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Is every ultralighter obsessive?
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James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 08:18:06 MDT Print View

As I woke up this morning talking to my gal about the tent "we" bought last night she asked, "is every ultralight hiker obsessive?" I answered that I thought you have to be. Either that or you marry in. However, I may be projecting.

What do you think? Do you have to be obsessive to be an ultralight hiker.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 08:45:40 MDT Print View

Good question James,

I started backpacking 24years ago back in Ireland (36 now) and up until about 7-8 years ago my kit was Ultra heavy (or crap) on some trips I suffered badly from cold from using crap sleeping setups and camp clothing and used cheapo tents that where not adequate for the conditions, looking back at if now I did not know any better at the time but because of those experiences I buy the best gear/lightest gear I can get my hands on.

Does take make me obsessive, I suppose it does, but it make me warm and dry and knowing the shelter I pack for specific trips can take what's thrown at it.

I barely ever use cash or my credit card to buy kit and buy a lot of kit either on sale on on Gear swap using Payapal balance from getting rid of older or duplicate kit so I never get any grief from my wife over speding bucket loads on outdoor gear.

Have a grat weekend,


obsessive on 10/13/2012 09:35:51 MDT Print View

I dont think so.

It can be part of the evolution though.

What I mean is, we start out as conventional heavy hikers, and find out how to lighten up.

Then once the big items are lighter, a lot of focus goes to smaller items, clothing/insulation. This is the "obsessive " part

Then finally, close attention is paid to the cal/oz of food so that the minimum food wt is carried.

Finally, you reach a point where you really cannot make enough difference to matter to you anymore without giving up comfort or protection.

Then you accept that you can still carry 1-2 lbs extra gear when you want it, and it wont matter either. So you quit obsessing about it.

I see the goal as being to reduce wt everywhere it doesnt matter, so that you can still comfortably carry more wt where it does when needed.

For 6+ day trips, I carry a heavier pack for the food load, would rather do that than save the 12oz pack wt difference .

For cold conditions I will bring heavier bag and heavier long johns, dont worry about the ~16 oz difference either.

For longer trips or hard ground conditions, a plush sleeping pad makes all the difference in the world. Would rather carry it even if 12 oz heavier than minimal pad.

Or expecting a lot of rain, that 2-3 lb tent offers better protection than the 13oz tarp setup. Would rather have it.

The obsessive part is over.

Edited by livingontheroad on 10/13/2012 09:41:36 MDT.

John Taylorson
(heyjt) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 09:40:09 MDT Print View

When ultralight begins spilling into the rest of your life as a philosophy (do more with less), then it does become obsessive. But being "obsession" is not always a negative; anything that helps lighten your load, makes you more safe, is more fun, and encourages making some of your gear out of trash can't be all bad!

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 09:42:15 MDT Print View

Obsessive, from a psychologist's point of view, connotes a feeling/motive so powerful it blocks out all other rationale thoughts; it's a feeling so dogmatic, so powerful, that it interferes with daily life. It might be semantics rearing itself in my head again, but I've not come across a ULer who's "obsessed" like that.

As you might suspect, I'd use different terminology: passionate, in that ULers have a deep interest in making their hike as good as can be; determined, in that they area always interested in finding the best ways to reduce pack weight; methodical, as they seem to always be planning specific steps to take on their paths to "enlightenment."

I've heard several times that UL is a journey, not a destination. We all know that successful travel takes constant vigilance to one's route and the world around us. That kind of vigilance might look like obsession, passion, determination, or fanaticism. But it's all what needs to be done.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 09:55:57 MDT Print View

Harrison hit the nail on the head, it is indeed a passion.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Measured, not obsessive on 10/13/2012 09:57:09 MDT Print View

I used to have more impulse purchases before I started paying attention to both the weight and the performance of items. Now I research before I buy so that I'm more likely to get it right first time.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 10:09:14 MDT Print View

Obsessive? Well, no.
Once you get there, you realize it didn't much matter. I obsessed about every ounce of weight. I obsessed about every bit of fuel. I obsessed about stoves. I obsessed about packs. Tents. Tarps. Skills and clothing. Sleeping bags,shoes and stakes. I obsessed about every purchase: lite weight, comfort, durability, ease of use, cost.

