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The SUL Mindset, Part 2: Less vs. Lighter
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jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: shelter options on 06/05/2013 12:32:39 MDT Print View

I did a backpack with no tent. Weather report said no rain but it ended up raining quite a bit. I put my rain jacket over my top and made do, but got wet some. The next day I got things fairly dry. Maybe you can call it "type 2 fun".

In the future I will often not take tent if weather forecast is good, but it is much nicer with tent if it rains.

folecr r
(folecr) - M
Synthetic + fleece on 06/05/2013 14:39:05 MDT Print View

I used to have an R2 for exactly the same reason stated above : wet weather versatility.

I've used an Arcteryx Aphix Hoody recently in the frontcountry and I think it might be as versatile. It's a synthetic fill jacket with huge softshell-like fleece panels that extend all the way to the cuffs... very, very breathable. The jacket looks stylish enough that it is casual wear appropriate too.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 06/05/2013 15:52:26 MDT Print View

"For a weight difference of 26 ounces when total pack weights for weekend treks are in the 12-15 pound range, I may actually have to come clean on my motivation for carrying tiny sized packs, and I can’t get beyond the narcissism: it’s because I like the way I look with a small pack."

This, from the same guy who said "if you come across a water source and there's water in your bottle, you have made a mistake"? Now 26 ounces doesn't matter? Wow.

It's a mistake to tote extra water but it's not a mistake to tote an extra 1.5+ pounds of dead weight that, with a total load of 12-15 lbs, is doing nothing for you? At least you can drink the extra water or decide to dump it along the way.

I guess you've gotta generate site traffic any way you can.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: James on 06/05/2013 16:55:40 MDT Print View

Yes, and Ryan continues to generate site traffic by producing high quality content like this very article. I for one have learned from both his water comment and this SUL series. Would you prefer that Ryan never evolve or clarify his thoughts on SUL?

John Hansen
James on 06/05/2013 20:33:01 MDT Print View

I think he said to use what you got and use your brain. We can always spend more to get lighter weight, but if what you have is a backpack that weighs 26 ozs more than the SUL version, use it. But you can still carry less and therefore carry less weight.

Jeez, James, did you really miss the whole point of RJ's story? It's not about buying more and more, but using less and less. Am I comfortable with RJ's wood burning, not in the areas that I spend 90% of my time? But do I get his point of challenging every piece of my gear and thinking of skills that could replace a piece of gear? Yes. I'm actually looking at my mountain climbing kit to explore ways to replace gear with skill.

Mobius Vortex
Please! on 06/05/2013 21:48:11 MDT Print View

So for a long dry stretch just carry you water in a zip lock bag. And just be extra safe don't carry a map or compass.
This all crosses the line into stupid light. Admittedly I was set off by the second paragraph "If you have to buy new stuff, ... ultralight hypocrisy." A couple of years ago my lightest sleeping bag was 3 lbs and the lightest pack that could hold it 7+ lbs empty. No way are you going to go SUL with that gear. Then to follow that with the suggestion of using a zip lock as your water carry for "long dry stretches". Please!

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: SUL on 06/05/2013 22:52:54 MDT Print View

If you blindly followed Ryan's gear list, then yes it could very well be stupid light. But bringing a tarp when you can stay perfectly dry under natural cover isn't necessarily smart either. What you need to stay safe and comfortable depends on a huge number of factors (experience level and environment to name a few). That, I think, is the whole point of this series - picking one number (5 or 6 or 10 lbs) isn't an accurate descriptor. Accurately assessing the conditions and bringing the least gear you can to stay safe and comfortable - that's a better definition of UL/SUL.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 06/05/2013 22:59:08 MDT Print View

Some of Ryan's advice just seems inconsistent to me, that's all.

"If you have to buy new stuff, then regardless of your pack weight, consider that you may have transcended away from the ultralight philosophy and into ultralight hypocrisy." Seriously: hypocrisy? This is the kind of bombastic verbiage I'm talking about. Are we all hypocrites for getting rid of our 7 lb Dana Design packs and getting frameless packs, regardless of the load carried?

In a certain way it reminds me of Twight's whining back in the day about how the summit didn't really matter anyway. Everyone knew that HE knew it was crap but he did it anyway to cause a stir and get more press. I doubt Ryan is looking for press but I believe that he likes to throw whoppers out there just to stir the pot, knowing that the statements are over-the-top and not really consistent.

