Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope.
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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope. on 05/08/2013 09:10:34 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope. on 05/08/2013 09:45:41 MDT Print View

Great pictures of Colorado - another place on my list I got to go to some day. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

On Glen's pack, the shoulder straps go directly up from the pack - I guess that's a property of packs without hip belts?

On your pack, the shoulder strap goes up at about 45 degrees. I thought if the torso size was correct, it should go at 90 degrees right angle from pack.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
"Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking on 05/08/2013 10:36:21 MDT Print View

Looking forward to the series!

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Re: "Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking on 05/08/2013 11:49:45 MDT Print View

I like the introduction, and can't wait for the rest of the series.

Pit Martin
(Pit5785455) - MLife
super lightweight gear on 05/08/2013 12:06:16 MDT Print View

I am 55 years old, and almost finished with the Colorado Trail. As I get older, I appreciate more comfort, and willing to carry a 28 lb pack, inclusive of all gear and food, but not water. This is for an 8 day, 100 mile backpacking trip in the Colorado mountains, 3 season. We split a 3 man tent, which is invaluable for extended rain, hail or snow. I also carry a Zlite pad, and a smaller thermarest pad for sleeping comfort (I have a C6-7 neck fusion, and two low back herniated discs). "Less weight means more fun" is our motto - to a point. I do not like to be cold, wet, hungry nor thirsty, and backpacking lightweight does not have to be miserable, just have to be judicious in selecting what gear to bring. Love the ideas and articles in BPL, but we modify somewhat to make the trip more enjoyable.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Mountain SUL Backpacking on 05/08/2013 13:46:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for taking the time to put together this series. I'll be interested in seeing what comes out of it.

Interestingly, your M-SUL distinction is very similar to the line of thinking behind Jhaura Wachsman's "SUL-Durable" kit. He came to the same conclusion that he needed about another 1 lb of base weight in order to come up with a "SUL" kit that could provide him satisfactory comfort and safety across our 3-season mountain trips and prove to be durable enough to last the long haul. He's also able to extend this same kit with a few minor tweaks/adjustments pretty far into our winter trips in our local mountains.

You can see a post with a gear list for his "SUL-Durable" kit HERE

And you can see a trip report where he put his SUL-Durable kit to use HERE

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope. on 05/08/2013 14:20:36 MDT Print View

Looks like a great set of articles. Will, thanks for putting this together, I do appreciate your efforts

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking on 05/08/2013 14:30:29 MDT Print View

Very concise as always, Will. Looking forward to a multi-part article.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
work on 05/08/2013 16:43:27 MDT Print View

Great article (as was Ryan's), and I look forward to the rest of the series.

I have a question about the following. (If this belongs elsewhere in a new thread, I trust that will be made so or am happy to do so myself.)

"Putting it very simplistically, backpacking is work (but it’s good work!), which is measurable in foot-pounds, which is roughly equivalent to carrying a 1 pound weight a distance of 1 foot. Thus, it is the same amount of work to carry a 30 pound backpack 10 miles as it is to carry a 10 pound pack 30 miles."

I've seen similar statements before in the context of backpacking but not the evidence. If a cyclist were hauling a load up a relatively steep grade, the weight times the vertical distance would give a good approximation of the extra work required to carry the load, but it's not at all clear to me that there's a straightforward relationship between pack weight and work/effort/energy expenditure for backpacking. I expect it will be clear to everyone that carrying a 2 pound load for 25 miles is not equivalent to carrying a 1 pound load for 50 miles. Most (maybe all?) will agree that just because someone can carry a 30 lb load for 25 miles doesn't mean that they could go 50 miles if they cut it to 15 pounds. On the other hand, it's plausible to me that I might be able to carry 50 lbs about twice as far as I can carry 100 lbs.

Is there evidence that there's a range of pack weights within which the amount of energy expended varies approximately as the product of the weight carried times the distance? Is there evidence that there's a relevant range of weights and distances within which a given backpacker's maximum sustainable distance/day can be expected to vary as the inverse of the weight carried?

Best,

Bill S.

PS - Is this maybe in part about the difference between work in the way a physicist would define it and the energy that we need to expend when we're doing things that the physicists might say are zero work?

Edited by sbill9000 on 05/08/2013 19:23:29 MDT.

