I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms.
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Bily Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Re: Re: not a bad start for voting on 01/02/2014 20:21:56 MST Print View

"What is the actual benefit to having concrete weight categories?"

Yea... should get rid of the concrete... much too heavy...

billy

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
some more replies on 01/03/2014 08:24:35 MST Print View

Stuart - I can respect that you disagree with me, but you're not giving me much to work with. I already elaborated on the fact that there is a clear pattern of general backpacking conditions. Do you think my assessment was accurate or not? Why or why not?

You say that UL is "applicable to all places and conditions" and I find this problematic. When something is so broad it no longer carries any meaning. If I say that pizza applicable to all bread and sauces, the word "pizza" is going to become a confusing term. Crackers with jam one could call "pizza," much like one could take your definition and say that their 10kg base weight is "UL" because of their own personal wants/needs. Hey, if you are going to bring musical instruments and chairs into the woods to jam out, then I guess 10kg could be "UL," especially if you're in a Ska band with a big horn section. And I don't mean to sound like I am mocking you or being pedantic here, I am just pointing out that the inherent shortcomings of overly-broad definitions. If someone with a 10, 20, or even 100kg base weight can apply the term to what we understand as the activity of backpacking, we might as well just do away with the term and call it all backpacking. Which is fine. But this presents other problems too.

spelt! - "What is the actual benefit to having concrete weight categories?"

To be able to give an approximate yet fairly accurate answer to the question, "what is UL backpacking?", for one. Next, for the international community of UL backpackers to have a base set of accepted categories to make discussions more pragmatic and easier. One could ask, "Going to X hiking trail in X season, would SUL work?" or "Went UL on X hiking trail, it went well but think I could have gone SUL." etc. I know that this person means 10lbs/12lbs/5kg or whatever when talking UL.

As I said in my blog, I can't state enough how much I also value re-defining, challenging, and re-inventing definitions and terms. But I also see the value in having a set standard to work with first so everyone knows what is being discussed.

Does all this make sense? Do you think the above constitutes a benefit?

Bas - I agree with you to an extent, which is why I included clothing worn in my suggested set of definitions. Consumables can vary even more than BPW or CW if you ask me, so I didn't even attempt to define that or FSO. I'm open to suggestions.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: some more replies on 01/03/2014 08:31:27 MST Print View

You aren't re-defining anything as there really aren't any specific definitions that currently exist. For some UL means a BW of 12 pounds. Others 8 pounds. You are trying to arbitrarily apply some meaningless number with ignorance toward geographic location, season, size of the individual, length of trip, personal metabolic rate, fitness, etc, which are all situation and individual specific.

Not to mention, this type of process is done every few years by someone who is trying to feel special that their BW is so low.

Happy New Year.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: some more replies on 01/03/2014 09:15:41 MST Print View

Hi Cesar,
I'm not against the idea in theory, but with the number of variables (season, geography, body size, etc) I'm not convinced that 3-4 categories will really be useful in conversation. You'd have to add all the qualifying information for context and then you're sort of back where you started, except that a bunch of people and a bunch of trip types will know "for sure" that they don't qualify as UL. (A few years ago back when I was reading here but not posting, I feel like some of those "who and what qualifies" discussions got pretty acrimonious. I'd rather not go back to that, honestly.)

My own preference (based on my own biases, of course!) would be a more detailed exploration of different decision processes to minimal/UL outdoor activities. Is someone's approach to be the absolute lightest no matter the fiddle factor? Or perhaps a minimal amount of gear is the goal, either used per trip or owned overall in the closet. Is there a difference in light kits based around big miles vs kits that are light so the owner can carry other things (cameras, research equipment, someone else's gear)?

Ultimately I'm more interested in why people want to go lighter, and how they make the decisions to do that, than I am in categorizing the results. Maybe this is the pomo wishywashyness you were worried about. ;) But it also reflects my personal behavior. I keep a spreadsheet, and I know roughly what my pack weighs when I go out, but I don't meticulously add up grams or think about what counts as an "UL trip."

