Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms.
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Pizza on 01/08/2014 19:19:27 MST Print View

I just placed my order with Ferndale Pizza. Glad its not UL or SUL.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Cesar on 01/08/2014 19:45:27 MST Print View

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

I wasn't going to... but the lure of pizza sucked me in. And, sure thing. And, thank you.

>>> Why 12 over 10lbs I've been wondering about for some time

Interesting one huh. That really should not be a/the stumbling block here though Cesar.

The "Why" is because I felt that there was a level of learning that warranted the two pound difference. Remember, the entire basis of my personal classifications are: "experience" - there just seems to be specific zones of weight where you are sort of forced into learning new skill sets, and as I went through the process I felt I had to learn less from going from the 18-15 range and more going from the 15-10 range. There was a whole other approach in the process of losing those 2+ pounds. Experience, Education. Experience, Education. Experience, Education.

>>> And SXUL was a joke?


>>> 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?

Uhh, its called editing an article post publication. Gilmore just nailed it so spot on, I just had to add it to my own list.

>>> Wikipedia

giggle... the SUL/XUL classifications were added by me.

>>> I am sorry to hear you feel my poll is skewed

I do not feel it is skewed... it IS skewed.

You should have made it be ALL metric (or imperial) and just stick to that. Because as it is, you just have people voting for the "metric" option and not even seriously considering the other options, just on that issue alone. That is called a skewed polling.

>>> 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

Because it is just not going to happen. Trust me ;)

Think of this... lets say you got the 200+ people that are triple crowners into the same room and asked them all to share what they think the definitions would be. My guess is that most of them would just laugh at you and tell you they don't care and you missed the entire point of backpacking. But, even if you did press them to give you answers, you really think you could get a consensus by them... those with more miles on their feet than most the rest of us reading this single post put together. Nah, just not gonna happen Cesar.

...and with all that said... I really am going to stop commenting in this thread. I *respect* the attempt to do what you are trying to do, and it has been attempted every couple of years (including by myself) and it has just never happened and probably will not. It goes beyond just what a few hundred or thousand people at one or two websites think. The entire industry - from manufacturers, to retail companies, to the very predominate hikers, and just the average every day hiker - they would all need to come together and be a part of such things. It is not like the old days when just a few small people could put forth an article or publication in a magazine, or write a small book, and therein the standards were set.

In closing, I will just quote myself:

I define weight categories the way I do based upon how much skill a person should have, and how much a person has hopefully learned in order to reach each of the levels.

Experience, Education. Experience, Education. Experience, Education. For some of us, pounding miles is not just about pounding out the miles. It is about educating ourselves, helping to educate others, and being able to look back on a hike and thinking to yourself "wow, that was a really great trip" - and not just because of what you got to see.

+John Abela

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Cesar on 01/08/2014 19:52:15 MST Print View

"giggle... the SUL/XUL classifications were added by me."


Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
This ain't Pizza on 01/08/2014 20:12:58 MST Print View

Entering this conversation is like walking through a cow pasture blindfolded, hoping not to get anything on your shoes. I have decided to step into this conversation hoping not to get too much stuff on my shoes.

Cesar, as many very knowledgeable, respected people have already said "American's are dumb", sorry, that was for another thread, ok here it is; “Based on each trip, I select the gear I need.."

Maybe you are trying too hard to jam the numbers into too broad of categories. Nick posted a viable agreement “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.” To solve this and other issues others have pointed out, I think I have come up with a viable alternative to your basic categories:

You just start off with whatever title you want be it LW, UL, SUL, XSUL (or SXUL), etc.

I’ll use UL, it is basic and to the point. From there you just add a number 1 thru 30 depending on your base out weight and just round up. I stop at 30 just because. You could end up with something like UL13, if you are carrying 13 lbs. It gives a better picture of what Cesar has been trying to isolate. And you end up with something a little more meaningful than LW, UL, SUL, or XSUL.

