Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 1: Concepts and Scope.
Display Avatars Sort By:
Maia Jordan
(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
"Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking on 05/08/2013 10:36:21 MDT Print View

Looking forward to the series!

Erik Basil

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.

Bill 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?


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

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.


sounds good on 05/08/2013 19:12:10 MDT Print View

Pretty much sounds like my philosophy ...

Michael Allison

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.

(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.