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I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms.
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Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: I thought it was already decided. on 01/05/2014 17:09:50 MST Print View

"And the idea that big people should get some sort of handicap speaks volumes to the fact that these titles are completely ridiculous and often used for nothing but cyber backpacking and online spreadsheet competition.

That a big guy would cry foul that he can't make some coveted SUL title because his XXL gear and long bag make him ~5 oz. heavier than a smaller person with the same gear tells me that this is about nothing but some sort of strange bragging right as opposed to something relevant."


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: No need for consensus? on 01/05/2014 17:20:12 MST Print View

"Me noob, me learning, rethinking. 'Old' people bored with recurrent topic? Comes with ageing."

Old people come to religion, develop fascination with angels, naturally want to know how many can dance on head of pin. Noob no need pay attention, go read Ray Jardine SUL book.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: I thought it was already decided. on 01/05/2014 17:21:16 MST Print View

Defining UL

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Definitions and terms on 01/05/2014 20:24:20 MST Print View

Lightweght = Can of Beer (Oskar Blues Old Chub works well)
UL = .5 ltr box of wine
SUL = 3 oz plastic bottle with your libation of choice (Jack Daniels is always a good backcountry classic)

Edited by PaulMags on 01/05/2014 20:25:45 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Definitions and terms on 01/05/2014 21:54:01 MST Print View

"SUL = 3 oz plastic bottle with your libation of choice (Jack Daniels is always a good backcountry classic)"

Not if you live in Colorado. There is lighter stuff to be had.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Definitions and terms on 01/05/2014 22:05:59 MST Print View

"There is lighter stuff to be had"

Don't you need to have a fire permit for that?


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
lighter on 01/05/2014 22:16:09 MST Print View

>>Not if you live in Colorado. There is lighter stuff to be had.

True, but I was going more for the general classic. Stranahan's is rather lovely for example. But ole Jack is like a comfortable pair of jeans: There may be trendier or glitzier brands, ...but those old Levis are quite nice.

Bas Hommes

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: No need for consensus? on 01/06/2014 00:36:22 MST Print View

"Noob no need pay attention, go read Ray Jardine SUL book."

Noob yes will go find book today and read.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Roger, Dan, Craig on 01/06/2014 03:23:45 MST Print View

Roger - There's no need to be condescending. I am well aware that different conditions require different gear, and never said otherwise. In fact, I've explicitly pointed out that most of what constitutes the general conditions of UL are three season backpacking on marked trails on more than one occasion. I also specifically stated that UL and SUL standards would be dangerous given certain conditions. If you are going to give your 2 cents, it's helpful if you have paid attention to the rest of the discussion.

Next, I think that going UL and the UL community is fairly inaccessible to outsiders. I think it is safe to say that the BPL forums are one of the biggest hubs, if not the biggest hub, of UL/SUL backpackers. Yet there is not a simple, general definition of what UL/SUL is that I am aware of here, and the "about" page is about as ambiguous as you're going to get and makes no mention of the word "ultralight". This is also an issue on other forums, like reddit's r/ultralight, that has no description of what UL is in the sidebar. Wikipedia has a set of definitions, but cites no sources and doesn't elaborate on what are the most applicable/appropriate conditions. I think it would be helpful if we would collectively try and fix this ambiguity for both people new to this and also to us converts/veterans for reasons I've already elaborated on.

Dan - Point well taking about being concise and keeping it simple. And as much as I like the idea of including something to account for larger people, you have a good point about the benefits of being larger that might negate the slightly heavier gear. Another thing I thought about when reflecting on this point is that larger people are often physically stronger than smaller people, and thus would deal with having say a 12lb pack much easier--it would feel as light as to them as lighter packs would feel to smaller people.

Craig - Those figures are not adequate because they lack some context (i.e. 3 season use on marked trails), and they also conflict with other definitions. I was under the impression that LW was under 20lbs BPW, for instance, and was told this when I first joined BPL.

Yes, it's Nitpicking. But don't we all nitpick when we create a gear list or debate nuanced choices of UL gear? Silnylon vs. Cuben, frame vs. no frame pack, etc.

