November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT...
Display Avatars Sort By:
(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/19/2012 22:58:05 MDT Print View

I don't know if it was a fluke or what, but I just got back from doing the Rae Lakes loop and crossed paths with about 70 people and 90% of them had HUGE packs, I'm talking 70L + packs with massive base weights. I was expecting to see some Zpacks or MLD packs, but I saw NONE, not a single one, I was very surprised. I was the only person with a cuben pack and I got a lot of questions even by two Rangers that seemed amazed. Anyway, my MYOG cuben pack, M50/Apex 2.5 quilt and 9X8 yellow Lawson tarp all were perfect for the trip. I cranked out 25 miles the last day from Rae Lakes to Road's end. I really enjoy backpacking light, but it seems that it has not caught on by the general public.

Any thoughts?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/19/2012 23:05:14 MDT Print View

"I cranked out 25 miles the last day from Rae Lakes to Road's end."

Is that going clockwise or counterclockwise?

I was there on the 10th and 11th and saw the same big packs. The people carrying the big packs were pretty much forced to say right on the JMT and main trails. The rest of us were out scampering around off-trail.


(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
RE: on 08/19/2012 23:15:02 MDT Print View

B.G. - counterclockwise

I didn't venture off trail more than a mile, perhaps that's where the UL'ers were hiding!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/19/2012 23:30:28 MDT Print View

Off trail is where you see more wildlife.

Also, it wasn't all of 25 miles counterclockwise from Rae Lakes to Roads End, not the way that I went.


Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
JMT on 08/20/2012 00:00:25 MDT Print View

It is NOT mainstream yet... one of the issues is that to get ultralight takes a LOT of gear hacking and work to figure out what works well for you.

It's easy to get a 40 lb pack which you can buy at REI over 2 hours.

It takes MONTHs of work and gear analysis to get a 10 lb pack.

One issue is that most of the ultralight manufactures are hidden and you have to get references to them via forums.


Locale: South West US
Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 01:23:24 MDT Print View

UL has a negative stigma that it won't shake anytime soon. Terms like underprepared, delicate, expensive, minimalist, uncomfortable, extreme, and unsafe are used to describe UL. We here know better but that's what's out there.

Also, someone on a vacation may not be doing big miles and/or they want camp comfort. I've been slowly getting away from UL for this reason.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 01:32:16 MDT Print View

Maybe the light weight folks were going your pace. You would never catch up with them, and they'd never catch up with you. You catch up with plenty of heavy weight slow folks though.

What I saw last summer was a lot of inexperienced undisciplined hikers. I also ran into a few ultra light hikers that were not PCT thru hikers. It's harder to notice them though since they are less likely to stop mileage-wise.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 07:07:11 MDT Print View

Lightweight packs are rare. SUL is almost non existent. So weird at the GGG to see so many in one place like it was normal. I am always amazed at the age of some of the equipment that is still in use too. I see way to often some poor guy hauling an external frame pack with a full day pack either piggybacked on the back or in an attempt to not be pulled over backwards they will wear it in the front. Gasp!! Has to be over sixty pounds. Wonder what all they have in there? I don't like to think back to when I was hauling instead of hiking.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 07:37:41 MDT Print View

Massive packs really confuse me. I just don't get what people are putting in there. Even when I didn't know anything about ultralight and was just getting into backpacking, I was still using a 35 liter pack.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Manly on 08/20/2012 08:12:38 MDT Print View


Just back from seven days in and around the PCT, River Trail, Thousand Island Lake and the Clark Lakes, I saw several UL backpackers, but was personally one of the trekkers with the big manly packs that prove us to be far more masculine than the tender, fragile little bastards with the running shoes and the dental floss tents. Ha Ha!

We met a few guys that came over Donohue Pass, out of Tuolumne, and headed for Red's Meadow via Garnet/Shadow Lake, both with cuben fiber packs and Salomon high-top running shoes. They looked light, as did their Bearikades. They did confess to being hammered by the rains, however, and that's no surprise: one of those days was 14 hours of rain and hail above 8k'.

