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Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing?
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Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Tooting horns on 12/18/2013 23:21:17 MST Print View

"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"

As compared to the "idiots" like Ryback who wore blue jeans and carried more weight than that than that without even thinking it was something special. We are certainly light, but we are certainly capable of over-thinking things at times. LOL

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
ultraight BP w/o replenishing .. Not on 12/19/2013 07:08:43 MST Print View

here's how Not to do it.

sans major ul efforts other than the usual sewing of stuff sacks and such trickery, using conventional gear (with raft) and a stout food load is good for about 3 happy weeks. that's not ul, but it's not horrible.
as said by others, big weight slows you down in a major way. it's depressing as well. but if you put those issues aside, and Max out the food weight limits, i'd think a fit individual with a sense of humor could wander for about 5 weeks without difficulty.

in practice, the "issues" hit larger than the actual task.
as food/gear mass increases, the desired gain in miles fades, and the weight situation spirals disfunctionaly into the ground, just as Ray Jardine explained to us lo those many years ago.
and That is why Ryan made BPL !


more :
superior physical conditioning is Vastly More Important than exact proper gear.
example : perfect shoes will just not ever make an Ultra Runner out of peter.
there's another end of that death spiral too, in that one quickly reaches a point where any more trendy ul weight loss don't add much in the way of miles either. so then there you are at x -miles out, you got more wind in you could use it, but your feets are blown, and There You Sit. at that point you can continue thru the pain and damage your feet permanent, or set up an expensive cuban tarp and enjoy the view.
about then you will appreciate that old italian guy who brought plenty of rum.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/19/2013 10:11:05 MST Print View


First define UL backpacking. If you want to use base weight is less than 10 lbs, then it is easy to do 2-3 weeks unsupported. You will suffer if you want to use a frameless pack or a pack with a quasi-frame. Except for winter, my base weight is almost always under 10 lbs, even when I use my McHale LBP36. The pack itself is NOT the item to save weight on. You can choose light versions of everything else.

When I started backpacking it was not uncommon for many of us to go 2-3 weeks without re-supply. 20 miles per day was about my daily average, although many folks, myself included, frequently took a sabbath day off each week on the trail to clean up, contemplate, fish, or generally do nothing.

Back then, my base weight was around 18 lbs for long trips. Gear weight was limited by the technology of the day.

Peter has talked about what can be done, and he has done it, doing one of the longest through hikes ever.

In our hurry-up and get it done world, I see many people want to do big miles and do it fast. Cover large territories, stay on trails so they can re-supply every 5 - 7 days. Their route and time is often limited by jobs and family commitments. There is nothing wrong with that, if it is what you want to do.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/19/2013 11:10:44 MST Print View


Check out this link and others hidden within the thread: (You will need to do a cut-n-paste for the link)

It is called "Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes" and is from 11/07/2006.

The thread is 6 pages long but worth the time to read it. On about page 5 is a post by me listing a bunch of related links - that still work - with a lot of additional information on this topic.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/19/2013 11:53:58 MST Print View

Interesting thread. Good if you want to turn your trip into some sort of record, or prove your brawn. For me it misses the whole reason to backpack. But hike your own hike.

Contemplating The Fastest Known Time

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/19/2013 12:32:23 MST Print View

The other complicating factor is a bear canister. This is required in some of the national parks in California. The weight of the bear canister is two pounds or so, but the big problem is its volume. You can get only so much food into a large bear canister, and it is rare to see anybody out for much more than a week with the food of one bear canister. Now, I suppose that if you were a real glutton for punishment, you could carry two. I've heard of that, and I can't imagine stuffing that much plastic into a backpack.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/19/2013 13:23:20 MST Print View

"Contemplating The Fastest Known Time"

Hadn't read that particular blog post. I'm with you on that %100.

Now what is your opinion on "clothes-lining" rude mountain bikers. LOL

I am sorely tempted sometimes... especially when I see them tearing up the posted "hikers-only" trail I just volunteered time refurbishing.

Edited by millonas on 12/19/2013 13:25:03 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/19/2013 13:51:26 MST Print View

"Now what is your opinion on "clothes-lining" rude mountain bikers."

Thread drift...

Environmentalism or Conservationism

record attempt on 12/19/2013 16:15:48 MST Print View

"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"

In 2008 Demetri Coupounas (Golite founder) tried to hike the AT with 120+ lbs, hoping to set a new record, 40 days planned. Gave it up a Neel gap after 30 miles.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: record attempt on 12/19/2013 16:46:01 MST Print View

Tim Hewitt’s did an unsupported Iditarod trek of 1000 miles last year.
110 pound pulk at the start.

