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Is there a decent non-lightweight forum?
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Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 10:00:43 MST Print View

I've spent a month or so lurking here and while I've found a great many gear resources, I just don't fit in with the overall philosophy of the site. by current estimates, my pack base weight is right around 18-19 pounds; a glutenous fatty by this group's standards.

I started the year deciding that i wanted to get back into backpacking; something my dad and I used to do as a kid all throughout the Arizona desert. Because of the desert conditions and the fact that my dad was a Maricopa county search and rescue volunteer, we were always heavy laden with survival gear and ton-o-water. By age 17 i was easily carrying 50+lb packs. (we were most active in the mid-80s to 90s).

The family moved to Dallas in 1997 and because anything of real value is a day-trip away, our camping and backpacking activities gradually tapered off into nothing. So this year we both decided to get our health back in order and do a through hike of the Buffalo River Trail as a reward. I was 285 at the beginning of January and am already down about 15 pounds. Target weight at this point is an even 200, with as much of that done by October as is possible through healthy diet and exercise.

I've outgrown any old gear that was mine, and the rest was borrowed from my dad; It's a whole new world in backpacking since we were active and since I'm 30 with a decent income, I'm buying all new gear with a focus on trimming weight where possible while still maintaining an expected level of comfort. a sub-10lb pack just doesn't entice me.

Based on my past experience with gear and the fact that I'm working to shed 85lbs from my body base weight, well, an 18lb pack base weight IS ultralight. I've noticed that hanging out around these forums has almost triggered a gear anorexia for me and so I'm looking for an active forum where the focus is more on a good balance between weight and comfort vs. the sub-5lb pack trophy. I've checked out and forums, but they seem to be pretty stagnant.

are there any suggestions for other sites to check out OR advice on how i can continue to interact here without always feeling like the dork on the outside of the circle, even though my specific circumstances do in fact include massive overall weight reduction in what I'm taking out on the trail?

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 10:38:18 MST Print View

Other site suggestions:
Although I hesitate to recommend it for a couple reasons, Whiteblaze is a very active forum with less emphasis on UL. My reservations are thus:

1. It's heavily skewed toward East Coast hiking, which may be less helpful to you. Although BPL is skewed Western, I do find there's plenty of people with experience hiking in other regions and countries.
2. Some people have had poor experiences interacting with certain members and mods. I personally didn't really dig the vibe of the place and never made an account. But lots of people like it just fine. I would lurk over there for a while and see how you like it before joining.

Suggestions on making BPL work for you:
1. If you search the food forum, you will find a lot of people talking about losing weight healthfully and making life changes to be able to start or continue backpacking. I know Laurie Ann has been very public about her journey and I'm sure there are others who've accomplished what you've set out to do.
2. Just avoid the gear-related forums and you'll avoid the vast majority of the gram weenie talk. I think it's great that BPL has space for people to geek out and get contentious over that stuff, but it's not relevant to your goals, so just don't read it.
3. There IS a lot of gear that is wicked comfortable while still being incredibly light. I would keep an open mind about how low your pack weight can go, while still intentionally eschewing any "X lb baseweight" goals.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Its Backpacking Light, not Backpacking Ultralight on 01/21/2013 10:42:02 MST Print View

Michael, you shouldn't be scared away from the site. You will find that a lot of people here are in your base weight range. And I think you'll find that most people here are very interested in comfort and functionality in their equipment, even if they are looking at light options.
I don't think you'll find a site as good as this one. Whiteblaze is certainly another option though.
I hope you guys have fun on the Buffalo. I paddled most of it last year and really enjoyed it. If you have time to spend part of your trip on the water, I would highly recommend it. There are several outfitters who will drop a canoe for you pretty much anywhere you ask.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Don't give up yet on 01/21/2013 10:43:04 MST Print View

You probably aren't as far off, from a weight perspective, than many here on this site, especially the newer folks. This is the exact point when this site is helpful, before you but all your gear. Once you have it locked you will likely start losing interest in this site because it so gear focused and many hit the point where gear selection is over, time to focus on hiking. So take what is useful but certainly don't try holding yourself up to arbitrary standards based on gear weight.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 10:48:52 MST Print View

First of all, good on ya for getting back out there.