Now, to really improve on Cesar’s idea…

I’d use XUWL (pronounced Zool) because it sounded cool in the movie Ghostbusters and the guy/gal was really important. Plus starting with an X makes it even cooler because it denotes I’m doing something extreme or something regular people aren’t.
From there you could add a number for the weight you are carrying at the moment, i.e. XUWL8.7 (if you are carrying 8.7 lbs). To that you add your present pre-trip body weight, minus your BMI score. For example 175 lbs guy with a BMI of 20 would use 155-8.7=146.3. Next divide your elevation gain (1500 for example) by the 146.3 and you get 10.25. Now XUWL10.25 really means something (to someone).
Some variation of this system could be used to get a more accurate picture of what you and others are carrying.

Cesar, thanks for the opportunity to think about this topic.

Sorry I haven’t weighed in on you blog- I keep clicking my mouse between the circles but your blog won’t register my vote that way.

Edited by bestbuilder on 01/08/2014 20:16:43 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: This ain't Pizza on 01/08/2014 20:21:43 MST Print View

Cesar has been trying really hard to make a serious attempt at something he thinks should be considered. Let's give him credit and applaud the effort. The guy hikes a lot and posts some pretty cool trip reports on his blog, not to mention it sounds like his local environment is void of hikers of the lighter side of backpacking.

Kevin Buggie
(kbuggie) - M

Locale: NW New Mexico
Ryan Jordan, circa 2003 on 01/08/2014 20:52:07 MST Print View

Nobody has mentioned the very first sentence of chapter 15 of Ryan's book, Lightweight Backpacking and Camping, its titled, Super ultralight- Breaking the Five-Pound Barrier:

Page 299 "The ability to carry a pack that is not just light (12-20 lbs base weight) or ultralight (6-11 lbs), but ridiculously light (< 5 lbs) and still maintain a level of comfort and safety suitable for hiking in the high mountain ranges of the lower 48 states requires a bit of inovation, some compromise in durability, and most importantly, an advanced set of backcountry skills that allow you to remain warm and dry in inclement weather with a kit of gear that offers little margin for safety."

That definition (though RJ states in the next paragraph he's not attempting to define a new standard) seems to balance both objective and subjective measures in a concise definition.

Seeing as that BPL article from 2003 was reprinted in the 2005 book by the guy who created this site we all surf a full decade later, maybe that's the answer regardless of forum threads and individual blog posts.

Any votes?

Edited by kbuggie on 01/08/2014 21:27:39 MST.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Ryan Jordan, circa 2003 on 01/08/2014 21:11:48 MST Print View

Let’s take this discussion to a hypothetical conclusion. Everyone on BPL votes and agrees that 20-10 lbs is lightweight, 10-5 lbs is UL, and <5 lb is SUL (can be any number just plugged these in for discussion purposes).

What benefit have we gained? For sports like boxing and wrestling, I completely understand why they have weight classes but I fail to see the benefit here.

I'm truly not trying to sharp shoot the OP here but from reading the OP and blog, I get the impression that you’re trying to set an industry standard and not much else. I’d love to hear more about what we'll gain especially if you could give specific examples. Again, not attacking... just want to understand where you're coming from.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Ryan Jordan, circa 2003 on 01/08/2014 22:35:58 MST Print View

"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."

I think I will have more fun keeping my FSO (before I leave for an outing) under 3.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Let's Start Over From The Beginning on 01/09/2014 01:22:39 MST Print View

Cesar has good intentions. Let's stop criticizing and think the subject through.

First step is to go back are re-read my dissertation on the case for the English System of Weights and Measures -- I don't think everyone did this the first time.


It even surpasses my "Pencil for the JMT" thread, which I thought was the most provocative and worthwhile thread ever on BPL.

Okay, I agree the English Measurement post was absurd. But so is a classification system and the debates about them. However, the dialogue is good.

Here is a fact... the lighter your gear, the easier it is to walk. But lightening gear eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, both financially and safety-wise; if you approach Skurka's Stupid Light.

So the real questions are:

Why do you backpack?
What do you get out of it?
What is your relationship to the wilderness?
What do you learn about the natural world?
What do you learn about yourself when in the wild?

