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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: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 16:25:31 MST Print View

"Thousands of pages of "critique my gearlist" threads contrasted with a disproportionately low amount of trip reports and discussion. Something obviously went wrong somewhere."

Writing a decent trip report requires a lot of time and energy. If the effort generates little to no discussion, there will be fewer and fewer trip reports written. A classic feedback loop. And, yes, something obviously went wrong somewhere, because if the trips are not the whole point, what the hell are we doing here?

"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."

The community zeitgeist evolution from enlitenment to enlightenment unfolds, albeit at a most leisurely pace.

A most thoughtful post, Craig.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 16:27:39 MST Print View

Speaking for self, somewhat in response to Craig's post:

My personal experiences out in the wilderness/nature border on the sacred and the undefinable--hard to put into words. Communicating about it is hard to do, and does not seem to suffice. Besides, on the surface, lots of my trips aren't as interesting or as exciting as a lot of the trip posts that people here put up. I'm also not into photography for various reasons and while i take my phone and can take pics, i really don't see the point (i have long had weird feelings in relation to photography and that's a long, boring story of other lives)

Talking about gear, while still essentially subjective, is easier to do because though subjective, there is a more objective aspect to it.

Anyways, the above more or less sums up why i don't post trip reports but do tend to focus more on talking about gear. It's easier to communicate with others regarding gear, than those personal experiences which are hard to put into words to begin with. Plus, i've not ever had an easy time relating to most people on a more personal level and vice versa--there's always been a lot of differences in perceptions, perspective, and types of experiences and sensing.

Though i do think and talk a lot about gear here, i never forget the more important reasons and motivations, which is why i quickly lost interest in exact definitions, labeling, obsessively weighing, etc.

So while i agree with much of Craig's post and the general spirit of same, i walk a different path for various reasons (or the same path, but walk it differently).

Edited by ArcturusBear on 01/09/2014 16:29:56 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 16:41:34 MST Print View

Do we really need to document our trips? Maybe special ones. And Tom is right, writing a trip report on the Forum here is more than painful. For this reason, I post most on my blog these days.

The main audience for my blog is my kids. Many trips reports are, "hey I was in some god-forsaken place, found a great place to hike and here are a few pictures."

It is enough. I am not Tom Clancy, and the kids don't need a dictionary to understand it.

I don't hike to entertain others anyway. I hike for my own self-indulgent pleasure. It is almost as good as sex, and I surely don't post about what my wife and I do in bed, or other opportune places ;)

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 17:02:43 MST Print View

I don't think every trip/hike I take is worthy of a report. If I hike 15 miles on a trail below the tree line, I enjoyed it but who cares?

Still I enjoy reading the trip reports that BPL publishes as articles and on the "Post Trip" forum here at BPL. I get to spend much of my professional time researching cases about sex offenders, ugly domestic violence cases, etc so I find the trip reports to be welcome brain candy. Keep ‘em coming folks.

I often equate a lack of responses following a trip report (written by whoever) as a general lack of interest but for most of them, there's not too much to discuss afterwards other than "Yo dude that was dope!" or other words of encouragement. Compared to the 15 million comparisons which can be made between Sawyer Sr. and Jr. or what bear canister in what ULA pack on the gear forum, I guess it seems to imply where the priorities are. I realize it isn't hip to talk about gear or to do gear reviews anymore but as I've mentioned in other threads, I think it's part of human nature to be fascinated by shiny objects. I'm certainly guilty of it from time to time and feel no need to apologize for it.

To keep the pizza zen flowing... BPL is a gear centric site despite what any of us might want it to be. It wouldn't be fair for me to complain to the cashier at McDonalds that they don't have pizza on the menu.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 18:32:51 MST Print View

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

I know how Roger does it. He just doesn't bring a shirt.

Edited by awsorensen on 01/09/2014 18:33:36 MST.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 18:44:26 MST Print View

My trips are important to me, but frankly they are crap compared to the trips of people who do post reports. Part of that statement comes from my unhealthy level of self-deprecation, and part is just plain truth. I don't go spectacular places, nor do particularly spectacular things.

I write in my own journal about what I do, and it's more personal reflection than anything suitable for an audience.

