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I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms.
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Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Roger, Mitch, Edward on 01/07/2014 06:58:32 MST Print View

Roger - "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."

I beg to differ. First of all, the entire quote you are basing this off of is:

"I don't get why BPL staff themselves have not tried to sit down and work all this out, but considering some of the not-so-productive replies in this thread, I can sympathize with them for not wanting to open this admitted can of worms."

I was not asking a question, I was expressing, in other words, that if anyone ought to have attempted this task it should be BPL--but that I sympathize with BPL because of the challenges involved.

I am well aware that one needs different gear for war lowlands as one would need for stormy alpine conditions, for instance. And I have been posting around here for enough time now that you should know that I know that or at least give me the benefit of the doubt. Even if I was a total noob, this bit of information you contributed is fairly obvious (as was the rest of your post in question). Hence, you speaking down towards me.

Mitch - "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?"

Perhaps you should read it and not skim it to figure out what I am trying to make of all this. I also wrote a blog post about it, linked in the OP.

In short, I find the lack of consensus and general definitions and terms from all of the online sources of UL discourse--which not only includes wikipedia, but also here at BPL and reddit too--problematic. I have made suggestions and encouraged others to join the discussion, make their own suggestions, and vote in a poll I created.

"As others have pointed out there are far too many variables for a single set of numbers to work for all situations. "

I am not trying to come up with a single set of numbers to work for all situations, nor did I even suggest this is possible.

"Secondly, there is no sanctioning organization that can somehow enforce the numbers to be listed on Wikipedia as a source."

I am well aware of this, nor have I suggested that there ought to be.

"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 didn't expect it, but as an informal way of getting an approximation of a consensus I think that is possible. I mean, if you were to go onto a forum of pizza lovers and ask people to give you a general definition of pizza, I think someone totally unfamiliar with pizza would get a good idea of what the concept is.

" 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."

I too have enjoyed this discussion--especially Nick's post, which added some much needed levity--but I disagree that Roger answered all the questions why BPL doesn't attempt to answer the question, "What is UL backpacking?" in a short, sweet, general, non-absolute way.

I mean I full well knew that there was a big chance that no general consensus would be found, and even called my efforts a "shot in the dark" on my blog. But I personally think that for the good points already made about what constitutes a broad UL definition has made it worth it.

I think it's hard to deny that most of what we talk about on this forum is about backpacking trips on marked trails in commonly accessible geography with a base weight that is around 10-12lbs and under for 3 season/low temps around freezing.

Edward - Thanks! I too really enjoyed Nick's post as well as several other solid posts, like from Dan and spelt! and others. A good way to start the new year.

Edward Jursek

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Consensus on 01/07/2014 08:18:30 MST Print View

Cesar - yours was a great initial post. I don't think there is any place else where we can get a conversation like this. The comments (the good, the bad and the ugly) have been fun to read.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Consensus on 01/07/2014 11:22:40 MST Print View

Conversations like this are always good. As a species we measure things and that is how we communicate. It is ironic that Roger, the scientist, doesn't want to categorize weight classifications, but he will make your head swim with numbers when it comes to other things. Just to note, I do agree with Roger. But the conversation is always good.

I think younger folks, who are dialed into social networking, are more prone to measuring and classifying everything -- that is how they communicate. Not saying it is good or bad, it is just how it is.

Last year I had an interesting encounter. I was hiking in a remote area near the Colorado River. It was in a small mountain range formed from volcanic rock, so from a distance it looks like a big black mountain range, which is not very attractive to most folks, and there are very few trails -- meaning there are very few people who want to go there. One afternoon I was walking down a wash towards the river to get some water and saw a grizzly old man with a large external frame pack heading towards me. Now I often look like hell when hiking, but this guy looked worse. But he obviously knew what he was doing. As we approached, he tipped his weather worn hat with two fingers and half-smiled. I returned the salute and walked past. It occurred to me that is was one of the best trail conversations I ever had, and no words were spoken. Usually people ask me, "How much does that pack weigh," or How many miles did you hike?

