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SUL and UL: Seeking Converts
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Sean Perry
(shaleh) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/29/2007 17:01:44 MDT Print View

In many other industries the big players buy / partner with the innovative small players. Someone like MLD could become a brand under say the Mountain Hardwear umbrella (just naming names for the sake of conversation).

Yes, big players can and will mow the small ones down. But small players can and will lead innovation. This is good for the industry long term and can be good for the companies involved. This requires some business skill however.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/29/2007 18:33:22 MDT Print View

Aaron you're soooooo right about REI. Packs, sleeping bags, Tarps? etc are not going to be found there. Shoes and socks and such will. In Santa Cruz which is down the road from where I live is Down Works and they cater to the lightweight crowd. Great place with great customer service. The owner was one of the guys that started Osprey.

On a side note. Do any of us get weird looks in REI. I weigh things and when I am shopping someone will ask if I need help. I then point out that I am looking for such and such of a product and This and that are wayyyyy tooooo heavy. Conversation then heads towards "what? Your pack weighs how much for a week?" Happens all of the time!

Ross Novak
(Aurator) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/29/2007 19:27:58 MDT Print View

What is going on here??? More UL and SUL interest! Anyone try to buy a tarp tent lately or an UL pack? Does having to put your name on a list to get the next run of goodies sound familliar? Stop encouraging people now before it is too late.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/29/2007 20:35:58 MDT Print View

I agree REI is great. I have been slowly working on my local stores to get more light and ultralight options. You need to be the scale of REI to be able to afford there no questions asked return policy... but even they have not been very willing to consider renting lighter items... they see what abuse their normal gear takes.

If I was running a for profit (or even a break even business) on a small scale I would have second and third thoughts about renting ultralight gear. In the past I helped run loaning programs with overbuilt / "bulletproof" items. Things which had lasted me 20 years of regular use were destroyed in a couple of years. My "loaner" kit shows it's age more quickly than the items I personally take on most trips. Better might be purchase with the option to return with a "restocking fee" based on the wear to the item.

As to a place in the bay area to touch things... Downworks in Santa Cruz. Nick and Shelly are great and their selection is carefully sellected: Montbell, GoLite, Granite Gear, Osprey,ID, WM, etc. Best place for ultralight folks in in greater bay area.

Sean Perry
(shaleh) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/29/2007 21:41:50 MDT Print View

My thought was the rented items could be sold at the end of the season (maybe two seasons).

As for Down Works they are on my list but Santa Cruz might as well be in another state. Getting over the hill and back during the week is impossible.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
UL on 06/29/2007 23:51:02 MDT Print View

I know this is heresy, but as I've started going lighter, I've been pretty shocked by what it can cost. So I would say make it cheaper, or at least cost competitive. It's like green products.....if they're not cost competitive, only the true believers buy, and you already have their business.

The other way..........convert the youth. Get them while they're young. And face it, there is only one large youth organization in America promoting a backpacking lifestyle, unless I've missed something. Figure out a way to make killer deals to Scouts, like Alps does. Put together a cheap DVD that shows 20 ways to lighten your load, prominently featuring your products, that can be downloaded online.

Edited by skinewmexico on 06/29/2007 23:52:39 MDT.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Go on a hiking trip with gentle weather on 06/30/2007 04:16:52 MDT Print View

You have to deal with the fear of bad weather and the concern that you will not be comfortable or, in a worst case, unsafe. These are legitimate concerns. There is real merit in being prepared for contingencies. Sometimes a tarp isn't enough.

I would say the solo hiker who has been off trail where the weather can get nasty in a hurry, and has had an "epic" or two may be a harder "sale" than the hiker who has spent their time on trunk trails in a group setting lumping a big load to campsites from which they can only day hike.

Either one would benefit from lightening their load. The former can carry more food and be out longer, and the latter won't feel like his load has limited him to where he can go. But, the former has too many experiences to be converted by the promise of fewer ounces.