Does this make me obsessive about UL and being a UL hiker? Does carrying a 15 pound base pack in 30F weather make me not ultra light because it doesn't match some arbitray 10 pound definition? Does carrying a pound of hot dogs and bottle of beer make me non-ultralight with a 4 pound base pack because I carry a glass BOTTLE?

Hell, no. I don't really care about that stuff. No one will fault me for risking guardiasis from a cool mountain spring. HYOH. I don't really concern myself with labels and definitions.

I am not obsessive about how I get out into the woods. I just want to get out. I need to get out. I OBSESS about getting out. I never obsess about how much I am carrying when I am out..."it is what it is" at that point.

A noobe out for the first time does not have an experienced view of things. Why take an axe? Because a respected UL hiker told him UL was easy, "Just bring only what you need." He is using good UL mentality, "taking only what you need" but doesn't have the experience of mentally thinking, "I never needed one, why carry it?" Axes and hatchets get sold. Wasted materials, wasted time, mostly...except to the manufacturor and the sports shop owner. (Yeah, they have uses, but not in this context.)

You will always leave footprints on the trail. Light weight means your footprints won't be as deep.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
fun on 10/13/2012 10:44:21 MDT Print View

when it prevents you from going out and having fun because yr spending time making virtual gear lists that you could spend going out or training getting stronger/better ... or spending money always trying to get the next "best" and lightest piece of gear that in reality wouldnt make much difference ...

yes its obsessive at that point IMO

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/13/2012 10:44:51 MDT.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
RE: on 10/13/2012 11:20:29 MDT Print View

Very good responses thus far. I feel obsessive is too negative a word as well. I hope that my "passion" for lightening never effects my household in a harmful manner. I am thorough and thoughtful about every decision I make in regards to what I put in my pack. Sometimes these are costly in time or finance and sometimes not. In the end the thing I really enjoy is being in the woods, traveling in the woods and sleeping in the woods. I am lucky enough to do that almost every week in a State that offers endless opportunity to explore. Often I am able to do this with the company of gal of my dreams.

It wasn't until I (we) started seriously thinking about hiking long trails that the weight became an issue. Once I started down the UL path it just started making a lot of sense and go along with my lifestyle. In my life I have tried not to acquire things for things sake. I am attracted to a life of simplicity but when I do decide I want a "thing" I want it to be a high quality well performing thing. For this reason I live in a small (I mean tiny) apartment with the love of my life with relatively few possessions (measure in 1st world weight). The possessions that I do have were all heavily (obsessively?) researched and perform their job wonderfully. I don't buy no junk. :)

The traits that make me a good Ul'er are personality traits that I had before I showed up on this scene. I have always been thorough, thoughtful and desired the perfect end product even if that takes a lot of time or if the goal could never fully be reached or if it costs $$. My profession also requires that I use these same skills and patience to produce a finished product that I can be proud of and that my client enjoys for many years (I am a custom woodworker/finish carpenter).

It's been good so far!

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/13/2012 12:23:58 MDT Print View

Is every obsessive outdoors person an ultra lighter ?


When does true gear obsession begin ?

12 lb base weight ?
10 lb base weight ?
6 lb base weight ?

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
The obsessive part is over on 10/13/2012 12:26:07 MDT Print View

"The obsessive part is over."

Exactly - once you dial in a particular system that suits your needs, the hard part is over. I've always been active in many different sports/activities, and I must confess, UL backpacking trumps all the others in terms of actually becoming conversant in each critical area (footwear, clothing, packing, cooking/food, sleeping, shelter, etc).

If you consider skiiing, surfing, golfing, even sailing, while there are many different aspects that one must master, UL backpacking seemed to me to require much more study/understanding/practice in a myriad of different areas.

However, if you stick to it, you eventually reach a point where every single item that you either wear and/or carry has been thought through to the point of understanding what it does, why it works, and why you probably can't go any lighter.

At that point, the journey is essentially over, and you can simply focus on trips. That finally happened to me this past summer - I have my std kit and I just go. Sure, it's a good thing to stay current, but unless some kind of radical materials revolution takes place, improvements tend to be purely incremental.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
if on 10/13/2012 19:58:45 MDT Print View

If your not obsessive you are dull, take pride in the things you enjoy.