I try to comment on every report I read, and make a point of reading ones that aren't about the Sierras. Anyone posting their trips gets my respect for putting themselves out there. I would love to see more trip reports. But I suspect a lot of people are like me, and just don't feel their weekend trip in the local state forest measures up.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 19:40:06 MST Print View

"My trips are important to me, but frankly they are crap compared to the trips of people who do post reports."

I'd respectfully disagree. Trip report porn is almost as bad as gear porn. It's not a competition. Your trips, if they're meaningful to you, aren't crap compared to anyone else's.

Besides, while gorgeous scenery helps, it's not what makes a trip fantastic, at least not to me. The things that have made trips meaningful and memorable to me are stripping off my shoes and socks to cross a frigid creek with both Ike and I grinning like fools, or sharing a sacred spot high in the Sierra with Tom, or shaking my head slowly with a slight grin at yet another Evan pun, or sharing laughter around a campfire with groups both large and small, with friends both old and new. For me it's the shared human experience, and the trip reports I've enjoyed the most describe such things as much the scenery - Craig and Ike talking about the glee and wonder in the faces of their children, Luke talking about shared challenges with his brother, Tom talking about his yearly trips with his brother in law, Eugene taking about a small group huddled (with much jocularity) under a Trailstar in a heavy rain, that kind of thing. In fact I remember these parts of trip reports much more than I remember whatever they had to say about the terrain or scenery.

FWIW and all that, I guess.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Nice one Craig on 01/09/2014 20:01:54 MST Print View


Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 20:06:09 MST Print View

The greatest conversation within BPL always resonates somewhere in the middle.

My take on the matter- gear is a means to an end, it's an important piece to the individual experiences we create, and we wouldn't be here sharing our experience(s) if not for the gear to begin with.

I'm encouraged to see the redirection this conversation has taken.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 20:13:16 MST Print View

"FWIW and all that, I guess."

That pretty well sums it up, Doug. Very well articulated and on the mark, IMO.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: the real questions on 01/09/2014 20:24:20 MST Print View

One more thought to add concerning consensus SUL/UL/LW...

I have to second the sentiments put out there that these categories are absolutely meaningless without context.

I can, and have, done "SUL" trips without even thinking about it. Good weather in Southern California makes it a no-brainer and no big deal. Heck, I could go backpack in the summer in my local mountains with a one pound pack...But an "SUL" solo thru on the Sierra High Route in late October would be an entirely different proposition and would certainly raise a few well as some potential safety issues.


Edward Jursek
( - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
consensus on 01/09/2014 22:25:28 MST Print View

I want a cabal of self proclaimed XUL, SUL and UL "elites" to impose arbitrary definitions and standards (oh God, in metric please!) and demand we follow them. We can then mock them, insult them, rail against them. Think of all the posts dripping with sarcasm and outrage! Engage in open rebellion, write philosophical UL manifestos that rip apart their meaningless standards. Seriously. I love that kind of stuff.

Edited by on 01/09/2014 22:27:48 MST.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Not much has changed in 15 yrs :) on 01/10/2014 09:44:06 MST Print View

"Ultralight vs. Lightweight Backpacking

by Ryan Jordan

October 6, 1999

To attempt to distinguish (in quantitative terms at least) "ultralight," "lightweight", and "normal" backpacking is to *****invite peaceful controversy at minimum and incite noticeable global conflict at worst**** (EMPHASIS MINE -pm].

However, this attempt serves some useful purposes: quantitative definitions allow us to identify appropriate classes of gear (e.g., "ultralight" or "lightweight", they provide a benchmark for comparing our own packweights, and offer some general guidelines as a starting point for readers new to ultralight and lightweight concepts."

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Mitch, John, Nick on 01/10/2014 11:04:25 MST Print View

Mitch - I am sorry if you feel that I am being argumentative. My intentions are not to upset anyone. I will admit I was a bit frustrated by your replies, but tried my best to give a productive rebuttal. Please try and put yourself in my shoes. Imagine if you spent time and energy on a small project on your blog and with long replies on a thread here, only to have people admit to skimming and then mischaracterize your points.