I would pick a trip where or when the weather is virtually guaranteed to be gentle. Also, a trip that is centered on hiking rather than camping. The benefits of lightening up can best be experienced in that "safe" environment.

Having experienced it without calamity opens the mind to a different approach for more "hostile" weather. For example, I experienced what I already knew hypothetically: with a lighter pack I can use lighter footwear. Next, came the hypothetical application: if I'm surprised by lightning I can get to safer ground much faster. Then, the revelation and irony: the lighter I am the safer and more comfortable I can be even when I am in "hostile" weather.

My "hike" along the continuum has been slow because of my experience. I have used confidence-builder trips to become comfortable.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Another San Jose native on 06/30/2007 09:25:20 MDT Print View

Great points, and I too spend most my outdoor budget at REI, simply because of their return policy.

And you said "While I do not mind spending some extra $$$ for good gear, spending twice or more just to save 6 or 8 ounces is silly (to me)." But I honestly think you will get there some day; My current threshold to 'buy', the tipping point if you will, is if the new item is less than half the weight of the old item while meeting all the same performance requirements; and I've spent double to save 50grams on a GPS, a pot, etc.. always sell the old stuff.
Not just lighter, better and lighter, and multi-purpose (a use outside hiking)

mark cole
Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/30/2007 09:44:49 MDT Print View

I gotta say that this is pure horsesh*t. You can go UL (6-7 lb baseweight) just as cheaply as "normal" gear. What's the cost difference between Aqua Mira and some fancy filter? A 5 to 16 oz. pack to a Dana Terraplane? A 16 oz. WM bag to a 24 oz. WM bag? A Golite poncho tarp to a (make that ANY) tent? A pair of trailrunners to hardcore hiking boots? A Nalgene bottle to a Platypus (or better yet, a Dr. Pepper bottle)? A .3 oz. Tinny stove to a cannister stove?
I could go on and on. Yes Ti pots are more than aluminum. So don't buy Ti !! You can use a Hienikin can.
You don't need Cuben fiber to go UL or even SUL. Just add up the cost of Andy Skurka's gear list. Totally normal.
Ron's going for a fringe niche that wants the ultimate and is willing to spend for custom hand made in the USA stuff. There are those buyers- I'm one myself.
End of rant.

Edited by marklivia on 06/30/2007 11:49:20 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/30/2007 11:28:36 MDT Print View

I would lean to agree with Mark. In my progression towards lightness I've managed to keep the costs to a minimum. Being in college and only working a minimum wage job for very few hours a week doesn't afford one the luxury of buying WM bags or MLD tarps.
I was able to buy a pair of used tarps, one sil the other spinn, off of a member of another forum. He also threw in a GG Spinnsheet, 6 stakes, guyline, and the patch material for the sil tarp. And I only had to spend $100. That $100 saved me either 3.2 lbs when I use the sil tarp or 3.6 lbs if I'm using the spinnaker tarp over my old tent.
I also made my own down quilt. There is no way I could have afforded a Nunatak quilt so I made my own from the kit on thru-hiker. I spent $112 and saved over 2 lbs over my old sleeping bag.
I made my own windshirt and insulated jacket using thru-hiker kits as well. Total cost for those was about $85 for both of them, but they were both gifts.
I made a handful of alcohol stoves and use a modified Fosters can as a cook pot.
I also just recently completed a homemade Speer-style hammock. Total cost was $12.88 using Wal-Mart ripstop nylon.
The only item I still need to replace with a UL component is my pack. I'm using a 3 lbs MS Phantom and even with that, have a base weight of under 10 lbs. Replacing that with even a 1 lbs pack will put me in the 7-8 lbs base weight range. I have a whole lot of extra ripstop that may get formed into a pack so that weight reduction will be quite cheap as well.
Yes, you can go out and buy all of the stuff that I took so much time and effort to create. However if you are on a budget and even the slightest bit creative you can easily outfit yourself with lots of custom made (sounds better than home-made ;)) gear for a lot less of an investment.