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Re: work on 05/08/2013 17:10:21 MDT Print View

Simple thought experiment.

If a car can haul a two liter bottle of water 400 miles on one tank of gas.

Can it then haul a one liter bottle 800 miles on an identically filled tank?

In other words, the water is only a fraction of the mass being moved. In backpacking, don't forget that you also weigh something. And it takes work to move ourselves up that hill, even if we were naked.

C Nugget
(nuggetwn)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
M-SUL on 05/08/2013 18:13:51 MDT Print View

Even if I don't hike SUL, I can't wait to read more.. I think Will should write a book(if he hasn't already).. Always enjoy his input.

-christy

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
sounds good on 05/08/2013 19:12:10 MDT Print View

Pretty much sounds like my philosophy ...

Michael Allison
(whitepine) - M

Locale: Northeast
The New And Better Backpacking Light on 05/08/2013 20:07:47 MDT Print View

I look forward to this series, Will. I've followed BPL for two years now and learned a lot to lighten my load. Still, I've always had the lingering feeling that the hardcore approach wasn't for me. As you've mentioned in your introduction, the BPL principals work best in the dryer climates of Colorado and California. I've done walks in the UK where anyone using the BPL criteria would either drown, die of hypothermia or get blown off the mountain.

Yohei Aoyagi
(zzz_bear) - MLife

Locale: Tokyo
LIKE! on 05/09/2013 06:31:30 MDT Print View

Can't wait for next part!

Clayton Black
(Jivaro) - MLife
Re: Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope. on 05/09/2013 07:10:07 MDT Print View

Add me to the can't wait list. I completely agree with your initial comments based on your set parameters. My cold/wet, up to 14k, kit is just under 10 pounds including my bomber (read heavy) Integral Designs Wedge E-Bivy. My beastly bivy allows me to sleep on exposed peaks with nary a worry but I would sacrifice some of that exposure if I could believe a cuben counterpart might be as reliable or at least close. Looking forward to possibly shaving a couple more pounds.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Backpacking "work" on 05/09/2013 08:02:38 MDT Print View

William et al, I don't mean to re-write the laws of physics, as you probably know. I simply want to emphasize a point which is obvious to most LW backpackers. We all know there is a huge difference in effort between hiking up a steep mountain trail with a heavy pack and heavy hiking boots compared to a light pack and light shoes. The question is how far do you take it?

I'm making the point that we can take it a lot farther than we think, without sacrificing comfort, by making the right gear choices. And going SUL or close to it is especially beneficial for traveling in the mountains.

A gear kit is something you think about more at home when you are dreaming about getting into the high country again. Its part of the overall passion. But once you have achieved your UL goal and you're out there doing it, there is a great deal of satisfaction. The fine tuning continues and its always fun to try new things.

SUL or UL is very liberating. Like the wilderness itself, its spiritual, and you want to preserve that feeling into daily life. Perhaps that's the mindset that Ryan is eluding to. Things take on less importance, at least you would like it to be that way. The wilderness is your therapist.

Happy hiking, Will

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Set base weights and gear lists on 05/09/2013 09:27:59 MDT Print View

Interesting article, Will. I'm looking forward to the gear reviews.

I see this article as an attempt to deal with strictly defined base weights. The weights make a starting point for discussions about coordinated gear kits, but as Will has found, they don't fit all the conditions that hikers experience. What I require for 3-season hiking in the Olympics and Cascades varies from Southern California, the Colorado Rockies, desert hiking, Florida, etc. With these variations in climate plus the personal needs of a particular hikers, I think these set base weights are more fantasy than fact and may actually get a hiker in trouble if not properly applied. The 4/5/6 pound base weights become totally meaningless for winter camping, and don't recall seeing an attempt to create a winter base weight category--- likely due to the fact that it wouldn't work any better than the arbitrary 3-season lists we see. IMHO, the whole concept of set base weights should be thrown out.

I think it is productive to compare gear lists for like conditions and certainly to compare separate categories, like "lightest one person tarp" or "packs for 25-30 pound loads." I also find it useful to discuss general tricks and techniques of UL, like decanting supplies to smaller containers, lightweight water containers, eliminating gadgets and so forth. Gear lists and base weights should suit the weather conditions and comfort needs of a particular hiker at a particular time and place.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Glen's heavy pants on 05/09/2013 11:43:31 MDT Print View

His pants look like they weight 8 lbs. Has he ever heard of RailRiders bone flat pants?

