What is your goal of lightness, and why?.. pj's comment about the definition of "FL", which is beyond SUL, and might also be called Freakishly Light (in a good sense) got me to thinking, how light of a Base Pack Weight is light 'enough', and why?

Certainly going light is a journey, not a destination, but what goals do you hope to accomplish now by going light?

For now, "UL" meets my requirements, which are, in no particular order..
1. Keep up with the group leader, no matter how fast he/she is
2. Have extra energy left at the end of the day
3. Not feel any unusual pain after the trip
4. Hike easily and nimbly along any route I expect to encounter
5. Have extra room and weight capacity in my pack to help out lagging team members by carrrying an item or two
6. Have room and weight capacity in my pack to carry trip-specific gear without violating requirements 1-5 above. Examples: a rack and rope, watermelon, portable printer(as recommended by Outside Magazine), etc.

Repeating pj's definitions from a previous post..
20lb or less = L (Light)
10lb or less = UL
5lb or less = SUL
4lb or less = XUL
3lb or less = FL (Fornshellishly light - ok. just kidding here since i don't have name for it)
2lb or less = IRTMFACPE (immediately report to medical for a complete psychiatric evaluation)

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Pushing limits on 02/14/2007 05:03:28 MST Print View

On most of my trips I too fall into the UL category, simply because I like simple comforts like my 3/4 length prolite 3 and an actual hydration system instead of bottles, etc. That being said, I have experimented with SUL and enjoyed the freedom of no hipbelt and carrying an overnight load with what feels like a daypack.
This year I am experimenting with FL only because I like to test my limits and am curious to see if I can still be reasonably comfortable while hiking sub 3 pounds. I will carry shelter, sleeping gear, 1st aid kit, stove, etc. as part of the requirements of my gear kit. Anyone can just leave bits and pieces of these components and claim sub whatever. The real trick is to make it happen without compromising on "basic" items. I won't be pushing for higher mileages unless they come naturally, but will focus on the overall experience.

Am I the only one that cringes when you pop into an outdoor store and the sales guy in the back is selling someone a 5+ pound pack and 3+ pound sleeping bag?

Edited by hammer-one on 02/14/2007 05:34:03 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Pushing limits on 02/14/2007 07:58:46 MST Print View

You are not the only one! I cringe when I hear green vested tools telling people that they "need" whatever it is, and how this 6 lb Gregory's suspension is all that will work.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
right George! on 02/14/2007 09:03:24 MST Print View

Good point, last season I was in an outdoor store, watching a slow-motion train wreck of the salesman selling a heavy pack and gear to a poor lady who was headed for Fuji-san. I so badly wanted to interject with my advice on a UL Montbell pack and other gear, but my advice was uninvited and would have seemed rude.. boy it was hard to stay quiet!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 09:30:11 MST Print View

I think we all have our own "sweet spot" -- the point where our packs are light enough for us to actually enjoy our hikes -- rather than fantasize all day about reaching camp just so we can throw the load off our backs. My sweet spot is around 30lbs, although I have mostly kept actual weight to 20-25lbs.

I shave weight for two reasons:

1. Rational -- about 3 years ago -- I swapped out much of my gear to get base weight from 30lbs to about 10 lbs.

2. Irrational -- Brett and most everyone here will understand -- After having achieved my "sweet spot", I nevertheless continue to pay good money on ever lighter/simpler gear. I will admit that doing this produces much more psychic benefits than anything real or meaningful...

Finally, I hike to enjoy the scenery, and I will stop whenever there is a Kodak moment. To me, hiking is mostly a pleasure -- not some Man vs. Nature adrenaline rush. I am always upfront about this with my hiking partners. Often, each of us is self sufficient (no shared gear), and we just hike our own paces and meet up at the end.

Joseph Aulwes
(eispickel) - F
RE: How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 10:43:50 MST Print View

How light is light enough? I don't know. I like 8 to 18lbs depending on the time of year.