The whole big people getting a handicap was just an attempt to try and balance things out, and you set up a false dichotomy that it must be about "nothing but cyber backpacking and online spreadsheet competition," should one want to apply such an idea. What about a larger person that just wants to enjoy themselves more on their next hike and wants to cut weight to accomplish this, but finds in the process of cutting weight that some of their larger gear keeps them a bit shy if the arbitrary 10lb mark? UL for big people might make them feel better and also take into account that bigger gear piece of the puzzle. But in the end, I am more swayed by Dan's suggestion of just having, "but individual circumstances vary" note.

If someone gives their proposed gear list out there for feedback/critique, and they note that they are 6'5 and 250lbs, it's helpful, no?

I'm not saying that some people just want to brag, and I'm not encouraging that either. But there is more to trying to establish a consensus than just having people use it for ulterior motives.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/06/2014 11:50:53 MST Print View


Valiant effort to gain Internet consensus… a daunting task at best. And to think that you are trying to gain agreement on two different subjects; Weights & Measures and Standardized Categories.

So we need to tackle each of you subjects separately. Let’s start with


Someone noted that Americans are the stumbling block for a universal system of weights and measures. This is true. But what has been omitted is the fact that this is really not about weights or measures, but a philosophical battle between good and evil – akin to a Star Wars Saga, or a Hobbit Adventure. So let’s start with weights:


The attempt to move the world from ounces to grams is a Communist Plot launched shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The Commies wanted to take over the world, and they quickly identified America as their biggest hurdle. In order to take over America, they would need to kill God. So a plan was launched – convert America from ounces to grams. How would this kill God, you ask? It is acknowledged by many intellectuals that God gave the system of weights to Moses, and tasked him to implement it, which he did. Unfortunately he dropped both of the stone tablets and the 11th Commandment, “Thou shall use talents and ounces for trade,” broke off of both.

All of this was validated in 1976 by the famous American Bible Scholar Archie Bunker.

Eventually the biblical weights morphed into the English weight system, which we can use for backpacking.

16 drams = 1 ounce
16 ounces = 1 pound
7 pounds = 1 clove
14 pounds = 1 stone
28 pounds = 1 tod

We might find it useful to adopt cloves, stones, and tods in our standardized definitions.


For the backpacker, Celsius is not of much value. 0C is not very cold and we would die before the temperature hits 100C. But we know that 0F is freak’in cold and 100F is damn hot. This why American backpackers use Fahrenheit.

Why did American stick with the Fahrenheit system? It all started back in 1935 and 1938. Orson Wells lived in Europe in 1935 and the Pinko Commies infiltrated his brain and tasked him to convert America to Celsius. Upon his return to America, Welles attempted pandemonium with the ulterior motive to implement Celsius. But the World was saved in 1938 from Welles, by Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen. Exasperated, Welles decided to run for the US Senate against Charlie’s younger brother, Joseph, in 1946. Defeated by McCarthy, Orson soon expatriated himself to Europe and eventually died penniless. Good triumphed again. As a side note, the Red Tide changed the name of Celsius to Centigrade, which is a phonetic play on Stalingrad – proof of the temperature conspiracy.


The final metric attack on America was deployed by both the Communists and the Socialists. It is a battle between the collective and the individual. Think about this… the one universally recognized athletic accomplishment is the sub 4 minute mile. The mile race is about the individual. It is not a team sport, it is not collaboration, and it is not for the common good. It is about the heroic in athletic completion. The Commies and Socialists despise the individual, so they decided to replace to mile race with 1500 meters, and to further complicate things they convinced all high schools in America to replace the mile with 1600 meters. Chaos followed. There was no longer any gold standard to judge runners. Not to mention 1500 meters cannot be started and finished at the same point on the track, as a mile can be; and it is impossible to break 1500 meters into nice equa-distant points that make sense; as the mile can be using the ¼ mile, ½ mile, and ¾ mile splits.

Do we really want to replace 1st and 10 on Super Bowl Sunday with 1st and 9.144? Or the Boston Marathon with 42.195 KM? Do we want Eminem to star in 12.8748 kilometer or the Byrds to sing 12.8748 kilometers high? Do we want to change the mileage of the JMT to 338.6 kilometers?

I think not.