In other words, Why Walk?

These are not questions to be answered here, but to answered and kept to yourself.

Backpacking is not about gear, it is about what each of us gets out of our own time in the wilderness.

Gear, gear, gear... it is getting crazy. I wonder if carpenters sit around after work and discuss hammers and nails. I know mechanics don't sit around after work and talk about their tool chests.

Now, I don't hike often with others, which means I need to be very careful with my gear selection... there is little room for mistakes. But there are two people I enjoy hiking with, and both are BPL members -- Chad Eagle and Craig Wisner. One of the reasons I like to hike with them is that we almost never discuss gear, we don't compare kits, and we don't compete for lowest weight. We don't even know how much each other's kit weighs. We do enjoy going to insane places where we are assured there won't be any other hikers -- it doesn't get any better than that.

At the end of the day, backpacking is just walking in the wilderness. It isn't rocket science. You don't need a college degree or even a high school diploma to be a backpacker. Almost anyone can do it, even old farts like me. There is nothing elite about being a backpacker, so don't try to become an elite XXSULXX backpacker -- there is no such thing. Don't complicate it and don't take yourself too seriously -- just be safe, dry, and warm.

P.S. Leave the electronic crap at home, it separates you from the wilderness :)

P.P.S. Craig needs to post his recipe for bean burritos with pictures.

P.P.P.S. Roger Caffin, did I postscript correctly?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Let's Start Over From The Beginning on 01/09/2014 02:16:21 MST Print View

Oh, definitely. A classic.

> P.P.P.S. Roger Caffin, did I postscript correctly?
Why do I suspect the sole reason for this entire post was this last line? :-)


spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
the real questions on 01/09/2014 06:16:44 MST Print View

So the real questions are:

Why do you backpack?
What do you get out of it?
What is your relationship to the wilderness?
What do you learn about the natural world?
What do you learn about yourself when in the wild?

Huge +1

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Let's Start Over From The Beginning on 01/09/2014 09:43:41 MST Print View

"Why do I suspect the sole reason for this entire post was this last line?"

Male fixation on pp's ?

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 11:35:10 MST Print View

"So the real questions are:

Why do you backpack?
What do you get out of it?
What is your relationship to the wilderness?
What do you learn about the natural world?
What do you learn about yourself when in the wild?"

But Nick, those are difficult, nuanced questions. Can't we just come up with a hard and fast rule that lets me know if I am enjoying my hike properly or if I need to spend more time with my spreadsheets and credit card?

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Typical gear sets on 01/09/2014 11:47:54 MST Print View

My $.25 (inflation). The categories could be somewhat useful as each category generally uses a different set of equipment. One example, in the heaviest category a tent is used, next we move to a large tarp and bivy, next we loose the bivy, next just a poncho tarp for the just in case but typically don’t use it. If we have categories already defined, then a standard get set (not just the shelters) will typically be used. Obviously not always, but will be somewhat typical.

Additionally, each category requires an increasing set of skills. Each category has a typical skill set that is required to keep the activity safe and enjoyable.

How useful this is is certainly up for debate. But, I think it has some merit.

Angus A.
(mangus7175) - F

Re: Let's Start Over From The Beginning on 01/09/2014 11:51:03 MST Print View

"Backpacking is not about gear, it is about what each of us gets out of our own time in the wilderness."

Here here! Couldn't agree with this more :)

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
The problem with depending upon weight as a measurement of success. on 01/09/2014 13:38:33 MST Print View

We have an almost insatiable need to quantify things. So much so that if we’re not careful it’ll distract us from the real reason we’re attempting to quantify in first place.

The only real purpose for the pursuit of Ultralight Hiking to minimize, if not eliminate, the NEGATIVE role that gear plays in our adventure. Too much gear drags us down, make us tired and reduces our enjoyment.

By the same token, too little gear can also have a NEGATIVE impact on our hike. It’s the reason that Monty Tam no longer hikes with a sub 5 pound pack. The lack of gear had so great an impact on his enjoyment, that it was well worth taking a few extra pounds.