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
HP's on 05/09/2013 11:45:17 MDT Print View

Not to mention the underwear.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Glen's heavy pants on 05/09/2013 11:52:11 MDT Print View

Takes a lot of yardage to cover his tall frame--- probably twice what Will needs :)

I pretty sure those are REI no sit zip convertibles.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: work on 05/09/2013 17:22:57 MDT Print View

> PS - Is this maybe in part about the difference between work in the way a physicist
> would define it and the energy that we need to expend when we're doing things that
> the physicists might say are zero work?

Yes! Absolutely. This is about human responses. Work as defined by physics does not include things like sore shoulders and backs.

Mind you, Ryan & mates on that Alaskan trek did have a guideline about distance/day vs pack weight. As pack weight went up, distance went down, to the point you could hit a wall.

Cheers

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Backpacking "work" on 05/09/2013 18:27:06 MDT Print View

However the impact is measured, I agree wholeheartedly that significantly lightening the load is liberating. It's in large part due to all the great BPL articles and posts that I've had the chance to experience it over the past few years. Looking forward to your next installment, Will!

Best,

Bill

Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope. on 05/10/2013 02:14:53 MDT Print View

I also backpack in the CO mountains, love camping above treeline, and spend most of my time in the alpine, off trail. I also find that an extra 1-lb or so of packweight is necessary in such environments. My baseweight is 5.8.

However, I do feel that with proper site selection, tarping in the alpine is quite doable - and have been doing so for a little over a year. I also don't find bug protection all that necessary, but I usually don't start backpacking until July/August, as I usually ski until then. Curious to see what other areas we differ in our gear selection and looking forward to part 2!

Edited by lindahlb on 05/10/2013 02:15:38 MDT.

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: work on 05/10/2013 09:35:27 MDT Print View

"As pack weight went up, distance went down, to the point you could hit a wall.

"

for an empherical fact, even when it gets over that majic 100# mark, you can still wander about 8 to 9m a day. it is a bit of a mindset though needed to take the abuse. it helps to think of it as "plenty of food !"

the point is that the deterioration of distance is not linear.

in non freezing temps at those weights, one must stop every 1000 yds or so to cool down. this is the main reason the daily distance is so low. you simply lose too much time sitting. it's not for resting .. it's for cooling off.

in my case, the limit is not what can be toted, but what you can stand back up with after you stop. 105 MAX. ( and never again ! )

cheers,
v.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/12/2013 17:33:00 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:16:26 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: 1 question / 1 prediction on 05/13/2013 03:55:22 MDT Print View

Hail in a tent - yes. Noisy, but so what.
A bit different from hail in a bivy I would think! Depends on whether you have any tarp over your head.
I will mention that hail means sudden cold.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 05/14/2013 15:38:09 MDT.

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
An eye opener on 05/14/2013 15:34:22 MDT Print View

Over the last few years I've been down on myself because I just couldn't get my kit to sub 10 lb levels. I felt that I just wasn't tough enough to sacrifice the weight. Now everything makes perfect sense. We mainly backpack in the Uintas of eastern Utah in the late spring and summer. This is a very unforgiving area where vicious lightning storms, snow storms and hail can come from nowhere and make your life absolutely miserable. I could never imagine any sacrifices in these conditions for the sake of weight. There are just too many variables in high mountain backpacking to make hard sacrifices worth it.

Just a few examples:

For every comfortable trip with a quilt, there is a miserable trip with a quilt.

A lot of time in the Unitas you are cold and wet, morning, noon and night. Being able to rapid Jetboil my water instead of fussing with my Esbit beer keg stove makes the trip more enjoyable.

I feel I have to be a little more judicious with my first aid kit in the mountains. Between elevation sickness pills and more scrapes and bruises from scrambling over talus and scree, I feel like I need a greater safety net. The Uintas are notorious for mosquitoes as well!

I definitely feel my choice and amount of clothing is impacted by mountain backpacking.