I'd invite you to stick around. While there are some 5 lb trophyers, I think most on here are more interested in the right skills and tools for the job. There's a pretty broad range of how much and what people carry and what types of trips people do. There're people carrying 10 pounds of camera equipment, wood stoves, bikes, skis, multiple days worth of water....I'd say put yourself out there, ask questions, and you might be surprised. Most are looking for quality, simplicity, function and the skills to go along with it. The depth of experience and knowledge here is pretty incredible.

Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
ha, ok ok. on 01/21/2013 10:54:54 MST Print View

To be fair, I think I've focused most of my reading the gear sections. It sounds like I might need to spend more time checking out other areas of the forum. Thanks for the encouragement and guidance.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Oh, don't let the lunatic fringe intimidate you... on 01/21/2013 10:58:12 MST Print View

This is the only backpacking forum I've visited frequently since about 2006, so I don't think I can recommend a decent non-UL forum. Most have MANY posters and thus turn into something akin to any other internet forum- lots of unsubstantiated opinions, egos, whining, and flaming. We do get that here, but not so much. It's a much smaller, more intimate forum.

The Hammockforums might be similar, but I've not spent much time there. If you want something more like BPL and less like (God help you) Whiteblaze or Backpacking magazine's forums I think you need to find a small, regional forum.

But don't be put off by the fanatics here. I went the fanatical route, and for the past two years my pack has only gotten heavier as I step back from the ledge a bit. The lightest I could ever get was about 8-lbs BPW. Now I'm running just around 11-12 for most trips, mostly due to trying to simplify my hiking and camping routine. I still get a fanatical itch every once in a while and do a UL weekender, but that's it.

I suspect that a LOT of people like you frequent these forums, making gear choices just a BIT heavier and more comfy than what the BPL party-line would indicate. There seem to be a lot of people, for instance, who use a full-length inflatable sleeping pad. People have popped up asking for info on lightweight camp chairs- the very concept of which makes the fringe foam at the mouth and start speaking in tongues. Sometimes I carry a full-sized Mora knife. And believe it or not the majority here use a sleeping bag rather than a quilt.

You can carry more and more durable and comfy stuff, but still make intelligent choices to cut your weight down.

So I would encourage you to continue to post here. If you ask about info on, for instance, a good inflatable pad and some fanatic pops up and admonishes you for not using a torso-length 1/8" evazote pad- and someone WILL always pop up and tell you to use something other than what you asked about- feel free to tell him off. Or just say "I appreciate the advice, but that's really not what I'm looking for. I want a light full-length etc., etc. that will last longer than one season..." Usually you will get a lot of good advice, and the fringe will stay on the SUL page where they belong. If an individual insists upon harassing you about your pack weight just bear in mind that they almost certainly have pathetic self-image problems and must try to force their opinions on others to stave off ennui and suicide. Pity them. :)

EDIT-- Damn. I though I was going to be all "F1r5t P0st!!!", but I got quadruple-ninja'd!

Edited by acrosome on 01/21/2013 11:52:22 MST.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
trapped in the spiral on 01/21/2013 10:59:15 MST Print View

Ha, Michael--all too easy to get sucked into the vortex. :)

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: ha, ok ok. on 01/21/2013 11:10:30 MST Print View

I second the suggestion that you not be scared off by our extremes here. If anyone suggests that you need a meet a particular pack weight goal just politely remind them that it your hike, not theirs.

I attended the 2011 Bay Area GGGG (is that the correct number of G's?) and while I saw lots of cutting edge gear I didn't see many 1600 cubic inch packs! Granted, that was the year it snowed;-)

Feel free to cherry pick individual gear alternatives or techniques that don't push your envelope TOO far. Every pound or ounce saved, even the first one, makes for a lighter pack. That's how I started and I now there's no end to the things that would have been impossible for me to accept when I started.

Since you are a paid member, browse through the list of articles to get ideas.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 11:12:47 MST Print View

The family moved to Dallas in 1997 and because anything of real value is a day-trip away ... 18 lb pack base weight

Many major manufacturers have made their products more lightweight, so maybe the gear section isn't where you want to concentrate on.