Edit to add: I'm also not interested in categorizing process types, except loosely so that people with similar approaches could benefit from each other.

Edited by spelt on 01/03/2014 09:26:42 MST.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: I say let's decide on a general consensus of Ultralight definitions and terms. on 01/03/2014 09:53:53 MST Print View

Cesar,

I think the best thing for you is to create a reference within your blog of what those terms mean to you and reference them as appropriate as time goes on. Even if you were to get every BPL member to agree as to what these terms mean, you still wouldn't be at a point where you've created an industry standard outside of BPL.

George Carlin once said, "I leave symbols to the symbol minded." I look at these weight class badges much the same way. I'm very glad that I set 10 lbs as a goal for my three season base weight instead of 15 lbs. It forced me to make tough decisions, to refine my skill, and to do a lot of research. I now have a backpack that I barely notice as I walk through the woods and my feet feel like gold at the end of the day. That brought me to a point where I can lighten it up even more for the trips where I'm not in the Cascades or add weight to it for when I want to take my kids fishing or treat them to a fry bake. For me, the whole point was to reduce pain and increase enjoyment when backpacking, not to earn a weight class badge.

Hopefully this did not come across as rude to your OP. This is just my perspective, ymmv, hyoh, byob, etc.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
more replies on 01/04/2014 05:48:53 MST Print View

Dave - "You aren't re-defining anything as there really aren't any specific definitions that currently exist."

With all due respect, you are mistaken here on two counts. Yes, I have re-defined things. You are welcome to read my blog post to see the specifics of my definitions. Next, yes there are specific definitions that currently exist. I cite two different definitions in my article: one from wikipedia, and one from Abela. You are welcome to check my citations if you so desire.

"For some UL means a BW of 12 pounds. Others 8 pounds. You are trying to arbitrarily apply some meaningless number with ignorance toward..."

Yes, I am trying to arbitrarily apply a meaningless number--as nothing has inherent meaning (see also: Camus, Sartre). But no, I am absolutely not ignorant towards other factors, and this tells me you've either not taken the time to read my posts in this thread or are being willfully obtuse. In my reply to Stuart I think I was quite clear about what constitutes the general pattern of "backpacking." Dare I say that most of us are not doing Andrew Skurka type adventures, and as I am sure you are well aware, his weights for his more involved and complex trips are well above 10lbs.

I strongly encourage you and everyone else to entertain the idea that there is a method to this madness. Take for instance something I think I am qualified to discuss, which is literature. In both my undergraduate and graduate studies, the question "what is literature?" and even "what is art?" were brought up, examined, challenged, etc. But it is beneficial to be able to point to say, Hamlet, and say conclusively "this is literature." There is a basic set of criteria that needs to be established, but obviously (and especially to those that study literature) there are gray areas and room for interpretation.

Anyhow, I get that calling e ignorant is a solid rhetorical device to try and make me look foolish. But it clearly has no substance and says more about you that me. Further more, I am prepared and indeed interested in having the discussions surrounding geographic location, season, size of the individual, length of trip, personal metabolic rate, fitness, etc, which are all situation and individual specific. That's kind of the point I had in mind in initiating a discussion of this sort, naturally.

"Not to mention, this type of process is done every few years by someone who is trying to feel special that their BW is so low."

Are you suggesting that this is what I am doing?

"Happy New Year."

Thanks and the same to you :)

spelt! - I generally agree with your first paragraph. But to grow as a community and not have our theory and technique get stagnant, we ought to address these challenges, which is what I am attempting to do. Yes of course whatever set we might agree on in general (if this is even possible) will not apply to some, if not a significant portion of people that are interested in lightweight backpacking. But we'd be closer to figuring out some practical solutions for lightweight backpacking--i.e. what weight is a good goal for what kind of conditions, locations, etc.?