Edited by awsorensen on 12/19/2013 16:46:44 MST.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/19/2013 17:38:31 MST Print View

You can call anything you want ultralight - there's no legal definition.
Seems like the "accepted" definition of ultralight amongst BPL habitues is a 10 lb base weight. Staying under that with a pack that weights 2 lbs is pretty doable, and a pack that weighs 2 lbs can be capable (though certainly not all are) of comfortably handling a total packweight of 45-50 lbs. So that would mean you'd have 35-40 lbs for consumables. At 2 lbs/day, that's 17-20 days; at 1.75 lbs/day, that's 20-23 days.

Quite feasible. As to why you'd do that, different question. I see two good reasons: one would be truly remote areas where resupply is complex and/or expensive, and the other the simple desire to be out for as long as you can without seeing a road.

Bear can rules, as has been mentioned, mess this up pretty good. You can get a custom oversize Bearikade, but I don't know how big you could go and fit it in a pack reasonably well.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/19/2013 17:48:34 MST Print View

"You can get a custom oversize Bearikade"

I see the word Bear, but it would be a real pig to carry.


peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/19/2013 20:21:02 MST Print View

" at 1.75 lbs/day, that's 20-23 days. "

and at 1.75 lbs/day over any length of time worth going out for, you'll be back early too !

the weight vs miles equation is one of those not-altogether-fun sort of deals.
we all work the sweet spot back and forth, but you try to extrapolate things out over distance and time, it unfortunately does not scale up effectively. maybe think of it as trying to carry less water than you actually need, but since it's food, the bad effects take longer to notice. you can go, and go even father, but eventually, nature will have it's way.

it gets nasty too. so : you have food, but you don't want to eat it all early in the trip. so you "conserve", and thusly you Carry the weight of the conserved food. that uses additional energy, and you end up needing even More food.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Longest ultraight BP w/o replenishing? on 12/19/2013 21:43:12 MST Print View

"and at 1.75 lbs/day over any length of time worth going out for, you'll be back early too !"

I'm not so sure. Having done 16 days at 1.5 lbs/day, I'd feel comfortable going 20-23 days at 1.75 lbs/day. I won't go hungry. But mind you, I'm well aware that those numbers won't work for everyone. Younger bucks than I will burn more calories I expect - I know I seem to keep going on less than I used to eat. And if I were in better shape I expect I'd need more, since I'd be able to enjoy longer days than I do now.
It's definitely a very individual thing - body weight, miles traveled, weight carried, elevation gain and loss, fitness level, even biomechanical efficiency varies from one person to another. Only experience can tell you what works for you.

And it's also very true that caloric needs change as the trip gets longer. Not only do you get stronger and able to cover more miles , thus burning more calories, but also you burn thru the extra body fat (assuming you start with some to spare).

hunger on 12/20/2013 01:21:37 MST Print View

At some point around 3 weeks the hunger really kicks in.
Many trail hikers have the luxury of binging in towns occassionally which helps.

I think Skurka carries 2-2.5 lb per day on long trips. Most thru hikers are doing the same once well into their hikes.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
hunger on 12/20/2013 13:38:19 MST Print View

As M B said, you don't start out needing over 2 pounds of food per day, or at least I don't and I don't think that would be typical. For me it's 2 - 4 weeks before I really need to be carrying heavier food loads on such a trip. As a corollary, my favorite annual weight loss plan is about a 30-day section(s) hike, and I'm hoping to do another one early in 2014.

OTOH, if you start out intending to carry a really heavy load for a long unsupported stretch, it's not a particularly great idea to do that if you're not already strong. It's certainly possible to train up to get "fairly" trail strong and still carry a lot of discretionary weight to then walk off, but practically speaking I'm not really and truly up to trail shape until I've been hiking all day every day for some weeks.

Tipi said: "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?"

On the PCT in 2008 I recall that Billy Goat wanted to really get to know one particular section in California so he started out with two big packs, one stuffed full of nothing but food. He would hike a fair ways in, drop (perhaps hang? dunno) that pack, turn back and go fetch the other pack. He was slowly back-and-forth hiking both packs that way so as to spend more time in the woods. Not a fast way to do it, but definitely thinking out of the box!

I would think that hiking with a pulk in snow might allow you to carry more food, depending on terrain. Of course then you need more food per day and heavier gear. There always seems to be an offsetting factor.

Those who want to forage are, I think for the most part, misinformed or starry eyed, at least if they want to go any decent distance per day. But for someone who knows what they're doing and isn't trying to go anywhere, that might get you to a true upper limit. Perhaps a good compromise there is to pick the right trail at the right time of year and "thru-fish" using lightweight fishing gear. Fish at least provide some decent calories and protein.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Base Weight, Not Total Weight on 12/21/2013 05:21:50 MST Print View

What everyone's saying about base weight is true. For the bog-standard definition of "ultralight", you measure base weight rather than total pack weight.