We do establish mile stones to help us achieve certain goals. They provide us a point of reference to focus our thinking. While we do use them in common discussions, it should be noted that they are also highly personal. The amount of gear carried that achieves the least negative impact, will vary wildly among individuals depending upon their conditioning and the nature of the activity undertaken.

So a 10 pound UL base limit maybe spot on for some individuals in some environments. It’s also equally true that it can be somewhat higher or lower for others.

In the early days of UL, attempts to conquer the 10 pound barrier required delving deep into the Black Arts. Learning all about tarps, appropriate campsites, etc. With advances in materials and designs, this is no longer true. We’re rapidly reaching the stage of Recreational Ultralight. This is ultralight for people who simply want to have more fun in their back-country trips and have no desire for acquiring a PHD in backpacking.

It is quite easy these days to develop a 12 pound kit that does everything your traditional backpacking 20 kit did just a few years ago. So for the vast majority of backpackers, a 12 pound UL kit would be a great target. For the die hard UL’er, an 8 or 9 pound kit would cover 90 percent of their needs.

In any case we still have to remember that it’s not the weight but the result that we are ultimately after.


Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Wisdom on 01/09/2014 14:19:50 MST Print View

Reading the comments by Nick and Ron I am reminded of a simple Verse about wisdom.
Proverbs 3:13 says:
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom,and the man that getteth understanding.

Seems like these two guys, and I am sure others have Wisdom and understanding. its not really all about the weight.

Just my $.02

if your offended by the verse.....just ignore it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 15:02:14 MST Print View

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."
Mr Micawber, David Copperfield.

Pack weight 5 lb 0.5 oz: result misery. Pack weight 4 lb 15.5 oz: result happiness.


Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Recreational Ultralight on 01/09/2014 15:20:14 MST Print View

Now there's a term I like: I immediately understand what it means. Note that Ron defines it without any reference to weights at all. It's all about taking only the gear YOU need/want to enjoy your personal hike wherever that may be.

My base weight always exceeds any common definiton of UL. Is that, as some previous posts have suggested, because I lack the skills to go sub 10lbs?
I know from experience how quickly the weather can turn in the places that I hike and how exposed you can be when well above the tree line. I would consider my preparations to have failed if I was forced to bail from a trip due to inappropriate gear.
I always enjoy my hikes. Nuff said.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 15:28:43 MST Print View

My interest in numbers has faded with time.

I suspect it's like anything, at least for me; you get into a new hobby and want to eat everything up, learn all you can.
But with time and experience, you start learning and appreciating what's important.
I used to obsessively weight my gear. No more. I know what I need to know now, what's important to me and what's not.
I can look at my gear and pack and know if it's an appropriate gearlist and general weight (or not) for whatever my goals happen to be, no spreadsheet or scales needed.

Backpacking is also something that not everyone seems to get to do as much as they'd like. It seems the spreadsheets and obsession with quantifying everything can become a surrogate for being out and doing; a way to stay connected to something you love when you can't actually be doing it. I get it- I don't say this in some judgmental way. This too has grown pretty old for me.

This entire site was founded on the premise of shedding packweight and going with less. Does anyone remember the stupid "He who dies with the lightest pack wins" BPL bumper sticker? That says it all about the origins of this community/site. "The one who dies after having a lifetime of cool experiences wins" is the bumper sticker I would rather see.

It only makes sense that a community like this would get wrapped up in weight definitions, a race to the lightest pack, and the ensuing bragging rights. Countless trip reports and threads that only talk about the gear carried and what it weighed as opposed to the experience. Thousands of pages of "critique my gearlist" threads contrasted with a disproportionately low amount of trip reports and discussion. Something obviously went wrong somewhere.

I think a lot of people around here have been waking up, hence the lack of desire for some consensus on titles and definitions by which we can compare everyone and what they carry.

Edited by xnomanx on 01/09/2014 15:31:38 MST.