I guess to make this slightly on topic; I've been giving thought to volunteering at the local scout troop. This thread has made me consider it even more. It would also give me more excuses to go out. "Honey, I have to go, the Scouts need another adult so they can go hiking." :D

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 06/30/2007 14:48:51 MDT Print View

> I gotta say that this is pure horsesh*t. You can go
> UL (6-7 lb baseweight) just as cheaply as "normal" gear.

If someone is starting from scratch... yes, UL can be as cheap or cheaper than heavy-weight approach. But many people we encourage are already fully equipped with heavyweight gear. Continuing to go heavy weight has NO apparent cost. Switching will cost something.

Actually, if their heavy-weight gear is pretty new, and high quality, it is sometimes possible to make the transition for very little money thanks to ebay. The challenge if for folks to feel comfortable enough with the light weight option to actually get rid of the heavier item. If a persons gear is older, it might not be worth selling and it will be total cost of the new item. For example, I still own the 7lb "backpacking" tent because it was too old and worn to be worth selling.

Something else to keep in mind is that even a small amount of money might seem like a lot. There are a lot of people who only go backpacking a few times a year. Once these folks have made an investment into gear, they aren't inclined to tinker much because the impact of the extra weight is infrequent, and for them, manageable. This is especially true of people whose money is tight and have other places they would rather make their investments.


Gabriel August
(gaugust) - F

Locale: Penn's Woods
Re: Re: Re: Seeking converts....Create the rituals first :-P on 07/01/2007 07:37:07 MDT Print View

i just pass the word along whenever i stop to talk to someone on the trail. it's usually a hiker asking me about my small pack (and my golite race isn't even that small!).

just the other weekend i was hiking the black forest trail (42 miles in 28 hours) and passed a group of backpackers with packs that looked ready for a summit attempt on everest! they said hello and we chatted for a bit and they balked when i said i had hiked 20 miles the previous day and had already put in 16 miles today. i spent about four or five minutes just telling them how easy it is to start dropping weight. the teenagers in the group looked at me like i was a weirdo and didn't really pay attention but the adults seemed pretty impressed with the possibilities. hopefully they'll lighten up a bit for their next foray but who knows...

anyhow, i just tell everyone that i hike or backpack with about how i lightened up when they ask how i can carry a little "daypack" for a weekend trip.

that said, i agree that only a handful of people will ever convert by word of mouth. getting the scouts involved is probably your best bet for widespread change. it's a large enough group to be influential to the masses and also the participants are young enough that they are open to change. i second the idea of a DVD about "lightening up" that could be distributed to scout troops with some easy recommendations to getting started. excellent thread.

Edited by gaugust on 07/01/2007 07:46:55 MDT.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: SUL AND UL: SEEKING CONVERTS on 07/02/2007 02:54:15 MDT Print View

A lot of good discussion here, but back to the original question...

I convert people to UL by using envy (hee, hee, hee)! Everyone who has backpacked with me lately has shown up with something (or several somethings) lighter than the previous time. And I don't have to volunteer one word about my gear - they learn by observation.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Re: SUL... Seeking converts.... on 07/02/2007 04:11:29 MDT Print View

Here in Japan there has been a small but growing number of writers, retailers, bloggers, and outdoor enthusiasts who have been actively promoting UL and SUL ideas. Japanese are always cautious and slow to change, but once they take a look at something things change like wildfire. Just last week this magazine/ catalogue was published, as a way to get people to try UL:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It is very effective. Basically it is a 260-page commercial catalogue with pages and pages of hundreds of products sold by a number of companies, including some stores, who teamed up with "Yama-to-Keikoku", the largest hiking magazine in the country (which has an average of 300 pages and far less advertising than American magazines) to produce the catalogue. Interspersed are all sorts of articles, from trip reports to how-to essays to historical information (BPL gets mentioned, as is Ray Jardine) to interviews. Unfortunately not one of the cottage industry items is shown, which just shows you how difficult it is to get away from the better known companies and conventional ideas. Still, it's a start. With the avid readership of the Japanese public this catalogue is sure to get noticed. The articles and abundant display of colorful products will be sure to attract the outdoor crowd looking for new fashions!

