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I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited
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Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 07/11/2013 20:08:59 MDT Print View

I've been buying a lot of gear to put a light backpacking gear kit together. My perception of backpacking had always been that very heavy gear was required - gear that I knew I would not be able to carry, at least not far or without discomfort. So unlike the typical evolution in which people who already backpack transition from heavier gear to lighter gear to improve their backpacking experience, I am moving from not backpacking at all to putting together a new collection of lightweight gear that I believe will enable me to go on some fabulous backpacking trips. Instead of looking at lightweight gear through a lens of past experience, I've had to look at it through a lens of imagined future experience only. Further, I don't live near an area where I'll do a majority of my backpacking, so I wanted gear that could cover a broad range of 3-season conditions. This would have been a far more difficult undertaking if it weren't for this site and the people that contribute to it, and I thank you all.

I've collected the majority of the gear that I think will get me off to a good start. It looks like I'll be a little over the 10lb. cutoff for UL, but of course that is just an arbitrary cutoff. I do think I'll be reasonably comfortable both while hiking and while at rest and be able to have some great experiences, which I think is really the point. And I'm not completely broke. Yet.

My big three come up to a round 100 oz., which includes a GG Gorilla, Tarptent Notch, Synmat UL7, RevX 30+2. Add in packed clothing, kitchen, sundries and all the misc. gear (map/compass, headlight, phone, water filtration, etc.), and the total base weight is right at 11 lbs., depending on the trip, of course.

I have a trip planned to the PNW at the end of the month to visit a college roommate (eagle scout and all that) that I haven't seen in 15 years and do a couple of backpacking trips with him. I'm stoked.

Now that I've typed all of this, I'm not sure exactly what the point is I'm trying to make, but I'm excited and wanted to share that and to say thanks to the community. Over the last several years I've realized that I love to explore and that I find my peace in nature, and I'm confident that lightweight backpacking will be an important part in bringing more of that to my life.


Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Good post on 07/11/2013 20:24:30 MDT Print View

Hi Stephen

That was a great post, good for you!

Can i recommend a follow up thread with pictures and afterthoughts from your coming trip? Should be interesting to hear.

Have a great trip,

Chris C
(cvcass) - MLife

Locale: State of Jefferson
ul is arbitrary on 07/12/2013 14:39:58 MDT Print View

You said it yourself 10 pound UL is arbitrary, I carry several items that are UL heresy but my comfort level is great. Choose lighter weight gear that works for you and use it.

I prefer to take less gear rather than the lightest gear or most expensive.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 07/12/2013 15:05:21 MDT Print View

Good stuff Stephen,

11lbs is a nice weight :-)

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
good weight on 07/12/2013 17:07:46 MDT Print View

stephen, don't worry about arbitrary designations. Here's one I noticed on a 6 day trip; going up a mountain that I had gone down the day before did not take me any more time than going down it had, give or take. That to me is a real indicator, it means the weight you are carrying is not really an impediment to your walking. For me that's about under 25 pounds total, by that point of the trip I think it was about 20 pounds total packweight, with a 'base weight' of maybe 12, but I honestly don't care what my base weight is because I will never carry that, I carry the weight of my pack at the trailhead, then it loses about 1.5 pounds a day until I get to the end of the trail, then whatever it weighs there, uneaten food, unburned fuel, unused tp, etc, is what I was carrying the entire trip. Ie, trailhead weight is what you carry, so that's what to worry about. Some people might have a baseweight of 8 pounds but be carrying beer, junk food, 2 pound camera setups, etc, so the trailhead weight is a lot more revealing and honest. For a week trip, anything under 25 pounds is a joy to carry, for a 3 day, under 20 pounds, maybe 15. Once I get my gear light enough I'll start carrying a great book with me again I think, so I doubt my 'base weight' will ever get much lower than 11 pounds except for very short trips.

Edited by hhope on 07/12/2013 17:12:37 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: good weight on 07/12/2013 19:48:20 MDT Print View

Doesn't matter what the number actually is...but what you'll notice is how much easier it is to walk!

Good for you, I'm excited for you! It's always nice to get out and get to use the kit you worked so hard to put together. Please let us know how it goes....

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 07/13/2013 15:34:20 MDT Print View

"total base weight is right at 11 lbs"

If you search around you will find that some people define UL as under 12 lbs. Some of those pundits are well known personalities/experts here on BPL.