While Googling I found this comment regarding Twight's writing and it almost seems apropos here: "he has said elsewhere that he doesn't really bother justifying his positions rationally and that most of his writing is more manifesto than treatise".

Maybe that's how we should interpret some of Ryan's comments: in spirit, not in substance.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
ziplock bags for water on 06/05/2013 23:07:24 MDT Print View

I find that a 1.2 oz Platypus bottle works better than a used zip closure bag that's in your garbage pile and contains some gorp dust for carrying water.

I'm not trying to educate you on "how to make this choice" just to save a half ounce, or otherwise extolling the virtues of using zip bags for water storage.

I got the idea because I did a 5 day trip across the Beartooths using the pot-steripen-no bottle approach, and I had one nine mile stretch that was dry (up on a ridge). So I figured I might as well use a dirty zippie from yesterday's lunch rather than take along a water bottle just for that one stretch.

And wait -- I thought the key to generating site traffic was to promote popular gear and methods? Sheesh, I've really got this all confused.

Besides, I needed that big pack (+26 oz!) to house the Ridge Rest Deluxe. Rolled up inside, that thing is huge, and it looks kinda stupid strapped to that little tiny 1600 ci day pack :D

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
ultralight hypocrisy on 06/05/2013 23:20:18 MDT Print View


It's hard for me to reconcile the seemingly endless acquisition of ultralight gear and promoting the virtues of ultralight philosophy in the backcountry while living a consumer-centric lifestyle and living in a consumer-centric culture.

I own way more backpacking gear *options* (and thus, more pieces, and more mass) now than I ever did before discovering the ultralight thing.

That's not...progress, is it?

If this hypocrisy isn't part of your journey, no big deal, just pretend the "Hypocrite!" finger isn't pointing at you. But it's certainly part of mine, and I see that finger pointing at me.

Edited by ryan on 06/05/2013 23:20:45 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: The SUL Mindset, Part 2: Less vs. Lighter on 06/05/2013 23:33:16 MDT Print View

Even on trips where I am following water, I bring a water bottle. I like having something to drink out of during the evenings without walking back and forth to the water. I can't drink out of my pot if it's full of food.

Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
self-reliance on 06/06/2013 03:47:46 MDT Print View

I see a lot of people on this site blindly follow what someone else suggests they do, especially certain someone else's who are staff writers for BPL. I took this article as a suggestion to experiment with taking less of what you already own. If you've been getting out into the wilderness a decent amount, then presumably you've gotten a chance to see what of your gear works in different situations. And presumably you've gained some confidence in yourself in a wilderness setting, and thus an ability to parse the advice that you read in internet articles and forums.

Its not like now that Ryan had fun using his heavy CCF pad and no tarp or map that its the 'cool' way to backpack. Get outside more and figure out what works for you.

I'm lucky enough to live super close to a beautiful wilderness area (40mins to my profile pic). After taking enough trips, geeking out over routes on google earth and studying the terrain from various peaks, its no longer necessary to bring a map or a compass. This is no major feat of wilderness know-how--Its a small area and I go there a lot. If you've reached that point of familiarity, there's no question if you need a map or not. If you are questioning and thinking about what RJ wrote in this article at the trail head, then you should probably just bring one.

I think its pretty clear that RJ is not issuing general wilderness guidelines. He's trying to get you to think outside the box about applying a minimalist SUL ethic.

I think we're better at resolving potential contractions then we give ourselves credit for.

Edited by sgiachetti on 06/06/2013 05:41:46 MDT.

Claudio Zanoni
simplicity rules, a little more weight & volume is fine on 06/06/2013 06:31:37 MDT Print View

I have a lot less gear since UL started to creep into my mind

e.g. reduced to 1 stove (alc) or open fire...
1 sleeping bag & 1 pad (winter/3 season)...
1 backpack for everything

Reading this I am seriously thinking about reducing everything to just what you see in Ryans pictures... plus a tarp for very rainy trips... then you grab that and go...

Definitely worth carrying a little more weight & volume for the simplicity gained, at least to me...

p.s. the more pictures the better... that pad with all gear on it... better than a 1000 words...

Edited by zachiator on 06/06/2013 06:33:17 MDT.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Great article on 06/06/2013 08:09:53 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan, it's a great article series.