As for my blog poll reflecting more information, I didn't have enough space on the poll to write very much, which is why it is right to the point. Which is why I wanted a text to accompany the poll, and in my defense I hedged forming a consensus on my blog post with things like:

"I can't stress enough how much I value questioning, re-evaluating, and re-defining ideas"

"here is how I personally define the wonderful world of arbitrary UL weight definitions"

"It's not a magic number, of course, but what I and others have observed is a good approximation of when things significantly improve"

"Obviously people can and will reject whatever set wins, or any other definition they don't agree with or like."

"Granted, this is not 100% scientific or anything, but it's a good approximation of the community's opinion on the matter if enough people vote"

I had assumed that people reading the text would see the above quotes as sign-posts against me suggesting any absolute, single set of numbers to define all of UL/SUL. And here in this thread, I have been abundantly clear about definitions being arbitrary, and not meaning to set anything in stone or an absolute.

John - Thanks for elaborating on the 12lbs UL definition of yours. I was just curious. I encourage you to add this clarification to your post.

The SXUL "joke" I still find confusing. You didn't address my questions about your sub 2lb BPW. You seemed pretty serious about it when you discussed it, unless I am missing something. And when you write about SXUL it really doesn't come off as a joke:

"SXUL – Super Extreme Ultra Light = Anybody with a BPW of under 2 pounds (0.907 kg). This, the most extreme of the extreme, is more about the ultimate test of your hiking and survival skills. While I do not endorse or encourage hiking for the sake of survivalism, you can learn a great deal about yourself and your skills by going on a sub-24, or maybe even a three day hike, with a sub 2 pound setup. It would be, I tend to think, rather difficult to go beyond three days of hiking with a sub 2 pound backpack, unless you are highly skilled in seeking and acquiring natural food and water sources, in all but the best of weather conditions."

You'd think if it was a joke you would have mentioned, alluded to, or linked to Gilmore's post--but you didn't. Honestly, this just comes off like you trying to distance yourself from a very extreme variation of backpacking that people might take issue with.

I don't really understand what you mean with your claim that my post is somehow objectively skewed. I gave 4 options that I felt were the best and most relevant choices for people familiar with UL backpacking. Please don't take offense here, but your counter point for all this I fail to see it as coherent:

"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 don't have people voting, they vote for themselves. They are welcome to seriously consider the other options however they want. How does this equate to skewed polling? Seriously, I don't understand what you mean here.

As for your point about 200 triple crowners in a room... I don't know what they would say, and neither do you. We'd have to find 200 of them and ask them about this issue and let them express themselves. As for everyone else, I am not saying it is possible to get everyone to contribute to a consensus, but this does not mean we can't try and get something that is close enough.

I know we all have different goals and aspirations when we backpack and pound the miles. Just like everyone has different feelings and experiences when they eat pizza. I will repeat my firm belief that there is no inherent meaning in anything, language included. We as individuals give meaning to things, symbols, and words. But we have to agree on certain things otherwise communication is hindered or not possible. What I think you and everyone else needs to keep in mind is something I have said already several times about being able to answer basic questions about UL backpacking.

I founded and ran an outdoor/backpacking club while I was a grad student a few years ago. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, and I introduced a lot of people new to the outdoors to backpacking in general. Many times people would ask simple questions like, "What is ultralight backpacking?" when I would say that it was my preferred style of backpacking. This would usually be followed up with questions about who came up with the weights and terms and such--remember, most of the people in my club were inquisitive people, being college students both undergrad and graduate level.

It was this experience that inspired me to try and re-configure the definitions and weights to metric, and the past year seeing a lack of any general explanation/definition on multiple UL forums compounded my interest in trying to solve this admittedly arbitrary, but I feel is a somewhat important issue and useful thing to have for our community and those wishing to join our community. As I expressed earlier, I think this is a pretty tricky community and sub-type of backpacking to get into that requires a lot of initiative from people. That alone I think ought to be addressed, and I think this is a simple way to do so--simple in theory at least, but as this thread has demonstrated, no simple at all in practice.

Which is fine. It's just words, man. :)

Nick - Just wanted to thank you for your continued contributions and for the very kind words you had for me. Know that I think your blog is cool and well executed, and you're one of my favorite personalities around here--even if we don't agree on certain things (but who agrees with everything?). You are asking valuable questions and I too give a big +1 to them, but I also think they can coexist along side a generally agreed upon definition.