I guess that in conclusion I'll be less envious of SUL and be appreciative of the protection that my UL kit provides in these more extreme conditions.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: An eye opener on 05/14/2013 15:41:57 MDT Print View

Hi Sara

You may be missing the point just a bit. For the conditions in the Uintas your kit may already effectively be SUL. After all, the primary objective is not an arbitrary weight limit but a safe return.

Yes, we know those sorts of conditions. Hail and snow on MidSummers Eve.

Cheers

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: An eye opener on 05/14/2013 15:56:52 MDT Print View

Excellent post, Sara!

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: An eye opener on 05/14/2013 17:44:40 MDT Print View

Yeah, I agree that mountains are different and require extra stuff you would not think of as necessary. 6 pounds is very minimal, I look foreward to the rest of the series. But, as Will and Ryan both have stated, the philosophy is identical. An arbitrary 6 pounds is not always the only criteria.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
SUL on 05/14/2013 18:51:57 MDT Print View

I thought SUL was defined by an arbitrary weight limit, but now I learned its not.

Paul Mason
(dextersp1) - F
Mountains? on 05/15/2013 06:46:41 MDT Print View

I'm not a member so I can't read the article.

To me the one item that needs to be defined the first is the "Mountain Conditions" being prepared for - temperature range, altitude, snow?, ice, etc.

April in north Ga is much different then April in Co.

I'm in Co right now and hiking some 14ers. On a one day outing my pack can have snow shoes (with extenders) crampons, ice axe, 3 liters of water, PLB, etc

Here is an old list of my equipment. Don't take it too literally when it comes to the wights - most were guesses. And many of the items I don't take on a day outing.

http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=22194&hilit=+list

PS - that list is old - take it with a grain of salt - I don't even think it has my PLB listed.

Edited by dextersp1 on 05/15/2013 07:11:44 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Hail in a tent or bivvy on 05/15/2013 07:01:46 MDT Print View

I've been caught out in 1/4" hail a couple times ... ouch. I would NOT expect to enjoy the experience in a bivvy typical of what you'll usually find used by your average BPLer, myself included.

I weathered real golf ball sized hail in a tent once ... in a forest so not 100% exposed. Holes punched in the fly ... used an entire package of Coughlan's multi colored nylon repair tape making repairs. The tent lived on to become a great conversation starter when camped near other people;-)

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/15/2013 07:23:27 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:13:36 MDT.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Thanks Jim! on 05/15/2013 19:14:39 MDT Print View

"I'm thinking that the bivy would take less damage because it isn't pulled tight and the sleeping bag insulation would cushion the impact."

I expect you're probably right, but I've seen what bad hail can do to light raingear (not pulled tight and with me to cushion the impact, in principle). It took me only ~ 5' to get to shelter, but there wasn't really anything left to duct tape. Looked like it'd been through a blender. (My hands didn't look too good either.) So if you want that bivy to survive nasty hail, it better not be the light stuff.

Fortunately, these events seem to be rare and brief. And perhaps I'm kidding myself (anyone have any data?), but it seems like these events are usually in the afternoon in the mountains, well before I've set up my shelter. If heavy hail hit while I was under my shaped tarp, my immediate reaction would be pull the pole out and drop the tarp to the ground until the action was over. Arguments as to whether that's the right thing to do?

Cheers,

Bill S.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/15/2013 22:01:24 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:10:30 MDT.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Bivy Used: Integral designs ( AKA RAB ) alpine bivy on 05/16/2013 04:51:32 MDT Print View

I hope I didn't alarm you more than appropriate with my hail blender story. It's not something I worry about myself. At all. I've only ever seen hail like that once in my life, and no one I know personally has ever seen it like that (other than my wife, who was with me). It even put a few holes in one of those heavy duty fiber-reinforced space blankets. This was a long time pre BPL (ergo the heavy duty space blanket - what were we thinking?) and pre-Houdini, so it wasn't a Houdini, but I don't think my Houdini would have fared any better.

It was a one-time experience from which not too many lessons should be taken. The only one I take is that if marble-sized hail is coming down so hard that it feels like I'm getting shot then I gotta get any essential gear out of the way of it, too.

It wouldn't make sense to carry a shelter that would have withstood that hail. You can't guard against everything and in the grand scheme, this isn't one of the biggest risks.

Cheers,

Bill S.

PS - I love my Houdini, but it's not a rain jacket. You really want to rely on it in rainy conditions short of "non-stop rain"?