I would suggest concentrating on planning trips and trying to figure out where using it is more likely while keeping your gear choices simple. Being closer to the Quachita's and other southern spots than the Rockies, you may look at shelter systems for bug protection and humid conditions more than potential alpine storms on an alpine, for example. There was a sweet post trip report from the Quachita's recently for pointers. There still may be some months you can use the same gear in the Rockies but with a long drive where's the area you will spending "getting out more"?

That way you are more concentrated on escaping Metroplex rush hour ...

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 11:13:54 MST Print View

Hi Michael,

Not sure about any other forums but...

The vast majority of the folks here aren't in the sub-5lb category; most are carrying baseweights in the 10-15lb range. In fact, a good number of the most experienced folks here are far from SUL. Look at Roger Caffin, Chris Townsend or Will Reitveld, they pack light, but they definitely are not carrying 5lb baseweights in a glorified stuffsack. Even the luminaries like Skurka and Dr. Jordan, traditionally huge proponents of "lighter is better", are backing away from that stance. Skurka had a great blog entry about "stupid light" a few months ago; even the world's greatest long-distance hiker has found that weight is not the only parameter to consider as concerns hiking efficiency.

Personally, my pack baseweight varies from 10lbs in summer to 18lbs in winter. And I carry an insulated inflatable pad with chair kit and pillow, a spacious shelter, a canister stove, full raingear, and plenty of layers. All in an internal frame pack with a real suspension. I'm as comfortable and efficient both on the trail and in camp as I was when carrying three times that in baseweight.

I've been here awhile; my experience is that many folk are over-zealous when they first begin ascribing to lightweight principles. They often tend to proselytize about their relatively new philosophy, and can come off as being pretty arrogant. Many of these folks don't have enough knowledge or experience to realistically critique their own gearlist for a given trip in given conditions, much less someone elses'. So they preach away about how there are better options for everything in your pack based solely on weight, not because they have experience with some certain piece of gear, but because they can read the spec sheet.

Ignore these people. If your pack isn't a burden to you while your hiking and your gear functions in the manner you expect, don't worry about how much it weighs. Focus on the articles and forum threads that pertain to skills and experiential development; this information will have a far greater impact on your enjoyment of the outdoors than losing a couple ounces out of your pack. And chances are, the people delivering this info have the experience to back it up, unlike alot of the most notorious gram-weenies. Not to mention, your own contributions as regards your experiences and skills you've developed add to the community's knowledge base.

In summation: Don't Leave! Your a valuable member here, don't let anyone tell you or make you feel otherwise.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: RE: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 11:22:23 MST Print View

" I'm looking for an active forum where the focus is more on a good balance between weight and comfort vs. the sub-5lb pack trophy"

I would argue that the vast majority of people here are just where you are. I dont even consider going SUL. ...too much trouble.

What you get out of here is totally up to you.

They're called 'Gram Weenies" for a reason ;)

Michael Ray
(thaddeussmith) - F
i guess i assumed on 01/21/2013 11:31:02 MST Print View

based on the gear sections that everyone was a weight weenie. I'll stick around and get to know the community better. My primary areas of travel would be: Caprock Canyons/Palo Duro in the pan handle, areas of the Ozarks over in Arkansas, southern Oklahoma, and Big Bend for extended trips.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
+ 1 on everyone's comments on 01/21/2013 11:38:24 MST Print View

Michael, I just want to echo everyone's sentiments that this is a great place to hang out, learn, and don't feel intimidated by the members that aren't striving to hit some number. I started backpacking about 10 years ago and my first go out I was probably 40 lbs. I got on this site, learned a bunch and did a 5 day loop a couple of years ago in the Smokey's at 9.5 lbs. I learned from that experience that I didn't want to be UL but rather have more margin for safety and comfort than that set up. Since then I've found my sweet spot right around 15 lbs.--back to a tent, a big fat pad to sleep on, a gorgeous down bag that is heaven, and a pack that can handle more weight than I usually carry. But everything else is pretty UL and that allows me to fudge on the comfort items. And my back and feet are glad for the balance. Good luck!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: i guess i assumed on 01/21/2013 11:41:29 MST Print View

Michael, while initially it may seem a little intense, I agree with everyone who's posted so far that a base pack range from 10-20 lbs is probably the norm here. I hover around 9lbs in the summer, and while I would love to be carrying 5 lbs, I know that the tradeoffs aren't worth it for me, and so I'm perfectly happy at 9 lbs. My goal now is to tweak and refine my gear list for specific trips so each time I go out, I can enjoy the experience better.