I think we are fairly close--at least from my own observations, feel free to chime in here--to being able to uncontroversially explain how and why a BPW between X-Y for 3 season use on marked hiking trails is good to have for X, Y, and Z reasons. This happens all the time organically in the "Gear Lists" forum. Someone asks for advice on how much to take for a given trail and time of year, others who have experience chime in and suggest/debate the alternatives. When was the last time you saw someone suggest that a person take a 25lb BPW for the JMT in the summertime? Or a 2lb BPW for a thru-hike of the CDT?

"Ultimately I'm more interested in why people want to go lighter, and how they make the decisions to do that, than I am in categorizing the results."

Not sure if this would give you a certified PoMo card ;), but I get what you are saying. I am interested in both, and think (as I have explained before) there are benefits from doing an objective, non-judgmental, non-elitist, non-absolute categorization. I think this is not only possible, but we do it all the time, and think my example given earlier of a cracker with jam on it not being a pizza still holds.

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 laud Abela for taking the time to write his own personal definitions and thoughts on the matter on his site. But what happens if someone else creates a lightweight backpacking site and says that 15lbs is the new UL? Or 25lbs? Even if they (like Abela) say that it is just their own personal definition, like it or not others will cite them as sources if they gain enough readership/following.

Thanks for your constructive and well thought out feedback, btw, it is much appreciated. This thread actually became more interesting than I thought it would be, and this is mostly due to people giving their own thoughtful insights on the matter.

Ian - First of all, no worries about being rude--your reply didn't come off that way to me. I had considered your suggestion about just coming up with my own references on my blog, but decided to take things a bit further when realizing that eventually I would most likely get people saying things like "But UL is defined as X, I read it on X website/book." I've already seen people apply definitions of UL (mostly the common wiki one, but at times Abela's too) not only here, but on youtube comments, reddit, etc. Then there are people like this guy who throw a monkey wrench into the numbers by calling his kit "tactical ultralight":

http://youtu.be/tmNd-voII2g

I don't see the comment there now, but when I first stumbled upon this video about a year ago (I think) someone mentioned that UL BPing is generally considered to be less than 10lbs, to which the guy who made the video responded that he and his community define as UL. This might be confusing, especially for someone unfamiliar with UL BPing.

I don't view any of these definitions as "badges" just as useful ways to communicate. You also go on to prove my point about the usefulness of having an arbitrary goal in your reflection of going from 15lbs to 10lbs.

But in the future I have plans for a bigger project on my blog where I lay out everything I use based on what the weather will be like and if I am going on or off trail. These I have found to be the two biggest factors in determining my gear list and thus weights. It is going to take more time and planning to finish, of course, but I will be sure to throw up a link here when it is ready.

Thanks for your feedback. I too am a big fan of Carlin, but I'd have to respectfully disagree with him about symbols. We all have to deal with them, like it or not. What is language, if not a collection of symbols, signs, signifiers, and the signified?

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
a minor correction on 01/04/2014 06:05:55 MST Print View

In my last post I linked to a video where a man shows off his "tactical ultralight". I linked to a newer video of the same guy in my hasty search, but I went back and found the older video I was thinking about to start with:

http://youtu.be/KI_FIBQU1cM

Which explains why I couldn't see the comment about UL definitions in the other video. In the above older video, you can see Keith Stevens say:

"Great video and some really cool gear. UL is described as having a base weight (all gear minus food and water/consumables) of 10 lbs or less. LOL. I don't think you made it brother. Good times. Keep on keepin on."

To which the guy in the video replies:

" I think that is open to interpretation, the community I follow says 20 Lbs all in is ultralight, my system is going to be referred to as "Tactical Ultralight" which is about 25 Lbs all in, and yes I know there is no such thing I just made it up, TL that is. You are right I am not at 10 Lbs base, more like 15 with all gear less food and water. Like I said I am working on it and will get it down to about 12 Lbs, I will be happy with that. Thanks for the comment, post your system up so I can learn?"