Now, beyond that, it really depends on how much weight you're willing to carry. Me? Well, I try to avoid going above 20% of my lean body mass for comfort on trail. Which, since I come in around 170 as lean body, comes in at ~34 lbs. That, at my current base weight of ~9 lbs, means I can carry ~23 lbs of food (assuming I use my hobo stove to avoid having to do fuel calculations and only carry 1 liter of water) or about 15 days of food at ~3,000 calories with high-calorie RTE and dehydrated foods.

Honestly, if I'm going to be anywhere near civilization, I'd rather stop one in every seven days or so and resupply. That means a pack weight of ~21 lbs after resupply. Which works out to be ~12% of my lean body mass. 10% is my "shoot-for" goal if I'm going to be trail running or cranking out serious elevation change (though weight distribution is even more important as rate-of-motion increases, due to friction effects), so those trips are rarely more than three days in length. YMMV...

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
the problem with Paul ... on 12/21/2013 09:18:42 MST Print View

" I'm not so sure. Having done 16 days at 1.5 lbs/day,"

here's the scoop, we're not hiking in washington, so there's no "off budget" weight. it ALL seems to be there when you pick up the pack.
thusly, even the sacred cheap rum's weight has to be accounted for. at Paul's low caloric and admirably in-shape situation, i'm not seeing any room for drink. just ... nothing.

my god man ... NOTHING ??? you go out there for days at a time, to watch the sun set, to rest along ridge tops and count eagles, to camp by rivers flowing, and with nothing worth drinking ? that's Un-civilized, that's what it is. i suppose the occasional torp weighs less, but this is BPL, and here is a good spot to find journeyman level drinkers of good stuff.

just a sociable use curve is going to nip ya thru 3 or 4oz a day. so 2oz/day at a functional minimum. if only to keep from getting a sore throat, eh.
got to think'n on Bob's comment that bear cans don;t hold quite enough for what they are, and yes, they seem to fill up too fast. peter recently gnawed thru a large bear-vault in a week, and was eating not all that prosperously.
so last night on the drive home, we got to pondering that my packing was not optimal. now suspect that since granola is a major component of my outdoor food intake, one might be well served by perhaps Not bagging the granola, but tossing it in last, like spreading sand on dry laid bricks. a LOT of granola might be able to ride along between all the less efficient packaging. since it's roughly 1/2 a pound of it every morning, removing it's packed volume could (we don;t know yet) extend the range of the bear can several more days.

i also made several other errors in bearcan packing. ie : we eat a 3oz foil packed slab of spam every day, and for some anal reason feel the need to pack these 3 or 4 to a ziplock. that's foolish from the the volume standpoint. might do better letting them float in my free-range granola (you read it here first), and reap the lost volume of the ziplock nooks and crannies.

bear can food is not like stuff sack food, in that if you don't muck about with the contents, stuff sacks pound down in few days to a more efficient shape and volume. in practice it worked out to roughly "if starting with 6 full sacks, by day 2, i'll eat and compress my way down to 5." thusly, we've been letting that 6th sack ride external the first few days, which they're going to be miserable anyway, and that lets us skate by with a slightly smaller pack.

might add that since i started toting the bear can, i dislike it quite a bit less. the annoyance of it's shape is to some extent countered by it being just the most handy place to sit.

sleds : a pulk lets you drag so much more stuff so much more easily.. it made a criminal out of a formerly decent backpacker.
food, fuel, extra clothing, even Camp Shoes ! ohh goodness, just toss it in the duffel, it almost won't matter.

i wish i was younger, could put all this good thoughts to better use, and didn't have to do laundry today.


Edited by on 12/21/2013 09:26:24 MST.

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
Re: the problem with Paul ... on 12/21/2013 23:06:29 MST Print View

Peter, awesome post! :) I got a good laugh out of it thanks to your good sense of humor.

This is an interesting topic. When I hear about incredibly long journeys with very light gear, I am impressed, I won't lie. But I'm even more impressed when I read about those SAS guys hiking 12 miles carrying 210 lbs of gear each. Even if you go by the shorter distance estimates some of them gave, about 1/3 that, it is still mighty impressive to me covering more than a mile or two with that kind of weight. When I think about UL backpacking, I thank my lucky stars I'm not carrying 5 gallon Jerry can of water or a belt-fed machinegun. I've caught the UL bug, and I'm now weighing (both physically and by importance), ever item that goes in or on my pack.

But back to this topic, not being a fishing kind of guy, it makes me wonder just how long someone could spend out unsupported if distance covered was not a goal. I'd imagine it would end up being almost indefinitely, provided you didn't start to hate the taste of fish, and your gear held out. When I go down these lines of thinking it makes me all the more impressed with the early explorers and settlers. I bet some of them would have been thrilled with some of our state of the art gear or clothing.