Mitch Chesney
(MChesney) - F
Your snarkiness aside... on 01/07/2014 11:44:15 MST Print View

" I mean, if you were to go onto a forum of pizza lovers and ask people to give you a general definition of pizza, I think someone totally unfamiliar with pizza would get a good idea of what the concept is." - Cesar

Here lies the crux of the argument. You are on a forum of, for the sake of argument, pizza lovers and you will find everyone here can tell you what a pizza is, how to make one, the history of pizza, and the many variations. But if you come on to this pizza site and ask. "what is the recipe for a pizza?" you're never going to get an absolute answer. Yes there's bread but is it white or whole wheat, crispy or hand-tossed? And a sauce, but is it marinara or BBQ, white sauce or maybe none at all? And the toppings! My word, the toppings, you'll find everyone likes different toppings if you've ever tried ordering a single Extra Large for a group of buddies watching the game. And this is just the thousand-foot description, the discussion of how to measure the cheese is going to be a whole 'nother can of worms - do you do it by eye, measuring cup, how much, how is it distributed?
But you will understand what a pizza is, you'll be able to recognize one, hell, you might be able to make one yourself with enough practice. And THAT is the concept of what is UL, SUL, and all those other weird initializations. People generally know they are eating a crispy crust by a vague definition of a crispy crust pizza, not by referencing a specific value or recipe. Same when you see someone skipping down the trail in a ZPack, something in the back of your mind says, "That guy is SUL."

Edited by MChesney on 01/07/2014 11:51:39 MST.

Andrew Stow
(AndyS) - F - MLife

Locale: Midwest USA
more on pizza... on 01/07/2014 12:01:18 MST Print View

To take the pizza analogy all the way, it's like going to a pizza forum and asking them to put a number on the dividing lines between "small" and "medium" pizzas, or "thick crust" vs. "thin crust."

Even if most people can agree that a 6" round pizza (15.24 cm) is certainly a "small" and a 10" (25.4 cm) is a "medium," is it really useful to discuss whether the dividing line is at 8", 9", or 20 cm?

Then let's get sidetracked discussing round vs. square.

Bas Hommes

Locale: Europe
Re: more on pizza... on 01/07/2014 13:19:56 MST Print View

Also best pizzabakers are Italian guys and Italians do not like consensus.

Edited by BHommes on 01/07/2014 13:21:27 MST.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: more on pizza... on 01/07/2014 14:18:15 MST Print View

Well everyone knows that a 4" pizza is extra-ultra-small, 5" is extra-extra small, 6" is ultra-small, 7" very small, 8" is kind-of-small-but-not-medium unless the eater is over 6' tall then you subtract two size categories and then it's ultra-small again.

I think this is defined by federal law or something.

Mmmm.... pizza.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
pizza pizza! on 01/07/2014 14:39:36 MST Print View

Then there is the whole style debate: Thin crust? Chicago Style? Neapolitan? Bakery pizza? White pizza?

Being serious, the categories are guideline and not absolute. Much like the pizza examples! :)

Edited by PaulMags on 01/07/2014 14:40:52 MST.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: pizza pizza! on 01/07/2014 14:58:59 MST Print View

I think we can all agree that Chicago style pizza is pizza in the same way that a 60 lb overnight pack is UL. ;)

Andrew Stow
(AndyS) - F - MLife

Locale: Midwest USA
Re: Re: Pizza Pizza on 01/07/2014 15:03:12 MST Print View

Pizza or not, it's amazingly good. I miss having an Uno's here.

Edit: Thanks, I can now taste the delicious grease. Mmm...

Edited by AndyS on 01/07/2014 15:04:38 MST.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Re: Re: Pizza Pizza on 01/07/2014 21:30:58 MST Print View

I was in Buffalo NY back in 2011 doing some work at a company and the last day I was there they bought this pizza... it was about three feet wide and at least 5 feet lot. The biggest damn pizza I have ever seen. Wish I had taken a picture of it. Being a west coast boy I had never seen anything like that before. And yeah, East Coast pizza OWNS anything you can get on the West Coast.

ps: SXUL was made up to be a joke for situations exactly like this thread (he termed it XSUL, I thought SXUL sounded better).

To quote Ross (Wood Trekker) Gilmore in his last paragraph:

Can we get back to the days when going ultralight meant reducing the weight of your pack, but still having all of the functional components necessary for traveling through the wilderness? How did we get from that, to cutting weight by sleeping in cabins and not going out when the conditions are less than perfect? Seems like we took a left turn somewhere and missed the point entirely.

pss: the entire poll should be thrown out as its completely farked through the use of both metric and imperial weight use. It should have been one or the other, and based on that weight system, the different listed weight systems/theories/standards/whateveryouwanttocallthem should have been listed. As it is, the poll is nothing but a skewed quest from the very get-go.

psss: I personally do not care. I have said from day-one that I defined things as I did to be able to give a base-line across all of my publications. I think the use of my weight-classifications should not even be used... it was something I put together to help define the lightest of the lightest and with full realization that it would never be applicable to the 99% of hikers throughout the world. GvP many many years ago set what I think should be considered the accepted base-line/standards.