Which I thought was nice, seeing both of them friendly, tolerant, and constructive. Though this all illustrates one of my points about things getting confusing.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
UL Defs on 01/04/2014 09:29:29 MST Print View

I see value in having general definitions, even though there are a number of reasons why they don't perfectly apply to every situation. We use definitions because they are helpful, not because they are perfect. For example, the government defines the fuel economy of cars even though a ton of real world factors affect this. Despite being imperfect to our individual usage, these ratings are still helpful.

If nothing else, a definition gives aspiring hikers a ballpark idea of what UL is. It doesn't have to be an absolute definition (ie. UL = X lbs), rather it can be more loosely defined (ie. UL philosophy commonly leads to baseweights around 10 lbs for 3 season use").

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: UL Defs on 01/04/2014 09:45:51 MST Print View

"For example, the government defines the fuel economy of cars even though a ton of real world factors affect this. Despite being imperfect to our individual usage, these ratings are still helpful."

Actually, the Feds do spell out exactly their testing methodology so at least one has parameters to compare to. Arbitrary backpacking weight limits do not, unless specified.

We already have loosely defined parameters for UL backpacking. Ray Jardine provided those a long time ago.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Dan and Dave on 01/05/2014 08:06:07 MST Print View

Dan - Big +1 to your post. Could not have said it better myself, and it's a great summary of why I think it is important that we have this discussion. I'd personally like to see what you wrote (or something similar) added to the wikipedia entry: "UL philosophy commonly leads to baseweights around 10 lbs for 3 season use."

Dave - Thing is, if one wanted to (even if just for the sake of argument or to just be contrary), they could reject and/or poke holes in the Fed's definitions and terms. The Feds will never be able to account for all of the variables in a given test that could potentially affect the data. Again--all definitions and terms are arbitrary, as all language is arbitrary. But we have to do the best we can to communicate.

I agree that we already have loosely defined parameters for UL backpacking, but as I continue to point out, there are different definitions for these parameters and hence no consensus. And not everyone--myself included--is familiar with Jardine's definitions. What are they exactly? When did he create them? Are they still relevant? And why is it seemingly acceptable for him to set the parameters and not say, us as a community in a vote?

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: Dan and Dave on 01/05/2014 10:56:55 MST Print View

Maybe we can look at load percentages per bodyweight (which is somewhat traditional thinking) within general climate and geographic parameters? It would allow larger folks that require bigger, heavier clothing (and gear) to fall into an UL category but it would ignore fitness levels, however. Caveat, perhaps.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Re: Re: Dave on 01/05/2014 11:20:28 MST Print View

That's a great idea Dave. I think a clearer definition is coming into view.

As of now, the current "common" set is in the lead with 21 votes out of a total of 42; then 6 votes for Abela's set, 9 for base metric set, and 6 votes for my set. So if this trend continues, looks like the current wiki set is going to have the most votes.

Next, an addition to the weight set of something along the lines of, "for three season (low temps around freezing max) general backpacking use in common geographic areas."

Then, how about a note regarding body weight along the lines of, "for every clothing size above Medium a 10% increase in BPW and/or CW to account for weight of larger clothing, sleeping bags, shelters, etc." Which would translate for say, a person that is generally "large" (like me--for instance my Zpacks sleeping bag is both wide and long) would get 1lb extra to BPW according to the current wiki set of 10lbs, or 11lbs BPW. A person that is XL would get 2lbs for a total of 12lbs BPW, etc.

Not sure about fitness levels. Perhaps this could be just avoided? An athletic person will be able to hike say 30km without much issue, but a person that is in poor physical condition might only be able to go 10km tops--yet either way, having a low BPW is going to help either person.