So by the power NOT vested to me,

I hereby beknight, bestow, and grant you the title of UL Backpacker; with all associated rights, conditions and covenants, benefits, water and mineral rights, easements, acknowledgements, and powers associated herein.

Executed on this 13th Day of July, in the Two-Thousand and Thirteenth year of your Lord.

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 07/13/2013 18:10:24 MDT Print View

Ha-ha, thanks all! Well now that I've been officially indoctrinated, certified and branded, I feel that I have some expectations to live up to. I guess you could call me a card-carrying member now, but that card would just be unnecessary weight.

I'll report back with my experiences in a few weeks.

UL on 07/13/2013 18:21:37 MDT Print View

yes the weight limit is arbitrary, sort of.

Being UL is a state of mind, as much as anything else.

Making the choices to get there, shapes your thinking about what is allowed to go in your pack.

It is not hard to be well below 10 lbs. Even achieving 6-7 lbs is pretty easy with the right gear.

What this says, is your thinking, hasnt matured to that level yet.

I would wager you can still drop a lb or more fairly easily.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: UL on 07/13/2013 18:33:21 MDT Print View

In the old days, like 25-30 years ago, ultralightweight backpacking was poorly defined, and there were no standards. However, we were young and foolish.

I found my way by simply not taking lots of gear that would ordinarily be necessary. For example, instead of a proper shelter, I had only a plastic painter's drop cloth that I could throw over a cord between two trees. Thank heavens I never really got seriously rained on. We didn't have any bear canisters in those days. I never took a stove. Small wood fires were allowable in Yosemite back then. My entire cook gear consisted of a 2-ounce aluminum water ladle (to boil water), a plastic cup, and a plastic spoon. I would carry about two pounds of food to last for three days (pretty inadequate). The pack was a simple nylon daypack. The list goes on and on. I could go out for a long three-day trip with a total pack weight of 14 pounds. Somehow we survived.


mark henley
(flash582) - F
It's only a number on 07/13/2013 18:49:29 MDT Print View

11 lbs is awesome! Now get out and have fun ....

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 07/13/2013 19:00:56 MDT Print View

Ok. Now that you have been officially indoctrinated, it's time for you to start buying even MORE gear. It's the law.

Keio Ogawa
(KeioOgawa) - F

Locale: Sequoia National Park
"Light" adjustments-what about "cold" sleepers? on 08/17/2013 12:35:08 MDT Print View

Well, I always do this, I search a simple question, like, "What is the weight definitions for SUL, UL, L (and now ML and KPL)", and I end up spending over an hour reading all the threads going years back so I don't ask a redundant question. Then I don't have time to comment, and am shy besides. But I'm trying to come out of the "lurker" closet so here's my comment. I hope this isn't too far off thread..

The thread, Backpacking Weight Ranks, covered the gamut of all weight label discussions, and went to the hilarious extremes of elaborate formulas for considering height and weight of the tall hiker, to adjust whether they could add a pound or so and still be considered UL.

What I didn't see, in any thread, were discussions about how many of us get cold easy and need more insulation in our kit. I hike mostly the high Sierra, which gets frosty at night even in summer, and have to carry more weight because of it. Extra sweater, sleeping bag with more loft material, and even more sleeping pad insulation. So do I get an extra pound, and still be able to call my kit UL?

And if you are carrying extra weight in your body (a bit tubby), shouldn't you ADD that extra weight to your pack baseweight when calculating whether you are SUL, UL, or L? That would imply that you are not really UL unless your body is, too.

Really, now, although there might be some truth in there, I'm not serious. JUST KIDDING. I got my baseweight down to 10lbs, and have been adding weight ever since. The fishing kit, 1 lb, the platy of Merlot, 8 oz, the butane canister stove instead of the alcohol or wood stove to save time, a bandana AND a microfiber towel, the 7.3 oz (ugh) gps (sooo much faster to find abandoned trails and xc routes!). BUT I made lots of gear (pack with all bells and whistles 1.5 lbs, max 32 lb carry for those 12 trips), still boil water in a beer can, and yes my toothbrush handle is shortened, so I haven't thrown in the towel. Going light has meant that I can bring extra fun things and still be comfortable and mobile. My baseweight is 12-15 lbs. So I call my kit "Light".

