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Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing?
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Miquel Casas
Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 11:44:42 MST Print View


I'm fairly new to ultralight backpacking, and I've been trying to look for the following information with not too much luck.

What is the longest -AKA how many days- can you go with no replenishment before you cross over the line of ultralight backpacking? For instance, is it possible to comfortably hike for 10 days with everything you need -water & food- on your backpack and still call it ultralight? I'm wondering at what point food and water is so heavy that it can't be called ultralight anymore, or can it?

If you have any examples that includes gear list with food and water, it'll be helpful.

Thanks for your help,

Miquel Casas
Portland, OR

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 11:51:11 MST Print View

The ultralight distinction is about base weight, not overall weight.

To answer your question though, once you get over 30 pounds the weight will start to slow you down.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 11:55:25 MST Print View

In my mind, the crossover comes when your UL pack doesn't carry the base weight + food + fuel comfortably. That can be avoided with a more substantial pack, but then your base weight is up.

A few scenarios:

3 days = 5 pounds food + 8 ounces fuel on top of a 8-pound base weight and that all works.

10 days = 15 pounds food, 1-2 pounds fuel, + 8 pounds base weight = 25 pounds which is getting to the limit of many packs (that allow you to have an 8-pound base weight. So beyond that, you probably have a pack that weighs 2-3 pounds instead of one that weighs one pound. But I'd still call that UL.

One trick I've used when starting a trip when I have more food weight, is to put 5-10 pounds in a 2.4-ounce sea-to-summit day pack and wear it on my chest. After a few days of food consumption, the day pack gets tucked away.

Miquel Casas
Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 12:18:31 MST Print View

Thanks for the distinction! I was getting confused.

Miquel Casas
Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 12:21:37 MST Print View

Hi David,

That's very good information. What kind of 1 pound pack can carry 25lbs comfortably for an average let's say 20 miles a day? I've been reading about frame and frameless packs, and it sounds like it may have to be a frame packed to carry it comfortably, but can you recommend 1 pound pack frame pack that can carry 25lbs?

Thanks for your help,


Edited by mcbbcn on 12/18/2013 12:22:22 MST.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Resupply on 12/18/2013 13:16:21 MST Print View

Miquel---I've been asking this question for a couple years and never seem to get a satisfactory answer. As far as the food load goes, Skurka carried 2 lbs 2 oz of food a day for his Alaskan-Yukon trek. Jardine recommends hauling 2.5 lbs a day for a "thru-hike". I agree with these weights---in fact when Skurka did a 14 or 17 day section w/o resupply his pack approached 60 lbs.

So no, maybe you can't be UL when your food load alone is 30 or 40 lbs. I know, I know, the base weight thingie-doodad-whatever is still uber light but then throw in 40 lbs of food for an 18 day winter trip and things change fast. In fact, the usual weekend pack won't work, will it?

But it's a fascinating topic, as in this question as a corollary: How long can a backpacker stay out without a food cache or resupply? Imagine stepping out of a car on Day 1 of a 30 day wilderness trek with no interruption? Prepare to haul some weight.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 13:20:55 MST Print View


I fly for a lot of my trips (so I like something that is sturdy enough to check as luggage) and have a fleet of Jam 70s and Jam 50s for the adults and kids in our family. Those aren't 1-pound packs, they are just under 2 pounds.

To get down to one pound and carry 20-25 pounds, one option is a pack that uses your sleeping pad as part of it's structure. A z-lite for instance, tucked into a pocket against your back.

Hopefully others can chime in with makes and models of near-one-pound pack, but maybe that's another thread.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 13:27:55 MST Print View

"Hopefully others can chime in with makes and models of near-one-pound pack, but maybe that's another thread."

I go out with a pack that is near one pound, but it is on the other side of one pound. My current pack weighs between 13 and 14 ounces. It is supposedly comfortable for a 20-pound load, and I find it fine for 25. At 30, it becomes noticeable. At 35, it is no longer fun.