But a kilometer would have value to an Edgar Alan Poe, would could weave it into iambic pentameter.


I thought we had discussed The Death of Ultralight Backpacking in 2012, and decided it was not a weight, but a skill set.

During the course of this thread, there have been 4 distinct standards for consideration and possible consensus. I would point out that Abela’s set is used for his own consideration, to ensure consistency in his posts, and perhaps was never intended to be a standardized set. But who knows – John has retired from writing and enlightening the masses on how to hike SUL or XUL.

So let’s look at the most common accepted set, using the God-given measurement system:

Light < 20 lbs

UL < 10 lbs

SUL < 5 lbs

This system has some inherent problems. For example, if Hiker A has a base weight of 19.999 lbs, and Hiker B has a base weight of 10.0001 lbs, they are both Lightweight backpackers, even though Hiker A’s base weight is almost double that of Hiker B. Same would go for UL weights of 9.999 lbs versus 5.001 lbs.

In addition, a 10 day self-supported trip with a SUL or XUL kit would be awfully painful, the light pack being the weak link.

Perhaps we should chuck it all and just have weights by pounds (i.e. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, etc), without any definitions.

Or perhaps we should just forget the whole standards discussion? Since the goal of backpacking is to have fun, while staying warm, dry and safe. Perhaps we just need a “fun scale,” which I suggest is not Skurka’s. Perhaps we can assign a point system for fun. In this point system we can dispense with base weight altogether, because what truly matters is how much we carry in total weight.

This system might take into consideration the total FSO weight, the number of days traveled between re-supply, the number of people hiking together, and the number of other hikers encountered on the trail. Backpacking is about the wilderness experience, not gear. As a matter of fact, I am finding backpacking gear to be boring. So let’s consider…

Take the total FSO weight and divided it by the days on the trail before re-supply. So a 40 lb FSO weight on a 10 day trip would = 4 points. We can call this the FSO Factor.

Now we take the number of hikers in the party. If you hike solo you can add 1 point. If you hike with a significant other and have sex at least once during the trip, you can add 2 points. For all other situations, you would subtract the total number in the party from the FSO Factor.

Lastly, we will subtract the total number of people encountered on the trail from the calculations above. Let’s say in 10 days you encounter 80 people on the trail, there are 4 people in your party and your FSO Factor is 4. Your Fun Factor calculation is 4 – 4 – 80. Giving you a fun factor of negative 80 points. The goal is a trip with a total fun factor that is a positive number.

Okay, I agree this is too complicated.

I have been on vacation for a few weeks and my return to BPL showed about 80% of the posts on the first recent threads page to be gear related.

What would happen if 80% of the posts were trip reports? First it would mean that people would need to go hiking more often, and we would have more useful gear information from trips reports, where the poster could discuss what gear worked, what gear didn’t work, and how the gear was used. Of course, I would rather just see a bunch of great pictures.

Opps… guess I just hijacked the thread.

To be honest I do a lot of so-called SUL and XUL trips, but the gear changes due to the season, terrain, weather, etc. Here is a XUL trip I did, it was more of a what can I do, than something I would undertake for a long trip.

And I do even more UL trips. Sometimes I do lightweight trips.

Based on each trip, I select the gear I need. What it weighs, is what it weighs.

Happy New Year Everyone!

edited for some grammar. It is hard to be on a conference call and type at the same time :)

Edited by ngatel on 01/06/2014 14:49:12 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Re: Roger, Dan, Craig on 01/06/2014 11:54:26 MST Print View

Cesar, I laud you for giving this some thought and putting yourself out there. Even if the particulars differ in interest, the worth of the broader subject is a matter of consensus.

Personally, I find the weight cutoffs of little interest for a variety of reasons.

First, the various UL and SUL benchmarks aren't particularly hard to meet, nor do they depend on conditions nearly as much as people think.

Second, and as a corrolary to the above, many folks want to buy their way towards a given status, rather than improving technique and being able to do the same trips in similar "comfort" (whatever that means) with less stuff.

Third, a peculiar number of people want to identify as an ultralight backpacker, seemingly for no other reason than being part of a group which, for all functional purposes, does not exist.