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/16/2013 10:08:34 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:10:00 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Bivy in hail & Houdini as rain wear on 05/16/2013 11:49:11 MDT Print View

I'm with you on the Houdini plus fleece. I've used a Marmot Precip jacket which is pretty much a cheaper version of the Minimalist and the same weight class. Using a fleece mid-layer lets you vary the fleece to suit the season and conditions too.

A GoLite poncho gives a 7oz rain option and you could throw that on top of the bivy if you wanted quick and dirty hail protection, or rig it as a lean-to or a-frame shelter over the bivy for more protection, cooking and changing clothing. You get a pack cover too. A poncho works great with the Houdini for arm and side protection. I'm carrying the poncho for day hiking CYA rain gear and emergency shelter.

I'm without a decent light rain jacket at the moment. I got a deal on an REI Taku, which is darn heavy at 26oz, but it sure works for all day cruddy weather. I've got a Red Ledge microporous PU coated jacket that is 13oz and makes a cheap CYA jacket vs. the poncho. It is well ventilated, but I wouldn't relish spending long hours in PNW drizzle wearing it.

I think rain gear choices should consider the hours of use. I could see using the 7oz wonders for short rain showers and to check off the rain gear box on the list for use in drier climates-- a kind of high quality DriDucks really. But the lack of ventilation features a well as durability and cost issues make me doubtful about walking switchbacks in them for 12 hours at a time. Having effective, durable rain gear really changes the game when hiking in temperate coastal rain forests, extending the hiking season and getting down to life saving gear in many situations. I could spend as much time in my rain shell on a 3 day trip as someone in the Rockies might in a month.

With all that time in a rain shell, the base and mid-layers need to be excellent at moisture transfer yet not be too warm. Hiking uphill in 45F-50F weather with light rain and 85% humidity needs excellent moisture management, but you don't get cold until you stop, or perhaps on exposed level traverses and downhill sections. Often, you find yourself making the choice between wet from sweat or rain and it's not going to be an hour long thing--- it could be all day or DAYS. If I'm wearing a jacket, the front and any vents are open unless there is a real shower. You still have all the area trapped by your suspension that doesn't vent well. A windshirt can be okay on those days with sporadic misty drizzle, but the hours take their toll, and I'd rather use the poncho of the windshirt is going to wet through.

The windshirt/fleece/poncho combo allows for a lot of ventilation and layering options. With my pack covered, it is dry when I take off my rain gear and strip down to base layer. If you hike with a jacket, the rain stops, you take the jacket off and don your pack that has a cold wet suspension-- YUMMY! In extreme downpours, I have sat it out a the base of a tree, with my pack sitting between my legs and the poncho over all. When the deluge lets up, you can shake off the excess and be dry from head to toe, as well as your gear.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/20/2013 08:57:24 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:08:57 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Metabolisms, ponchos and capes on 05/20/2013 09:55:06 MDT Print View

You're welcome!

Agreed on the variations on cold tolerance and metabolism. Aclimitization is a big part of it, as well as gender and just plain genes. I always remember Darwin writing about the native people of Terria del Fuego and the Europeans standing around a huge bonfire. The Europeans were freezing while wearing layers of wool while the locals were nearly naked and sweating from the heat of the fire. Your body adapts to extremes over time.

The real thing to grasp about layering in the PNW is that it isn't that cold, but cold and wet enough to make hypothermia all too real. It is easy to over dress, and with the cold humidity you can soak your base layers and end up with a miserable combination. That's why I don't use down.

I was walking yesterday in 50f intermittent light rain with a wp/breathable shell and just a light base layer under and long shorts. I opened all the vents in the shell while climbing uphill and battened down the hatches when my exertion dropped or stopped for photos. Everything around me was wet. When I did stop for a long break, I added a surplus military version of an R2 fleece. Cozy and dry :)

Regarding ponchos and capes: I think they are highly effective rain gear, regardless of the lower cost and weight. Throw in the multi-purpose aspects and they become "free" weight in your system. With the Gatewood Cape, you have rain gear, pack cover and 360 degree shelter coverage for less weight than a typical 2.5 layer rain jacket.

So why doesn't everyone use them? Ponchos can be troublesome in exposed windy conditions or heavy brush. Simply tucking them in with a belt of light line will tame them.