John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Swift on 12/18/2013 13:46:18 MST Print View

I carry an SMD Swift at 18oz. With a base weight of 10lbs I can go 12 days without resupply comfortably. That puts me at 28lbs to start with pack weight dropping about 1.5lbs per day. For me it is more of an issue with volume rather than weight - I just run out of room in my pack.

Compounding this is that I need more food when out longer than 8 to 10 days, I just get more hungry. I suppose you could try much more calorie dense foods but I don't know how much peanutbutter and Nutella I could stomach.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
1 pound packs on 12/18/2013 14:04:51 MST Print View

Zpacks has a good lineup. There is the frameless Blast and Zero. People will debate how much you can carry comfortable in these frameless packs. For me, I start to notice weight at about 25 pounds.
The Zpacks ArcBlast line has a frame and I think can carry quite a bit more, but I don't own one. They weigh about a pound.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 14:10:47 MST Print View

Check out Ryan Jordan, Roman Dial and Jason Geck's Arctic 1000 expedition:

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
How Far? on 12/18/2013 14:30:04 MST Print View

Miquel -- lots of information in this article for modeling the answer to this exact question:

How Far, How Fast, How Heavy?
Calculating the range for unsupported, long-distance hiking

Edited by ryan on 12/18/2013 14:31:00 MST.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 14:34:37 MST Print View

There is no one answer to this question. There are simply too many variables involved.

trail conditions - good trail or bushwacking
topography (up, down, or level? how much elev gain and loss? frequency of same?)
the hiker's metabolic needs
the hiker's fitness level
eating habits
food preferences and rejections
hydration needs

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/18/2013 15:57:05 MST Print View

A frameless pack can carry 25lbs and more reasonably well provided that:

- you make a virtual frame for it, typically using a sleeping pad and careful packing.
- it's got a good waist belt. Does not need to be thick or heavily padded but it must be wide.
- it's got well padded shoulder straps.

Load transfer to the hips is surely worse than what you get with a frame but it can be surprisingly good

I've carried as much as 43lbs that way. It was fine. The pack was almost 2lbs though but could have been lighter without hurting the carrying system

longest on 12/18/2013 17:58:00 MST Print View

Some folks could take a 6 lb pack, 3 lbs of gear, fill the pack with 50 lbs food, and go out for a month in desert conditions. They would still be UL. It applies to the gear weight, not the total weight.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: longest on 12/18/2013 18:31:18 MST Print View

Not super interested in the answer to the original question, but I was reading in Ryback's first book (the PCT one) a few days ago that he routinely did ~ 300+ miles on a single resupply, and I'm pretty sure he had cans of food in his pack most of the time! I think he only did what we would call "moderate" miles per day (< 20) but maybe that would have to be considered big miles considering the weight!

I'm sure that is nowhere near any kind of record, but it gives a whole new perspective on the uses of a pack that could handle a crazy-heavy load - freedom and simplicity on an extended trip.

Edited by millonas on 12/18/2013 18:34:18 MST.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Longest on 12/18/2013 20:37:19 MST Print View

I remember Ryback's description of leaving a town with 20 days worth of food and supplies on his back and how good it felt to be so supplied. I read this in the Hiking The Appalachian Trail two volume book set put out by Rodale Press.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
Longest on 12/18/2013 22:23:20 MST Print View

Yes but he also wore his pack out continuously and was always making repairs.

Anthony Huhn
(anthonyjhuhn) - F - MLife

Locale: Mid West
Tooting horns on 12/18/2013 22:25:28 MST Print View

Not to toot my own horn....
But someone other than myself namely Ryan Jordan and Roman Dial did 600 miles unsupported.

Their site

Andrew Skurka was going to try to do 800 miles on the AT but ended up calling it off. He said that he expected his pack to be 70 pounds

Long story short it sounds like it sucks, and is definitely not for me. I guess that's why I work retail and they are pros.


Miquel Casas
Longest,,, on 12/18/2013 22:51:00 MST Print View

Hi all,

I absolutely love this forum. Thanks all for chiming in...this is a great amount of information and I'll do more research based on everybody's answers.