Forth, all of the above leads to ridiculous behavior, the most prominent example being theoretical XUL trips where the gear is so fragile that a support team is required.

In short, the labels are too often a proxy for actually doing something, and thus I do not support their existence.

[PS Well done Nick.]

Edited by DaveC on 01/06/2014 11:56:41 MST.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/06/2014 12:10:35 MST Print View


Spectators are probably wondering why I'm wiping tears of joy from my eyes and delivering a standing ovation to my computer. It's difficult for me to believe that I'll ever find anything of value on the internet again after reading your response.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Nick and David on 01/06/2014 12:38:01 MST Print View

Nick - Yes.

David - Thanks for the kind words, first of all.

1st: I generally agree, but don't see how this negates having a general consensus and its values.

2nd: If you say so. Maybe because I live in Sweden and I am pretty much the only UL backpacker in my neck of the woods, but I don't know who these people are buying themselves into UL--nor do I care about them. If someone wants to go nuts and spend 10K on the fanciest gear for every condition they can think of, well okay, good for them I guess. I don't see how this affects anyone significantly, nor how it negates having a general consensus and its values.

3rd: Again, I don't know anyone like this, nor would I follow say a blog of someone that suffers from such bad faith or take them very seriously. But I also don't see how having a general consensus would necessarily cause more of these posers.

4th: Where is all this ridiculous behavior? Where are these crazy people doing absurd XUL trips that require a support team? I've done a XUL trip and learned quite a lot from it and it was also a really fun trip. Not all XUL trips are like what you describe and people that attempt them without first knowing the ropes are clearly fools. People like that are going to do foolish things regardless of the existence of a consensus or not.

I am skeptical of your claim that labels are too often a proxy for actually doing something regarding UL backpacking, and don't see how just getting the community to agree on some common information about a shared interest is going to encourage people to be proxies rather than actually go out and hike.

I understand the core of your points, that labels are problematic. Believe me I know all about it, and even grew up jamming to songs like this:

But this is not about labels for people, it's just a general set of numbers for a general kind of backpacking. No one is beating up SUL backpackers for being SUL backpackers, nor do I think this community is suffering from a division caused by the definitions and terms we use. And support their existence or not, they will still be there in some way or another. Why not just deal with them together?

It's just a matter of harmless pragmatism and semantics.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/06/2014 12:47:23 MST Print View

Don't skim over Nick's lengthy post, read it!


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Nick's reply on 01/06/2014 17:37:08 MST Print View

Hi Nick

OK, I am outscored by your impeccable logic and erudite wit.
Translation: ROTFLMAO!


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Roger, Dan, Craig on 01/06/2014 17:39:31 MST Print View

Hi Cesar

> Roger - There's no need to be condescending.
I wasn't.
You asked why BPL Staff had not put up some formal definitions. I quoted your question and gave some reasons why not.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/06/2014 17:48:47 MST Print View

Nick Gatel, you're a gentleman and a scholar.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/06/2014 18:04:31 MST Print View

"Nick Gatel, you're a gentleman and a scholar."

Not to mention a divine comedian, deserving of a place in the pantheon of worthies. As Roger said, ROTFLMAO.

Mitch Chesney
(MChesney) - F
The point of all this...? on 01/06/2014 21:02:56 MST Print View

I've sort of skimmed this thread and the back-and-forth it created, and I'm just wondering what's the point Cesar is hoping to make on all this? As others have pointed out there are far too many variables for a single set of numbers to work for all situations. Secondly, there is no sanctioning organization that can somehow enforce the numbers to be listed on Wikipedia as a source. And last, even if you don't expect an official body to govern the UL units of measure do you honestly expect a consensus among a public internet forum? I enjoyed this whole discussion but I think Roger answered all the questions why BPL doesn't list numbers and no one really seems interested anyway.

That being said, the official MC response you can quote on Wikipedia is: " UL begins at conception and all ounces are sacred." ;-)

Edited by MChesney on 01/06/2014 21:05:23 MST.

Edward Jursek

Locale: Pacific Northwest
consensus on 01/06/2014 23:00:42 MST Print View

God bless you Nick and Cesar! Would this qualify for nomination as the best thread of 2013 or 2014, as it starts in 2013 and continues into 2014?