I won't blindly copy your advice, (as I'm 100 percent sure you're not advocating), but i helps me to think outside my own personal "spreadsheet-box"

It reminds me of this TED talk clip:

Robert Patrick
Sul Mindset on 06/06/2013 08:11:29 MDT Print View

The soft underbelly of the beast is that many just do not list their entire kit. Take Ryan's last video ---He is shown using a hatchet in the wilds to make a fire--We never see a hatchet on any gear lists. This is not to denegrate any of us but to say that a strict goal of a specific lbs causes a mind set that is not honest with oneself most of the time.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
the SUL game on 06/06/2013 11:05:57 MDT Print View

It’s very important to remember that backpacking, lightweight backpacking, is all a game-- which is in no way to denigrate it. There’s nothing more serious or more useful than play. Play makes us sharper, more able to handle the unexpected event, less apt to get in ruts, enables us to establish and function in stable hierarchies in social subgroups, refocuses our gazes outward, etc.

Typically a game is established by an inventor who creates the game and enrolls others in playing it. Unsurprisingly, the rules initially favor the skill set of the creator. But as the game gets absorbed by its surrounding culture, the rules change to keep it interesting— playable by more people, and unlikely to be dominated by some uninteresting subset of players. For example, in auto racing, engine size is limited to keep races from being dominated by the inelegant behemoths of super-rich sponsors.

The process of making the rules is inherently political, and subject to the surprises and reversals typical of politics. As with the engine size analogy, if the LW backpacking game had a cost-no-object flavor, the boards would ultimately be dominated by posters crowing about their latest $4,000 sleeping bag, and might ultimately devolve into the game of “what do I buy next?” (Thus losing sight of a fundamental initial play function, to reduce the gap that separates us from the natural world). As in any good game, the rules evolve to optimize the nature of the play.

Interestingly, before LW backpacking, the backpacking game was often (usually covertly) about “heavyweight” backpacking. People delighted in how much, not how little, weight they were carrying— hefting each others packs, bragging rights going to the heaviest load. So the shift to LW was a complete reversal. And perhaps the shift away from a consumerist approach is another reversal. (And just in time—I’m running out of room & money!)

Edited by swimjay on 06/06/2013 11:48:57 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
re: UL Hypocrisy on 06/06/2013 18:38:35 MDT Print View

Ryan, I do appreciate you acknowledging the hypocrisy inherent in UL. (Let's go ahead and be really honest--it's just inherent in most things we humans do.)

While I really like the emphasis of this week, I found it a little frustrating that you were saying that you were taking what you already had when you clearly just replaced your old HMG Expedition with a new one. Of course, you had clearly put a lot of use in the previous pack, so maybe replacing well-worn gear is less hypocritical.

Simplicity and elegance are worth a high price, but I'm not sure they're worth the cost that the hypocrisy of consumerism demands. Thanks for critiquing that, even if we're all entrapped within it to some extent.

Edited by GlacierRambler on 06/06/2013 18:40:12 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
HMG pack replacement on 06/06/2013 18:44:49 MDT Print View

Clayton -- I wore the old HMG expedition pack out toting heavy loads while guiding, it ripped out at the hip belts. I notified HMG about it, and they've retooled it so it's no longer an obvious failure point, so the pack I'm using in the new vids is my warranty replacement.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: the SUL game on 06/06/2013 18:47:13 MDT Print View

@ Jim Sweeney.
Yours is one of my favorite BPL posts. Thank you.

Edited by Kat_P on 06/06/2013 19:09:22 MDT.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
yep on 06/07/2013 13:31:23 MDT Print View

I personally like some of Ryan's ideas and have been doing a few of them myself previously. His series actually got me interested and willing to join as a member for another year again. I have often thought about buying new gear but usually instead just used what I had or came across. I own a used Rainbow for when it is really buggy and cowboy camp the rest of the time using a large garbage sack, my rain skirt and my rain jacket. I have an Evernew UL Ti 1.3L pot that i use on my stove at home also. I am not going to spend the extra $45 to buy a slightly smaller one to save ~1oz. If I take my Ridgerest Solar Deluxe I use the Granite Gear Vapor Trail, if I take the Klymit Static V, I use a generic school backpack. Not always the lightest but at 6'5" I will never make the SUL 5# measurement and keep my gear costs way down. So I dirt bag it, take less and come close to both.