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Ultralight Gear 'lists'
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Devin Karch

Locale: NYC
Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 14:40:18 MDT Print View

So I'm looking at gear lists from ultralight hikers and I am wondering why I just can't get my weight down to that level. Then I realize that people like Andrew Skurka seem to not need ummm any warmth?

A gear list of his going through the high seria has him wearing only shorts and a t shirt with socks shoes and gaiters and maybe a hat. Then he carries a wind pant, one down/synthetic insulation piece and a rain jacket.

So if he wore all his clothes he would ahve his skimpy t shirt and shorts that he has sweated or hiked in the rain so there's the possibility its not dry.

A rain shell which at less than 5 oz, i doubt anyone is getting much warmth from.
A 2 oz??? windshell that I just don't understand how a piece of fabric big enough to cover your body is less than 2 freaking oz's let alone how much warmth it gives (i know it can block the wind and take away warmth sapping heat loss via that but still that only works to a point)
An insulation layer for his upper body that is less than 10 oz (i have a montbell down jacket at 6 and while warm, i couldn't just wear that down to very cold temps)

And finally wind pants that could just as easily be wet.

Now if he hikes all day, he can stay warm that way and i get it, but he uses a 40 degree sleeping bag or a 20 degree quilt?!! In the siearra? what if its 20 or in the low teens?? He's going to have his little shorts and wind pants for his only leg layers and if his t shirt is soaked from rain or sweat, only a rain jacket and puffy.

NOw i know with me, being a big guy who runs hot, I would not be comforatble in those clothes in a 40 degree bag on a freezing night in the sierra.

What am i Missing here?

No matter what I jsut dont see not bringing a set of long underwear tops and bottoms like merino wool.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 15:07:53 MDT Print View

You didn't miss anything. People vary a lot in their needs on many levels. Imagine trying to keep 150 people in one office happy with the ambient temperature. NOT! Personal metabolism, heath issues, age, and many more factors count.

If you wear XXL and see a gear list from a person wearing small clothing, that makes a difference. You may need a bigger bag/quilt, backpack, and longer shelter length too.

Some like a thick sleeping pad and others seem to tolerate a thin CCF pad. Personal comfort counts! It is supposed to be recreation, not a self-inflicted torture session.

The bottom line is that you need to find what works for you, but you can still follow the UL basics:

*Take only what you will use
*Seek multiple use items
*Seek the lightest, highest performance items you can afford
*Take only the quantities needed for the trip (decant sunscreen, insect repellent, etc to smaller containers)
*Understand nature and how your body works: ignorance and fear equal extra weight.

And always, hike your own hike.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Ultralight Gear 'lists'" on 03/28/2013 15:24:27 MDT Print View

I think it's going to boil down to your level of risk tolerance and how you weigh out the value of a light pack vs. personal comfort (esp. in camp).

Personally I have a low tolerance for risk and while I emphasize hiking comfort over camping comfort there are some things I'm willing to carry for either safety or comfort that serious UL people would scoff at. My bag is rated for temps lower (significantly) than I expect to encounter because I have thyroid disease and am a super cold sleeper (a 70 degree room feels cold to me at night). I slept poorly last year so I'm switching to a wide/long BA Q Core SL rectangular pad this year. I carry a set of light long johns for sleep wear and as my emergency extra layer. Stuff like that. There are weight penalties for some of what I carry but prefer the safety/comfort over a slightly lighter pack.

I do love to read other people's gear lists- especially if they hike in similar climate/terrain as me. It helps me to fine tune and drop weight where I can. But if their risk tolerance/comfort tolerance is significantly different than mine I'll spot that pretty quick. :)

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 15:35:33 MDT Print View

It all depends on the conditions you expect. If you read his Sierra high route Trip report it sounds like tempts got into the 40s at night and up to 80 during the day and only 1 threat of rain. Looks like he hiked in a synthetic long sleeve and had a down coat, windshirt and a rain shell none of which he said he needed.