During that particular rain storm, as my Scouts were hunkered in a Copper Spur UL4 and I luxuriated in the UL2, I thought of my buddy with the dental floss tarp and bivy sack combo and realized that I am just not that hard. Ah, to have vestibule space to hang dripping gear, and a tent to change in without getting muddy! The next day, in 7+ hours of rain, the UL2 was large enough to play a marathon session of cards with my son.

Add clothes, layer system, camera, kite, fishing rig, tackle, bear canister, tripod stool, water pump, reflectix bags, stove, fuel, mess kit, platy's and such and my (too heavy) pack was full. I don't know how the UL's did it, except that I know they were wet, didn't fish, and didn't enjoy beef stew with smoked paprika and herbs while a box kite fluttered happily over the lake.

A manly box kite.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
If It Fits - Take It on 08/20/2012 08:30:30 MDT Print View

I understand some of the heavy packs out there...When I first got back into backpacking I spent $360 on an Arc'Teryx Bora 80 pack (at the suggestion of my very outdoorsy brother-in-law). Not only does it have a volume of 80 liters but it also has a bunch of straps and tie-out points so if you can't fit everything inside the pack you can put it on the outside.

I'm confident my first trip with that pack it weighed more than 60 pounds. I put my 5-pound sleeping bag in the bottom compartment, my 8-pound tent strapped underneath the pack, and then proceeded to fill up the main compartment with all kinds of things that I now know I didn't need. But hey - they fit so why not take them? Here are some examples of the extras:
- 8x10 tarp (in case it rained)
- Hammocks(2!) with 1/2" rope suspension - 3 pounds each
- Thermarest chairs (old school - 25" wide)
- Sneakers for camp shoes
- You get the idea

My first trip had nothing to do with weight...Just volume. I took everything that I could possibly fit into my pack. I look back now and laugh because at one point I considered attaching a daypack to the outside of the pack because I thought I needed more space for my clothing! This was a three-night trip in June in the mountains of PA - I'd do that trip now with just a pair of sleep socks (and I'd do it in two nights or less) for clothing.

My oldest daughter (14 at the time) joined me on that trip and I did everything I could to lighten the load she was carrying in my wife's Arc'Teryx Bora 62 pack. She probably didn't have much more than 35 pounds. At one point I looked back at her while we were hiking (this was before lunch on our first day out) and saw tears streaming down her face...

"I really want to like this Daddy, but I just don't." It was then that we sat down, adjusted our goals for the trip and made the most of it. We went back the next year with significantly lighter packs (mine was probably 45 pounds and hers closer to 25) and finished the trail in two nights. Ever since I've been looking to carry less while still maintaining my comfort level, both physical and mental.

I'm guessing that most of the people you met/passed on the trail hauling heavy loads really want to like backpacking but don't know how to lighten up so that they actually do enjoy it. Finding this website has allowed me to do just that.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Trends take time on 08/20/2012 09:17:02 MDT Print View

Yep, it's easy (and cheap) to pick up a 70L pack, 5 lb tent, 3 lb bag, etc. etc. etc. Been there, done that. Over time my gear changed as it wore out, or when I got a little extra money and decided to make an upgrade. It's taken me some years (more than I care to admit) but I've finally learned how I can, and why I should, lighten my pack load. And I've needed to experience many hikes, in order to learn what I need to do.

Dare I say that no one is born a ULer? How many of us (honestly, now) began backpacking with all the traditional amenities? Think of what it took to convince you to change. Then try to imagine all that is done to convince newbies to go trad. And recall how much you favored comfort, safety, and security as a newbie, and how it made you think "all this weight is absolutely necessary."

And (pardon me for this, please) recall just how you've seen/heard ULers portrayed: minimalists too interested in "being tough;" extremists more interested in maximizing mileage than in connecting with nature; zealots bent on ridding the world of traditional backpacking, largely by poking fun at people with heavy packs; dogmatic thinkers wholly focused upon cutting grams above all else.