- Michael

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: The obsessive part is over on 10/13/2012 20:08:39 MDT Print View

"... However, if you stick to it, you eventually reach a point where every single item that you either wear and/or carry has been thought through to the point of understanding what it does, why it works, and why you probably can't go any lighter."

this is only true until the next new product, or product "improvement" comes to market. the process is a continuous never ending study of what you have versus what you don't have.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: The obsessive part is over on 10/13/2012 20:58:59 MDT Print View

"this is only true until the next new product, or product "improvement" comes to market. the process is a continuous never ending study of what you have versus what you don't have."

This is assuming you need the latest and greatest. I find that my current setup has basically everything I need to have safe and enjoyable trips into the backcountry. I think we're kind of hitting the limits with fabrics and such. There are only so many ways you can make a pack, shelter, etc.

Also, I agree with the earlier posts - when first getting into the UL mindset, people do become obsessive. I know I did. But now that I'm pass that, I find myself spending much more time outside.

obsession on 10/14/2012 12:00:32 MDT Print View


Dial in your system, then forget it.

When your base is between 6-8 lbs, depending on season, you arent getting much lighter, so quit worrying about it and go hike. Carry a few luxuries when you need to , you really wont notice the wt.

On longer trips your food and water management becomes a bigger issue than your gear

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Is every ultralighter obsessive? on 10/31/2012 23:15:23 MDT Print View

It might seem that way to the ummm "unenlightened." It does take a focused analysis of the purpose, function and weight of the components of a coordinated system. It's no different than a NASA engineering team putting together a system that will sustain life in a given environment.

Ultralight is a paradigm shift, and breaking out of old habits and concepts takes some clear and honest thinking about what you need to be warm, dry, and well fed to enjoy a journey supported by the gear on your back.

Those of use who subscribe to UL have learned that ounces lead to pounds and the only way to get it under control is to weigh it all, write it down, add it up, and analyse the results. It stops when the particular user hits the Too Factor: you're too cold, too wet, or too hungry :)

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
progressive, not obsessive on 11/01/2012 06:54:05 MDT Print View

No, I don't think it's "obsessive" for most.

People progress from getting lighter to staying light while getting more efficient. It's continual improvement - no different than what happens in the business world. As long as all that effort is for improving the experience (you can go farther, more comfortably, safer), and you are actuall hikiing and it's not just a mental excersize, than it's not a obsession.

Of my deer hunting friends, a few are more successful. Those are the one's who might look a little obsessive to the uninitiated. Same with golf, poker, gardening.

It's obsessive when you are not actually using your equipment and techniques.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Re: progressive, not obsessive on 11/01/2012 18:23:55 MDT Print View

I think Paul is on to something. Whatever the activity, you'll find that the enthusiasts are obsessive, passionate, even consumed on some level. Everybody had to be a nerd about something right? The outside world sees an affliction, and the truly devoted see a method, improvement, whatever.

Alex Eriksson
(aeriksson) - M

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: progressive, not obsessive on 11/01/2012 18:38:12 MDT Print View

I'm by no means "ultralight" and hold some pretty firm beliefs on cost v enjoyment as a diminishing return. I just can't go UL in good conscience, and start really paying attention to grams in the form of trimming pack straps and so on, until I make a pretty thorough self examination of my actual bodyweight. As a competitive mountain biker in the past, the same mindset kept me from spending $4000-5000 chasing "sub 30 pound" (for downhill) bike weights because at the end of the day eating less, or eating better, or running, or exercising more, would quickly shed 5, 10, or 20 pounds of my own plumpness for essentially zero investment. So if I'm not willing to make that personal commitment I sure as hell shouldn't try to buy myself more enjoyment I haven't earned.

Even now, especially now probably, fresh into lightweight backpacking I feel the itch to go overboard. Last night I loaded up my pack with several changes from my last trip and it was noticeably lighter and offered a lot more space inside. With serious low back problems I was pleased to know this means I can go farther, longer. But I still need to actually "go" somewhere. I've always liked gear tinkering in any sport but I think so long as you aren't defined by your choices, what you have, or don't have, you're fine. Afterall, the idea that we're spending money to get less is distinctly a first-world pursuit.

I should add a funny aside.... Last night I texted my girlfriend who messaged me to say she was headed home from a halloween party at the oh-so-late hour of 10:30, "how boring." I said "really, because I'm sitting here looking at gear specs and wondering how I can now make YOUR pack weight lighter with a different sleeping pad." Her reply: "Ha! You're cute." So hey, if nothing else at least right now my OCD is still charming!

Edited by aeriksson on 11/01/2012 18:40:10 MDT.