If you are hiking 23mi a day there is little to do at camp other than get in your sleeping bag and pass the hell out. 40s with a 40* sleeping bag and a bivy is good if you have good site selection out of the wind. I would have been similarly fine with that setup on the Long Trail last July since i slept in shelters most nights. I have an Static V airpad though since my hips do not like CCF pads.

Edited by JakeDatc on 03/28/2013 15:37:42 MDT.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Andrew Skurka on 03/28/2013 15:41:14 MDT Print View

As for Andrew Skurka specifically it's important to remember that he is an "Ultimate Hiker". He hikes from Sunrise to Dusk and so movement is his primary heater during the daytime. When you are moving a windshirt/windpants will do a great deal to keep you adequately warm in the Alpine summer. I think 20's or teens is pretty rare in the Alpine Summer. I think if Andrew expected temps 20-30 degrees below his bag rating he would add a little insulation but not much.

As the others have said, knowledge and experience do a great deal to properly assess risk. Most of us that are weekend warriors don't have a enough knowledge/experience to make 100% of the right judgements about gear and so we over compensate for our lack of knowledge/experience.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 15:41:49 MDT Print View

I think a lot of sierra hikers hike until dark and get into their sleeping bags immediately.

just Justin Whitson
Re: "Ultralight Gear 'lists'" on 03/28/2013 15:45:27 MDT Print View

I think also the more you spend time outside, pushing your own limits, the more you acclimate and adjust. Someone like Skurka seems to spend A LOT of time out in the wilderness--maybe not consistently, all the time, but long stretches at a time.

If you think Skurka's tolerance for cold, etc. is amazing, well he doesn't hold a candle to someone like Wim Hoff, or the average long term Tibetan Monk that still lives in Tibet. These folks might blow your mind with what they can tolerate cold temp extreme wise.

I remember seeing a story on the weather channel a some years back, wherein the media were looking at a guy who lives in a more northern and colder part of Alaska. Some years back, a friend of his bet him he couldn't go all winter without wearing his coat. Well the guy won the bet, and decided to stop wearing a coat altogether and has been doing this for many years since. Seems to be, not just purely a physical thing, but also maybe a mental process as well.

There is also the well known story of the wild boy of France. A youngish boy was found, who had apparently been living in the wilds of France by himself for a long time, and became completely "wild". Didn't speak the French language, acted very uninhabited at times, etc. What i thought was interesting about the story is that the boy, even after they tried to "civilize" him, had a fondness for frolicking in the snow in the buff, and seemingly perfectly ok with the very cold temps. It's been awhile since i read about this, so may not be completely accurate on all details.

I think we humans can learn (or maybe it's more "unlearn" certain limiting habits of mind and body) to adapt to much more than we do currently.

Interesting topic anyways, so thanks for bringing it up.

Jan S
Re: Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 16:16:38 MDT Print View

"So if he wore all his clothes he would ahve his skimpy t shirt and shorts that he has sweated or hiked in the rain so there's the possibility its not dry."

The fastest way to dry base layer clothing is to wear it. I tend to wear my base layer (merino or silk/merino/cotton) all the time if at all possible. I can't speak for synthetics but the natural fiber stuff does not get very cold if wet and I think that changing just results in a wet piece of clothing that is almost impossible to dry if it gets cold.

With the right rain gear and a bit of caution you can keep your clothes mostly dry while hiking. And if I understood Ryan Jordan right he was bloody cold half the time in Alaska and hated not having a fleece jumper. Doing this stuff professionally should also help to get the experience you need to decide what you need to take with you to stay alive and keep you fit enough to just push through situations.

Edited by karl-ton on 03/28/2013 16:18:40 MDT.

UL on 03/28/2013 16:21:11 MDT Print View

Here is a breakdown of one of my setups for 30 degree and up, and it could easily be much lighter.

Pad - 8 oz CCF
Pack - 22 oz
shelter - 17 oz
40 F sleeping quilt - 16 oz
clothing - 24 oz
Rain gear 10 oz
Miscl - 10oz
Cook/eat/drink - 7 oz

Add it all up, its around 7.5 lbs. Easily UL. And the clothing/quilt I use has served me OK down into upper 20s before, starting at 34F at 8pm.