What is still great about this site is that you can silently sift through the articles (if you're a member) and forums and learn more than you think you needed to know. Then if/when something new or specific to your needs arises, you can begin or join a discussion, and bow out when you want.

Yeah, there are the few people who are under 5 lbs, but that's their schtick.

Backpacking comfort isn't a number, its a real world situation that differs with everybody. Glad you decided to stick around.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 13:46:22 MST Print View

Michael :

"my pack base weight is right around 18-19 pounds..."

well, so is mine (OK, a bit less) and I have been infesting this forum like a crazed virus for almost a decade.
Just join me in my "comfortably light" category and you will be just fine.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 14:52:38 MST Print View

Backpacker was once very active, it nearly died when it broke and AIM Media did nothing to fix it for 6 months or so. After that, it became a ghost town. Many of the long time posters left or faded away.

IMO...don't worry about your pack weight. Take what you like and can carry comfortably. :-)

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Is there a decent non-lightweight forum? on 01/21/2013 15:12:22 MST Print View

Hi Michael,

All the best with your weight loss, 15lbs already is a great accomplishment.

As other have said you are not too bad with your base weight, you will find after a couple of trips you can trim down some kit but if you don't its no big deal.

All the best,


Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Gear addictions on 01/21/2013 16:37:12 MST Print View

Not to sound repetitive...

But you are far more like the people here than you think. When I joined last year (also after lurking for a bit) I had been poo-pooing the UL idea for several years, thinking it involved sleeping under a rotting log and eating cold dry grains and powerbars. Then I actually ran into a couple of ultralighters (or shall I say they kept passing me on our 5-day hike...) who had these teeny packs and gym shoes and I thought: how in the world can they camp with such tiny packs? And then I saw their camp: they had a stove for good hot food, they had utensils and mugs of hot cocoa, they had a tent, sleeping bags, pads, they were even eating s'mores around the fire.

When I got home from that trip I started to research...and found BPL. Then I started to realize that being UL had nothing to do with sacrifice and being cold, but rather just thinking about what I needed, buying way too much really, really cool gear and taking it on long hikes where I can experiment with what makes me happy.

I too sleep on a full length blow up mattress, I frequently take a camp chair, I take a huge camera, I take zero days and read BOOKS! I am not cold, I eat good hot meals and have a hot coffee in the morning and sometimes even a shot of something special in my tea at night.

It took about 4 complete re-dos of my gear over the past few years, but I did make the move to a cuben tarp and a quilt...but do you know what? I did it not because they were lighter...but because they work better for me.

So MY advice would be to stop paying attention to the gram weenies, but do make sure you keep an open mind about the new gear you buy. I like the quilt because I hate hate hate being constricted in a mummy bag...and that is the only reason I tried one. Granted, it is lighter and that's great, but I have really just been trying to find better gear that works for me. I resisted a frameless pack, but guess what? It is SO much more comfortable for my bad back and pointy collarbones that I am a bit disappointed in myself for resisting it so much and carrying those framed ones for so long and hurting myself.

But again, that's just MY story...and we are all here to just learn about gear you may never have heard of, to ask questions from people who may have made some good mistakes before you, to learn about food and hiking styles and ways to make stuff and cool new places to go hiking.

Congrats on getting this far, and welcome to BPL

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Folks have pretty much said it all on 01/21/2013 17:29:34 MST Print View

so I'll just make a few specific suggestions: Philosophy and Technique; General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion; Food, hydration, and Nutrition; Post-trip Reports(for inspiration); Pre-trip Reports(for information on trips you're interested in; and Articles, both current and archived for great information on gear, techniques, trip ideas, etc.

Other than that, hang out, participate, learn, and prepare to enjoy yourself with a great bunch of folks. This is truly a community. And, if someone gives you a ration of .... over your gear choices, don't be afraid to stand your ground; more than likely you will have support in any case.