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


Bill 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!



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

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 ! )


Daniel Fish

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


Edited by 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.


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.


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
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.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

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.

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

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


Edited by on 06/08/2013 19:13:36 MDT.

Bill 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?


Bill S.

Daniel Fish

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


Edited by on 06/08/2013 19:10:30 MDT.

Bill 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.


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

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


Edited by 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

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


Edited by on 06/08/2013 19:08:57 MDT.