There is much more to being UL than leaving your sleeping insulation or clothing at home. The truth is, you dont need much of either.

I could take a WM ultralite, and still be around 8.5 lbs basewt. Its as much about all the other crap you dont bring.

Now if you are referring to SUL, thats a different ballgame.

Your thin baselayer and hiking clothing will dry fairly quickly unless its really high humidity. But there is a difference between stopping at 5pm in summer, with 3 hrs daylight left, and stopping at 5pm in late fall, when its dark already. One gives you time to dry up, one doesnt. Regardless, the clothing you hiked in provides almost no warmth compared to fleece, puffy, and raingear. You can take it off if its too damp and really never miss it.

Part of your skills involve moisture management and knowing when you need to tailor your exertion level to conditions to keep clothing dry, or stop to give it time to dry. In winter, its much more important than in summer.

Edited by livingontheroad on 03/28/2013 16:38:28 MDT.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Try It? on 03/28/2013 19:58:59 MDT Print View

Have you tried a similar set up? I find cold is really a function of mental callusing (like endurance sports) more than physical ability.

I live in Phoenix and am about as warm blooded as you can get. I used to start shivering at exactly 77F in the shade. Since I've been backpacking in increasingly colder weather though my insulation needs have drastically reduced. Am I "warmer" now? No. I'm just more used to how cold affects my body and suck it up better. My "comfort" level has just increased. At night I've also learned how to maintain heat while I sleep (better nutrition, hydration, hat, and the occasional isometric crunches if necessary).

Just try it. Bring all your normal gear but try to not layer up when you feel "cold." Go 15 minutes longer than you normally would. Let your hands and feet get chilled and you'll eventually be skinny dipping in winter (ok maybe not!).

Oh yeah, my 2.25oz windshirt is probably the warmest piece of gear I own for the weight. Do not discount how chilling even a moderate breeze is compared to still air. Just think how miserable stagnant humid air is versus hot humidity with a slight breeze.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Ultralight Gear 'lists' on 03/28/2013 20:30:01 MDT Print View

I'm down to just a light down jacket, zip off pants and a 4oz. anorak over my socks, shirt, underwear. I don't need gloves or a stocking cap. I'll quit bringing a down vest as on my normal Sierra week long vacation last summer, I did not need the vest with AM temps to 30F the light jacket was more than adequate. I would only use the rain jacket (anorak) if it got colder or if it rained. I use a 35F bag, but use a silk liner. It's been good down to 28F without adding clothes. I only hike until early afternoon, I like to fish if I can, read and rest some. Washing the spare set of socks, shirt and underwear take up a little time every other day. I may be getting aclimated more the last two years or so, as I collect old stoves and to get some use out of them, I take off almost every Saturday afternoon for a camping or bp trip, year round. I live in the mountains, so camping is literally out my door. I'm down to UL status now, inching towards SUL, but that will take a little more whittling away at gear, unnecessary gear.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Try It? on 03/28/2013 20:30:42 MDT Print View

Definitely agree with that. people acclimatize to the cold just like altitude, heat etc. I have about as little body fat as is healthy but between hiking, biking and climbing being outside in various weather gets i'm pretty used to anything. Last weekend I was biking in mid 40s.. this weekend i'll be rock climbing in low 50s.

take home message.. get out more :)

craig johnston

Locale: New England
CDT THRU 2013 on 03/28/2013 20:32:16 MDT Print View

Pack 17oz
Bag 20F 17.8 oz
Pad 8oz
Tarp 5.6 oz
stove wind screen and pot 2.7
2 1Lwater bottles 1.3 oz ea.

well thats the big stuff .

Edited by HighLife on 03/29/2013 08:04:01 MDT.

Devin Karch

Locale: NYC
Re: CDT THRU 2013 on 03/29/2013 09:52:00 MDT Print View

Where did you get a 20 degree bag that weights 17.8

with a tiny tarp like that you didn't use a bivy? or ground sheet? Im assuming your bag is down so I just dont see how you kept it dry on under a tarp taht i assume at 5.6 is quit small. Im 6'6'' and around 230 and while i am not fat, I have wide shoulders and what not.