Phew! That's all the time I have for now as far as replies go. I'm only half way through the 5th page too, so I need a breather before I get to any more replies. I am not going to be able to address everyone, obviously, but will try and get around to posts directed at me or things I think stand out.

Until next time, the current numbers in the poll are:

23 for Wiki
7 for Abela
10 for Metric
6 for me

I still think if we get to 100 votes it would be worth noting on wikipeida, and regardless of what happens I think that someone ought to update the UL entry there with some of the gems found in this thread. Now if we can only agree on what the gems are...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Mitch, John, Nick on 01/10/2014 11:29:08 MST Print View

"You are asking valuable questions and I too give a big +1 to them, but I also think they can coexist along side a generally agreed upon definition."

There is nothing wrong with definitions, pe se. But what happens is that many people make a definition their goal, or try to define themselves or others by the definition. And we then lose focus on the journey; the hiking.

Instead of managing our inventory of gear, I would like to see more people manage their inventory of recreational days and talk about that. I enjoy reading blogs of folks who are out in the wilderness a lot, even if they have full time jobs and other commitments. These are the people who truly cherish the outdoors and place a high value on spending as much time as possible do it.

Gabriel Frochtzwajg
Weight Class Scheme on 01/10/2014 13:31:16 MST Print View


I think your suggested classification scheme is not great. Right now, people discuss pack weight in two ways. 1) Specific - the exact BPW and what's in it. 2) General - Light, Ultralight, SUL, etc. The general terms are only useful in relation to one another, as others have suggested, because they signify level of experience. It doesn't matter that UL is 10 or 12 pounds. It matters that UL is heavier than SUL. They work very well as a "rule of thumb" because they are quick and give a vague impression. Your scheme includes a formula which is not quick and also easy to forget. It focuses on numbers rather than differentiating experience level, so it loses the usefulness of the currently accepted UL, SUL, XUL system. If your system is not useful, nobody will use it.

Also, I agree that your poll is somewhat skewed. By including the metric system as a separate option, you've brought the metric vs. imperial debate into your poll. If your suggested values are good, I should be able to express them in stones, kilograms, pounds, whatever. I believe the core goal of your poll is to set values, not determine which measurement system is best.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
And the beat goes on on 01/10/2014 16:29:34 MST Print View

Partially because of this and similar threads, my .05 worth

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: And the beat goes on on 01/10/2014 16:46:12 MST Print View

Nice article Mags :-)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"A Modest Proposal" BASE WEIGHT POLICE on 01/14/2014 22:06:34 MST Print View

Perhaps we can contribute to form an organization known as "Base Weight Police".

They could team up with the NSA (No Such Agency) to watch our online gear lists, backpacking phone conversations and private in-person conversations and snail mail and then raid our homes to remove all non-UL gear we've listed, talked about or photographed and posted. I'm sure monitoring algorithms already exist. All they need is a backpacking vocabulary for the "watchwords".

This would certainly make one think twice before buying a silly lightweight frame pack or a regular length Thermarest Prolite. And Stock in companies making Cuben fiber would skyrocket, as would membership in Weight Watchers as nobody with more than 5% body fat would be permitted on trails.

Base Weight Police could also roam hiking trails to strictly enforce UL weight standards. That would surely take any boredom out of uninteresting stretches of trail. And we could make use of the emmerging aerial drone technology to exponentially increase enforcement capabilities. Drones could see things like external frame and military packs, all-leather shoes, Coleman Peak 1 stoves, etc.

Naturally after the Beta police force was deployed we could continue to finance training and deployment with a 25% tax on all backpacking gear. This is a no-brainer. Just ask 90% of the politicians.

I know of no other way to force backpackers to "see the light" (so to speak) than a "Base Weight Police Force". "Who would determine the correct seasonal base weights?" you ask. Well we just have to trust the BWPF to set them. After all they have our best interests at heart, just like the NSA.

Sorry, got to go and renew my ACLU membership.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/14/2014 22:12:44 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: "A Modest Proposal" BASE WEIGHT POLICE on 01/14/2014 22:27:51 MST Print View

> And we could make use of the emmerging aerial drone technology to exponentially
> increase enforcement capabilities. Drones could see things like external frame
> and military packs, all-leather shoes, Coleman Peak 1 stoves, etc.

Sounds like a boost to sales of 'Drone Loads'?