I wonder if it would be possible for the cottage industry people in the States (and anyone and anywhere else for that matter) to get together to produce such a catalogue and, as earlier mentioned, video. I think there has to be more visual examples of how things are done, with actual views of people out in the wilderness using the stuff so that people can see that it is possible. BPL UK broadcasts podcasts (Ryan Jordan is one of the interviewees) and just started offering this tarp video on how to erect tarps. And of course there is Gossamer Gear's wonderful Ultralight Makeover DVD.There is also Lynne Wheldon's series of ultralight backpacking videos (a name I haven't seen in a long time). When I first bought the BPL "Lightweight Backpacking and Camping" book one of the things that had me very excited was the series of photos on the cover that showed various tarping techniques that Ryan uses...inside there are a good number of pages visually shoing alternative methods for tarping that I thought were very handy, especially since I was still very doubtful about my ability to use tarps. Just like Will Rietveld's great use of photos to show how items are used and made. At times "a pciture is worth a thousand words" is very true. The gallery page on Henry Shire's website was invaluable for instilling confidence in using the products; actually seeing other people use them in real places made a big difference for me. One of the frustating things about looking at the Mountain Laurel Designs page is not being able to see more things in use. Those glorious mountains in the back are not just pretty pictures... people yearn to see those places and showing your products in use in them does a lot to make the attractiveness and reliability of the products real.

And of course there are all the websites and blogs that have influenced me over the years, some of which, like Michael Connick's ultralight backpacking page, which was one of the pages to pioneer UL information on the internet, are no longer available. The problem with this information is that it is scattered all over the place and, unless you know what you are looking for, hard to find. Here's a list of some (some are just links down memory lane, and are no longer operating, like Ryan's old Yellowstone webpage):,4272,,00.html$session[sessionurl]

Edited by djohnson on 07/02/2007 17:41:09 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Impressive Links on 07/02/2007 16:21:05 MDT Print View

Wow... that's one heck of a long list of UL sites. Thanks.

Edited by ben2world on 07/02/2007 16:40:45 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Impressive Links on 07/02/2007 17:36:02 MDT Print View

There are more, of course, but these were immediately available as a copy/ paste. You don't think I'd actually sit down and write that out, do you?

Anyway, they certainly did a lot for me in promoting ultralight backpacking.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 07/02/2007 20:26:18 MDT Print View

>> What can the small manufacturers ... do to spread the word, educate and bring more converts to the Light?

Improve product availability

(e.g., " We are about 8 weeks in backorders on all items.")

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: SUL and UL: Seeking Converts on 07/02/2007 20:36:12 MDT Print View

Sean Perry, going "over the hill" is not that difficult. Been doing that all my life. Moved away from the madness of the Bay Area to Scotts Valley to commute to San Jose everyday. It is possible to come over at 5 pm. Done that. Or hey just come on the weekends, Downworks is open then too. Just a mention, they make great down products too!!!

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Miguel, where can I find that magazine? on 07/02/2007 21:04:46 MDT Print View

Miguel, where can I find that magazine, Ultralight Backpacking? I'll check ICI Sports of course, do the normal booksellers have it as well?
The cover photo choices are interesting; light by most people's standards, Thermarest 3, Leki Ti, Granite Gear, Trangia.
I think BPL members would choose something like a Thinlight, Carbon poles, a golite Jam2 and a soda can stove..

Thanks for that great UL link list!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Miguel, where can I find that magazine? on 07/02/2007 23:17:42 MDT Print View

My thought when I saw the magazine cover: almost everything is foreign (American)! When UL finally catches on in Japan, I bet the Japanese will come up with lots of clever miniaturizations -- to the benefit of all.