Your stove POT and windscreen at less than 3 oz? Was your pot your hands? Seriously, if your stove weighed like a cat can stove at like .5 oz, then a .1 windscreen. what pot do you use that is 2.1 oz? and where c an I buy it?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Devin on 03/29/2013 10:12:36 MDT Print View


"I just don't see how" is the operative phrase here. If you want to find out how the most experienced backpackers do things with "A skimpy windshirt" or "A tiny tarp" you need to learn the skills they use. They're all (mostly) alive and kicking, and that is proof that it works.

I sleep in a Hennessy Hammock. Bug net, rain fly, and it's comfy. Weighs less than most tents, just a pound and a half. Am I sacrificing, or getting my sleeping bag wet? hell no!

Learn the skills and THEN tell us it doesn't work. My 2.1oz wind shirt is my favorite piece of gear for staying warm (and a month ago, I made a thread saying "Do windshirts work?")

Edited by mdilthey on 03/29/2013 10:13:06 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Re: CDT THRU 2013 on 03/29/2013 10:14:16 MDT Print View

Above is a 3 oz cook system with a 2 cup capacity

And at zpacks you can get a 7 x 9 cuban tarp at 5.3 oz.

In general a 10 lb baseweight can be just as comfortable in camp as a 20lb baseweight. Going light does not mean uncomfortable.

Devin Karch

Locale: NYC
Re: Devin on 03/29/2013 19:09:03 MDT Print View

First off I fear that you may have misinterpreted my tone in the text. I was speaking from an exasperated POV. I am not a newcomer to hiking and have many of the skills I assume you're speaking of.

What I meant was (half jokingly) at 6'6'' i just cant imagine a piece of fabric large enough to cover my body would be under two oz's!
I know about the benefits a good wind shell adds.

I also wanted to make the comment that I feel like many gear lists are the paper version but in real life tiny things are added in the last minute. For example, Skurka reported using an alchy stove will a windscreen and cook pot. Now, unless i was carrying A LOT of fuel (negating the light weight characteristics of my alchy stove system, i would need a cozy food my "rice and beans" to get cooked. How does Skurka get away without bringing a cozy but still cooking not freeze dried meals such as rice, beans and pasta?

Im at about 12 lbs base weight and just trying to get down to around 10!

Jan S
Re: Re: Devin on 03/29/2013 19:30:46 MDT Print View

"What I meant was (half jokingly) at 6'6'' i just cant imagine a piece of fabric large enough to cover my body would be under two oz's!"

Well, if I look at tents and sleeping bags (and judging by friends who have your size a lot of other things including doors) seems to assume smaller people. That is btw one of the troubles I have with the UL and SUL definitions. A large person has more trouble getting there then someone who is 5' 9''.

"How does Skurka get away without bringing a cozy but still cooking not freeze dried meals such as rice, beans and pasta?"

As far as I know you can get away without cozy either by keeping your freezer bag between you and your puffy jacket or in your sleeping bag. And everything that insulates should work, so you might even be able to use leaves, your sleeping pad or anything else that keeps heat and doesn't melt. See here for examples:

Edited by karl-ton on 03/29/2013 19:41:46 MDT.

craig johnston

Locale: New England
ok so my base was about 10lbs on 02/25/2014 20:29:43 MST Print View

sorry for the very late reply ... CDT 13 April 10th - Sept 16th

zpacks solo tarp
zrest pad
zpacks 20F bag down ( never got wet , even in raging thunderstorms )
mld exodus M pack
stove made by a dude in japan 8 grams
Ti Caldera cone and F-Keg pot ( stopped cooking after yellowstone )

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Do-Able on 02/26/2014 01:06:54 MST Print View

I typically - when with friends - do more like 12 miles/day. I still maintain a comparable list for three seasons in the sierras. I ageree, it's a bit of self conditioning, but if you must, you can also wear your bag as a coat under your wind she'll a la GVP. It works. I've been cold at night, but always got enough hours in.