I'm not suggesting that any of those portrayals are the least bit accurate (although at times, I've caught myself being like that). My point is that UL will take some time to catch on, since there is a lot working against it. Changing what is considered "mainstream backpacking" is very, very difficult, given what's out there.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 09:25:28 MDT Print View

You can see a lot of them on the PCT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
The UL messaging isn't there on 08/20/2012 09:31:21 MDT Print View

What is missing from the UL messaging is that you can shop at REI and still hit UL. You just have to be disciplined. And UL now, with current gear means no loss of comfort. As long as you are will to share a two person HubbaHubba at 4lbs or one of the Big Angus UL tents hitting a 10lb base weight isn't difficult. UL is not extreme in any sense anymore.

Osprey Exos pack 2lbs
HubbaHubba / 2 2lbs
Neo Air Reg 12 oz
Down Bag 24 oz
Eating system 1lb / 2

Sleep shirt 6oz
Long underwear 6oz
Insulating jacket 12oz
socks 4 oz
underwear 4oz
2lbs of clothes

So your basic kit from REI weighs in at 8.75lbs leaving you 1.25lbs for the misc stuff. Now you hit 12 to 13 lbs when adding the bear canister but you are still right in that UL ball park.

The message that UL has the same level of safety and no sacrifice and no special knowledge required just isn't out there. Part of the problem is the backpacking magazines tout how lightweight stuff is but when you fill your pack with lightweight things its still heavy. Once stuff is purchased for the casual backpacker it is hard to justify re-buying it so they stay heavy.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 09:52:42 MDT Print View

UL is a state of mind and an approach to backpacking. It isn't all about the gear.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 10:20:55 MDT Print View

UL is a state of mind and an approach to backpacking. It isn't all about the gear.

shhhhh ... dont stay that around here ;)

people were still going lightweight decades ago with the prehistoric gear back then ...

the problem is fear ... of the unknown ... of the uncomfortable ... etc ...

and marketing of course .... people just need the latest and greatest ... and more of it ... which adds to the weight and cost

you can stil be quite light weight with mainstream brands ... the problem is many people cannot make the decisions about what NOT to bring ....

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 10:44:37 MDT Print View

Not on the AT either. We did a 70 mile section a couple mos back and we ran into ONE other person with an UL pack. The old silnylon GG Murmur. We talked to another guy whose pack weighed 57lbs, and he only weighed 147lbs. I would need to carry an 85lb pack to match that ratio.



Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT... on 08/20/2012 11:09:04 MDT Print View

Was he b*tching about the load or was he quite content? How long was he going for without a re-supply? Was he in better shape than you? What kind of pack was he using?

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
There were some - but not many on 08/20/2012 11:28:12 MDT Print View

My wife and I just finshed the JMT on Saturday with our 9 and 10 year old daughters. We went through the same multi-hour storms Erik B. describes above. Our daughters are certainly not manly at all, but they still carried all their own gear in under 10 lbs baseweight. They stayed dry in the SMD Cuben Haven with a Gossamer Gear Polycryo groundsheet and didn't get muddy. They enjoyed hiking in their LaSportiva trail runners (Fireblades & Wildcats). They brought Tenkara flyfishing poles and contributed during the two weeks 28 fish to our dinners. They each brought their own camera and took many beautiful photos. No comfort was missed and they were still UL. Every time they would pass a Boy Scout troop they would wonder how these guys can possibly carry those huge packs. Having two older brothers who are scouts, they are somehow used to the "show-off" of teenage boys, but they still wondered ...
I received some questions about my ZPacks Exo pack - people were surprised that it weighs under a pound and still carries a full Bearikade Expedition, a two man tent, my sleeping bag, my spare clothes, my sleeping pad, my fishing equipment, my camera, my pot, stove, cup and mug (Caldera Foster can with caddy), etc. We also got some funny looks - but no questions about our white ZPacks rain mittens that we wore during these storms over our gloves. That way our girls stayed warm when hiking through the rain and hail.
For us UL enabled us to have a successful JMT. We actually finished a week faster than planned, because our girls started to do bigger miles once it rained a lot - there was just not as much opportunity to swim, etc. and they kept hiking instead -- up to 19 miles a day.


Edited by Orienteering on 08/20/2012 11:31:02 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
"Where are the lightweight backpackers? Not on the JMT..." on 08/20/2012 11:42:28 MDT Print View

Manfred: great story.