pssss: As technology changes and fabrics get lighter I do think the industry needs to self-examine itself to see if new standards/classifications need to be made. Two decades ago when 30 pound packs on the PCT/AT where common is not the same as it is today when you have a whole lot of folks with 8-15 pound packs. I think guys like Warner Springs Monty has shown it all very well... he is one of the few people in the world to hike the PCT with a sub-5, yet every time he has hiked it since his sub-5 trip he has used a BPW in the ~8 pound range. So yeah, 30 pounds down to the 8-15 pounds range, I do think deserves a change in theory/terms/standards/whatever... but lets remember Ryan Jordan has been trying to get all of us to realize that UL is dead and SUL is where it is at... what say he on what the new standards/terms/weight-levels should be??

That is all I have to say on the matter... now, where is the pizza!!!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Pizza Pizza on 01/08/2014 00:49:27 MST Print View

Hi John

> pssss
ps = post-script (Latin)
pps = post-post-script - and so on to ppps

ps: love stirring :-)
pps: sorry :-)

Edited by rcaffin on 01/08/2014 00:50:01 MST.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Mitch, Pizza, John on 01/08/2014 13:09:19 MST Print View

Mitch - When you said you skimmed you really weren't joking. You've created a strawman to beat up on with your continuation of my pizza analogy. You say:

"But if you come on to this pizza site and ask. "what is the recipe for a pizza?" you're never going to get an absolute answer. "

This is clearly not what I proposed or asked, and repeatedly stated in very clear terms that this is not about an absolute answer.

This is about finding a general definition for a very specialized and specific sub-type of backpacking. So actually my first example of asking a pizza community to generally define pizza, while capturing the gist of things, is not specific enough--as I hope we can agree that UL backpacking is a pretty specific type of backpacking. To continue on the whole pizza comparison with something more accurate, what I am doing would be equivalent of asking asking a Neapolitan pizza forum to define Neapolitan pizza.

And wouldn't you know it? Wikipedia has a general consensus noted on their page on "pizza" regarding Neapolitan pizza:

"According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana,[9] the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer's yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimeters (0.12 in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.[10]" (

Obviously not everyone will agree with this set of definitions, and you would be a real jerk if you went to a party where someone tried their best to make a Neapolitan pizza from scratch, only for you to scoff at them for the pizza being 4 millimeters and roll your eyes at the birch-wood fire.

But for someone new to making this particular kind of pizza from scratch, such a definition might be helpful, don't you think? And for veteran pizza makers, surely there is a debate going on about the nuances and gray areas of the definition, and how conditions and circumstances can change a pizza makers process and end result.

If you ask me, btw, the best pizza I have ever had (and I have had quite a lot of pizza in many different places) can be found in NYC and Rome. I can't ever make up my mind which city wins, and have visited both multiple times. South Philly pizza is also pretty good, as are most pizzas you will get in France. I am not a fan of Chicago style pizza, and ironically the worst pizza I ever ate was actually in Rome. I went into an avant-garde type pizza place with all these weird pizzas and people one time, and it was a hoot. A man told me I looked like his husband, something I will never forget. Anyhow, decided to get the most odd looking pizza I saw--root veggies with a white sauce with capers. I could only eat half. It was outright disgusting.

John - I was wondering when you would chime in! Thanks for that, and for your previous efforts that I've already lauded.

I have to say though, I had hoped for a more substantive reply from you. Why 12 over 10lbs I've been wondering about for some time, unless I missed something?

And SXUL was a joke? Hmm. Well, you fooled me. Especially considering that (correct me if I'm wrong) have taken or planned on taking trips with sub 2lb kits? I seem to remember you mentioning a sub 2lb kit in your profile before, and mentioning it in some threads here, but I could be wrong. Or were these jokes too?

Also, you wrote your article on how you define things on September 8, 2012--yet Ross Gilmore wrote the article you quote on August 27, 2013. How is it that you were inspired to make this SXUL/XSUL "joke" based on Gilmore's article nearly a year after your article was published? And I seem to remember SXUL on your definitions article before I read Gilmore's article (I also follow his blog), which would seem to rule out that you edited it in.