Why? Because it makes things easier, I feel it's safer, and it has enabled me to go further. Along with my usual camping gear if I’m going to climb a technical route I have to carry a rope, gear, crampons and axes; Which can add up to a lot of weight. I have been learning a lot from my experiences.

My first mountaineering attempt I carried a lot of unnecessary over weight gear. Examples: 9lb Tent, 7 liters of water plus Aquamira, a 27oz piolet, 2lb rain jacket, a 4lb 9oz sleeping bag, and I’m sure the pack itself was over 4 lbs.

Over time I have removed the over abundant weight and I know that I’ll continue to go lighter.

Edited by eispickel on 02/14/2007 10:46:38 MST.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 10:45:40 MST Print View

I believe my base pack weight for 3 season is probably hovering at 10 pounds...maybe less depending on a few key items like camera, etc. Although I continue to do away with clothing which was the last large weight contributor that had not been totally maximized. Zip off pants will be my only lower body outerwear going forward...saving the shorts I would carry at almost 8 ounces. I have also always carried an extra T shirt "just in case"...but probably don't need that either. Could be close to a pound between them right there!

Why? It was an extremely interesting (if not inexpensive) excercise to go through. The heavier gear could not be rationalized. It simplifies the process of preparing for a trip. It resulted in less wear on my body...a body that in spite of any efforts will not stave off the progress of aging should I be lucky enough to live and hike another 40 or 50 years.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Keeping my mouth shut. on 02/14/2007 11:05:06 MST Print View

Every summer I take beginning backpackers through various outfitters, as part of the workshops I lead: REI, North Face, Sierra Designs, Marmot, and in Berkeley, CA The Wilderness Exchange. While describing equipment I'm often approached by other customers for advise. They often assume I work there. Ocassionally I'm interupted by a salesperson, usually a young man. One fellow in the Santa Rosa REI told me that the boot I was holding was "THE" boot to buy because "All the firefighters wear that boot." At another store a sales person once advised one of my group to buy a heavy, off-brand, internal frame pack because he'd used that pack to "carry 70 pounds to Lake Winnemucca. This is a 5.4 mile round-trip hike at 8500 feet, with about 400 feet of elevation gain. At REI I passed my impressions on to store manager. He told me he could only hire people who applied for the jobs.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 13:08:59 MST Print View

I really like the Wilderness Exchange. They have nice gear that not many other companies carry.
3lb or less = FL (Fornshellishly light - ok. just kidding here since i don't have name for it)
2lb or less = IRTMFACPE (immediately report to medical for a complete psychiatric evaluation)

I know no one really names the above but I believe it's

3 or less = "Uberlite" Meaning you can't get to this weight with store bought stuff so all of the gear is ones own expieriment. The rules have changed for this with many companies making gear to get down to this.

2 or less = "Nanolite" meaning the above still applies but you can't get here without every thing being made of Nano material, (superlite spinnaker or Cuben).

Give me a year for some R&D and I'll be very close to UBL, (uberlite).

Bringing less will allow for about a 2 ounce 1200 ci pack and I'm working on a very light all-in-one bag/bivy/pad that I can take down to freezing and will weigh about 14 ounces. Add in a Cuben tarp at about 4 ounces and I'm there.

When I get out I do not like bring gadgets.
Just need enough loft to get down to about freezing and some food and I'm happy.

Edited by awsorensen on 02/14/2007 18:18:30 MST.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Uberlite??!! on 02/14/2007 14:06:27 MST Print View

I'm not sure I like the Uber prefix since it sounds so much like goober (I don't want to be found out, at least not right away!!) :-) Doesn't matter what you call me, just don't block my view.

Edited by hammer-one on 02/14/2007 14:14:25 MST.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Light is as light hikes........ on 02/14/2007 14:18:28 MST Print View

For through-hikes, my base weight generally floats between 12 and 17 pounds, depending on where I am going and when I am hiking. For example, summer in Kentucky while hammocking along the Sheltowee Trace, probably about 14 lbs, due to the Hennessy Expedition Hammock. With my poncho replacing the fly, the shelter still adds up to about 2 1/2 pounds. For the Long Trail during the same time, I will probably hang out around 12 because I will spend time in shelters as much as using my Gatewood Cape. I've hiked UL, but only for shorter trips. On through-hikes, extra items like maps, guidebooks, extra batteries, a UL wallet,and sometimes an extra pair of shorts (for the laundromat) add up to the extra couple of pounds.