Several years ago when I discovered UL backpacking, the above information would have been really helpful to put things into perspective and got me on the path easier, I think.

Bas Hommes
(BHommes) - M

Locale: Europe
No need for consensus? on 01/05/2014 11:25:26 MST Print View

Maybe there is no need for more consensus? Would it improve the quality of conversations or articles in any way? Still thanks for bringing it up. Me noob, me learning, rethinking. 'Old' people bored with recurrent topic? Comes with ageing.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: more replies on 01/05/2014 14:17:51 MST Print View

Hi Cesar

> I don't get why BPL staff themselves have not tried to sit down and work all this out,
Well, a totally unofficial (non-BPL) reply, but there are several very good reasons.

1) The gear you need for balmy gentle lowlands can be totally different for what you need for stormy alpine conditions.

2) The gear you need for fine dry mid-summer lowlands is totally different from what you need for mid-winter alpine.

3) The gear you need for one area (eg desert) may be totally different from what you need in a different area where the weather is so different (eg NW wet forest).

4) To suggest that just getting your pack weight down to 5 lb maks you SUL is dangerously simplistic, and may lead to huge SAR costs with young male novices, or maybe just deaths.

5) The most important part of UL and SUL is not the gear weight anyhow: it is the mindset AND the skills which eliminate the 'take extra xxx just in case' and the 'what a cute gadget', while leaving you safe.

My 2c
Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 01/05/2014 14:19:28 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Defs on 01/05/2014 14:25:37 MST Print View

I think you really gotta keep it concise or it stops being a helpful as a definition. A new hiker doesn't want to read a paragraph of details, they just want to know that UL is roughly 10lbs (or whatever). I personally favour something along the lines of ".....but individual circumstances vary" rather than going into detail about different circumstances ( i.e. "....for each clothing size above medium you can add 8.5% etc.).

A bit off topic, but there are also weight savings advantages to being larger. Bigger bodies are more thermally efficient - particularly if you are round rather than tall. This is why there is proportionally a lot more big animals in the arctic. Thus a larger bodied hiker may need a larger size, but they can also get away with a incrementally lighter sleeping bag etc.

Bily Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Defs on 01/05/2014 14:31:11 MST Print View

I think you really gotta keep it concise or it stops being a helpful as a definition. A new hiker doesn't want to read a paragraph of details, they just want to know that UL is roughly 10lbs (or whatever). I personally favour something along the lines of ".....but individual circumstances vary"

I think a 'cautionary statement' would be wise. We don't want noobies thinking they can get away with a 10lb base weight in the dead of winter at 12,000 feet...

would be good not to get these noobies killed... me thinks...

Billy

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Defs on 01/05/2014 14:36:17 MST Print View

> would be good not to get these noobies killed... me thinks...
Nah, they will do it anyhow. Just need to be sure that BPL does not get blamed for their stupids.

Cheers
PS: Oz humour on display...

Edited by rcaffin on 01/05/2014 14:36:45 MST.

Bily Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Re: Re: Defs on 01/05/2014 15:07:21 MST Print View

Roger, I can see you're one of the '...decrease the 'surface population'" kind a guy... gud on ya mate !

Billy

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
I thought it was already decided. on 01/05/2014 15:18:01 MST Print View

SUL: <5 pound base
UL: <10 pound base
LW: <15 pound base

Why is this not adequate for general descriptive purposes?

Nitpicking it to death is silly. For example, the whole "Mountain SUL" idea (something around 6 pounds if I recall correctly). This seems to just be stretching things and grasping for titles. So what if you can't hit an "SUL" title for high elevation/bad weather mountain trips. Call it UL then. Call it whatever you want. I don't think anyone will hold it against you if you're doing cool things in the mountains.

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.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
I thought it was already decided too... on 01/05/2014 15:33:35 MST Print View

But according to Professor Clelland!, the line between traditional and lightweight base weights is 20#, not 15#. And Mike knows the real deal, right?