I am sorry to hear you feel my poll is skewed. I figured it was better to take action rather than be frustrated by the lack of consensus on a matter I am very interested in. People have asked me after I tell them the common wiki set of weight definitions where that figure comes from, and I say I don't know--that it is just a number most people seem to have unofficially agreed on as the unofficial rules. I still don't see how trying to informally try and figure out a consensus would cause any harm or take away from UL backpacking. Neapolitan pizza definitions don't seem to bother fans and makers of Neapolitan pizza that I am aware of.

I think you make some good points in your last paragraph about how things change. Certainly it would have been very lightweight to take 30lb BPW not just two decades ago, but for centuries before that too, with some exceptions of course.

Anyhow, I hope that's not all you have to say on the matter. And if you want a pizza I would be happy to make you one from scratch, but you'd have to pick it up here in Sweden.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Pizza on 01/08/2014 13:17:34 MST Print View

The Pizza caught my Pizza I have ever had without a question was in Napoli . There they say the secret is in the water, but having real fresh mozzarella , or even better Bufala, is what makes it for me.

As for a consensus on defining UL and SUL, good luck, no harm in trying.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
consensus on 01/08/2014 13:34:55 MST Print View

To me, LW, UL, SUL, etc. are just a description of your base pack weight. One is not better than the other. You don't need to make excuses for being in one category versus the other. If you really need to, you can say you were almost SUL. I think most of us would rather be prepared for our trip than to just barely fit into one of those categories. I think its just best to think of them as shorthand to discuss the style of trip you are doing. I fail to see how you can use something other than real weights to discuss what your pack weight is.
And by the way, Bosnian pizza may just be the best.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: consensus on 01/08/2014 14:39:23 MST Print View

I do XUL, SUL, UL, and LW. None of them define me.

There is no better pizza than my lovely wife's Campground Baby Q Pizza, baked in a Weber brand Baby Q Grill!! It is a Friday night camping tradition.

It is also a birthday camping tradition

Mitch Chesney
(MChesney) - F
arguementative on 01/08/2014 15:07:48 MST Print View

Cesar you come off as argumentative so I won't continue debating this. I will simply point out if you are admitting that you are not asking for a single set of weights to define UL/SUL/et al I would suggest your blog poll reflect that.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Pizza on 01/08/2014 17:00:19 MST Print View

"best Pizza I have ever had without a question was in Napoli ."

A huge +1. Down in the red light district, or at least one of them, about 1 AM. From a wood fired stone oven manned by guys with long wooden spatulas, stripped to the waist and glistening with sweat. I don't know if the wood was oak, but the pizza was out of this world, a thin crust topped with a simple tomato sauce, garlic and a bit of olive oil. Never had anything remotely close since.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Pizza on 01/08/2014 17:20:31 MST Print View

"Bosnian pizza may just be the best."

Bad enough that I had to eat chow hall food for my tour in Bosnia, but now I learn that I missed out on some epic pizza?!?

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
my favorite pizza on 01/08/2014 18:51:06 MST Print View

The pizza in Napoli is of course wonderful.

But my favorite pizza, I think for nostalgic reasons, is bakery pizza.

Simple chewy crust, chunky tomato sauce with just a bit of spicy heat, maybe sprinkled with a little touch of grated cheese. It is humble food. Even more so than what most people think of as pizza.

Served at first communions, birthday parties, football watching games, functions, quick meals to the beach and so on.

When I met my grandfather's cousins a few years ago, I went to a birthday party in a local park. I suspect I was the only American there. My clumsy Italian with an atrocious accent gave me away. :)

At this children's party, there was much of the same food I grew up with back in Rhode Island. Same pastries, calzones and other similar delights. But what I spied on the picnic table was the bakery pizza! Same texture, same type of sauce, same crust and served at room temp. It could have been a birthday party from my own childhood. Our branches of the family have been separated by an ocean and 100 yrs, but it seems some things still persisted. Every bite confirmed that more than just my last name came across the ocean.

What does this have to do with backpacking definitions?

UL/SUL/Lightweight/Bantam Weight/Wait Wait don't tell me/ are just guidelines.

We all know what SUL is in general (5 lbs), but it is a generality. Not an absolute.
For me, I am just a lightweight backpacker..whether I am schlepping 5,8,or 15 lbs BPW. The KISS principle and all that.

In the same way, we all know what pizza is. We can talk about and define the generalities but there are many variations. And if you really believe people in Napoli follow the EXACT same way of doing things..well, these are southern Italians we are talking about. Rules, regulations and and sometimes laws are just suggestions as well. ;-)

An Excel spreadsheet looks really good on backpacking forum. In the real world, there is much more of a fudge factor.

Edited by PaulMags on 01/08/2014 18:52:43 MST.