As far as gear weight in big box retailers, I have tried to outfit customers with much lighter kit only to find many insist on the 5-pound pack because they want "durability". Or because it got such "great reviews" in Backpacker Magazine. There ARE customers who want lighterweight gear, as evidenced by the number of 2- and 3-pound packs on the mass market now versus the 5-8-pounders that were so prevalent 8 years ago when I through-hiked the AT.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Light is as light hikes........ on 02/14/2007 17:19:47 MST Print View

The tipping point for my lightweight (and now UL) journey was photography. The more I got into photography, and the more incredible photos I missed out on for lack of gear, the more I *knew* I had to sacrifice and make space in my pack.

When considering myself a "backpacker," I focused on making sure I had all the requisite gear for backpacking plus a camera for pretty views.

When I considered myself a "photographer", I was immediately free. I now make sure I have all the requisite gear for making photos, and for the photos I like to make that gear usually includes "the equipment to stay the night." Because the light is best at dawn and the late afternoon.

"What should I take backpacking" is a question answered by a long gear list often found in the pages of Adpacker (err, Backpacker) magazine.

"What gear should I put in my photo bag so I can spend the night and get the sun coming up over Nicomen Lake" has a very different answer. Extra long underwear, white gas stoves, spare trekking pole baskets, and 4-lb tents need not apply to photography trips.

It's all about your goal.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 17:21:35 MST Print View

Bret, et al:
I find that my pack base-weight runs between 12lbs and 14.5lbs depending on time of year with the heavier weight representing my pack during cold weather treks. Base weight is without food or water. No matter what time of year I am trying to stay under 25lbs skin out weight. Most of the time, I acheive this goal.

I suppose I could reduce my pack weight to meet UL standards, but honestly, I enjoy my creature comforts and shaving weight on most of my gear has enabled me to luxuriate in a BA insulated AC full lenght pad or my Exped Downmat. I also carry either my sling light chair or my pad conversion chair. I sometimes carry a flask of wonderous liquor and a book. I sometimes also carry fishing gear. I use my Rainbow tent most of the time and rarely use the UL or SUL shelter concepts of poncho/tarp or bivy bag. So, bottom line is that I am too hedonistic to make it to the ascetic level of UL or SUL.

What do I get from my approach to "lightweight" treking. A more refreshed body in camp at the end of day. More Mileage with less fatigue. Lighter weight footwear so I don't need to carry camp shoes. Less food because I am not killing myself under all that weight. A heads up walking style because I am not bowed carrying a heavy pack. And finally, I often find other hikers want to know how they can reduce their pack weight when they have watched me set up camp with a light weight kit.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:How light is light enough? And why? on 02/14/2007 21:21:01 MST Print View

Thank you all for the replies so far; this thread is turning into a convincing discussion on why to go light, even the intangible or irrational reason Ben mentioned (which I totally agree with).
Denis, without giving away personal information on an open forum, I am very interested what type of workshops you lead which allow you to brief people on gear at local stores. I take my own trekking club members here to Montbell and discuss essential equipment and so on.. If you have time, please explain in a PM or post?

Stephen Nelson
(stephenn6289) - F

Locale: Sunshine State
Focus on 02/14/2007 21:50:35 MST Print View

Light enough for me is about focus. I want to be light enough so that even with fully loaded for a six or seven day hike and enough water for a dry camp, I can still enjoy nature without constantly being reminded of how much is on my back. This is limited to the focus not shifting to the other extreme, constantly focussing on gear instead of nature. This includes being paranoid about a pack made of cuben fiber being fatally punctured or a cuben bivy being punctured. Not that either of those are bad, but it would require too much caution for me right now and it would distract me from the whole reason taht I came out in the first place.