But I think the real reason that ponchos aren't as popular is that they look bad. A Gatewood Cape can look like a wet salad coming down the trail and certainly no fashion statement. Ponchos are a Paleolithic design and about as close to throwing an animal skin over your head as we get in modern times. The bottom line is that they just don't look as pretty as a nice tailored and color coordinated Gore-Tex rain suit. But either cape or poncho will keep the rain at bay and ventilates well. There are no issues with impaired performance due to body oils or being washed in the wrong detergent, or the DWR wetting out. Field repairs are simple.

A GoLite poncho will give head to knees rain protection plus pack cover and a workable emergency shelter for 7oz and $60. I do think you need to add a bivy to use a classic poncho for a primary shelter, but there's nothing better for summer day hike rain protection and backup shelter. You can rig one for a wind break or cook shelter in camp, or add vestibule to a tent , etc. Other than having the head hole, you have a 5x8 tarp to use when you don't need it for rain gear.

Edited by dwambaugh on 05/20/2013 14:20:42 MDT.

Ben Pearre
(fugue137) - MLife
Physics on 05/21/2013 12:27:37 MDT Print View

Fascinating, useful, inspiring: a good read. But if I may take the discussion back to the thread about redefining physics:

As has been pointed out, the relationship between distance hiked and weight is nonlinear, but how close to linear is it if you count system weight rather than just pack weight? It's exciting to talk about getting your pack from 30 lbs down to 10 lbs, but this conveniently ignores the heaviest part of the system: you have NOT reduced your weight by 67%--you've actually just gotten your weight from, e.g., 200 lbs down to 180 lbs--a reduction of 10%. Subjectively it seems that this creates an improvement greater than the 10% suggested by the math (due to the vagaries of biped propulsion, I guess?), but it's not going to reduce your energy expenditure by anything like 66%. What is the real observable improvement? BPL seems the most likely candidate to do a useful study of this subject.

I'd hazard a guess that some desideratum (e.g. distance hiked) is probably nearly linear (or probably affine, but that'd be interesting to know) over a "relevant" range (say, pack weights from 0 to 50 lbs). But it'd be nice to see what that linear-ish range actually is. It would make the whole cost vs. benefit analysis of carrying a tent vs. a tarp, or investing $x in lighter gear, far more compelling!

The human is a source of some difficulty: we change over time, we're probably optimised for whatever weight we normally carry, and if we lose 5 lbs, the way in which we lost it affects our output. So one study might concern keeping people as constant as possible (or averaging over large numbers and controlling for changes in fitness and weight) and measuring distance hiked with varying weights over some "laboratory standard" terrain, and another might be "What's the best way to lower your body weight for backpacking?" Here I suggest focusing on the first one, just because it seems to directly address Will's, um, artistic license.

The data will be extremely noisy, so this would not be a small undertaking. But I think it'd be extremely enlightening (ha).

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Physics on 05/21/2013 13:05:08 MDT Print View

Not to mention the human body fluctuates by 5-7 pounds daily being relatively sedentary.

Daniel Fish
(daniel@fishfamilypdx.com)

Locale: PDX
... on 05/21/2013 20:38:15 MDT Print View

...

Edited by daniel@fishfamilypdx.com on 06/08/2013 19:07:54 MDT.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Physics on 05/22/2013 06:33:35 MDT Print View

"As has been pointed out, the relationship between distance hiked and weight is nonlinear, but how close to linear is it if you count system weight rather than just pack weight? (snip) I'd hazard a guess that some desideratum (e.g. distance hiked) is probably nearly linear (or probably affine, but that'd be interesting to know) over a "relevant" range (say, pack weights from 0 to 50 lbs)."

I'd make more or less the same guess (~linear wrt system weight), with potential adjustment at the low and high ends, to allow for the possibility that very low weights, carried in a biomechanically efficient manner, may have a lower cost/unit, and that 50 lbs may be higher than the threshold at which most people's biomechanics starts to break down.

It's a very interesting and complex question (by my estimate, an equation describing energy expenditure per unit distance over hilly terrain might have as many as nine terms), and one that's clearly important if one wants to quantify the impact of a given decrease in pack weight.

There's some decent relevant literature out there. If anyone's interested in exploring it with me offline, PM me.

Best,

Bill S.