So I agree that going light is a mind-set. The lighter you can go, the more comfortable you will probably be (until you don't have enough extra stuff at night to make a pillow), and the more mobile you will be. The intention, and journey, of lightening my load (my journey included losing body weight) has given my time in the wilderness so much more freedom, freedom to move, without my load causing me pain. That wonderful feeling of sitting down in a high granite basin to soak in the wildness, and not dread putting my pack back on and continuing up.

That said, I'm all for defining packweight for the purposes of communication. And it's good to be proud of our accomplishments, but not good to wear it like a badge, be smug about it, or scorn those who aren't the same. Congratulations to the original poster! Thanks for sharing your joy. And to all of us who feel better because we've gone lighter! Yay!

UL on 08/17/2013 13:36:58 MDT Print View

Congratulations Stephen.

Im a bit like you. Backpacking per se never interested me when I had images of heavy laden people going short distances.

When I discovered UL and very long distances, I was smitten. So I pretty much started out at UL weights too.

Just dont expect it to stop there. You will feel how nice that 15lb pack weight is on the last day of a UL trip, and think "What if my heaviest weight was only this, wow."

Keio Ogawa
(KeioOgawa) - F

Locale: Sequoia National Park
re: UL on 08/17/2013 13:45:21 MDT Print View

Yes, and at the end of the trip I think, "Why does my pack still feel so heavy? Oh, yeah. The trout wrapped in snow, the wild mushrooms, the garbage." But then when I get home, I realize that things keep creeping into my starting baseweight. An extra map, extra plastic garbage bag, little odds and ends that edge the weight up, that I have to keep paring down. The rock my hiking partner put in there?!!??

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
good start on 08/17/2013 15:25:34 MDT Print View

11 lbs is definitely a good start!

Here's what I do... every time I go out I think about my gear while I'm using it and what could improve upon it.

When I get back to civilization I have a list of 10-20 tasks to research and possibly gear to upgrade and test.

Initially you can make some big jumps in terms of gear.

Some of these yield both higher quality and LIGHTER gear which is definitely very nice.

I'm at a 7.5 lb base weight now. I think I can get down to about 6-6.5 ... any lighter and I'm going to have to fundamentally reconsider ditching my hammock and going to ground. That's really the only way I can shave more weight.

Save any additional advanced in material science ...

Trace Richardson
(tracedef) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Awesome. on 08/17/2013 21:31:52 MDT Print View

I was around a 9.5 lb base weight and then realized that being around 12 pounds with some luxury items was so much more freaking awesome!!! I'm not through hiking, I'm not racing and that couple pounds does not affect my mileage ... lesson is, don't give a f@ck about arbitrary baselines. Work your ass off to get down as light as possible and in doing so you'll make mistakes and learn some lessons and then the pendulum will probably swing a little the other way as things even out. :) Also keep in mind everyone is different, my version of comfortable, adequate, safe, etc. is going to be different than others'.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 08/18/2013 01:41:46 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/07/2015 12:17:11 MDT.

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 08/18/2013 19:59:13 MDT Print View

I really appreciate everyone's responses. I'm tempted to make a comment on every one of them, but each would just amount something like to "I was thinking the exact same thing!"

I think the goal here is to optimize the overall backpacking experience, but of course that can't be measured nearly as easily as weight, so sometimes we might get obsessed with the scale. But weight is a big factor in the overall experience, and all of the discussions here at BPL on weight/performance/knowledge/comfort helped me select the gear I thought matched my needs best and to finally get out there!

It seems some of you even think the same way I tend to. I even use the pendulum analogy sometimes at work, usually in reference to the latest management initiative. I've read here about some people's backpacking weight pendulum swing toward very light and then come back a little bit, and I tried to start out with my pendulum close to where I thought it would eventually settle out. Some fine tuning may be necessary, or with experience I might be more comfortable with cutting some gear, but I think I'm pretty close to what suits me best for now.

Roger, I even worked at Toyota too, back as a co-op when I was in college. I think many of their practices could be applied to backpacking! BPL = BackpackingLean? Many notes were taken for future improvement.

Anyway, I'm back from my first real backpacking trip, anyone interested in how it went?

Edited by sdparks on 08/18/2013 20:02:47 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: I didn't make UL weight, but I'm still excited on 08/18/2013 20:04:35 MDT Print View

"anyone interested in how it went?"

Trip report please.